Between 11-18 June Spain organized XXIII. World Flyfishing Championship. The centre of the championship was a little town of Jaca with almost 10,000 inhabitants, located in the region of Huesca at the foot of the Pyrenees. The five-rounded event was divided between four rivers (Aragon, Aragon Subordan, Gallego and Veral) and on the reservoir of Escarra. Majority of teams arrived one week prior to the championship and tried to find the right tactics and flies for the event.
It was not easy at all, because the stretch on the Gallego river was situated quite high above the competitive one and did not correspond with the competitive one at all. Moreover, this was very short and soon there was nothing to fish for. Also the practice glacier lake in Baňos de Panticos was totally different from the mountain reservoir of Escarra, and moreover, there were many newly stocked brown trout, while in the Escarra reservoir there were only wild brown trout.
The largest river, the Rio Aragon, was during the time of practice, quite high, after rains and water was muddy because of the tributary of the Rio Gas. The Subordan downstream was the river almost without any fish, and so it was possible to train well, only upstream near the competitive stretch in the village of Hecho and good conditions for practice were in the riverlet of the Veral, near the village of Anso.
Practically the only species caught were the wild brown trout, very occasionally was it possible to catch small rainbow trout. In the Aragon river and its right-hand tributary of the Aragon Subordan there were many barbels, and so it was a pity that organizers did not place them among the eligible species. We could watch spiny loach, vimba, nase and in the upper parts even minnows. On the reservoir of Escarra common whitefish were caught, but these were not eligible species.
Home fans were looking forward to the success of the home competitors and nobody doubted it, however, the favorites were the French with many specialist, and because it was only a few kilometres to France. However, the first event was won by the Czechs on Saturday 14th June (placing 31) and this was mainly thanks to the success of Antonín Pesek, who caught 3 trout on the Escara lake in the first round, and so he also won his group, while the other favourite teams were blank.
A similar success was achieved by Karel Vacek on the Gallego river who was first with 9 trout and Tomas Starýchfojtu caught 14 trout on the Veral brook, as did the winning Frenchman Marquet, second Italian Cotugno and New Zealander West. However, Tom's fish were the shortest, so he became the fourth place.
Behind the Czech team there were the French one place behind, and unexpectedly the third place was for New Zealand. The Spanish team was on the seventh possition after the first round. This round was a complete failure for the Slovaks, who were thinking about the gold medals after training, and now they were on the 17th place.
The second round won by the Belgians before French and Polish, our team was seventh, mainly due to Vacek's mistake, who caught trout in the Escarra, but his Glassbuzzer was on a barbed hook and therefore this trout was not scored. Karel was very unhappy about it and he himself did not know how this fly got into the box full of buzzers on barbless hooks, so did not check them at all. However, this fatal mistake cost him his place.
The best Czech result was made by Tomas on the Subordan river, where he finished seventh with four fish and Antonin (Thony) was fifth on the Gallego with one fish. After two rounds the Belgians took the lead before French and Polish, Czechs were fourth, Spanish sixth and Slovaks thirteenth.
On Sunday 15th June there was one round and the afternoon was free. The Czech team won this round thanks to two second places, Tomas on the Gallego with 7 fish and Thony on the Aragon with 4 fish and Jaromir Sram (Jaja) was third from the Veral (7 fish). Karel was 8th on the Subordan with 5 trout and Pavel Machan was blank on the Escarra resevoir, which meant no. 20 altogether, there being that number of countries in the competition. After three rounds Belgium was before France and Czechs, Italians were fourth, Polish fifth, Spanish sixth and Slovaks thirteenth. Thony Pesek was the first in individuals and Tomas was the fourth.
The last and final day there was a very bad draw for us, because we started in heavily fished stretches, where our main competitors had fished before. In the fourth round this had brought fifteenth possition and one position worse was the Slovak team. We can mention Tom´s two fish from the Aragon, where he finished in ninth place. Thony was eleventh with two trouts on the Subordan, Karel was thirteenth with one little fish on the Subordan and Jaja, on the reservoir, and Pavel on the Gallego were blank. After four rounds France took the lead, the second was Belgium, third Italy, Czechs fourth, Spanish fifth, Polish sixth, Slovaks fell on to the fourteenth place.
The final fifth round was held on the heavily fished waters, and so it depended only on the draw and luck. The French reached their fourth victory in a row and overtook the Belgians by four places. On the third place 49 placings behind Belgium,finished the Spaniards by miracle, because they had all neccessary data from judges, how the best team fishes, and as well as last year they reached the bronze medal, when they send the Italians on to the fourth place, Czechs on to the fifth possition and the English were sixth. A Miraculous change made the Slovaks who won the last event and finished finally on the nineth place.
