EPFFA River Fly Fishing Championships 2015 by Iain Fraser

The River Ure in North Yorkshire is a river I knew nothing about except that it was reported to be an excellent grayling water.

I travelled up with Bob my old fishing mate of 40 odd years and arrived in the outskirts of Layburn about 2pm in the afternoon. We found the river and had a scouting foray and were pleasantly surprised to find a falling river and signs of a few fish rising although we could not identify what the fish were rising to.

On to the town and the local tackle shop where the manager and staff were very helpful but were not fly fishers but they did hold a very good selection of flies. I usually reckon that when faced with a new water and a local tackle shop, I always look to see what fly selections are nearly empty and so found only 5 pinkish klinkhammers in size 12/14 left in the tray which I purchased along with a selection of other shrimps and dries.

Next stop – the Golden Lion hotel to unload all the gear and try out the local ale and catch up with many of the old friends who had come from as far afield as Hampshire, Gloucester, Middlesex, Northumbria and all points in between. After a good hot meal and a few more pints in the bar and talking to anyone in the hotel who might be able to give some pointers on the methods which were unsuccessful – it was time for a quick briefing on the next day – a practice – with maps and access points to be found.

The following day was very mild, damp and a little misty and we drove down to Lords Bridge to wet a line. Unfortunately so did everyone else and we figured that the river would not support so many anglers so we set off exploring various access points and laybys wetting a line here and there to get a feel for the water. Not much insect life about but we eventually found what appeared to be virgin water downstream of Wensley Bridge.

With few fish seen rising, I opted for the Czech-nymph style with a 3 fly set up heaviest weighted nymph – a pink shrimp in the middle and two lighter nymphs each side on a 5 foot leader. Nothing – zilch for over an hour steadily casting and watching for any movement on the line. Mid-afternoon and still very mild, a small hatch of a brownish fly appeared and I changed methods to the dry. A small brown sedge and one of the pinkish klinkhammers on a short dropper and I took a couple of reasonable grayling on the klinkhammer. Only a few fish were rising but at least something was feeding.

Having found a method that worked and not wanting to disturb the water too much before the match, we decided to drive back to Lords Bridge to see how others were doing and while we should not have been, we were very pleased to find most people struggling with a lot of blanks and the odd couple of fish here and there. We fished for an hour or so and Bob had a grayling but I could not get an offer at all.

Back to the car and a short drive to Wensley Bridge for a look by the bridge itself. Nothing.
In the bar that evening, it was encouraging to hear the tales of woe and frustration with no-one catching more than 3 fish that day although the methods seemed to be very much nymph tactics on the Bolton Abbey, Lords Bridge stretch. After dinner (and a few pints) the briefing for the following day and an early night

Bob and I reckoned that with all the pressure on the water at Lords Bridge we would be best to fish downstream of Wensley Bridge as we had seen no one else come there and although it was a mile hike (or seemed it) the water had not been hammered like Lords Bridge which was a much easier walk and did offer a good variety of water.

Thursday morning came – the draw and the pairings. For those that don’t know, we usually fish an hour about with one fishing and the other being the measurer and judge of any  infringements of the rules. Because the fishing had been so hard the previous day and the prospect of heavy rains and a rising river, it was decided that both anglers would be permitted to fish at the same time but the judge with the ruler must always be within 30 yards of the main angler for that hour – the ruler being swapped each hour. The angler without the ruler being in charge of where to fish along the several miles of river available. Bob and I reckoned that the water we wanted could accommodate two pairs fishing without a problem. The names kept coming out of the hat except mine or Bobs until only two remained – and they were ours. Wonderful luck to start with – we knew where to go and no need to share the water with anyone else hopefully.

The cars were all loaded and the ‘go’ was given and everyone set off to their chosen areas in a thick mist yet still a warm temperature. Parking in a layby close to the bridge, the car was unloaded, waders on and tackle and flask fitted into my new fly vest and back pack. What a great buy – no more having a shoulder bag slipping down your arms, rods fitting into the side pockets and no weight to notice. I had first seen the vest on an Irishman in the Five Nations earlier this year when fishing the River Clyde in Scotland and noticed how easy he walked carrying his tackle effortlessly and was able to wade without having to deposit his gear on the bank.

Bob and I set off on the long walk through the mist downstream arriving at the stretch we had chosen, Bob sweating and puffing and me far less out of breath thanks to the new vest. We tossed a coin for up or downstream and I won, choosing a stretch by an overhanging tree where I saw a few delicate dimples breaking the surface. Crawling through the obligatory barbed wire fence which seems to be a compulsory feature for fly fishing venues and designed by wader manufacturers to ensure year on year sales, we found some flattish ground to tackle up.

