Commonwealth Fly Fishing Championships Report 2016

Mont Tremblant, Canada. By Stewart Dick.

I apologise for not writing reports during the competition, however the really interesting stuff was all about the fishing which I couldn’t talk about until the competition was over. So here we go with a full report of the competition, including the build-up, flies, techniques, etc.

The team arrived at different times all about one and a half to two weeks prior to the competition. We had eleven fishermen including two teams of five - the ‘gold’ and ‘green’ teams and one reserve. The gold team consisted of Mike Nolan, Glenn Eggleton, Tim Strong, Josh Flowers and myself, Stewart Dick. The green team was Craig Coltman, Stephen Chatterton, Dave McCallum, Geoff Naylor and Craig Dawson and the reserve was Shane Omera.

We had a huge help from three partners; Jane Eggleton, Julie Chatterton and Mel White (soon to be Dawson) whos help was incredibly valuable with organising, driving, cooking and generally allowing us to be selfish and think only about the fishing. The team had fishing captains and managers. The gold team captain was Glenn Eggleton and the manager was Tim Strong. The green team captain was Stephen Chatterton and the manager was Craig Coltman. These guys were particularly good in their roles, giving the younger and less experienced members a guiding hand in all aspects of the competition and making good decisions in all regards. Particular mention of Tim Strong who organised pretty much everything for months before we left, with some help From Mel. This included accommodation, transport, fishing licences, itineraries and the list goes on. Tims ability to smooth out all of the problems that arose was outstanding and his ability to organise changes to the schedule meant everyone was left feeling equitably treated and happy. Thanks guys.

When I mention gold team or green team this really doesn’t mean anything as we really were one team of eleven anglers. Everyone put in a huge effort, sharing information unabridged, helping others where possible and making sure everyone had the information, flies and materials they needed. It really could not have been a better team experience. It is disappointing that one team got a team medal and the other six anglers missed out because they were as much a part of the team that medalled as the guys that got to stand up there. I would certainly feel hard done by if it was the other way so it is important to recognise the other guys as equally deserving of that bronze medal. I certainly think of them as part of the medal winning team when I think back to the comp

After arriving we stayed in what can only be described as a private manor, it had its own privately stocked lake which we didn’t actually have time to use, acreage with forest, Jacuzzi, volleyball court and again the list goes on. It was very nice and fit the team and partners comfortably.

Each day was spent fishing a different venue with a rotation in anglers fishing together. This was great as it gave us a chance to see everyone’s fishing techniques in action. Early in practice and before I even arrived there were three techniques that were catching good numbers of fish and a type of fly that had come to the forefront as a fish catcher. The techniques were as follows; Glenn’s technique was a floating line with three evenly spaced flies fished as slowly as possible. Basically this was very deep nymphing on a floating line but there was enough weight in the flies that the top ten feet of floating flyline was also getting pulled under. This allowed the flies to get very deep in the lakes which were up to twenty meters deep. By the end of the retrieve the top fly would be about ten feet deep and the point fly at about twenty which was the depth we found fish at on the sounder in all lakes during practice. This technique seemed to work best in calm sunny conditions as the fish didn’t like fast moved flies during the sunshine. The next technique was Josh’s technique which was again on a floater with a damsel pattern on the top fly about six-eight feet from the fly line, then a bomber fly on the middle dropper about fifteen feet from the fly line and an unweighted blob on the point a few feet further back. This was again fished as slowly as possible and in practice the fish were very happy to eat the static blob and the damsel much higher in the water. The bomber fly, often a squirmy or a maraboo bloodworm also accounted for a few fish. The third technique which was catching the most in practice was Craig Dawson’s technique, a DI seven line with weighted flies counted down thirty seconds then variably retrieved from static (so the flies kept dropping) right through to very fast stripping. Depending on the day the fish seemed to prefer one retrieve over another. Craig’s technique was particularly effective in overcast and windy conditions where fish were happy to chase flies. All of these techniques had depth as an important factor and following the competition this was the most important factor along with actually being on fish. While this sounds obvious, the stocked fish which we are not used to catching would move spots seemingly every few days after they had been hammered from a spot and it was very important to sit on a pod in the session if you found one. A mistake I personally made in the first session after catching three, I moved trying to find another pod that Glenn and I found in practice. They weren’t there, on moving back to the original spot we spotted another boat on a pod and tucked in behind them, I got one tap but it didn’t hook-up ending the session with three. In hindsight this was a mistake and another hour and a half on the original pod would almost certainly have produced some more fish. Although these were the most productive techniques in practice others were catching fish on different lines in good numbers however these techniques seemed to come in each day having caught at least the most fish, if not considerably more than others.