The last event was characterised by a storm which started in the afternoon in the mountains, and practically wrote off the Subordan and Gallego rivers and the only competitors who were fishing in the lower beats could fish until the flood wave of muddy water reached them. Our competitors made some profit on the Subordan, where Pavel was in the beat no. 20 fourth with one fish, and we lost on the Gallego, where Jaja was blank on beat no. 4. Thony Pesek was on the Veral, on the beat, where the Belgian Gigot did not catch nor an eligible fish on Sunday, seventh with three trouts. Surely, a great performance on the beat, where the Belgians lost the gold medals.
However, bad luck for Karel Vacek on the Aragon, because he had a very bad beat, where the Frenchman Gullpain caught only two fish in the third round. Our competitor lost one trout, which already was on the rod. Something similar had happened to Pavel, when he did not catch anything on the Gallego, but even the others, while the Belgians and French did not lose any fish at all, probably thanks to fishing with soft rods with parabolic action, while our harder and fast nymphing rods had very often caused us to loose almost half of the fish hooked. The leader construction used by both of the first two teams was a cause to question by us. With the Belgians it looked like fishing with something similar to an indicator, which is not allowed. Unfortunately, we could not see that closely thanks to the Rules and judges did not react to our questions.
After many years the Italian Stefano Cotugno won the individual gold medal, the second individual silver wast the Frenchman Bernard Marguet and the third individual, bronze, was the American Jeff Courrier, who has been trained by known Polish fisherman Trzebunia. Fourth was the Englishman Simon Kidd with the same number of fish, fifth the Belgian Denis Liczner, sixth Antonin Pesek, seventh Tomas Starychfojtu, eighth place was for the Frenchman Phillipe Beranger, ninth Polishman Antoni Tondera and the tenth to finish the Belgian Olivier Martinovic.
The French victory was a very tight one and it was for the fourth time in a row that they had stood on the top stage. The Belgians failed to relegated them from the throne and they did not get their first gold medal. They were evidently sad about this. Both these teams represent the world class in this type of competition, where both teams fish, and where mainly small trout are fished for. This is thanks to their tactics on the very light nymphs upstream, when they lay the line in three-second intervals. Thanks to the soft rods, they do not lose fish and thanks to the leader construction, which allows them to lead the nymphs even in five metres, to change the nymph for a dry fly and hold the rod tip far up.
This contrasted sharply with some of the other competitors, who put the rod tip with short nymph just over the trouts' heads and of course that is why they lowered the chance for a successful take. Many fish were caught with a dry fly this time, and so it depended on which tactics the teams would follow on the rivers. I think that this championship has proved that we cannot rely on our previously reliable ways and we will have to work on the improvement of the light nymphing upstream and even the finest dry flying upstream. In the competition, where there is almost nothing to catch, all depends on each detail and mainly on not losing the fish.
Teams ranking on the top were very similar to last year's championship in France, only our team changed its position with Italy. Ranking of our two competitors in the top ten was great, but it is a pity that the other three were only in the fifth ten. Chances existed for medals both in teams and individuals, we were not lucky, even when our competitors had the same number of fish as others, ours were always a little shorter than others, but this we could not influence. Our start was excellent, but the end a bit embarrasing. Well, next time in Slovakia in September 2004…
Teams and Individuals Summary
This time France was the first (168), if only four placings ahead of Belgium (172) and reached an incredible line of four victories in a row, which is undoubtedly a big credit to the team captain Jacques Boyko. The French were better, because they were blank only three times during the event, while Belgians did not catch a fish in five cases out of 25, which represented 100 placings out of total 172 points, i.e. 58.1% out of total sum of the team placings. This also means that in other 20 rounds they had the average placing 2.88, while the French 4.9.
The French were blank twice on the Escara lake and once on the Subordan river in the 5th round, however, there was a flood. The Belgians were blank four times on the lake and only Gigot did not score in the third round on the Veral river, when only one twenty-centimeter trout would have been enough for the total victory for Belgians. Belgians were better than the French in total number of caught fish by 11 trouts (altogether 110) and by 7,500 points (altogether 67,900), only the sum of placings was better for the French, but these are the Rules.
These two teams were far ahead from the rest of the world even this year, because the Pyrenees rivers with their few fish and gin clear waters reminded me of the rivers in the French Vosges. The reason for their success is quite similar tactics, based on fishing with one light nymph upstream, aimed at an induced take of a trout after the fall of the fly on the surface, i.e. whipping water in three-second intervals, changed with dry fly and followed up with the fishing with heavier end nymph in combination with a relatively distant placed wet fly at the tip of the extermely long leader (5 m and more).
We could watch the Belgians using that part of the long leader which is colorfully marked (yellow and red stripes) as this almost reminded me of fishing with the strike indicator. This visible part of the leader was continuously floating and the competitors greased it from time to time. Contemporary Rules say: 'Neither sinking nor floating devices may be added to the leader', but who will check this? With the French we saw something similar, even if this was not so visible.
