I believe word had been passed round about how good the fishing was and everyone wanted a chance to experience it, whilst at the same time taking part in one of this exclusive club’s matches. Blagdon is one of the few fishing clubs I know that is invitation only!

Twenty-two anglers gathered last Sunday for the event and it was with great anticipation that leaders were tied and methods discussed. I had been out on the water a couple of times guiding during the previous week and could honestly say that there were trout at every spot you would think of fishing. I fancied that Rugmor was possibly the area with the biggest concentration, but Green Lawn or Polish Water would also be high on my list. I drew Gareth Jones with whom I had fished on Blagdon only a couple of weeks ago; on that occasion we had both fished dries to great effect. I hoped that Gareth would opt for the same tactics again as it makes it much more of an interesting contest if both anglers in one boat fish the same method. I also use a five-weight outfit most of the time these days and find it difficult to fish alongside someone who hurls out lures, or a team of nymphs on a seven or eight-weight, to the distant horizon.

However, Gareth had heard that the method that was knocking out the stockies with the greatest of ease was the "washing-line" and wanted to practise this himself. If you are unfamiliar with this style let me explain that a buoyant fly is used on the point and two or three nymphs are fished on the droppers which are literally "hung" out between the fly-line and the point fly. I believe that those innovative anglers who fish Bewl Water developed the method.

Just before we went out there was a briefing and it was decided that boobies would be banned (they had been responsible for the winning bags in this event both last year and the year before.) I thought that this might persuade Gareth to go for a change of tactics and use dries, but no, instead he opted for a large suspender hopper on the point which basically did the same job as a booby. We set off for Rugmor and were surprised to find that other boats stopped off at various points, leaving us alone on the first drift.

We paused on a wind lane and, before Gareth was even ready to cast, I saw a fish move only seven metres in front of me. I quickly pulled enough line off the reel, dropped my flies on the fish and was amazed to see it casually sip my point fly in! First cast of the match and there I was playing a fish. As I was about to net the trout, Gareth also struck into his first fish of the day and, as is his want, he had it in the boat ages before I landed my fish! This fellow certainly gives little respect to the strength of a trout, but he does have supreme confidence in the balance of his outfit.

We saw a few more fish as we drifted across to Wood Bay; Gareth caught two more, whilst I lost one and rose another. On the Wood Bay side of the lake there appeared to be more trout, but the wind suddenly increased and, with it being so bitterly cold, we headed back to the more comfortable conditions that the Rugmor side gave. Gareth immediately caught another fish and this time it was my turn to get one whilst he was playing his! There was an area just off the weedbeds where a take or catch could almost be guaranteed if you drifted through it. Gareth’s tactic was proving deadly as almost every cast produced a follow or a take…and the faster he pulled the flies back, the more likely a take would come.

I struggled with my dries and toyed with the idea of putting on a suspender myself, though this produced a couple of problems. Firstly, I do not own suspenders with such large bright heads on them – Gareth’s was bright orange - and secondly there was the question of ethics. You see Gareth was the club sponsor that day as he was with us on behalf of Airflo. Therefore he wasn’t fishing for the prizes, and thus didn’t really worry about what tactics he used.

I did try a small muddler for about ten minutes but it produced not one follow, let alone a fish, so I went back to my standard dries. Not long after one o’clock Gareth caught his twelfth fish! We had killed the first six trout caught, then released another six and recorded the time of each fish from seven to twelve. I now had the boat to myself and a second pair of eyes to do the spotting for me. By now we had worked our way right down to the weedbeds at Top End, and fish were sipping small green midge gently from the surface film. It was time, as the wind had dropped a little, to fish my small hare’s ear cul fly. I dropped my leader from my standard eight pound to six pound and used just two flies. The fishing was exceptional; I was able to watch the fish as they approached the fly; I could see their reaction to it and I was even able to stop myself from striking too quickly.

I caught my twelfth trout on a small cul, as I had with the three before. This really is a good fly when conditions are right! Gareth and I went back down the lake and decided to do some experimenting. I am not a great believer in fishing on when I have already caught my limit, but as there were so many fish moving, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to experiment a little and, at last, Gareth tried some small dries. He too opted for culs as he has had a great season on Draycott using them when the little green midge have been up. We caught and released several more fish each before returning to the jetty.

In the competition all but five of the anglers had their twelve fish limit, and many bags were rather heavy. The overall winner was none other than Gareth Jones, who claimed the trophy but left the prize rod for the second placed angler. This was young John Harris who fished alongside Tony Baldwin and caught a heavier bag of fish even though it took him longer to reach his limit. Not too bad going for a thirteen year old! Tony claimed third place with Derek Stenner in fourth. A splendid buffet followed provided by Mark Withyman and the evening went well as tales of the day’s sport were recounted with additions according to the amount of beer swilled!

I took a lift to the venue with my friend Geoff Lambert who fished with national finalist Phil Smith. Geoff has only been in the club for two years and thus has an excuse for what happened during his day. Phil on the other hand has fished the club matches for donkeys years. When Geoff caught his sixth fish he asked Phil what happened next and Phil told him that he had to stop fishing. In due course Phil also had six and so the pair of them returned to the landing stage. There they met Steve Pope who had come ashore earlier as he was paired with Mark Withyman and the latter had to sort out the buffet. Steve had a chuckle and told Phil and Geoff to get back to their fishing. Neither angler really got back into the swing of things and they had, respectively, seven and eight fish only!

A final point of interest in the day came when I gutted my fish. Gareth gave me his six and every one of them was a cock-fish with milt in it. My half dozen contained just one of the same. I am sure that Gareth’s method must have provoked these aggressive cock-fish to take, whist my static dries attracted females. One other difference was that the cock-fish averaged over three pounds and were more recently stocked (a fact verified by Kim Lucas), whilst my fish averaged the usual two and a bit. Whatever, it was a most thought provoking and thoroughly interesting day.

Tight Lines,
Martin Cottis