On the 27th of September I found myself in the English National “Loch Style” Final held on Grafham Water. The road to this had taken me nine years and had started back in 1994.
It was during the winter of 94/95 that I decided to really try and learn the art of Loch Style Fishing. I am not saying that 95 was the first time I had been out on a Stillwater but it was only around that time that I realized that there might be a bit more to it than meets the eye.
Most of my fishing life up to that point had been involved in Salmon and Sea Trout and indeed I had caught my first Salmon in the same year that England won the Soccer World Cup when I was thirteen years of age.
When I started the Tackle Shop in 1988 I was soon asked to become a member of the now defunct Reston Angling Club. The main activity of this club was to have several outings to Loch Leven every year from which the Club Champion was selected and he went on to fish in the Scottish Eliminators the following year.
In a strange sort of way, probably the worst thing to happen to me was that I won one of these Club Outings in 1990 with five Brown Trout for 10 lbs. (no rainbows in those days). This just reinforced my subconscious view that, like Salmon Fishing everyone just had their day and skill sometimes only played a minor part. However after attending the Annual Presentation Dinners for a few years I noticed that it was always the same two or three people who were always winning the club championship. I slowly began to realize that there was more to this game than meets the eye.
For that reason in the winter of 94/95 I decided to try and become a better Stillwater angler and so started off on what have become my annual preparations.
Indeed it was around that time that I decided that my ambition in my fishing life was to become as good an angler as I possibly could.
Qualifying for the National Team would give me some measure of my progress and more importantly give me the opportunity to mix with some of the best anglers in the country.
I started on the English National route on Kielder in 95 and 96 then tried Draycote in 97, 98 and 99. My success on these was non existent. I did however win in those early years the old Kielder Pairs Final in 95 with my shop assistant Paul Tindle. This probably again subconsciously reinforced my view that every dog has its day. With the lack of success and the fact that you only got one bite at the cherry I decided to try the Odds and Sods route on Grafham and Rutland. This way you were guaranteed two days fishing and a fairly good percentage go through to the Midlands Final for the third day.
I started to have a modicum of success that year, progressing to the Midlands Final where only a non-connecting head and tail rise to a hopper kept me out of the National Final.
So the 27th of September 2003 came around and despite having had two practice days with one of the best all-round anglers in the country, Tony Curtis I was not feeling confident.
My first practice day had gone badly with only one fish and my second had only produced three. However on the second day I had had around another 12 takes so I knew I wasn’t far away.
I was drawn on the day with young Andrew Scott and I could not have had a better partner. He encouraged me and kept me going all day and we had a few good laughs together. All in all it was a great day out with hopefully a newfound friend.
I started out on a Slime Line as this was what Tony and I had been catching on in practice. (Mainly Tony!) However after about 45 minutes I decided to change to a Di3 and this was to prove decisive. To cut a long story short by one o’clock I had six good fish in the boat and at that stage Tony only had three and Iain Barr was on five.
Did I hear the Tunes of Glory?
Was it fatal?
I never had another touch until 16.30!
Then I got my seventh and, just to make sure I was lucky enough to get another one with five minutes to go. I had hung the flies for quite a while and had decided that I had time for one more cast but I could not get the line to come out of the water as fish No 8 was stopping it!!!
With hindsight my six fish at one o’clock were enough as they were all over the two pound mark.
So that was that, I qualified in 6th place (I was announced as 5th on the night, Computer Glitch!!!!) However my evening was rounded off when my great friend and mentor Tony Curtis was announced as National Champion with his good friend Iain Barr runner-up.
Needless to say we celebrated long into the night (Sorry Maggie!)
So where does that leave me? I certainly am looking forward to my International but I do not as yet class myself as an International class angler. I still have such a lot to learn. Maybe if I qualify again then I will start to think that I can do a bit.
However it does feel good; really, really, really good and it has made me even more determined in my pursuit of Angling Knowledge.
So here’s to a good winter of preparation and “Touch Wood” a great fishing year to come.