The base of the success at the fishing of these small and light trout on the barbless flies is the soft rod, which may equalize all the fish takes without allowing them to jump. Then it would be possible to use a very soft top part of leader, which would make it possible to deceive even a very wary fish. This way of fishing requires a large landing net, where the competitors of the presenting team were busy landing smaller trout. The biggest advantage of this fishing system is that they do not lose many fish while playing them.
The third place of the Spanish team was certainly a big disappointment for them, even this could finish could have been worse. Before the competition all of them spoke about the victory only, and the wife of the Spanish team captain wanted to bet for US$ 1,000,- with me. I guessed France, and so we bet for a bottle of spirits and a kiss, if I win. But I was not given my prize, even if the mentioned madam did not sit very far from me at the farewell party. She likely forgot this and so I hope that she will repay her debts next time.
After four rounds the Spanish were fifth with the loss of 35 placings to the third Italians and it is a little mystery how they managed to overtake the Italians in this round by 8 points. There must have been a share from the home judges, who knew about all tactics and flies of rivals, even if the Spanish were mostly fishing with dry flies. This time Santiago Punter did not fish well, when he was substituted after two blank scores in the third round by Oscar Quevedo, who was a very big help for the team. The Spanish were blank five times, as well as the second Belgium, but they lost a full 49 placings and reached 41 fish.
Behind the Spanish team (221) there were other three teams. However, these were blank six times in the event, i.e. 4th Italians (total placing 229 and 87 fish), 5th Czechs (248 and 73 fish) and 6th English (249, 56 fish). The next three teams in the line were blank eight times, and these were 7th Poland (275 and 46 fish), 8th USA (276 and 70 fish) and 9th Slovakia (295 and 38 fish) and the top ten closed New Zealand with eleven blank scores (306 and 56 fish).
This years Individual World Champion, Italian Stephano Cotugno won in the sector twice in the third round and on the second best stretch on the Gallego river, where he caught 10 fish and in the fifth round on the Escara lake, where he was given the best beat on no. 19 and he caught 4 trout here. In the first round he was second on the fifth best beat on the Veral river (14 fish), in the second round he was sixth and on the fouth worst beat on the Subordan river (4 fish) and his worst place was the 8th position on the Aragon, where he fished a quite troublesome beat after Pesek and he had two more fish there. Ite was very remarkable that all three medal holders and even seventh Tom Starychfojtu were from the same group A.
Silver medal holder Bernard Marguet was one place better in comparison with the last year, even if he had only one victory and this was in the first round on the Veral for 14 fish on the third best beat no.7, where altogether 30 trouts were caught. On the Subordan he was second in the second round (8 fish) on slightly under average no.6, on the Aragon he was third in the fourth round with 3 catches on the average beat no. 4, where altogether 6 trout were caught and he lost the gold medal on the Escarra lake, where he caught 1 trout from the bad beat no. 6 and this was the seventh place in this sector.
The bronze medal reached little known American from Jackson Hole, on the Snake river, Jeff Courier and this was the first medal for the USA. Jeff started with the fifth place on a very good place on theVeral river (10 fish), in the second round he fished in an excellent way on the Subordan and he got 3rd place for 7 trout in the sector on the under-average beat no. 10, where altogether 14 fish were caught. In the third round he had a good place on no. 4 in the most difficult group A on the Gallego river, where he caught 7 trout from totally caught 14 and this was 3rd place in the sector again. He was fourth in the 4th round on the second best beat no. 2 on the Aragon with 3 trout. From totally caught 9 trouts on the Escarra lake he was on the very bad 9th place with one catch from two possible, on the seventh place in the sector.
The same total placings (21) was reached by Englishmen Simon Kidd, who had very stable achievements and before the last round he was on the second place, which he lost on the Gallego river on a very bad no. 8, where altogether only three fish were caught and one of them was the Simon's one. That ment only 8th place in the sector.
The fifth in the line was young Belgian Denis Liczner, who lost his chance on the lake, where he was 11th with one fish, even if he was the only man from the Belgians, who caught at least something there. Antonin Pesek lost his chance in the 4th round on the Subordan on the same stretch where the French and Spanish a Tomas Starychfojtu, who has had all three individuals medals, was fishing before him. This time he probably lost his chance on the Aragon, where he was with two fish on the 9th place and probably even on the lake, where his trout in the last round was the smallest one (8th). Even the 8th Frenchman Phillipe Beranger could have thought of a medal, but all his chances had been burried on the Escarra in the second round, where his trout was also the smallest and in his case this was the 12th place in the sector.
