September saw me heading to Slovakia for the European Championships with team England who were sponsored a pair of superb COSTA polarised glasses each.
It was 5 river venues with wild Grayling and wild Brown and Rainbow Trout. Some beats on two of the venues had stocked browns introduced due to lower numbers of wild fish. The 3 venues were the River Poprad, River Vah and River Bella. We fished in the beautiful surroundings of the Liptovsky region where wild bears roam!! One section of the Bella had bear alerts so we had to be cautious!
I have fished in the World and European teams now for 15 years and have to say that this region of Slovakia has the most prolific fishing I have ever come across. The River Vah in practice would produce anything from 20 – 50 fish in a 3hr practice session in the right conditions. The Poprad would produce 60-80 grayling an hour at least!! On the first day of practice we fished the Poprad, a small river only approx 10 yards wide at best. We fished for 3.5 hrs and had over 900 fish to the hand for the squad of 7! I fished single dry fly, changing every 10 fish and took 40 in under an hour. I watched as the others caught half as much again if not double on nymphs. I switched to nymphs and the catch rate soared astronomically. Small nymphs on a 16 – 18 and 2.5mm beads seemed best in the small often skinny river. A hint of colour, orange, red or pink certainly helped the catch rates.
The Vah is more of the typical river. Fast runs, deep holes, slow glides and long slow pools. We spent many days on this river in practice as 3 of the 5 sessions were on this river. Upper, Middle and Lower Vah sections.
7 days back to back fishing took it’s toll and the team had earned a much needed rest. team Jacuzzi’s and Saunas and killer pool sessions on the table offered the perfect tonic of rest and play. Not too much rest I hasten to say as the manager had us all tying flies for almost 14hrs that day, not that the team needed prompting. I roomed with Andrew Scott who was tying flies at 0530 every morning without fail! Good job I get up early for London every morning and am used to it!
The competition was upon us and the team were confident. A day of heavy rain and snow in the mountains before the competition days put some depth to the river and the dreaded colour. Despite this, we were ready!
As with all pegged events you have good and bad beats.This was one for me to forget! I drew 5 of the lowest scoring pegs in the competition with the best position being an 8th by the overall winners, a Chech republic angler. He had 22 from my beat on the lower Vah and I followed with 16 despite their techniques I call ‘hoovering the beat!’. I caught just 4 in the main flow of the river where he had obviously fished. On returning a fish to the controller I stumbled across a 2 foot or so deeper channel in some very shallow fast water. I managed to get 12 fish from this small bit of water that had obviously been missed as the 12 fish came in about 15 minutes.
I had a fast rip of water on the Bella and managed 13 with fellow angers around me fairing with 7-11. The top end beats all produced 30-40+ fish!
Day 1 saw England lying 6th well within striking distance. Andrew Scott got off to a flyer with a 1st and 2nd in his first two sessions netting 89 fish in the process!
Day 2 saw me get the one I had been waiting for, the Poprad. I avoided the lower beats again which had taken 50-70 fish in the first two sessions and drew the last peg on the stretch. It looked good but had only produced 8,3 and 11 fish so far. I took 11 matching the best to date.
It only went down hill as more poor beats followed and it didn’t fair too great for fellow team members. Andrew Scott drew another good beat and got a superb 2nd position but his luck run out with two average pegs which knocked him off a certain individual medal. He finished a very respectable individual 12th position. The team slipped to 11th.
The Czechs came out team winners with Spain taking the top individual. The Czechs fished small nymphs, often within a few feet of the margins to take the gold.
The rivers are starting to cool now and the grayling shoal so now is the time to contemplate some river fishing. It may be cooler but always carry some dries with you as even in the coldest of days fish will rise to any hatch that occurs during the warmest part of the day.
See Iain Barr fly sets available from Fishtec