2017 World Fly Fishing Championships Slovakia, Report 3 - Preparation.

By Christopher Bassano.

Report 3

This report starts when Christopher turns up with Martin Droz to meet Tomas:

The door opened and we were treated to a massive smile and a welcome to remember. Every now and then on your travels you meet someone whose smile alone makes you know that they are a lovely person. This is certainly the case with Tomas. He reserved his best welcome for Martin. I got the impression that the prodigal son had returned in Tomas's eyes. There is clearly a mutual respect there that is not common but understandably shared between two greats of the sport. As it turned out, Martin's first world championships was in Australia. His parents had taken him to the airport where they met the rest of the team. Tomas was pulled aside by them and asked to look after Martin and make sure that nothing bad happened to him. Tomas took it very literally and has looked after Martin ever since as if he was his older son. 

We walked into the house and straight into the dining room where lunch had been prepared for us. The historically and quality of the people I have been fortunate enough to encounter in this trip so far surpasses all of outstanding fishing I have had.

I had been seated for less than a minute when Thomas placed two hook containers in front of me on the table and said, "for Slovakia". Surely he hasn't just handed me some flies for the championships? I picked up the boxes, turned them over and glanced through the bottom of the boxes. One was full of dry flies and the other, nymphs. What a great bloke! The next few minutes were some of the toughest I have had to endure in some time. I was sitting at the table, staring at two boxes of flies that have just been given to me and I wanted to open them like a kid staring at a poorly wrapped bicycle at Christmas. I felt like a child. No, I had to eat my food and resist. The food was lovely once again but I am not sure it even touched the sides of my throat. I washed it down with a coffee (surprise, surprise) and then coolly flicked one of the boxes from side to side pretending to be marginally interested in their contents. I convinced myself that it would be rude to not look at them. Will I look at the dries or the nymphs first? I had to check out the dries. I mean, they are dry flies after all. I studied the contents (but not too closely), trying to nod knowingly but respectfully with every fly I touched. I even tried to say, "These are lovely, well tied flies", in an attempt to show my appreciation for the skill of the tier but without over doing it. I was in heaven. These will go on my wall, in a frame one day. The next box was the nymphs. Again, I went with a quizzical look, a little nod, a close up inspection and then onto the next one. These were lovely flies and so 'fishy'.

Tomas sells the licences to his local fisheries so we went through the long process once again of writing them out. He then went out to get his fishing gear ready as Martin and I made room in the car for him. I glanced over at Martin and said, "It's not every day that you get to fish with a legend." To which Martin replied, "s". "What?" I said. "Legendssss", he said. Ha, ha. He has a terrific sense of humour and for a man who is as humble as he is, this comment was gold because I won't let him forget it.

Tomas came out from the house and insisted that I sit in the front seat a not cramped up in the back. That was never going to happen. You don't go fishing with someone like this and get them to sit in the back. I think he ultimately appreciated it and he and Martin chatted away for the half an hour drive down to his local river. Again, I had no idea what they were saying but I enjoyed the body language of these two good friends. They talked about the worlds in Australia in 1999 which was Tomas's third world championships. The fishing was terrible but these guys are fishermen and know that conditions transpired against them. They loved the place. It was only the weather that let them down. I hoped to talk Tomas into a trip to Tasmania one day but wages of a council worker who collects the rubbish in the mornings will not allow it to happen. It is such a shame. I hate to know that someone of such standing in the world of fly fishing will probably go to his grave never knowing how good the fishing really is down under.

We pulled up at the river, got out and rigged up. This was great. I got the video camera ready and followed Tomas to a lovely run where he started fishing. Surprisingly, it took two casts to catch a fish and another two before he got the next one. The fish must have been off the bite. A few grayling and trout fell to the nymphs over the next ten meters or so and Martin was following up behind him, cleaning up the dregs that Tomas had walked past. Finally, he insisted that I fish. "Don't f*¥k this up, Christopher!" I thought to myself. I had a few nervous casts and finally came right onto a small grayling. Then another and another. This was a lot of fun all of a sudden. I always badger Martin for advice on my fishing and ask him to point out all of the flaws he sees. Kindly and without me knowing, Martin had asked Tomas to have a good look at me and offer a few points to help me improve my fishing. They stood and watched for half an hour or so and the fishing was excellent even though I was missing a few small grayling on the way. At the end of it, I asked Tomas if he would please fish the head of the pool for me. It looked like the best water and I wanted to see him fish it. Again, he put on a small masterclass and while I was standing with Martin, watching, Martin passed on a tip that Tomas had asked him to tell me. How good is it when you can get advice from people like this? It doesn't matter what you do or where you are, if you surround yourself with the best people, good things happen and there is a great deal to be learned.

We all split up and fished for another couple of hours before meeting and heading downstream together. I was to fish with Tomas while Martin would go on his own. I enjoyed taking a few photos and some more video of Tomas fishing and was lucky enough to catch a few fish behind him which I am sure he left for me on purpose. "Change", he would say after he caught a few fish and this meant it was time to swap with him and be the person in front. I would get three and then he would get three and so on. We caught up to Martin later on who had emptied a section of river of trout and grayling. We all fished together in a small area and headed back to the car. This was a special day for sure. A passing lady was asked to take a photo of the three of us together (I don't think it was Tomas who asked for the photo) and it was complete.

Back at the house, dinner was served and we were asked to spend the night with them. A no brainer! Martin started acting as an interpreter for us as I asked Tomas many questions about his success, why he thought he had that success and what the important reasons were for his success. Again, he is so humble that to get him to admit to how good he is, was impossible. Inevitably, I asked him how many international medals he had won. He laughed. He had no idea. He wasn't even sure where they all were. He and Martin tried to count them and in the end, he went upstairs and grabbed what he could find. He had given one away to a local child one day so he was one down. Walking down the stairs, it sounded like Father Christmas had turned up with all of his reindeer's bells ringing away.

