The 36th Fips Mouche World Fly Fishing Championships held in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, was my first world championships. It was contested between more than 20 countries and held over five competition sessions.
Teams arrived in the days/weeks prior to competition to learn the venues, create team plans and tie their flies. Our team arrived just over two weeks before the competition which was incredibly beneficial. Practice was also very enjoyable as it tends to be at these competitions. The fishing on the Eagle, and Colorado Rivers was amazing, not to mention Brook and Cutthroat Trout on Gore Creek, in front of our accommodation!
Before the comp I was both nervous and excited. My seven years of competition fishing had all been leading to a moment such as this. I cant thank the team around me enough for making me feel comfortable through the busy times before the competition.
In the following report, I will go through my experiences over the five competition sessions. It is very hard to recall every single detail of all events because this is written post competition. Having said that, I do hope you find it interesting and insightful.
Day 1, Session 1 – Sylvan Lake
My first session in the world fly fishing championships was on Sylvan Lake. This was the only lake venue in the competition and it was closed for practice prior to the competition. Results from past competitions on this lake told the team that the angler fishing Sylvan needed 30 or more fish to win a session. Although we had not fished the lake before, we had been given good information from the likes of Yann Caleri who had fished the venue in past competitions. In addition, the team had practiced on another local lake called Sherriff Reservoir that had stocked rainbows present, which were similar to those in Sylvan.
We had a good selection of team flies prepared and every sink rate of fly line imaginable which made me feel quite confident. I drew boat 10 with the Scottish angler, Steve Corser. Steve won the toss and had control of the boat first. He and I talked prior to the start of the session and luckily we wanted to target similar areas.
Five minutes before the session started, I was sitting in the drift boat, set up with a Di 3 sweep fly line on my 10ft 7wt Hanak Stillwater rod. I had a team of 3 small streamers attached to 0.20 (7.5lb) Hanak flurocarbon. Two of these were olive in colour and one peach. Fish we rising around the boat and things were looking good.
The session started and first cast I covered a rising fish in front of the boat. I was amazed that the fish didn’t eat my flies. In practice on Sheriff Reservoir, almost every rising fish you covered ate the flies. My confidence was quickly fading as I fished the first 30 minutes without touching a fish. It was made worse by looking around and seeing fish hooked and landed in surrounding boats. The only fish I got close to were the 8 or so fish Steve had landed and a few that had been sitting under my point fly refusing me on the hang! I had been making fly and line changes trying to create something and it wasn’t until I realised Steve was only fishing two flies (a reasonable distance apart) that the penny dropped.
I had also seen Steves flies in the mouthes of a few fish and could see that they both had chartreuse beads. One was an olive fly, the other black.
I quickly cut off my middle dropper and tied a small Mark II Shrek on the top dropper and a small chartreuse beaded black woolly bugger on the point. I had already changed to a DI 5 sweep fly line as Steve was having success on exactly this line.
My confidence rose again with these changes and sure enough, a few casts later I caught a stockie rainbow. Over the next half an hour I started consistently touching fish and landed a few more. Just before the halfway point in the session, I decided to scrap the leader I was fishing (3 flies 5 foot apart minus the middle fly) and tie up an 18 foot leader with my two flies 9 foot apart. I also downsized my tippet to 5lb (0.16 Hanak fluorocarbon).
Although the fishing has slowed, fish were still being caught through the middle part of the session and my boat partner was still consistently catching them.
We moved our boat a bit further up the lake to try and get a fresh drift. The move paid of as on our first cast of the new drift, we both hooked and landed a fish. The next cast, we did the same again. We had clearly found a patch of fish and landed a combined, 10 fish, in under ten minutes. Boats started to row towards us to get on a similar drift once they realised we were on fish. Things went quiet with all the boats around us so I decide to put on a tan and chartreuse fly that Lubin Pfeiffer had shown me in practice. I thought it was something very different and fish wouldn’t have seen a fly like that yet. Sure enough, I had another flurry of fish coming to my flies and into the boat. Thank you Lubin! With a few minutes remaining, Steve and I headed wide for one last drift and both landed a couple of fish to finish the session.
My boat partner had won the session with 31 fish, and I managed 19 fish earning me a 5th place. I couldn’t have been more happy with the result considering the very slow start. I know Glenn Eggleton, who was our keen eyes around the lake, was really feeling very sorry for me after the first 30 minutes! His job was to pass the information gleaned from every lake session on to the next Australian angler. This was Lubin who took a 4th in the next session - the best of our lake results.