There were a few splashy rises and tiny dimples breaking the surface just downstream of the tree but Bob and I both agreed that these must be very small fish, salmon parr perhaps or fingerling trout or grayling – even minnows.

The water was starting to run a little harder and rising just a fraction with a lot of leaves being carried downstream. No terrestrials seen so I put on what I had used the previous day. First cast – a savage take no more than 8 feet from the bank and busted. What was it?? I can only suspect a small salmon/sea-trout or a large brown. I was using 3 lb breaking strain (there is a maximum allowed of 4lb to ensure we don’t get any salmon).

Bob cast out downstream of me and the air is shattered by some Anglo Saxon expletives as he is likewise treated to a fish breaking his line. A mixture of frustration and excitement pervades over us both as we tie on new leaders and flies. I don’t know what Bob is using but I tie on another pinkish klinkhammer on the dropper and a black gnat on the point.
The fish are still rising and little tiny dimples show in the water. I have had umpteen rises and splashes near my flies but nothing has tightened my line. Best part of an hour has gone by and a small dimple appears by my klinkhammer, I pause for half a second before striking gently and this time things go solid and a fish is on – a nice grayling around 28 cms. One in the net and returned alive. Time for a coffee, a well-earned pipe of tobacco and a sit down. Bob is still struggling and missing a lot of bites. He comes upstream to me and we discuss flies and why we are not hooking up more. Bob is convinced he is getting takes on a black klinkhammer, I think all my takes are on the pink. We swop areas and two or three casts and a little dimple results in another grayling a bit bigger. Into the net and then a trudge up to Bob for the official measuring 32 cms and recording on my card. Half an hour later and another one. Back to the tree for our swop round, another coffee and a smoke.

The number of leaves are increasing and the rises are getting fewer, nearing lunch-time and I get another grayling and its change round again and Bob is still to open his account.
I am now fishing downstream and have taken off the black gnat and am fishing a single fly – the pinkish klinkhammer. A pull but this time it is undersized, then another decent grayling, then a salmon parr which does not count either. The fish seem to have switched on and another grayling of 30 odd cms and then another. Change round time and things seem quiet near the tree now. I put up my nymphing rod and try that method – nothing. Meantime Bob has at last got one which I measure and record.

I have by now given him one of my pinkish Klink’s as I figure I have a decent lead and even though he is a very good mate, it is a competition after all. Nothing shows interest to the nymphs so it’s back to the pink klinkhammer and downstream of the tree and I bag two more nice grayling. As I said, Bob is a good mate and although it’s not time to move I vacate the spot, tell Bob the method and let him fish where I have been catching. He hooks into a very solid fish which turns out to be the best of the whole competition measuring 46 cms – a beautiful grayling.

It’s turning quite chilly and the rain has started, beginning with a few light drops around 1.30pm and steadily intensifying to a cold and cruel onslaught by 3.30pm. The rises have all stopped and despite changing onto nymphs fished across and down, nothing is interested.

Its 3.30pm and we have a fair walk, so I have ended with six grayling and Bob has two but one is a big’un. The match ends at 4pm so we decide to give it best, take down our tackle and trudge back to the car through the rain and mud. Everything is soaked and getting out of our waders at the car and getting on dry shoes in not easy so everything is thrown into the boot and we drive back to the hotel having no idea how we have fared. Tackle to the room and into the bar for a pint and a chat with the others. No one seems to have done that well although my old team mate from Middlesex is sitting with a hint of a Cheshire Cat grin. The measuring sticks are returned and the results cards handed over to the organiser. Off to the room – shower and change into blazer shirt and tie for the meal and results.  First announcement – the Trophy Cup will not be presented tonight as Kevin from Gloucester (last year’s winner) has left it behind. His wife did phone him but by then he was 2 hours up the motorway.

Second announcement – the medals for 1st, 2nd and 3rd places will not be presented today as they are in Scotland as the UK Secretary who was bringing them could not get away from work at the last minute.

Never mind – the official announcement of places and qualifiers for the EPFFA England Squad is made.  Two reserves (can’t remember who they were now), Bob is 4th Place (phew – thank goodness I have someone to travel with to Ireland next year), 3rd place – Kevin who forgot the Cup, 2nd place – all is hushed as its between me and the guy from Middx and he is second. I have beaten him by 9 centimetres and its my second win in three years. One win could be luck, two wins in three years probably luck but I like to think I know a little more than some others. Sorry, no photos –  I forgot to get any shots of the river etc. and no action shots the lad from Scotland who did not make it to take any and no presentation photos as there was no cup but I am told it will be presented when I go to Ireland!

If anyone is interested, my internet site is www.flyfishingwithfraser.co.uk where there are photos of the 2013 Championships and grayling on the River Eden.

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