During this year's World Championship in the Spanish Pyrenees, 100 top and very good flyfishermen caught altogether 958 fish in 1500 hours of fishing, which is an average of only 0.64 fish (longer than 20 cm) for l hour. There were 199 blanks in 597 hours of fishing, and this itself says it all. I would like to mention that e.g. at this year's Czech elimination competition, which took place in the Vltava and the Malse river, of the Czech team for the next world championship, two weeks before the Spanish championship, 12 fishermen caught in five rounds 864 salmonid fish. The largest number from one competitor was 99 fish and lowest sum was 46 fish. In such a competition it is possible to distinguish who is better. But we also had a competition, where one competitor (Milan Janus) caught 95 greylings in 3 hours with a dry fly.
In comparison with this championship, it is neccessary to realize that those 0,.4 fish per hour is only the average number from five rounds and that in some stretches this was worse. The Aragon river brought 101 trout for 100 competitors and this is the average 0.33 fish per hour and there were also 49 blanks. Only a little bit better than that was on the Gallego river, where 151 trouts were caught and there were 50 blanks. From my point of view the mountain reservoir was overstocked, even if there were only 60 trouts caught and there were 58 blanks, but this is worse on similar waters and this sproblem is well known. A more correct standard was achieved on only the Aragon Subordan, where 307 trouts were caught and there were 24 blanks and the best was the Veral, where 341 trouts were caught and there were only 18 blanks.
But even on Veral river there were different beats, from the worst no. 14, where the only two fish were caught by the Czech competitor Pavel Machan to the beat no. 1, where 41 trout had been caught. Of the analysis on different places we can state that there were 9 good and very good beats, 4 average ones and 7 bad and very bad beats. On the Subordan there were 5 very good beats, two of them (no. 5 and 11) were the best, because the same number - 34 fish had been caught there. The next 11 beats were the average ones and the worst was beat no. 14 with 7 fish only.
On the Aragon there were 5 very good beats, the best on no. 15 with 11 catches and the worst was no. 12, where the only one fish which was caught by the Czech Pavel Machan. On the Gallego there were only 3 very good beats, the best no. 7 (30 trouts), 5 average ones, 3 bad and 9 horrible ones, i.e. with 0 - 3 catches. On numbers 12 and 15 nothing was caught. And finally on the Escarra reservoir there was a very good beat no. 19 with 11 catches, on no. 20 6 fish were caught and on no. 10, there was nothing. But as I said before, it is not possible to assess this reservoir badly in comparison with the other ones, we have seen similar results on other still waters.
At the competition there were several inexplicable results. The strangest of all was that, when the competitor who finally finished about the 70th place and caught only 2 fish during four rounds, suddenly in the fifth round won the sector competition with 15 fish, which was the best result of the individual at this event, this seems quite strange to me. It is totally different from the thing, when the last year's World Champion the Frenchman Brossutti caught 12 fish on the Gallego in the 4th round, which I consider was the best performance of this championship.
You may say, why did I deal with these beats in such a detail, but I do this after each championship. On the presented cases I wanted to show where the world championships take place and we have seen worse catches for example in Australia or Ireland. When these events cost so much money, they should take place in much better conditions. Better waters should be chosen for competitors who train hard to participate in the championship and often they suffer very much as well.
Or if barbel had been eligible at this championship, it could have been totally different and I would not have to listen to such remarks from the competitors that somebody is making fun of them. Competitor may catch the fish only if there is some in his place. These fish can be fished for twice or three times consecutively, but not five times. And who is responsible for the choice of the beats and the eligible species? Nobody! And this has lasted for more than two decades and nobody cares. Always there is somebody who catches something and the winner is proclaimed.
These words may not sound well to the Prasidental Board of FIPS-Mou, and of course they will ask me: "Why do you do this?". As they asked me after the Congress in spring this year. I have been pointing out the mistakes, which are repeated almost annually and I do not see any remarkable improvement. When all are silent I do not mean to stay silent any more.
If all was O.K., I would be the first saying Good job. Improve the correctness and fairness of the events and I will not say anything. I do not like making these criticisms very much, especially when I get as a result of this, a warning from the Jury for the things which are not noticed at all. Neither I am invited to the Jury, where this offence is discussed. At each court the accused has the right to defend himself, only here the court decides immediately after the verdict of plaintiff and this seems quite strange to me. That somebody could heal his feeling of inferiority?
The World Championship in Spain was a great meeting of great fishermen and many of them have been my friends for many years. This year I have met new faces from South Africa and New Zealand. The atmosphere of such a meeting is great and the best of all is, when the fish are caught. The Spanish organizers had done a big piece of work on the preparation of the beats and their marking. Organization of the competitions was an excellent one and behaviour of the controllers was really fair. I know what I speak about, because I have organized both the World and European championship and I hope that I will be able to organize the Junior champiosnhip in two years in Czech Republic.