Author: John Horsey (Trout Fisherman 45, November/Dezember 2013)
John Horsey says governing body Fips-Mouche must do better
To represent your country at the highest possible level is the greatest honour for any sportsman. So when you finally reach your goal, you should be entitled to expect a venue and associated fishing that lives up to this ultimate dream scenario.
I am very privileged to have fished for England is times at World level and have won team gold, team bronze twice and also an individual bronze. I'm also the longest serving international competitor at World level, having won my first cap way back in 1989. So I feel I'm pretty well qualified to report on how the World Championships and the competitors fared in Norway this August.
In 2012, the Norwegians held a 'dummy run' friendly event for all countries, utilising most of the venues that were likely to be used in the World Championships.
Team England Fly Fishing (TEFF) felt this was a highly commendable idea and sent a group of English anglers, lead by manager Ian Greenwood, to compete and feed back flies, methods and information to the World squad.
The results of this event were not good, with many blank sessions on both the rivers and the lakes. We hoped - and prayed - things would be better for the main event!
RIVER VENUES IN FLOOD
ENGLAND'S World team consisted of Howard Croston, Simon Robinson, Scott Nellins, Phil Dixon and myself, with Tony Baldwin reserve and Ian Greenwood the manager. We arrived in the Mosjoen region of Norway via a two-hour flight and then a seven-hour journey, through the night, by minibus. Our hotel for the entire stay was comfortable but several miles from the parent hotel - which was not big enough to house all the countries.
We unpacked then got back into the minibus to survey the river and lake venues, which were all within an hour or so driving distance.
There wasn't a competition sign to be seen identifying the match venues, and we all feared some countries would mistakenly (or otherwise) practise on official competition water - all of which should not be fished by any competing anglers for three months prior to the event.
The River Vefsna was very powerful, wide and impossible to wade in places and was in flood the day after we arrived. The River Austervefsna joined the main river and was slightly smaller but still powerful - and also in flood!
The River Fiplingdaselva flowed out of a huge lake and was canal-like for part of its course, yet shallow and stony in others. There was a gap on the lower end of the beats and it then flowed into a smaller lake.
Immediately the alarm bells started to ring because we knew that getting good pegs on all three rivers would be crucial. We also knew that those responsible for pegging the beats would need to be experienced anglers with a thorough knowledge of the rivers.
However, if we had reservations about the rivers, worse was to come when we saw the two lakes. The boat sessions would be held on Storvatnet, which had been used as a bank venue during the 'dummy run' where it produced very few fish and many blanks. The organisers switched it as the boat venue for the World Championships in a hope that the wild browns and char might be less scared by boat than bank pressure.
Although a reasonable size, half was to be used as official practice - so on a small lake, which could be completely covered by rowing boat in a three-hour session, we felt this extra pressure would be detrimental to the fishing.
But when we finally found Svartvatnet, hidden away off a mountain track, we knew at first sight that this venue was way too small to cater for z5 anglers. Some of the lake was less than a foot deep with rich, brown silt that made wading impossible and much of the lake was surrounded by trees and vegetation, making a back cast impossible. We knew that many of these pegs would not produce a single fish during the championships and hoped that we had stumbled across the wrong lake - but we had not!
IDEAS HATCH IN PRACTICE
WE managed to get a practice session on Storvatnet, the boat lake, but were restricted to half the total area. Without doubt, the best method we found was a Di-5 Sweep line with Black Streamers for the brown trout and Sparklers or Cat's Whiskers for the char.
During practice, Howard Croston and Phil Dixon caught some cracking browns and char but it was Tony Baldwin that caught the most - and all either is to 20 seconds down on the Di-5 Sweep.
I tempted a good brown trout on an intermediate line and an Ullswater wet fly pattern, but this was a one-off. I've fished for char in Sweden and the Yukon, so knew they had a liking for bright, sparkly lures. At no time could we practise on the bank lake, Svartvatnet, but due to its tiny surface area, we knew any practice sessions would make the fishing on the match days even harder.
We found small practice areas on the Vefsna and Austervefsna Rivers, but it was so hard to determine where we could fish without breaking any rules. Once again, it was Howard Croston who caught some superb grayling on the Vefsna, using deep nymphs on a modified French leader system.
Then Tony Baldwin found more big grayling on dry flies in a deep, slow run and we began to hatch a few ideas for the two big rivers.
We also found that streamers on intermediate and sinking lines - often Airflo 40-Plus lines to get across the flow - would pull the browns and on the Vefsna only; the odd grayling.
We practised way downstream on the Fiplingdaselva where it was fast and full of pocket water. Although the fish were generally small, there were lots of them and this was some of the best practice we had. However, we knew that the competition water was very different in character and we prayed it would fish well.
