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      World Fly Fishing Championships 2023 as I experienced it. Session V, River Hron. By Ciprian Rafan

      World Fly Fishing Championships 2023 as I experienced it. Session V,  River Hron. By Ciprian Rafan

      The 5th and last session of the World Fly Fishing Championship was held on the Hron River, a medium-sized river with fast water but also deep pools.

      Me and my friend and teammate Raul Tatar at the closing ceremony. 

      During the training with my teamate Raul Tatar, I discovered some of the secrets of this river, such as the areas preferred by grayling, but also the fact that in the pools we had a chance to find Danube salmon (hucho).
      According to the information received from my teammates and from the statistics from the first four sessions, the sectors were approximately equal in terms of the fish numbers, mostly grayling. The numbers of trout and chub were insignificant to waste efforts on them.
      The bus ride to the venues was an hour and a half. While I tried to use it to relax, my mind was preoccupied with the strategy for this last session: by now every beat had already been fished by 8 anglers. About 30 minutes before reaching our destination, the organizers announced the beats and the rotation for each country. I drew beat 10, rotating with France's Sebastien Delcor in number 9. Aware of Sebastien's caliber and knowing that his team was fighting for the title and I already saw myself defeated, and the "F" word escaped from my mouth. USA's Lance Egan who was seated behind me, asked what was I so concerned. I explained that I feel very unlucky to rotate beats with the French angler. His answer changed my perspective profoundly. Lance encouraged me to pointing that I am actually lucky to switch with the French angler as I have a direct chance to prove that I am just as good. From that moment everything changed and I felt how the emotions and worries turned into this unique opportunity to fish and fight with one of the best anglers in the world Thanks Lance for busting me up!
      At the parking near the venues I met my controller. A very nice man, he offered me to leave my equipment in his car with which we were going to go to the beats, and also suggested that we have a coffee before given that we had enough time. The sessions on Hron started at 9:30.
      I and my controller at the restaurant where we enjoyed a coffee break before the session started. 
      After enjoying some coffee, we headed to the beats. We arrived around at 8h15, so I had more than enough time to check my beat and get an idea of ​​how to approach the water and what strategy to apply. Beat 10, where I was going to start, was approximately 400 meters long. The upper part of about 250 meters consisted mostly of riffles between 10 and 50 centimeters deep, ideal grayling water, followed by a very deep and long pool that stretched close to the lower limit with beat 11 where I had about 10 meters of good grayling water.
      In the meantime I managed to see beat number 9: it was short, no longer than150 meters. In the lower part for about 50 meters the water flowed smoothly with depths between 50 and 70 centimeters and in the upper part there were rapids.
      After inspecting the beats, it was time to think about how to approach the water and what strategy to apply considering that it was the last session and the fish were super stressed. I decided not to waste time with the lower part on the big pool where the area was ideal for hucho. During practice I fished a similar area and caught only one small hucho, so I decided to fish only the upper part of about 200 meters good grayling water, insisting on the shallows near to the bank where the controller was releasing the fish. I decided to use only the nymphinng rod with 3 flies set-up, using the same pheasant tail variants, but much smaller sizes 18 and 20 with 2mm beads on a 0.08mm flourocarbon tippet.
      The small hucho I caught during practice. 
      At 9:30 the controller signaled the session start. I decided to move up staying in the middle of the river from where I could fish the banks. The first cast into the bank brought me a 26cm grayling and in the next 15 minutes fishing the nearest bank I got 4 more grayling on the score sheet. In the meantime I was keeping an eye on the French angler who was fishing in the lower part of ​​beat 9 right at the limit with my beat but did not seem to have any results. For me the bank near the controller seemed to produce good fishing and the opposite bank with faster water didn't get me anything. I realized that the grayling preferred slow moving water, a logical explanation if we take into account that we were fishing in session 5 where fish were already caught and released multiple times. Then followed 10 minutes without any fish: I passed through an area with deeper water and which had probably been fished hard by my predecessors (let's not forget that the beats were fished before by 8 other anglers) but I still had 1 hour of fishing until the rotation. I had just passed the halfway point when I scored two more grayling with which I had a total of 7 fish.
      I was getting closer to the upper limit of my beat when I noticed an area with low depth of about 10 cm and fast moving water passing under branches and washing the bank close to the controller. Over the next 20 minutes, fishing that stretch I caught 7 grayling. Those were definitely fresh fish that had never been caught
      before.
      With 14 fish on the score sheet I still had 40 minutes left to fish beat number 10. I decided to go downstream and insist in the deeper and faster water using heavier flies. This decision brought me the biggest grayling, a 41 cm fish followed by two other. This brought my score up to a total of 17 fish in the first rotation.
      The water and the grayling from beat number 10.
      At the break between rotation I had the chance to exchange a few words with Sebastien. He told me he caught 10 fish most of them in the upper part. Beat 9 was much shorter and the pressure on the fish was much higher, so the chances of finding fresh fish were slim. But I knew that the lower part of the beat had slow moving water and I knew that the angler from France didn't insist to much in that area. All this led me to apply the same strategy and to insist with smaller flies in the much slower water.
      I decided to divide my fishing time in three so I gave myself 30 minutes for the lower part of the beat, 30 minutes for the upper part and 30 minutes to fish downstream the whole beat. I started at the bottom on the limit with beat 10 in the slow-moving water. My first cast and I caught a grayling that came to the net almost motionless, it was clear that it had been caught already and released (the way the controller handles the fish during the measurement is also very important, I noticed that my controller was very careful with the fish). I knew that if I insist there other fish will follow. The next 25 minutes where a test of patience but in the end it paid off and brought 4 more grayling on my score sheet. I want to mention that the fish were super stressed and did not hit the flies at all. All I felt was a little weight on the line or just a short stop of the leader. The hook set had to be as subtle as possible and very important: I had to hold the nymphs in place as much as possible. The first half hour had passed and I didn't have much left to fish in the lower part of the beat so I slowly moved up to the faster water where as expected l spent 30 minutes in which it seemed like I was fishing an empty river. Sebastien did a very good job hooking most of the fish, however I found 2 fresh grayling hidden close to the opposite bank. With 30 minutes left in session I followed my strategy and fished downstream insisting on the banks where the water was slower, right at the half of the beat I caught a grayling. Moving down in the last 15 minutes I returned to the lower part of the beat where after repeated casts I scored 2 more grayling with which I had a total of 10 grayling caught after the rotation and a total of 27 fish caught for the session. 
      Right after the session finished, Sebastien told me that he caught 15 fish in the second half, getting him a total of 25 fish.
       
