Part 4: "I JUST HAD TO AVOID THE BLANK" World Champion lain Barr needed just oné smáli brownie from Loch Awe...when the pressure was on.
THE fourth session took me to arguably the hardest of the five venues. Loch Awe is some 25 miles long and is a very daunting but extremely beautiful place to fish. We had just one weekenďs practise where I caught only five fish in two days' fishing. However, this practise wastopayhuge dividends during my world championship session.
All previous English rods fishing their sessions had caught no fish between them on this massive loch. Although getting no positive direct information from them they were able to telí mé where fish had been caught, which in a team event is just as useful.
Knowing that I was now toppingthe individual stakes and England had climbed to second place behind France added a little more pressure, but you've got to be confident.
Eyes are set on the local expert Donald Forbes who fishes here regularly and I feel assured when he heads in the same direction as me.
Wild brown trout can be aggressive so I fish a small Humungus on the point with two traditional wet flies to appeal to their more natural tastes. I fish them on a fast slime line allowing me to retrieve them at speed near the surface or slower so they drop to about six feet deep. I use the experience gained in Norway, 2007 where England and I took silver team and individual medals respectively fishing for predominantly wild brown trout. I place my Zulu wet fly just four feet from the Humungus, which was tied with a tungsten bead to create a good 'plop' as it hits the water. This attracts the fish and more often than not they take the wet fly up from the lure.
We head for the top end of the loch with my crazy boat partner from Australia, Max. Two mad men together so iťs sure to be a fun session if nothing else!
Our starting position is near an incoming river. This brings fresh water and, more importantly, a steady food supply to the waiting fish.
This was a popular starting point with other competitors in previous sessions but many of the boats drop short on to an adjacent point, including local favourite Donald Forbes. Do they know something we don't? It is critical to keep an eye on your competitors as you can gather so much information.
Within 10 minutes of our first drift across the slow flowing river mouth, mad Max hits in to a magnificent wild brownie of nearly 4ocm. It puts up a tremendous fight before nestling in his net. A few 'high fives' and there's an air of excitement thaťs soon dampened with an hour of no more action.
The boats are now spread but a few are still fishing the adjacent point. We do several drifts here without joy and no fish caught by our competitors.
With a little less than an hour left we have to do something different. Fortunately Max lets me take full control of the session due to my vast loch-style experience. We head for Barbecue Bay, a name Pd given to a bay near the famous Islands when I caught there last year after a team barbecue overlooking the spot.
It offers a steady depth gradient and the perfect cruising shelf for wild brown trout. There's a natural tree line allowing insects to fall in to the water, offering that food supply wild trout require.
The bay is calm with a pin ripple and iťs important that we don't take the boat in too fast. Even at this high level of competition Pm still amazed at some of the boating skills of anglers who have perfect presentation when fishing but have unwittingly disturbed their drift by their questionable engine skills.
A wide are, a slow drift in and weposition the boat perfectly off the shore Moto. Where we can work the running ledges off the shoreline. I ve taken the lures and wet flies off in favour of a much more subtle approach. I choose my midge-tip line, finer 61b Frog Hair fluorocarbon with a dry Bibio Hopper on the top dropper and two Cruncher nymphs behind. Again, this came from an archive in Australia, 1999 when Pd fished lures all morning only for my partner to take me in to a shallow bay and fish a dry fly and nymph combination, catching a superb wild brown trout.
This set up allows various options. I can fish the Bibio Hopper - a great fly for wild brown trout. A sizeable dry fly often pulls up the most stubborn of fish. It also makes a great indicator should a fish grab the nymph without mé feeling it at hand. I also use the dry to control the speed of retrieve for the nymphs, as Pm able to watch the dry fly speed, which the nymphs will be following of course. I fish an Olive Cruncher and a plain Cruncher at six foot intervals behind the dry, making my first cast towards the tree line. There's the odd Mayfly about with no fish showing but just seeing natural food gives me confidence fish will be present. Last year the bay was full of fish but it has dropped some 10 feet or so since then.
The clock shows about 35 minutes of fishing time remaining. I stay focussed knowing that I may get just the one more chance... and it comes. The Hopper sits proudly on the surface before disappearing. I lift my rod into a fish that jumps about six foot out the water! Iťs only small and as I lift it into the net it falls into the bottom of the boat. It had taken the size 12 Olive Cruncher six foot from the dry fly. My controller laughs and seems bewildered when I ask for the measuring tray. He's convinced it won't reach the mandatory 20cm length. I have fished World and European competitions for 11 years now and I know a 20cm fish when I see one!
I take the tray and place the fine looking fish on to the tape measure glued to a makeshift piece of guttering and he becomes more excited than me when it measures a whopping 21.1cm. A quick 'high five' is exchanged with Max because I've caught arguably the most important fish of the tournament for me and the team. Finally, I can enjoy the remaining 30 minutes of fishing as iťs mission accomplished by catching just one fish.
One of my smallest fish in competition fishing proved crucial as I took seventh place and this was enough to keep me in top spot going in to the final session on the Lake of Menteith. France hadblanked in this session so another 18 or so placing points had been gained. England had caught in all sections in session four, which was an outstanding achievement, including Davie Parker winning the Lake of Menteith session.
It was all to play for now with England just two points behind the French team and myself clear on the individual stakes. I couldn't relax though, because several competitors were breathing down my neck!