Eleven teams of six anglers from around the UK gathered at Eyebrook Trout Fishery in Leicestershire to compete in the new Angling Trust Loch Style Team Championship which was to be held over two days. The event was filmed by BT Sport, bringing loch style angling to the main stream and raising the general profile of angling in the process.
There was a lot at stake over the weekend as anglers had the opportunity to land a huge cash payout of £6,500, product packs from competition sponsors Scientific Anglers and the top five teams would receive an invite to the Airflo Invitational event in spring 2019.
A new format in Loch Style match fishing featured three 3-hour sessions each day, fished on a full catch, measure and release basis with the cumulative total over two days determining the winning team. Four anglers from a team fished each session while the other two team mates were boat stewards for another team. One familiar feature for the competitors was the match being fished to international rules however a general feeling of excitement and trepidation greeted the organisers on day one, would the format work, would the conditions spoil the event?
The weather in the week leading up had been relentless sunshine with a stiff breeze and the weather looked set to continue over the weekend of the event and so it proved but, any concerns about the format soon disappeared after the first session when anglers were afforded the opportunity to regroup to discuss their tactics, change boats and disappear off for the second session without a hitch.
The conditions on day one were harsh to say the least, water temperature began at 16C and rose to 20C by the time the final session ended, clear skies dominated the day, air temperatures peaked at 28C and the brisk breeze meant boats drifted quickly. With the majority of fish sitting deep in the main basin and reluctant to take a fly fished quickly, anglers were presented with the challenge of getting and keeping their flies deep enough without fishing behind the boat. FNF Nymphomaniacs, Flash Attack Reservoir Dogs and Elinor got out of the block fast with six, five and five fish respectively and set the tone for what appeared to be a three-way battle at the top of the leader board until the end of the competition.
A total of 68 fish were caught on Day 1, catches peaking in session one and as expected, gradually deteriorating as the day unfolded. FNF Nymphomaniacs led the way but only just, 4cm ahead of Elinor in second place.
Anglers arrived on Sunday to a forecast much the same but importantly the brisk wind that had caused issues on day one had eased and this made a big difference to the tactics and approach that would be adopted and ultimately the catches.
Boats didn’t drift as quickly meaning anglers could stay at the correct depth for longer but the fish appeared to come up in the water as fish were seen both feeding and splashing around, presumably trying to remove any little critters that had settled on the fish after a few days in the depths. This gave anglers the opportunity to change their approach and still add to their tally, dry fly proved successful while others persisted with sinking lines and continued to catch throughout the day. FNF Nymphomaniacs, Elinor and Flash Attack Reservoir Dogs continued to lead the way in session one and two and it looked a three-way battle however Fish Hawks caught steadily and a stunning final session resulted in nine fish landed and propelled the Fish Hawks into the mix. As the final session came to an end, uncertainty about the result was evident and the wait for the official results began. A total of 123 fish were caught on Day 2 giving a total catch of 191 for the weekend, a great result in such hostile conditions and testament to the quality of anglers on show.
As the results were read out it became evident that things were tight at the top and the Fish Hawks final session proved vital as they leapfrogged Elinor into 3rd place by a margin of just 23cm, enough to secure a cheque for £1,000, on such fine margins are competitions decided. The consistency of both FNF Nymphomaniacs and Flash Attack Reservoir Dogs from start to finish meant they were competing for first place and a cheque for £4,000. It was the Nymphomaniacs who triumphed with 34 fish and a total length of 1488cm and the top prize, beating the Dog’s 29 fish which gave them 1241cm and a cheque for £1,500.
FNF Nymphomaniacs team captain Gareth Jones said: “When the AT Loch Style was announced, our team couldn’t wait to enter and we joined the AT immediately to ensure we got an early entry. We just love going away as a team and feel that as a group we need to support all the events we can during the course of the season.
“The fishing was tough and in very difficult conditions we expected the fish to be deep. With very limited practice we hatched a plan to fish water depths of 20ft-25ft where we stood the best chance of keeping our flies on the deck for longer. Matt Griffiths played a blinder and his 15 fish deep on the Booby Basher was an incredible feat over the two days, when most other competitors just looked on in awe.”
“As a team, we feel incredibly privileged to have won the inaugural event and the cash prize of £4,000 will go a long way to funding our fishing during the rest of the season. So, a massive thanks to all involved in running the event and we’re looking forward to defending the title next season.”
Ben Thompson, Senior Competitions & Performance Manager at Angling Trust, said: “I am delighted with how the competition went and the feedback from anglers has been incredible. Conditions were tough to say the least but the sheer determination, perseverance and skills on show were immense, demonstrating just how high the standard of the competitor is in the UK.
“This is the first step we are taking to improve and increase our offer to competitive fly fishers and it has been a successful first step. We have a competition that we hope will now become a flagship event and only grow bigger in future years. Plans for 2019 are well underway and judging by the feedback we have received, the competition will be even more popular next year and we hope to be able to announce the dates soon.”
He added: “On behalf of the Angling Trust I would like to thank all the competitors for entering and supporting the event, the fishery staff at Eyebrook for their hospitality and commitment to providing an excellent event and to competition sponsors Scientific Anglers for their support. Make sure you tune into BT Sport on July 16th to see the action unfold.”