Day 1, Session 2 – Blue River
The Blue was a fast, clear river with big holes, boulders and runs. It held predominantly browns with a few good rainbows mixed in. On this sector I drew beat 7. It was right below the main bridge at the sector HQ. The beat was roughly 120 meters long. It had a big deep hole at the top, then a couple of big boulders part way down, followed by a big chute at the bottom. The beat finished half way down the big chute/run. A Belgium angler had fished it in the first session and had caught 9 fish and according to the sector judge had fished it very slowly and thoroughly from the bottom up.
I chose to start my session on the bottom beat marker, planning to nymph up the soft edge of the big run. This paid off when I landed my first fish (a small brown) right on the border of my beat, two minutes in. I then proceeded to miss a fish (that I saw eat my nymphs) in front of the two submerged rocks I could see on the bottom. A mental note was taken to return to this fish later in the session.
I continued fishing up the edge from the bank, as the water was too deep to wade. I picked up another 3 fish including two cracking big browns on this edge over the next hour. I had also lost two smaller fish that jumped and popped off.
One hour in I headed to the top of the beat where I nymphed the big hole unsuccessfully. The water was so deep and fast I don’t think I got my flies down to the fish. The only conciliation was catching a 30 cm brown as I swung my nymphs back down stream as I was walking to grab my streamer rod. Once I had my streamer rod I swung the big hole, again, unsuccessfully.
During this session I was lucky to have Joe, Yann and Daniel on the bank watching. Joe was the team captain while Yann was our French guide and Daniel our Australian "young gun" attending the world championships for experience.
At the halfway point in the session we all thought I should attempt to cross the river to fish the other side. I managed to get across, enjoying a dip in the river on the way. I headed to the bottom to fish the other side of the big run. This was successful as I landed another big brown behind a submerged boulder on a nymph. The worst part was trying to get back across to get the fish measured! After another swim and more water down my waders, I had the fish measured and was heading back to other side to continue fishing the edge.
I couldn’t produce another fish from that side of the run and I decided to nymph the two boulders that stood half way up my beat. I managed to catch a small brown behind each of the boulders.
With 20 minutes remaining, I headed back to the bottom of the beat to re fish the soft edge where I had caught the first four fish. I had initially nymphed through with .14mm Hanak flurocarbon tippet, so the second time through I chose to fish .12 and two different nymphs. I remembered I had missed that fish early in the session and was ready for a second attempt. Sure enough, I made the cast, the flies drifted down to the two submerged rocks and whack...... nothing! I had missed the fish again. I once again left him and continued to fish up. With five minutes remaining, I caught another fish on the edge, but as I landed him, my leader got caught in the tree and was stuffed. I had to make a choice, continue up with another rod/technique, or re tie and have one last go at the fish at the bottom. I decided to re tie the leader and set up this time with .10mm tippet and the same two nymphs (a pheasant tail and a hares ear). I raced to the bottom of the beat. Captain Joe kindly yelled ‘two minutes’ at me. I had a few casts below the rocks to mentally prepare myself. Then made the same cast aiming to drift my nymphs down to the two submerged rocks. The flies were drifting nicely, and sure enough, wack! The fish ate them again and this time he stuck. After a nervous 30 seconds fighting the fish, I finally had him in the net! The controller measured him, looked at his watch and announced time was up.
I was extremely happy with my 10 fish. I was even happier when I got back on the competitor bus and realized that this earned me a 3rd place in the session.
Day 2, Session 3 – Eagle River (upper), Wolcott
The Eagle River was the smallest of the three rivers. The upper section (Wolcott) contained a mix of pocket water, flat pools and some runs. It held rainbows, browns and the odd whitefish. I drew beat for 20 this session.
In the previous sessions an Italian and a Czech fished the beat and caught 16 and 12 respectively. This beat was roughly 100 meters long. At the bottom there were some shallow pockets around some rocks. The middle of the beat had one main run and the top had a couple of deeper pockets.
The team had seen this beat many times as we drove past and all thought it looked good. As always, looks can be deceiving but time would tell.