      The results from session 5. You can see how important the big fish in giving me advantage over other two competitors with the same fish numbers.
      In conclusion, the mental focus combined with positive thinking based on logic brought me a positive result, with which I placed 4th in the session.
       
      In the end, I would like to thank the organizers and the controllers for the work they have done and without which this event would not have been possible.
      The Romanian team at the closing ceremony. 
      I would also like to thank my teammates (Fernando Mihăilescu, Raul Tatar, Gigi Viorel Hadareanu, Adrian Vlasiu and the manager Bogdan Vasilescu ), and of course thank you for taking the time to follow my adventures at the WFFC. I wish you all a peaceful end of the season and more fly tying ☺️. You will hear from us about about other adventures in the next season or maybe even sooner 🤔.
      Special thanks goes to our partner brands that we work with at Smart Angling for providing some of the very best fly fishing equipment there is.

      World Fly Fishing Championships 2023 as I experienced it. Session IV, Upper Vah River. By Ciprian Rafan

      World Fly Fishing Championships 2023 as I experienced it. Session IV, Upper Vah River. By Ciprian Rafan

      My 4th session of the World Fly Fishing Championship was on the Upper Vah river, a nice medium to low water section with lots of rapids and good grayling areas.

      During practice, I had identified the types of water preferred by the fish and already had a good idea of ​​how to approach the river. Yet after the challenging experience I had on the lower part of the same river, I left a gate open to less attractive areas such as deep pools and fast-moving water. Looking at the statistics, it seemed like the beats were pretty even with a few exceptions where the fish were becoming active later during the sessions due to the tree-covered banks and the position of the sun. Also, we had information that the upper part of the sector holds bigger rainbows: escapees from a hatchery. 

      September 16: I woke up at 5 am. to have enough time for breakfast and equipment preparation before the 6:40 a.m. departure to the sector. The beat rotation was announced shortly after boarding the bus. I was going to start at beat 16 and switch for the second half of the session with the angler from Holland at beat 15. Arriving at the river, I had enough time to set up my equipment and study the beat, which was not very long, about 250 meters. The records of 3 days of competition put the beat somewhere in the middle in terms of the fish numbers: 21 fish caught on the first day, down to 15 on the third.
       
      At the bottom of the beat, there were some deep rapids flowing towards the opposite bank, forming a curve that continued downstream in beat 17. Above the fast water, there was a big, deep, and slow pool.
       
