My 11th Home International cap took me to my local water Grafham. This time of year, in fact all year round, Grafham is well known for its superb quality grown on fish. In recent years even more so.
A new food source has appeared in the water in the last 2 years known as the killer shrimp which tend to hug the closest of margins. These feeders were to play a major part in Englands assault on the gold medal. They come from about a sz14 hook to the largest of grub hooks on a sz 8. Their movement is eratic so a mix of figure of eight retrieves with the odd twitch is what is needed.
Team England had 3 full days practice before the match day. The lake was split into sections and each England pairing given an allotted area for each half of the day. It was important to find the areas with fish and those with no fish. On my first morning session I took 11 fish with just 1 under 3lb. Fish up to 5lb came to claret dries, Cruncher Boobies, Crunchers and the Candy Blob. The afternoon session yielded no fish which was just as important as catching the 11. The 2nd day I was allotted the middle of the lake which is where I love to be… In 5 hours I didn’t see any signs of a fish!
I have won numerous competitions on Grafham, including the Bob Church Classic twice and have drove away in a brand new RX300 Lexus after winning the Lexus European Open all through the middle of the lake. Due to the arrival of the killer shrimp, there is so much food in the margins I fear for the middle fishing for which Grafham is well known. But hey, the fish are still there, seem to be getting bigger quicker and can now be reached by the many bank anglers now returning to its shores.
Team England had 10 flies on a short list, 5 of which came from Iain Barr World Champions range. It was a mix of lures, nymphs and dries. My new top selling Candy Blob, new Cut Throat Crunchers and new Killer shrimp patterns were the top performers along with a Two Tone FAB.
Setting up my Enigma MkIII #8 fly rod, I was able to cast the full length of the fly line giving me the option to fish faster, keeping the flies near the surface, or fish slower dropping my flies through the layers finding the feeding depth of the fish. It is crucial to have a fishing rod that can cope with the sudden runs and lunges from the magnificent Grafham fish, but also to take advantage when the fish gives signs of letting up!
As a team we knew it was imperative to keep fishing fresh water as especially many of the better fish we were catching were just in a few feet of water. With boats ‘turning’ in the shallow water we looked for fresh drifts every time we drifted to the shore ensuring we hadn’t followed where a boat had just turned.
I had decided that I was heading out on a floating line, my Candy Blob on the point, Tangering Diawl Bach above it, Red Holo DB next and my new Cut Throat Cruncher on top dropper. A subtle difference from the other teams was for team England to fish 5foot of 15lb of G3 Fluorocarbon from the floating line then 7 foot of 8 or 10lb G3 to the first dropper. This allowed the flies to drop deeper if needed in the sun and more importantly kept the flies away from our fly lines which I have proved in experiments does spook the fish if pulled under by the weight of the flies.
I drew Mark Jones from Wales who fished a Di5 most of the day pulling lures. I did the absolute opposite with my blob and nymphs static on a floating line.
He drew first blood on the booby then I kicked in with a near 5lb Rainbow, best fish of the match, then 3 quick fire rapid fish upto 3.5lb. To my amazement he took me away into deep water when the clock struck 12:00
Almost 2 hours of nothing in his area of choice when I took 2 quick fish including my Grafham personal best of 7lb, Rainbow, on the static Candy Blob. I returned to D buoy dam area and anglers who had 1 or 2 when I left had 9s and 11s! I was now playing catch up.
I came in with 16 only to be pipped by Dave Hoppe of Wales for top individual spot who fished incredibly well to come in with 18 in the same area, top angling! England had record breaking margins to bring in the Gold, beating Scotland by 61lb, Wales in 3rd by over 83lb and Ireland in 4th by over 150lb.