I was extremely fortunate this session, as everything seemed to go my way. Before the session started my controller and I polaroided a big rainbow sipping dries in a backwater. The first cast I made was to this fish with a size 20 quill body upwing mayfly. He casually came up and ate the dry really well and I missed him! But this wasn’t an issue as another similar sized rainbow cruised out of the deep water to sit right next to the fish I missed. Naturally, my second cast was at this fish. Seconds after the fly landed, he cruised up and ate the fly. This time I hooked and landed him, all in the first ninety seconds of the session.
After this first lucky fish, I moved to the bottom of my beat and started nymphing the shallow pocket water with some lightly weighted nymphs. I picked up a few fish in this water early in the session that gave my confidence a big boost.
As if I needed more luck, I saw a pod of rising fish at the bottom of the beats main run and slightly off to the side. The Hanak Superlight 9'6" #3 dry fly rod was again called into action (to read Tom's review on this rod, click here). I was fishing the same size 20 quill body upwing mayfly on .12mm tippet to these rising fish and was frustrated as I broke off the first two of these fish I hooked. They were big rainbows and managed to run me around some large rocks. After this minor set back, I got back into my groove, landing the next 5 fish that ate my fly. It was truly amazing to see so many fish in such a small area of river. I found that after catching a few of these fish in the pod they became harder to fool. I decided to downsize to .10mm tippet and caught a couple more.
After exhausting my pod of rising fish, I chose to fish the main run. I caught my first two in the run on a big mayfly pattern twitched across the surface and then proceeded to nymph, catching a few more including a 60cm rainbow.
Above the run I caught a few fish blind on a dry fly before seeing more rising fish in some soft water on the edge of the river. With .10 tippet and an olive quill body plume tip dry fly, I managed to pick off most of these fish.
With about ten minutes remaining in the session, Joe and Yann arrived to watch the final moments of the session. I was told I had to catch one more fish before the session ended. Nymphing the top of my beat quickly produced another fish. I returned to the controller to measure the fish, pleased that I had done what the captain had ordered. But on arrival I was told that he actually meant two fish, not one! Ha, ha. Very funny Joe!
Off I went with roughly 7 minutes remaining. I was lucky again to snag a quick fish, this time swinging my nymphs through one of the pockets from side on and then another smaller fish just before the end of the session.
I finished up with 22 fish, placing me 3rd in the session. This was truly the session of my life. I was extremely lucky with the draw and the rising fish. That 3 hours of fishing was the most fun I had in the US.
Day 3, Session 4 – Eagle River (lower), Gypsum
The lower Eagle River, located at the Gypsum ponds, was quite different to the Eagle River at Wolcott. This section had much more flat water/pools in it. It also produced lower numbers of fish than the upper section of the Eagle. This time I had drawn beat 10. Two fives and a four had been caught on this beat by a Norwegian, Japanese and Fin.
This beat had an island in it and shallow water on each side. Only two pockets in the beat were over knee deep. When looking at this beat before the session I thought it would be tough and I would be happy if I caught a couple of fish.
Sadly I do not have much to report on from this session. I dry fly and nymphed the shallow pocket water as well as swinging spiders through it. The more I fished the beat, the shallower I realized it was and the more trouble I knew I was in. There were two major events for me in the session. With one hour to go my controller and I witnessed a big rainbow swim into my beat from the big hole in the beat below me. This fish then swum into one of my ‘deep’ pockets and disappeared from sight.
Naturally, I fished the hell out of the pocket on two separate occasions with a range of flies. With ten minutes remaining, I returned to this pocket with 0.10 tippet and a size 18 nymph. I knew this was my last chance. I threw a long cast up to the top of the pocket and let the small nymph get to the bottom and drift down as naturally as I could. Sure enough, the line hesitated and I lifted into the fish. It took about 2 or 3 seconds for the fish to respond to being hooked. When he did, he charged off into the shallow water. I knew I was in a little bit of trouble on this light tippet with a tiny fly.
My worst fears were realized when the rainbow turned and headed back to it’s pocket against the bank, where a thorn bush was located. To the fish’s credit, it did a great job of wrapping my leader around the thorn bush and burying himself under the bank. I ran to the bank, gathering my line and then attempting to break apart the thorn bush to free my leader. I eventually managed to rip the bush off the bank and ease the fish back into the open water. Now I was fighting a 3lb fish with a thorn bush hanging off my leader. Sadly, this small victory was short lived. The fish again turned and headed straight back under the bank. With the already weakened leader, it did not take much pressure for the line to break.... I was gutted.
