England captain Iain Barr reports from the recent lake of Mentieth home international fly fishing competition. Read on to discover the techniques that led England to victory and won Iain the coveted brown bowl trophy!
Lake of Mentieth is known as a fortress in Scotland as their international fly fishing team defend it with all their might. The four home nations were to descend on the lake from 11-15th September for the battle of Britain in the fly fishing stakes.
Scotland boasted a very strong team with previous brown bowl winners, top Scottish internationals as well as a host of local knowledge. It was a force to be reckoned with.
However, as England captain, I was confident with the squad I had and with good practice backed by a solid strategic game plan we could come away victorious.
It’s a team event and has to be planned as such. I set different boats with different techniques often putting anglers out of their comfort zone to prevent complacency with the same methods they’re used to.
I arrived 3 days late due to a family emergency and assessed the two previous days practice with vice captain Ed Foster. It was as I expected, dries and an assortment of washing line techniques and flies.
Wednesday was the perfect dry fly day and the fish responded well to dries as big as a size 10 Midas to size 14 shuttle cock owls. I put myself as a roaming boat whereas all others were set areas and techniques to try. It was whilst moving from the heavily fished Lochend to cages bay that I cracked the method.
Using the Airflo Di3 and Di5 fly lines I tried the depths, something that hadn’t been mentioned in our team debriefs. I used a couple of boobies, a standard cat booby and a lake special candy booby. The lake is the king of fishing static venues so I cast out the flies and just kept the tension and no more. 3 fish in 3 casts had us moving out quickly.
Thursday I wanted to try the same area but leave the flies anchored deep for longer so using an Iain Barr new Fab, tied with FNF Jelly Fritz, a couple of nymphs in the middle and a blob I decided to drop through the layers and fish deep with Airflo 3 foot and 6 foot tips.
I was using Airflo G5 fluorocarbon in 11.2lb. Very thin for its strength which is definitely needed on Mentieth. The lake had a tinge of green so I decided to to fish as heavy as I could get away with. The fluorocarbon also has some stretch which absorbed the aggressive takes that were to come.
Several times the line would shoot away on the drop which I estimated to be about 4 to 6 foot down, but most were coming vertical on the hang.
A rapid 7 fish came to my side of the boat, I then switched to a Di5 with two boobies to get to the depth quicker to see if I could speed up the catch rate. A quick hat trick and I was putting of there.
My partner for the day bounced a lot of fish on the hang. I was using the amazing new Airflo Airlite V2 fly rod. These absorbed the aggressive snatches at the fly where as my partners rod was far too soft and simply wasn’t setting the hook. Rod balance is critical. Too soft and the hook won’t set, too stiff and you’ll bounce fish all day long. The Airlite V2 was just the perfect tool for the job!
The boys were struggling as I shared my info, but I banned all bar one boat from checking out the area and using the method until later in the day, to minimise being spotted. They caught and caught well.
I brought the flies, leader set up and exact map markings to the meeting and set the plan out to try and win the gold medal.
The toss for the engine was kind to us and 8 of us had control so I sent our two strongest dry fly anglers to Otter Bay and 6 to follow me to cages bay.
Airflo Di lines were banned from the car park to avoid showing our intent to fish deep. Midge tips in various guises were set up ready to go.
I drew a Scots man for the day as we headed to my choice of cages bay. He hooked into a fish almost immediately and I was shocked it took 3 casts to go tight as my line zipped away to a red Nemo almost vertical. Another quick fish followed and it became extremely congested and I felt I wanted to get deeper quicker due to boat pressure. I switched to the Di5 and two boobies and first cast the rod bent double and a stunning Mentieth rainbow of about 8lb came to the net having taken a sparkler booby, again vertical. Sport was slower that the Thurs and the 18 of the day before seemed some distance away!
A short move to Stable Point had been get two more quick fish, both to the 3′ tip and new fab pattern. My partner decided he wanted to move and we moved around behind dog island where I hadn’t caught in 2 days!
He was soon into his 3rd fish as my line tightened into my 6th, again on the tip and fab but much higher in the water.
I persisted with my method to go deep and soon my tally started to steadily climb as fish came deep almost all absolutely static on the hang. Some would hit the fly 5-6 times and it was crucial not to strike but wait for the rod to bend over into them!
As the wind increased the control in the tip lines was lost so I switched to the Di lines taking 1 on the Di 5 and 4 on Di 3 fishing two boobies. Again, I cast them out and simply let them drop through the layers. It was in cages bay that all went tight after about 10 seconds and a magnificent Mentieth double put up one hell of a fight before being safely returned after a quick photo. That was number 15. Two more quickly followed and it was time to head in with a respectable 17.
Martin Burgess of England matched my 17 and Tony Fox came in with 10. They came to dog island with 6 and 3 respectively and I shouted across to switch to my method and they did the rest!
It soon became clear that England’s long await for victory on Mentieth was over as we blew the other countries away with a 36 fish margin over 2nd place Wales, 37 ahead of Ireland and 38 ahead of last placed Scotland. Fish were measured and released but with an average of of over 2lb per fish this was possibly the biggest margin in the history of the event.
With the team scores settled it was down to the UK individual title of the brown bowl and having taken my first 3 fish deep, they were bigger than Martin Burgess of England’s 3 so my second brown bowl in Scotland was secured having won it on Loch Leven too.
My 64cm rainbow on the sparkler, 3rd fish, also took the biggest fish.
It was a clean sweep of the trophies as I took captain gold, top England rod , top individual and best fish. I couldn’t have been more proud of a resounding victory and of the solid team performance by a great bunch of lads.
Next stop Airflo Anglian Final, see it here!!