SUMMARY OF THE NORWEGIAN WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
FIRST, the Mosjoen region of Norway is beautiful, with its snow capped mountains and stunning scenery. The people of the area were so friendly, most spoke English and as controllers were some of the most helpful I have ever met.
The 'Live Centre' was fantastic, with fish being recorded and televised coverage going all over the world just hours after each day. I hasten to add that this was organised and funded by a private company called IEC in Sports and not Fips-Mouche.
Sadly, those two elements were the only things that I can praise from these Championships.
The fishing during the 'dummy run' event in 2012 was dire, but the World Championships were even worse.
We all felt that whoever pegged the rivers and lake had no real knowledge of fishing. Pegs were made under river bridges, along high bed rock that fell away into oblivion and impossible to wade - anyone slipping on their studded waders here would almost certainly be in serious trouble.
Some of the main rivers were pegged double bank and as the levels dropped, it became clear that there simply wasn't sufficient water, so they had to be moved. Normally moved pegs go to the bottom of a section and that area is often used for practice, so they are normally fished out and it is a case of simply trying to 'save the blank'. Some of the competition beats were fished during practice as the boundary maps were not accurate and there were no signs erected until far too late.
All of the countries I spoke to felt the beats were generally too short, especially on the Bank Lake and certainly not consistent and this is clearly proven by the results.
However, the governing body Fips-Mouche clearly states the following in their published rules:
“It shall be the prime objective of the host country to provide all competitors with equal ﬁshing opportunities. It shall be ensured that no competitor is either advantaged or disadvantaged by the quality of the beat allocated. In any case beats shall be a minimum length of two hundred meters on running water and one hundred meters on still waters. Ideally, each beat will have a minimum buffer zone of twenty meters on each side”.
Now lets have a look at the Fiplingdaselva results. Only 45 trout were caught during the 125 three-hour sessions and 36 came from beats 21 to 25. These four beats were located more than a kilometer below beat 20 and a shoal of small brown trout swam regularly out of the small lake and into these four beats. No less than 13 beats failed to produce a single ﬁsh in 195 hours of ﬁshing and over 100 blanks were recorded from 125 anglers.
By no means equal ﬁshing opportunities!
The Vefsna River produced the most ﬁsh but still suffered over 30 blank sessions. The Austervefsna laid claim to the second highest number of ﬁsh, but here the blanks were in excess of 50. The small bank lake, Svartvatnet, was another disaster with 78 blank sessions, while the boat lake Storvatnet was even worse with over 80 blanks.
LOCAL KNOWLEDGE ESSENTIAL
SO altogether, there were 128 competitors ﬁshing ﬁve sessions. Of these 640 three hour sessions, no less than 367 were blank! The individual performances make very sad reading; 11 poor souls failed to catch a ﬁsh throughout the Championships, while 32 recorded four blanks, another 32 had three blanks and a massive 35 recorded two blanks and 15 anglers had just one single blank. Just three anglers caught a ﬁsh in every session and they were third placed Julien Lorquet of Belgium, second placed Martin Droz of the Czech Republic and World Champion Valerio Santi Amantini of Italy.
We all know that ﬁshing for genuinely wild ﬁsh can be a hit or miss affair, but given the choice, I would rather ﬁsh for wild ﬁsh than stocked ﬁsh. Norway has a multitude of highly productive rivers and lakes — we know, we ﬁshed some of them in practice! So why, I have heard from many competitors, were these venues used, particularly following such a poor show the previous year?
It is easy to erect signs to restrict ﬁshing areas prior to the match period.
The organisers should appoint experienced anglers with local knowledge to distribute the beats fairly.
Now I am not trying to lay blame on the Norwegian organisation committee. We pay our entry fees of 2,000 Euros to the governing body Fips-Mouche and it is they who have a duty to ensure that all these component parts are pieced together properly. It seems Fips-Mouche insist on changing rules on leader lengths and numbers of loops in a leader, but sadly miss the most important factor, which is to provide excellent and fair ﬁshing for its competitors, many of whom travel thousands of miles each year.
Some countries had to make seven ﬂights and spend in the order of $100,000 to take part in these World Championships. The least that Fips-Mouche should do is provide reliable, safe and productive ﬁshing, whatever the weather conditions. They should have a Plan B and if necessary, a Plan C if things do not go to plan.
When a country applies to host a World Championship, a delegation from Fips-Mouche inspects the area, the hotels, the logistics and the ﬁshing. When things go drastically wrong as they did this year, given the poor results from the previous dummy run, I believe Fips-Mouche should be held accountable. If not, these same mistakes can happen time and time again.