RAF Fish Hawks (FH) practice for the Lexus Team event on 17 April started on 15th, with 4 FH boats joining 4 RAF Defenders (the RAF 'B' Team) boats in practice. With boats all over the reservoir, it quickly became apparent that there were fishy hotspots in the north and south arms, and a few on the Normanton shore of the Main Basin. Buzzers and nymphs worked for some, pulling lures worked for others, with the general consensus being that pulling black and green and something 2-tone was likely to get you fish a wee bit more quickly than nymphing. A good tip was to have a nymph or buzzer between the two lures in case a fish fancied a nymph on the drop or on the hang. I was fishing nymphs and buzzers on Thursday, with Paul W's No 5 mirage buzzer accounting for 3 fish out of my 6 on the day.
The NE wind of Thursday was repeated on Friday 16th, but without the cloud cover - very bright with a cold NE wind - just what you want! 2nd day of practise seemed to be a bit slower for most in fish terms, although it might have been down to the slightly fuzzy heads being worn by a few! (Most of us hadn't seen each other over the winter, so there was a bit of catching up to do!) The Skipper (Paddy Mounter) and I had a hard old day on the north arm, but the fish magnet (Warren Gain) found a few in some of the south arm hotspots - more of which later. I had 5 fish on the Friday, including 3 on a Norski Lad viva type fly that I tied up for Carron! By the end of the day most seemed happy to be starting with Di5 sweep, veering to Di7 depending on brightness, with black and green and/or colour to hook the fish. We were all prepared to nymph if we got the first inkling that it might work.
Match day dawned clear and bright, not so cold and with the forecast SW wind. 180 deg
change from practice - just what you want! (Again!) 5 of our 6 boats went to the North Arm, including me, who had been drawn with RAF Defenders Skip Ian Baker. That elicited a few comments as we left the boat dock. (We are obviously both RAF, but fishing for different teams. One of the Soldier Palmers (the Army team) suggested that we would fill one bag, then the other. He obviously doesn't know about the rivalry between the FH and the Defenders - when I was fishing for the Defenders there was no way I would have given a FH any of my fish - we took pride in trying to beat them to prove the selection system wrong. And also - it would have been wholesale cheating - no chance. ) Si Gaines had been boarded by a (Pitsford) Pirate (Charlie Abrahams) and Al Gamble was out with a guy who had never fished the water before - so much for this being the elite of the fly-fishing world! We all headed north except Warren, who went south to some of the previous days hot spots. Ian and I struggled early on, but I had 4 by 12.30 drifting down the woods to the east of Road End. Saw Al G who was struggling (with no fish - unlike him) and heard that Si G had a couple early on, but that was it as regards help and info. Ian and I decided to cut our losses at about 1.15 as things had slowed down dramatically and we made our way to NZ point, via Carrot Creek, where Ian took a fish. Al G followed and tried there, too, but to no avail!
At about 3pm we arrived at NZ point to find Warren the fish magnet on 7 fish, and pulling a Di7 through the water at varying depths with a UV cormorant doing the damage. He bagged at 3.30 (ish) and I gradually added to my total to finish at 4.10. News gradually filtered through that other FH rods were doing OK, too. Al G produced a great performance to catch 8 fish between 3 and 5.20 (ish) and, as it transpired, they were of a good mark, so his bag just might be important.
Arriving back at the lodge, we realised that a lot of fish had been caught, and that there had been lots of early afternoon finishes, including Dave Newing and Paddy
Mounter. Si Gaines finished at around 3.30 and was released from captivity by his
Pirate captor! This meant that all FH anglers had bagged up and we reckoned we had a
fighting chance of going through as one of the 6 teams (from 16) to qualify. I ended up with 8 fish for 16lb 7oz, plus a time bonus (4oz per 15 mins) of 1lb 12 oz for my early finish.
John Horsey announced the results - 632 fish caught by 96 anglers for a rod average of
6.58 and an average weight of 2lb 1oz. Ian Baker (my BP) had the largest fish of the day at 6lb 5oz, which he skillfully netted almost before it realised it had been hooked! Unfortunately Ian ended the day with only 3 fish. They just would not stick for him.
Team results and qualifiers:
1. Rio Masters - 48 fish for 120lb 11oz
2. RAF Fish Hawks - 48 fish for 117lb 13oz
3. Team Loop UK - 45 fish for 113lb 6oz
4. Seighford Sharks - 48 fish for 113lb
5. Team Vision - 46 fish for 109lb
6. Pitsford Pirates - 47 fish for 108lb 10 oz
Unfortunately the RAF Defenders failed to qualify, despite some fine individual performances.
On the day I had 3 fish on a back and green booby, with a touch of UV in the wing, 1 on a black UV cruncher and 4 on the norski lad viva variant. I will bring the flies to Butterstone, if anyone is interested. All in all, a brilliant few days and to qualify 2nd given the teams involved was a great result. Thanks to all my FH colleagues.