One particularly interesting thing about the practice period is the lack of fish that got caught in the last few days of practice. Early on you would see people landing fish but as time went on it became a game of get the fish in to see what it had eaten then give it slack line so it falls off and hope no other competitors saw you on a fish so they don’t know your spots. It was quite entertaining watching nothing get caught for three days and every time you drove past another boat all of a sudden the retrieves would dramatically change so you couldn’t see what they were doing. This really was pointless as everyone knew exactly what was going on and I had a few laughs at times, especially going past a Canadian boat with two guys elaborately pulling flies in perfect unison like a choreographed dance. I did employ a very quick rolly polly or strip at times while just running the line through my hands so the flies were fished static while others were watching as this would have put anyone off had a fish eaten at this time. However I’m sure the others must have wondered how I was rolly pollying in five hundred feet of flyline each cast when only casting eighty. It turned out that Craig’s techniques was closest to the Canadian technique which was quite obviously superior to other nations by their domination of the lakes. This technique was a fourty second countdown on a DI seven with a booby on the point and the retrieve was as slow as possible regardless of conditions, as the booby floats it would hold the flies slightly higher than the fast sinking line meaning the fourty second countdown got the flies to about the same depth as Craig’s technique, but their technique held the flies there longer. While our team had played around and caught a few on boobies we didn’t find it as productive as other techniques and didn’t fish it in the comp. This is largely in part to us not having stockies in Australia. Booby and blob fishing is a very well ingrained competition technique for stocked fish however is almost unused in Australia. Whether this is due to our non-stocked fish having some pride in what they will eat or us just not being experienced enough to do these techniques well I’m not sure, however I will certainly be trying this a lot more this coming summer to see if we are missing a valuable technique on our Australian lake fish. The other technique that came into the competition late was fishing under a bung. This is basically a huge fly that is used as an indicator with two flies underneath spaced five-seven feet apart. The Scottish who came from sixth overall to second in the last session to jump above our gold team all fished using the bung in the last session. It was apparent that as the competition went on and the fish got more and more pressure they tuned into static flies more. While this technique is very well known and is basically an elaborate dry dropper setup, we did not catch many fish in practice on this technique and therefore were reluctant to change our game plan late in the competition particularly as the gold team were sitting second coming into the last session. The other comment to make is that Craig’s technique was particularly effective in practice but as the competition went on the fish were less willing to take an aggressive technique with the retrieved flies, this resulted in lots of single taps and bumps that didn’t hook and also fish that were poorly hooked. The slower techniques were also resulting in poorer hook-ups but appeared to continue having more success over the faster technique. As the competition went on at least four of the five gold team members had sessions where fish were dropped at the net, I’m not sure about the green team but certainly it would have happened to them as well. Of the four of us that had this happen to us, these blanks cost each of us a top five individual spot. Personally I will be playing the memory of two little fish coming off as I guided them to the net again and again for some time, any of these fish amongst the team would have solidified a silver and all of these would have been gold but most teams would have the same story. This is certainly one thing we all discussed after the comp and took some solace from not being the only one in the team to do it.

On reflection our fishermen all had multiple chances and often more than other teams however the fish weren’t hooked as well and came off, this may be due to the faster retrieves, while the Canadians slower technique enabled the fish to inhale the flies much deeper. Early in practice I had two fish swallow the fly into their stomach. When you pulled on the line the bead popped out of the head of the stomach. I got both flies out quickly and both fish swam away happily. These hook-ups became less and less secure as the fishing pressure increased.