After this 'tragedy', I had time to make a few more casts with another rod but this was to no avail. The session had ended and I had blanked. It was a very interesting feeling for me. Normally when I blank I am extremely disappointed and down. This time, I had a really positive outlook. I felt I had done the best I could and had no regrets. All I could do was give it my all on the Colorado River in the afternoon. It was comforting to see that the angler who fished this beat in the afternoon also blanked, as disappointing as it would have been for him/her.
Day 3, Session 5 – Colorado River
The Colorado River was wide, deep and fun! It held a mixture of browns, rainbows and whitefish. If you drew a reasonable beat, this river was a fantastic venue for the world championships as it was challenging and all techniques came into play.
I had drawn beat 22 for my final session. The beat had produced 2 fish, then 5 fish by a Scotsman, 3 by an Italian and then a single fish caught by a Swedish angler. The beat was typical of the Colorado. It was about 100 meters long, shallow on one side and gradually got deeper as you crossed the river. The best feature of my beat was 20 meters of a big island that went into beat 23. This gave me a shallow run along one side of the island that, according to my controller, had produced fish in the earlier sessions. Most controllers were not telling anglers where fish were caught but his friendly nature was appreciated.
It is amazing how a little bit of luck goes a long way. I had planned to start at the top of my beat so I could streamer down the deep water, then once I reached the bottom of my beat, dry fly up the shallow edge.
I was waiting at the top of my beat for the start of the session. As my controller said start, a fish rose hard on the bank. Naturally, I put my streamer rod away and covered him with a dry. My size 14 split wing mayfly drifted for two seconds and a nice brown came up and ate the fly. What a start!
With one fish landed, the next hour passed without seeing a fish. Eventually, another fish ate the dry but this time, on the opposite side of the river. I missed the take and couldn’t get him to eat a different dry fly pattern, or a nymph there after. I continued fishing to the top of my beat. I then decided to swing back to this fish and after a few minutes of varying my presentations, my olive streamer tempted the small brown and it was landed. Continuing to fish the streamer, it produced another fish straight away before I missed one in a small backwater below where I had landed the previous fish.
I didn’t see any more action until I headed back to the short riffle alongside the small part of the island that I previously mentioned. Two fish came out of this riffle for me. One I caught on the split wing CDC mayfly dry and the other on a tan/olive caddis nymph. I expected to catch more out of this section of my beat, however after the session concluded, my controller told me that this 20 meter area had been fished very hard in the previous 4 sessions.
This may have explained my lack of success here.
With 5 minutes remaining, I decided to swing spiders through my beat just for something different. It was only with 2 minute left that I remembered that there was a fish in that backwater that I had missed earlier on the streamer. I charged across the river, taking water over my waders to reach the spot in time. The cast was made, I threw in a single upstream mend to get some depth and as soon as the fly started to swing, the line tightened. It revealed itself to be a big rainbow when it started jumping clear of the water. He ran downstream with me following closely behind and finally it came to the net.
After the fish was measured and released, the session was over. I couldn’t think of a better way to finish a world championship than releasing a beautiful, wild Colorado River rainbow trout. The 6 fish I caught placed me 5th in the session. Again the French, USA and Spanish anglers had dominated the session. To be fishing along side fishermen of that caliber and pushing them all of the way, is such a privilege.
Julien Daguillanes from France topped my group and won the individual gold
medal in the competition. I could not think of a nicer or more deserving world champion that Julien. Sitting next to him on the bus was an absolute pleasure. This gold will go alongside his individual silver medal from New Zealand some years ago.
The Spanish had won the coveted, team gold medal with France second and the USA third.
We had finished seventh overall. Although it was our best result for many years, we all feel as though we should have done better.
To the Australian Team of Jonathan, Christopher, Lubin, Brian, Glenn, Joe and Mischa, it was a great experience and a huge team effort. A big thanks to Yann Caleri for his coaching, and Daniel for accompanying the team and helping with fly tying. What an experience!
Rainbow Lodge Guide
Rainbow Lodge would like to congratulate Tom on his final individual placing of 18th at the 2016 World Championships. This is an amazing achievement at his first World Championship event and shows that Australia has a promising future in competitive fly fishing. Well done Tom.
We would also like to congratulate the Australian Team on their 7th place finish. A great team effort from the entire team and support team.