      In the middle part of the beat, the river was a bit wider with medium speed riffles ideal for grayling. The upper part, at the limit with beat 15, was narrow with two deeper and faster runs.
      The first sight of the beat gave me a good impression, and I was already making a plan how to fish and where to start. My strategy was to divide the beat into three sections: bottom, middle, and top, allocating 30 minutes for each part to cover all promising water. I decided to start right from the lower part of rapids.
      I set up a 2wt nymphing rod with a three fly set-up: sizes 16 and 18 with beads from 2mm to 2.5mm. For the deeper water, I prepared a 3wt rod with 2 flies sized between 16 and 14 with beads from 3mm to 3.5mm. The flies used were the same as the day before: pheasant tail variants with yellow, silver, and copper beads. I set the timer on my phone to ring at intervals, alerting me when I had 5 minutes left before moving on to the next section I had mapped to fish.
      At 9 o'clock sharp, my controller signaled the start of the session. A very nice guy who tried his best to communicate with me in English and was happy every time I landed a scoring fish: a great example of Slovak hospitality.

      It took two casts to hook and land the first fish: a grayling that measured 22 cm. Another 3 casts, a meter above, and the second fish was on my score sheet followed by a take that did not result in a hook-up. After 15 minutes, I decided to switch rods and try right above the rapids in the deeper, slower pool. I persisted there without success until the alarm went off, and I knew I had only 5 minutes left for the lower part of the beat. In a heartbeat, I ran back to the spot where I had the last take and immediately scored another grayling.
      It was time to move to the middle, slower part of the beat. Arriving there, I saw two currents flowing down the center and one short flowing into the opposite bank,  passing under overhanging branches.
       
      At the first spot, I caught 3 under-measure grayling, followed by a scoring fish. After about 15 minutes on that stretch I shifted my attention to the shorter run under the branches where on my first cast I got broken off: I was using a 0.09mm tippet, considering that by session 4 the fish were already quite pressured. I re-tied, tried the same spots for about 5 more minutes, and moved to the next spot where I scored another grayling and released 4 more under-measure fish. After 1h, I had 5 fish on the scoreboard, and It was time to move to the top of the beat where two fast riffles were dropping off into a deeper run. I fished the first without success for about 10 minutes, and I moved to the second where I had one empty take. Looking at the watch, I had 12 minutes left until the switch when I noticed at the limit with beat 15 in the near bank under the branches of the trees a short hole, about 2 by 1 meter, that looked promising. On the first cast there I caught a grayling, but to measure it, I had to make a detour below to avoid disturbing the spot. As soon as I managed to get back, I scored another fish, then tried for a few more minutes without success until my timer signaled 5 minutes left from the first half of the session. I went back to the spot where I had missed a fish, and in a few casts, I caught another good grayling. In the very last minute, I returned to the upstream spot. With a few seconds left, I caught another grayling with took me to a total of 9 fish. It was time to move to beat 15, where the fisherman from Holland had managed 5 scoring fish.
      With a 30-minute break between rotation, I used the first 20 to scout my beat and the remainder to refresh my flies and tippet set-up.
       
      Beat 15 was short, about 150 m. The lower part was wider with medium depth water and a few short rapids. In the middle, there was a deep, fast channel on the opposite bank. Near bank, the water flowed slower with depths between 20 and 30 cm. The upper part of the river was twice as wide and low: 10 to 5 cm with a slightly deeper riffle on the opposite bank. My strategy for the next 90 minutes was to divide the beat notionally into two, and the time into 3 parts: 30 minutes for the bottom where I was going to start, 30 for the upper part and the last 30 I was going to go back down insisting around the near shore where I assume the controller would release the fish and they would remain close to the shore in the softer water. Also, I chose to wade in the middle and fish the banks.
      Right after the start in the first spot, I caught the first grayling, followed in the next 10 minutes by 2 more from in the same type of pocket water among boulders. For the next 20 minutes of fishing, things got quiet until the phone timer warned me that it was time to move. For another 20 minutes, I was moving up slowly casting towards the banks under the branches, which resulted in 2 nice grayling and 3 non-scoring fish. When I reached the upper limit of my beat, the only water left for fishing was a short, fast stretch about 4 meters long and 15 cm deep, flowing into the opposite bank.  Deciding to keep a safe distance with long casts upstream, over the next 10 minutes, I had the most productive time of my entire session and added 5 scoring grayling between 22 and 27 cm.
      