In practice when a fly caught a fish it went into a pool of flies for that venue, every few team meetings, which happened daily, we would pass them around and if the fly had only caught the one fish it was removed leaving the multiple catching flies, this did however allow for any patterns in what was working to be seen before the single catchers were removed. It quickly became apparent that UV straggle in olive and black was very important and different coloured beads played a part. Glenn had an Apple green beaded black UV straggle fly with a black maraboo tail that he was catching lots of fish on. We ran into the Canadian captain and while talking to him we noticed a single new looking fly in his cap, it was exactly Glenn’s fly! This left us feeling like we were on track but at no real advantage. While this didn’t feature in the competition heavily, the Canadians fished the same fly with an orange bead all competition and were comprehensively better on the lakes. I think this was more technique related than fly related in the end. Our best fly was an olive tail with olive UV straggle body and different colour beads, the bead colour didn’t really matter, some guys preferred dark nickel, some red and some metallic green. The JD, ‘Josh’s damsel’ again featured highly and caught a lot of fish in the comp and practice. I believe Josh has this fly in Tasmanian trout flies revisited if you want to see it exactly. The other big fly to come from the competition was the ‘wifey’ tied by Mel as a random tie that Craig said he would fish - good fiancé. Anyway it turned out to be an absolute winner! Green maraboo tail with mirror flash, hairs ear body dub with a red collar and gold bead. In my session with the South African he had the same fly without the flash as his point fly. Again, it is amazing how all teams discovered the same working flies. Blobs also featured in practice but didn’t do much for us in the competition as the fish got harder and more finicky. On the river Craig Dawson’s fly was working, pink bead and hot pink tagged hairs ear nymph with cdc collar was producing good numbers and became the nymph you couldn’t take off your rig all comp. Turns out the Canadians had a very similar fly that caught most of their fish when I spoke to them after the competition. There really are very few secrets at this level and it was interesting to see each team discover the same things which is probably why all the teams had made it to this level of competition. The other fly that I had multiple successes on was a size ten thick bodied pheasant tail with a peach dubbing at the tail (which didn’t matter). There were lots of big stonefly nymphs around and the bigger nymph attracted some fish that probably weren’t going to move for smaller flies. I discovered this fly in my second session after hooking and bringing up a stick from the bottom, it was lined with big stonefly nymphs. I knew these guys were in there as there were shucks on the rocks and we had been told about them. As I didn’t have a second fly I was really happy with I put on my biggest pheasant tail tied on a size ten Hanak 300BL with a four millimetre gold bead and got a fish first cast. I got another with it quickly before losing it in a tree. I then fished a larger second fly for the rest of the session and caught about a fifty/fifty split between that and the pink bead nymph. In hindsight this should have been discovered in practice but they really were eating anything you threw at them with a little colour so I didn’t spend as much time refining flies as I did trying to work out techniques to catch those few extra fish.

The venues were Lake Des Ilse, Lake Barierre, Lake Renversie and the Diable river (two sessions). The lakes were private stocked put and take fisheries part of the Pourviorie fishery, aka “the poo”.  Each lake had brook trout and rainbow trout with Des Iles also having lake trout which grow huge, not that we saw any of the monsters. We only caught two as a team, the biggest by Josh flowers a few pounds but it did take him to the backing twice so they fight much harder than an equivalent trout I’ve ever hooked. Lake Des Iles and Barierre were the easier of the two lakes in practice and it wasn’t uncommon for someone to pull double figures of fish from these lakes in practice. There were a few hot spots on each lake and the pods of fish did move around a little but for the most part were findable during the sessions. Interestingly we noticed during practice that fish on each lake were moving into water that wasn’t being fished, on Barierre they pushed harder into the shallow boating channels as practice went on. On Des Iles there were a few pods that stayed exactly where we found them in practice but others we didn’t know about popped up during the competition. However the lakes were small and you pretty much knew where people were catching fish, possibly with the excepting on Des Iles which was a bit bigger with a large island in the middle which obscured the other half of the lake. Lake Renversie was the hardest of the lakes and it proved difficult in the competition, a combination of fewer and more tentative takes made these fish hard to catch and even harder to land. I had four takes on the floater during my session only one of which stuck, I changed technique after four as I felt that no matter how many more I was going to get none of them were going to stick. After changing to a DI seven the next two takes stuck better, one fish came within a foot of the net before popping off and another which was seemed well hooked but came off after three seconds down deep. I think I went too hard on it and pulled the hook as they have soft mouths. I don’t view this as a huge mistake though as you really did have to go hard on them to keep tension as they were tiny weak fish. I must have hooked a monster of thirty centimetres. I’m left guessing which was the correct decision as far as line choice went but I think better fish playing could have gotten both fish that extra foot to the net. The river was unlike anything I’ve fished before. The amount of water coming down was nothing special, it was certainly heavy but not more than the Derwent or Kiewa at high flows. The problem was in the bottom structure which was totally uneven. The rocks were large, slippery and had deep gaps between them and to make things worse the water seemed to well up in different directions. So where in our normal Australian rivers the water continues to hit you from upstream, this river would all of a sudden swell at you from the side pushing you off balance. The other issue was the deep gutters between rocks, you would be walking along and all of a sudden your foot slips down one to two feet and is wedged behind you between two boulders and the water is pushing you downstream. It was very dangerous and I’m glad there were no serious injuries which I expected. Lifejackets were mandatory during wading and those that forgot to turn them to manual had a few accidental auto inflates. Wading staffs were bent and broken and some competitors simply couldn’t access the middle of the river let alone the far side. Our green team captain Stephen Chatterton made a huge decision prior to the competition to sub out on the river sessions for the younger Shane Omera. A very difficult decision to make as it means your individual result will suffer due to a blank being assigned for each session you don’t fish, however for the team result this was a very important call as Shane was able to access the full river and made the most of his opportunity catching fish in both sessions and doing very well. I have a lot of respect for Stephen for this decision. One of the difficulties we faced on the river was actually getting the fish to the controllers without going arse over and losing the fish. I think every one of us took a swim with a fish in the net but not one fish was lost, amazing what you can do when you have to. You can see what I mean by the photos.

