The weekend of the 20th & 21st July saw the top 32 anglers from the regional river qualifiers head to the River Dee at Llangollen to fish for a place in the rivers international team for 2020.
With no practice after the 7th July, the anglers who practiced up to the cut-off date found the fishing to be tricky; the resident brownies were willing to feed whilst the grayling were not as cooperative. Heavy rain the day before the match weekend also saw the river rise and colour slightly forcing many of the competitors to have a late rethink on their tactics.
After the first day briefing the morning sessions were fished on Beat A top of Llangollen and Beat C “Dollies”. As predicted the fishing was challenging. Harry Fox won his section at Llangollen and Cameron Craigs his at “Dollies” The afternoon session saw anglers fish Beat B the Golf Course and Beat D the Country Park. With the river dropping and starting to clear those fishing the afternoon found the fish willing to feed with James Atkinson taking top spot in the Country Park section and current rivers champion Mark Lynch winning the Golf Course section. At the end of day one things were very close with at least half the field still in contention for a top six spot.
Day two saw the river drop further and clear. Hopes were high that dries might come into play as the river clarity improved. The first session saw anglers head to the Country Park and Golf Course. James Atkinson found fish again catching seven and one in his two 1.5hr sessions at the Golf Course whilst at the Country Park there was a mixed bag of results with some anglers faring well whilst others struggled. The final sessions took place at Llangollen and Dollies. Dries were now starting to work as the grayling looked up for food. Chris Micallef took his final three fish on dries as he covered rising fish in the Fridge and Top Pools. As the anglers returned to the Hand Hotel in Llangollen with their score cards it looked like the match was going to be a close-run affair.
After a superb buffet at the hotel the results were announced. It was close with just four place points separating the top ten anglers. In first position was James Atkinson who caught 17 fish for 10 place points and was crowned the England National Rivers Champion for 2019. Second was Chris Micallef with 10 fish for 11 place points and third was Cameron Craigs with 12 fish for 12 place points. Harry Fox was fourth and Carl Nixon fifth with Mike Dixon finishing sixth taking the reserve spot. These six anglers will now form the England team for the Rivers International in June 2020.
James Atkinson said, “This year’s national final was always going to be tough. The river was not giving up large numbers of fish in the weeks leading up to the competition and coupled with a field of strong anglers, it was going to be a tight finish. I had been practicing leading up to the final, fishing the river on several occasions locating the best pools and flies. It became clear that a lot of fish were held up in the fast water at the heads of the pools with a long French leader and two tungsten nymphs either black or hare’s ear working well for me.
I drew the Country Park in the first session and had preference three. From practice I knew there were a lot of fish below the Aqueduct and started there. Armed with my French leader I managed six fish quite quickly, knowing this would be enough fish to do well in the session I opted to stop fishing for 15 minutes to save the water for my second session. This paid off by allowing me to get another five out of the same water.
Session 2 on the Golf Course was going to be tough with only a few fish been caught the previous afternoon. With a low start number, I let the rest of angler’s head to their sections. With no angler’s going to the very top pool, so I opted to start there. Fishing the same way as the previous day with a long leader and two heavy but small nymphets (size 14 with 4mm and 3.5mm beads) I fished the head of the top pool for five fish. I then decided to leave the rest for later and head to the riffle above the sewage works. I quickly got another two and decided to leave what I thought was the best pool for the second session, so I again stopped fishing. Unfortunately, there seemed to be no more fish in this pool, much to my surprise, so I headed back to my starting position and managed one more fish. Thankfully this was enough for me!
I would like to thank Carl Nixon for organising the event and the Angling Trust for their continued work to allow these competitions to happen. Also, a massive well done to the other qualifiers and anglers. Bring on the River Don!”
Andy Taylor Competitions Support Officer, Angling Trust said, “This was a great two-day final on a superb piece of river. We would like to thank Llangollen and Maelor Angling Association for allowing us to use their waters. Congratulations to James Atkinson the new National Rivers Champion and to the other anglers who finished in the top six. This was a great performance from James over the two days. We wish the team well in their search for gold in the 2020 International in Scotland.
The AT TEFF would also like to thank Carl Nixon for organising this year’s final and two qualifiers, Mike Dixon for compiling the results, the volunteers who organised and ran the river qualifiers and Kirsty Marshall for her work behind the scenes at the Angling Trust. The Hand Hotel was the prefect base for the event. Finally, a big thank you to all those anglers who entered the rivers qualifiers this year and to the 32 who competed in the final. The camaraderie and banter make this event a must for any river angler. It really is a great competition where you can learn so much.”