He dropped the medals on the table in front of me and there were a lot! This is how it all read.

World Championships

Individual Gold - Poland 1998

Individual Silver - France 2002

Individual bronze - New Zealand 2008 and USA 1997 (his first worlds)

Team Gold - Poland 1998, Portugal 2006, New Zealand 2008

Team silver - Slovakia 2004, Finland 2007

Team Bronze - Sweden 2001 and Sweden again in 2005

Then as Captain of the Czech World Team

Team Gold - Slovakia 2010, Slovenia 2012, Norway 2013, Czech Republic 2014

Team Silver - Italy 2011

The Italian competition still upsets him a little bit as there was a suggestion that the eventual winners, Italy, may have had some help along the way in the last day of competition and came from a position where they would be lucky to medal, to first place. Of course, this is just conjecture but it certainly doesn't sit that well with him.

Add this medal tally to the seven more that he has won in European competitions and you can see why he is a legend. When you add this to Martin's impressive record of one gold, one silver and one bronze individually at world championships, three team gold medals, two team silvers, one team bronze to go along with one individual gold and one individual bronze at the Europeans to compliment his one gold and two silver team medals at the same championships, you can see that I was with Competition Fly Fishing royalty. I did however quickly remind them that neither of them have ever won a Tasmanian or Australian title so not to get too cocky around me!

The night drew to an inevitable close and Martin and I folded down a couple of couches for the night. I made contact with Garth and Staggy on messenger as the next day, I would be seeing them.

The day dawned and breakfast was a quick affair as Martin and I wanted to get fishing for two hours before starting the long haul to fetch Staggy. Tomas was already at work but happened to be driving past the driveway as we left. He stopped and we exchanged good byes which left me feeling a little hollow. I would have loved to be able to express my gratitude for his warm welcome and willingness to go fishing with us. I need to get him to Tasmania somehow!

Martin and I raced down to the river where we had an epic session of grayling and trout fishing. The fish were tiny. It so much fun. I don't know how many fish I pulled out of a one meter squared depression but it was close to a dozen. Mind you, I still have a few clients that would say the place needs stocking!

We would be in a hurry all day of course as our next appointment was the headquarters of Hends but before that, we had to buy some groceries. More bread and more cold meat was on the menu but those are both things I like almost as much as ice cream so I was a happy chappy once again. 

We were under the pump for time because Martin was always going to get lost a few times on the way. This time though, he found his way out of the car park. 

When we arrived at Hends, we wandered upstairs and into a show room. Sitting at the desk was the owner, Mira Machacek and World Youth, Senior and European Senior individual gold medallist, Lubos Rosa. Lubos is a young guy who has already and a lot of success. He speaks good English and once again, always greets you with a smile. He was on his way out and wished us luck in Slovakia where he too would be competing.

Now Hends is a brand of fly tying material (and other things but tying materials is what it is best known for) that almost every competition angler uses, everywhere in the world. If you don't already own some Hends Spectra dubbing in number 45 and 46, you are missing out! The owner is also a former world champion who was part of the Czech team that won gold in Norway in the early 1990's. For a brand of such international note and reputation, the headquarters is in a modest building but if you want to talk about kids being in candy stores, this was a classic case. Even Martin's eyes lit up when we walked in and started looking at all of the materials. It is one thing to see these things on a computer but to see the colours and textures in person is fascinating and enlightening. Understandably, it is not all readily available in Australia but no doubt the top stores on your local city will carry the product. 

We looked through things and chatted away while the one or two items became ten, twenty, thirty, fifty.... get me out of here! Time was running out and we had to get to Kraków to pick up Staggy when he touched down at 6:45pm. That was never going to happen but we sped off in the right direction for a change. We checked the map to find the airport in Kraków only to find that there are no fewer than five airports in Kraków! As we approached the city, we talked to a lady at one of the many toll booths who had no idea which airport was the international one. This was not going well and we were almost an hour late. I could ring Staggy up and that would mean I lose one kid to Telstra which only leaves me one more in case of emergencies. It would also mean that Staggy would lose his only kid! That was mean so I decided not to call and take a gamble.

We pulled into the first airport and I rushed out to find the arrivals hall. Fortunately, strutting along the sidewalk was Staggy with his bags. Relief for all of us. 

So, I find myself in the car now, driving to see the rest of the team who are probably already asleep. If they are snoring as much as Staggy is in the back of this car, it is going to be a very noisy couple of weeks. The bonus is that he is probably keeping Martin awake who has been doing the driving ever since I arrived. He must be shattered.

It will be wonderful to get almost the entire team together at last. Glenn will still be missing but he will meet us in Slovakia in three days time when the official training session starts. The next few days will be spent catching up, tying flies that have been lost and building a good team spirit. 

We are apparently 18km away now which means there is still plenty of time to get lost. With temperatures falling after dark at this time of year, Staggy is doing a great job of cutting wood for us in the back seat so we will at least stay warm. I had better stop there before he tells me that the pot is calling the kettle black.

From now on, the reports are likely to be a little shorter although hopefully more frequent. Krystal kindly posts these up for me so she too needs the time to do it. I will be in touch....

Ha, ha. It is 22:38 and we are lost again! Seriously! Ha. This is to be continued....

Christopher Bassano

Head Guide

Rainbow Lodge Guided Fly Fishing Tasmania

Australian Fly Fishing Team Member

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