The competition started well for the Aussies with both teams finishing day one in good positions and some competitors with fantastic results. The gold team was leading after one session. A fantastic day by Mike Nolan led the charge and session wins to Tim strong and I believe Josh flowers had the team in good stead. I’m not sure of the green team’s exact results but Dave McCallum and Craig Coltman also started very strongly. Day two saw some big moves with Canada white moving to the lead after session three over our gold team and extending the lead by the fourth session. At this point there were a few of us lamenting those dropped fish at the net costing expensive blanks. However both teams were still in with a chance and the gold team was in second place. Notably after session three Mike Nolan was sitting third and after the fourth session Josh flowers was leading the whole competition. So we had some Aussies doing exceptionally well. These results were particularly impressive as we had a lot of guys drawing the death beats of twenty four-twenty eight, each of whom was managing to snag at least one fish keeping the teams alive. Special mention to Craig Dawson who snagged a single trout after putting a hundred casts into the best looking pool in his beat, and only decent looking water in the beat. He was not the only guy to do this in our teams but I believe was the first to pull a fish from this beat all comp. These are the things that win team medals. Personally I had one highlight which was my fifth session on the upper river landing twelve fish which was the most to come off any river beat all competition, a small win after not fishing particularly well for two days.

The final results had Canada white first, Scotland second and Australia gold third, with Canadians taking out the three individual medals. Australia green finished ninth only a single blank from fourth place.

Despite this report covering the positives so far there were a few iffy things that I will mention in case any of you are considering a fishing trip to Mont Tremblant. The fish were small and didn’t fight, a thirty centimetre trout was a good one, a fourth centimetre trout unheard of. They didn’t fight at all, a rocky valley trout would pull ten of them backwards. It really was very disappointing and a big talking point amongst teams. Had they been even two pounds and fit, the competition would have been a different story because there were numbers of fish around. In fact I didn’t take a single photo of a rainbow or brook trout all trip even though they were my first brookies, they were undeserving of it. The lake trout was the single highlight fish for me at about two pounds. We were told that these venues do fish much better in cooler water temperatures but this wouldn’t have made the fish bigger. The comp was held at this time of year to tie in with the world fly fishing championships the following fortnight and it could very well have been a cooler end to the summer with much more activity, you just can’t tell these things in advance. The river was actually quite good; certainly in comparison to the lakes it was brilliant. Although the fish would literally swim upstream to your net when you hooked them the scenery and fish were beautiful. Mostly little browns under thirty centimetres but there were a few rainbows caught and even some bass. Josh Flowers caught a double species double hook up nymphing the river with a brown and a bass of similar size. The river also had small dace in it which were about seven centimetres long. These poor things copped a flogging as they got struck well past your head even on three pound tippet. The lake fishing in this part of Canada really confirmed how good we all have it back home. I look forward to fishing the west coast of Canada one day. Having said that about the lake fishing for trout here I have to mention the scenery, it couldn’t have been more picturesque! It is truly a stunning part of the world and I didn’t go a day without a breathtaking moment. The lakes were surrounded by heavily wooded forest right to the edge and huge trees that had fallen in lined the edges and cost a few people some flies. The river was among the most picturesque I’ve fished with a similar forest lining the banks. This scenery and the reasonable fishing did make this a very enjoyable venue.

I want to say thanks again to the team for making my first trip away so full of fantastic memories. The bonding that takes place between everyone makes it a very special time and friendships are made much stronger for it. So thanks guys for a fantastic time. I have a personal highlight memory of every one of you. Thanks to the partners who came and allowed us to selfishly concentrate only on the fishing. Thanks to the managers and captains for your extra work. Your experience certainly helped me and I learnt a lot from it. Also thanks to the controllers - three of whom will probably get to read this. Jenny and Joe thanks not only for controlling, but also your support and company. Michel thanks for the wonderful photos in that final session. Thanks to our team supporters, sponsors and the individuals that came to our fundraisers and the companies that helped out; Spotters, Mayfly Tackle and Icebreaker Clothing.

Overall a great experience and I can’t wait until next time for redemption.

Stewart Dick

Rainbow Lodge Guide

Member of 'Australia Gold' team - Team Bronze Medal Winners

A note from Rainbow Lodge Guided Fly Fishing - Congratulations to team 'Australia Gold' and 'Australia Green' for your performances at these championships. Well done to our guides Craig Coltman and Stewart Dick for placing 8th and 15th respectively. Also congratulations to client Glenn Eggleton on finishing in 22nd place. A special congratulations to Craig Coltman for winning the casting competition as well!

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