The River Ribble and Stocks reservoir, Lancashire, gave host to two England teams, three from Ireland, two from Scotland and a lone, crack French team, in a fly fishing championship that is becoming something of a calendar event. Fished to FIPS mouche rules it is seen as a testing or training ground for team members from participating nations for the full blown FIPS European and World championships.
This ‘friendly’ competition gives the selection bodies of each nation to offer young and/or aspiring competitors to the fray of the highest level of international competition, exposing them to the vagaries of FIPS, its challenges and its exacting nature.
Stocks proved to be in its typical mode of summer: intransigent. The beautiful Ribble was typical, northern, summer river, simply responding to good fly fishing technique. All teams were well practised on the venues, particularly so the England teams under the excellent management of Paul Davison. Finally, as always, it was down to this preparation, and the performance of the individuals, the good luck and the bad, to smooth out and project towards the result.
Lake sessions, from both bank and boat, were hugely hit and miss, with a single fish being enough to put a competitor in the frame. There were a lot of blanks in each of the three hour sessions.
The river was different. The river is wild. With water low, fined down after summer rain, the river fished just as it should have done, with trout and grayling in the obvious places, rising to black gnats, midges and occasionally to pale watery duns and caddis. There was also the obvious feeding to various sub-aquatic food forms and most anglers spent the majority of their sessions, if not all, with nymph techniques. As sector controller on the river throughout, I was fortunate to be able to see all the approaches, all the performances, and the results therefrom.
It feels like deja vu. Because, yes, I have seen it before, many times. But I enjoy the consolidation, and hope only that my countrymen’s fly fishing competitors have seen it too. There were some outstanding English performances on the river, notably from Tom Bird with seven fish (five grayling and two trout) on dry fly, and team captain Tony Baldwin, also with seven, also on dry fly, to win their respective sessions. And then there were the French, sheer excellence on the river, and good enough on the lake to lift the gold medals. I watched several of the French and admired, as always, their finesse; finally their pragmatic approach. I mean, picture the Ribble, hammered by good competitors for weeks, almost as difficult as wild trout and grayling can be, and you still saw competitors approach it with the mediocrity of duo and double nymph, even in the later sessions. Meanwhile, the French (and a few from other nations) took to dry fly, down to size 24, to take the naturally feeding, wary fish.
With France taking top slot, England Red took the silver medals with Ireland A team in bronze. Individual results projected Ireland’s Campbell Baird into the gold medal with Mark Withyman, England Blue, having a great championships to give him the silver, and France’s Franck Tardy taking individual bronze. Other than the outstanding French win, the results do not tell the entire story, because I saw some great competitive fishing that simply was not justly rewarded. As an example, I watched the Tom Speak, of England Blue, fish his difficult section of the Ribble in a fashion that I don’t think many could have paralleled, with the reward of a blank, which was simply agony. His controller, Ashley Cook, told me afterwards that he thought Tom’s performance was incredible, completely surpassing anything Ashley had seen throughout the championships.
Such is the strength now in the younger echelons of Team England fly fishing that I suspect it will now not be long before we are back up there matching the top continental teams, such as the French. The 5 Nations championships is a great training ground.
2017 5 Nations Championship, Clitheroe, Lancs, England
France – 57 Total Placings – 30 Fish – Longest Fish 499.0 – 207500 Fish Points
England Red – 65 Total Placings – 25 Fish – Longest Fish 474.0 – 167520 Fish Points
Ireland A – 69 Total Placings – 21 Fish – Longest Fish 477.0 – 150020 Fish Points
England Blue – 74 Total Placings – 28 Fish – Longest Fish 515.0 – 203040 Fish Points
Scotland A – 83 Total Placings – 15 Fish – Longest Fish 480.0 – 110720 Fish Points
Ireland B – 91 Total Placings – 16 Fish – Longest Fish 490.0 – 107360 Fish Points
Ireland C – 106 Total Placings – 9 Fish – Longest Fish 490.0 – 62680 Fish Points
Scotland B – 106 Total Placings – 7 Fish – Longest Fish 485.0 – 58480 Fish Points
Top Individual: Campbell Baird (Ireland A) – 7 Fish – Longest Fish 469.0 – 54200 Fish Points – 8 Placing Points
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