You could think of the World Fly Fishing Championships like the Olympics for fly fishing as there are a few similarities. We have a governing body called FIPS Mouche and they have a set of rules that all competitors have to abide by to create an even playing field. These rules have shaped what most people now refer to as European Nymphing. Then there are the anglers, this year 30 different countries brought a team of 5-7 anglers to compete amongst each other for the title of world champion. Each country has a different set of requirements as to how anglers make the team, but most countries use a format that is very similar to what we use here in the US, a point system where regional competitions are held throughout the country leading up to a national championship. The top point earners for the year earn a spot on the world squad. A format like this allows anglers who are consistent throughout the year to rise to the top and it also weeds out the “luck” factor. So, anglers who are competing at the world level are the best that a country can offer.
The Czech Republic breeds good anglers, there is a reason that we often times call this style of fishing Czech nymphing. So the opportunity to travel overseas and fish alongside of the Czech’s on their home waters is a once in a lifetime opportunity that the US team did not take lightly. During the three day competition we fish as a team, there is an angler fishing each venue, each session. The results of each session not only add to the individual standings, but more importantly they add to the team placing points. Months of refining technique, tying flies, and mentally preparing put the team in a modest 5th place this year during the competition. Our goal has always been to break onto the podium, but this year we fell short. This year the home team brought home the prestigious Team Gold (for the third year in a row) as well as an individual gold. The Czechs were the favored team to win and it was great to see soooo many locals coming out and support the team on their home waters.
The venues were spectacular for fishing as each one was unique in its own way and tested the skills and diversity of the anglers. No one technique was king and the best anglers who can do it all rose quickly to the top of the leader board. Here is a look at the venues:
Sector 1 – Valtalva 29 Devils Stones
This is probably some of the most amazing pocket water that I have ever laid eyes on. The rocks are so gnarly that the dark lord must have carved the VW sized boulder himself. This sector required accurate casting and powerful wading on often times polished rocks to produce wild browns in the 8-14in range. One wrong step and you are over your waders or slipping off a rock. We fished lots of nymphs, dry dropper rigs and single dries. Our team dominated this venue as it matches our style of fishing.
Sector 2 – Lipnov Lake
Each competitor got into boats and went head to head with their boat partner to fish for larger stocker rainbows and a mixed bag of whitefish (perch, chubs, and dace). Due to the murky water we mostly fished darker patterns on lines that kept our flies higher in the water column. The hover, midge tip XL, and the CamoLux were the lines of choice for our team and various other teams. Unfortunately these fish did not behave like many of our stocked fish in the states and we struggled with this venue. Any pause in the retrieve and the fish would turn off the rig. So retrieves that were steady like a fast hand twist or a rolly polly retrieve we found to be the best.
Sector 3 – Valtalva 28
Here the river widens and is a series of glides and runs for each beat. The target species were Browns, big stocker rainbows, grayling, and course fish. Again these fish reacted very differently than the fish we have back in the states. Static presentations ie a dead drift was not the most effective way to catch these fish, even when fishing dries. The moment you animated the fly the fish reacted positively. Fishing dries skated, nymphs jigged downstream, fishing in a down and a cross presentation, or streamers were all very effective on this stretch. Beats played a major factor in this venue because of heavy stocking of large aggressive rainbows and also do to the fact that there was a river halfway through the beats that was dumping in super brown water and blew out the lower beats. The team did very well with every beat that we were given because of all the hard work and practice that we put in before the competition.
Sector 4 – Kvetanov Lake
Again this bank lake was a stocked venue with very poor water clarity. The high lines we fished on the boat lake applied just the same to this venue. Bank venues required long casts and lots of fly changes to keep your rig exciting to fish even after the 100th cast. We did settle on flies that were preferred and we changed where they were on the rig and how we fished them.
Sector 5 – Valtalva 27
This sector was the poorest of the visibility for river fishing and the beats for the most part were very flat and waist deep to knee deep. Working the banks for small browns and whitefish was the best technique. To do that we fished a team of wet flies on an intermediate line, dry dropper rigs fluttered downstream, swung nymphs, as well as upstream nymphing. Again this sector was very beat dependent as some beats had large stocker rainbows that would pod up in a 10’x10’ area and drastically increased numbers. In practice we focused on working on these techniques to catch fish in water that we do not typically fish in the US and for fish that we do not typically fish for in the states. We gleamed a lot of new information to bring back home with us to improve catch rates on our home water.
The experience was an unforgettable event for a first time international competitor and fly fishing in Europe is a much, much different endeavor than here in the states. We are certainly luck to have the opportunities to chase wild fish on so many different public rivers, but the Europeans have figured out how to maximize efficiency on the water that they do have. It was very humbling to stand should to shoulder with many past national and world champions from around the globe and break language barriers talking about fishing at home, sharing laughs, and a cold tall glass of Pilsner.