Over the past couple of years, Pete has become a self confessed "nut" about boat fishing, especially on Rutland, but he steers away from competitions. He pointed out to me that most of the flies, tactics and tackle that he uses were developed by the modern competition angler. Yet, he feels that he is not ready, or willing, to try this branch of the sport himself. Now I hope, over this series of articles to show that competitions are for all anglers, and not just the domain or the "battle-hardened" match-man. Throughout the length and breadth of the British Isles, trout fishermen have long enjoyed the added element of competing against each other in their pursuit of trout. The earliest record that I can find of competitions is of a match held on Loch Leven on 1st July 1880 - interestingly, the prizes for this event being cash -15 to the winner, down to 2 for fifth place. Today, cash prizes are very much scorned. From this early beginning, (which incidentally attracted 32 anglers), we have moved on to competitions like the "Peregrine" and the "Hardy", which attract entries from several thousand anglers. The first step for anyone wishing to get involved in this branch of the sport should be to join one of the large numbers of clubs that exist to promote the it. These clubs are generally well established, cost a small amount to join, have a variety of activities, and run competitions for those interested. My own club is Bristol Reservoirs Fly Fishers Association. During the course of the year it organises tackle auctions, fly tying evenings, beginners' days, an annual address by the management of Bristol Reservoirs and finally , competitions. We have four competitions each year. Firstly, there is the club knockout, in which anglers fish against each other on a one-on-one basis, at a time that suits each in the pairing. There are several rounds, leading to a final, which is fished during the end of season club match. Winners of this prestigious event in the past include John Dawson, John Horsey, Dave Monks and John Humphries. Coming next in the club calendar, is the ever-popular "Orvis" competition. The Orvis tackle company have long supported our club in this event, and club members have to get their entry forms back to Bob Handford pretty early to gain entry into it. This correspondent knows from this year's failure to secure a place, how quickly the places are snapped up. The event takes place in early June, and this generally coincides with Chew Valley Reservoir fishing at its best "top-of-the-water" form. In my early days of competition fishing, I was living in Devizes, so Chew Valley Lake and Blagdon were my nearest waters, though I regularly fished Sutton Bingham and Wimbleball. I saw a notice on the lodge wall advertising the "Gonzales-Byas" competition, which was the forerunner to the "Orvis". My regular fishing companion in those days was Paul Crook from Melksham, and together we decided to enter the event. We certainly had no thoughts of winning - or to be truthful, of even doing well. No, what we wanted above all was the opportunity of meeting, or better still, fishing with some of the top Bristol fly fishermen, such as Steve Pope, John Braithwaite and Chris Ogborne. We entered each year, and soon some of the knowledge picked up along the way started to prove useful to us. This competition has regularly seen me meeting with success, and I know that I have many of the people whom I considered to be my fly-fishing heroes to thank for that. When I first entered the club knockout, I managed to pip Martin Cairncross in the first round, but then had to fish eighty year old Stan Pope in the next. Fresh from an Eliminator win on a Saturday, I fished against Stan the next day, and lost out. So much for feeling confident! This sport is a great leveller! About five years ago, Mike Gleave and his committee came up with a novel idea for the mid-season competition. It is organised as a "hidden" event, in which teams of four anglers compete against each other - the snag is that no angler knows who is in his or her team! The Bristol Waterworks Company support this event to the tune of over 1000 - a very generous amount. The fourth competition is held at the end of the season, and over the past few years has been sponsored by Kamasan and more recently Lureflash. It is during this match that the final of the knockout is fished.

All of these events are suitable for the newcomer to competition fishing. They engender friendship, exchange of flies, ideas, and favourite fishing spots. They are all followed by wonderful social events. After the weigh-in, there is the anxious wait, whilst the details are checked through. The prizes are awarded, the sponsor gives a speech, the club chairman thanks all who need to be thanked, and the inevitable buffet meal is provided. The urge to pop back out in the boat for the expected evening rise persuades one or two, but most of the club prefer to continue the tales of the day's fishing over a glass of beer or wine, and usually, as the evening progresses, everyone starts to believe that they should have won the competition.

Bristol Reservoirs Fly Fishers Association is no different to many of the country's top clubs. You will find similar activities should you contact the secretaries of clubs such as West Midlands Association of Fly Fishers, Leicester Fly Fishing Association, Llanilar Angling Association, Kennick Fly Fishers, Osprey Fly Fishers Association, Weald of Kent Fly Fishers, and Bewl Water Fly Fishers Association. You will also find many smaller clubs that run club outings and matches; numerous branches of The Fly Dressers Guild exist throughout the country, and they organise fly dressing evenings, talks and competitions. Scotland boasts too many clubs to even think of listing them here.

Should the budding competition angler enjoy the club contests, then it is time to venture into the team events. For many anglers the first steps that are taken to represent their club will be in the "Major Clubs" event. This is a league type event, for teams of six anglers from all the major clubs in England. The event was set up originally by Peter Firth of the Bewl club, as a way of encouraging more anglers into competitions. He saw that it was the same few anglers who were getting to represent their associations in the old "Benson and Hedges" and "Wychwood" competitions, and that there should be some way of "breaking-in" the newer anglers. The rules originally forbade any angler from fishing in more than two of the six rounds, therefore, more anglers would be involved. The "Major Clubs" competition is still running but with minor changes. Next, the keen competition angler will inevitably wish to try out his skill and luck in one of the main team events. The "Hardy" competition (run by Chris Ogborne) has recently replaced the "Benson and Hedges", but more or less the same format is being followed. In this event, teams of six compete firstly at a regional heat, and then at a national level. Finally there is an International match to give the overall top club. My club Bristol Reservoirs has proudly won the event three times, and I have been fortunate enough to fish in two of those winning teams. The "Peregrine", which has replaced the old "Wychwood" competition, is jointly sponsored by Nomad Clothing and the Peregrine Rod companies. In this event, which has prize funds of 20,000, teams of four compete at regional levels followed by an impressive two day International final at Rutland. My good friend John Horsey runs the event. A third "Important" event has entered the serious match angler's calendar over the past five years, and it is set to become even bigger this year. This is the event known as the "Hyder Team Challenge" - (it was formerly the "Welsh Water Competition"). This event has always been fished in Wales, but this year sees the introduction of heats on reservoirs in England though, of course, the final will be in Wales. This is another event in which my club Bristol Reservoirs has achieved outstanding results as, of the four finals so far fished, it has won three.

So far I have said very little about attitude. Should our aspiring competition angler be cut-throat, out to win, dedicated to single minded success? He may be, but I would suggest that he would not last long in the sport if he had that sort of attitude. This is a sport that requires a great deal of sharing of ideas and information. Maybe you will just share the "top" flies and the best areas to fish with one or two friends, but share you must. I would suggest that an easy-going approach is all that is required. Be flexible and be prepared to change your plan if you have one. Work with your boat partner rather than against them. Above all, try to enjoy your day out. Increasingly I see people come ashore after a match and they look like they have had a frightful time. A day on any lake should be a good day out in spite of the competitive element. Try to keep that in perspective! I believe that Competition angling, especially at club level, is a "Sport for All". During the course of the season anyone will have a chance of appearing in the frame. Give it a go - you may be surprised!

Finally, if an up and coming competition angler meets with any level of success, then he will probably wish to show his skills on an international stage. Most sportsmen and sportswomen dream of representing their country. In Angling it is a distinct reality as the system is set up fairly to try to ensure that everyone who wishes to fish has a chance. In my next article I will look in depth at how you can achieve this goal, and what sort of equipment you may need. I will also look at how the main competitions are progressing this season. Good luck and tight lines!