      In the last 30 minutes, fishing downstream close to the bank where the controller released the fish, I added 4 more grayling on the score sheet. This took me to a total of 23 fish for the entire session, a satisfying result considering that on the first day of the competition, the beat had produced 21 fish.
      In conclusion, staying focused and following a strategy based on dividing the beats into equal parts and allocating the necessary time to cover the water adequately, led me to a good result that placed me 5th in my group for the session.
      Tip: After I bent the points of my hooks to the side, I didn't drop a single fish, leaving aside the fish that broke me off in the first half.

      World Fly Fishing Championships 2023 as I experienced it. Session III, Vah lower river. By Ciprian Rafan

      World Fly Fishing Championships 2023 as I experienced it. Session III, Vah lower river. By Ciprian Rafan

      My 3rd session at the WFFC was on the lower part of river Vah, downstream of the confluence with the Bela. A beautiful river but also full of surprises: just like the Orava, the beats were quite uneven in fish numbers, probably also due to the fact that there were several dams along the course of the entire sector.

      After the training, I already had a clear idea of ​​the areas where the fish are. After the first day of, it was confirmed that the bottom of the sector from beat 19 to 28 holds a good amount of fish except beats 24, 26 and 27. In the upper part beats 1 to 7 were good, too. The beats in the middle of the sector, from 8 to 18, right between the dams, had fewer fish, perhaps also due to the shape of the river with higher and faster water. However, the most difficult beat from my point of view was beat 17, where during practice I caught only one fish.

      Another factor that influenced the fishing results was the position of the sun over the beats. With the nights getting colder, the fish preferred the sunny side in the morning and in some of the beats they became active only in the second part of the session. During the training, I discovered that the dominant species is grayling, followed by brown trout and rainbow trout. The flies that worked best for me were pheasant tail variants in sizes 16 to 18 with beads from 3 mm to 2 mm. Bead colours were copper, golden and silver.

      My pheasant tail variants.

      Friday morning, September 15: the departure for the lower Vah was scheduled for 6:30. I still woke up at 5 a.m., had breakfast and prepared my equipment. The weather was supposed to be good with clear, sunny skies. I knew that the water level was a little higher after the pouring rain on the previous day. River levels are available daily on the official Slovak website: https://www.shmu.sk/en/?page=1&id=ran_sprav.

      I was hoping to have clear water and not to fish beat number 17. About 20 minutes after boarding the bus, the organizers announced the beats and the rotation for each country. Being lucky by nature, I got beat number 18 in rotation with the angler from Montenegro on beat number 17. The good news was that I had clear water, and I would fish the good beat first. The bad news was that I would fish beat 17 in the second half, where I thought there were no fish.

      Arriving at the river 1.5 hours before the start of the session, I had enough time to prepare and scout my beat and get an idea of ​​how to approach the water. Beat number 18 was about 400 meters long. In the upper part at the limit with beat number 17 it fast moving water with between 40 and 60 cm deep, in the centre part there was a long pool that transitioned into a fast water channel with depths between 70 cm and 150 cm. In the lower part, in the vicinity of the beat number 19, the river looked ideal for grayling with shallow riffles, 15 to 30 cm deep.

      The lower part of my beat.

      My strategy was to start in the lower part, where I would insist more on what I believed was the best grayling water, and where there was more sunshine. The beat was much wider than the upper part, where the river was narrow with deeper faster water with almost no sun because of big trees on the opposite bank.

      At 9 o'clock the start was given and I entered the river. At my first cast, I caught an undersized grayling around 18 cm. It seemed that the fish were cooperative, so I continued to advance and approximately 3 m from the opposite bank I caught the first eligible fish: a brown trout. I brought it to the controller for the measurement, dully signed and got back to the opposite bank where I cast under the bank and I caught the second brown trout. Same story: measure, sign, return to the hot spot where after another 5 minutes of casting along the banks I caught the third brown trout. In the meantime, a few small graylings also came in, which gave me hope that I would find bigger grayling in the area.

      I was about halfway through the session, and I only had 3 fish and no grayling. I knew beat 19 produced a lot of grayling on the first day and I was hoping to find them in the vicinity of the beat where the water was similar to what gave us good results in practice. I insisted for about 20 minutes with not even one touch.

      Good looking water on beat 19

      I still had 30 minutes left from the first half of the session, and I decided to try at the top of the beat. I wasn't sure that I could find grayling, yet when I got there, the sun now covered more than half of the fishing area, and the first cast in the high and fast water produced a grayling of about 24 cm.

      I still had enough time to put more fish on the scoresheet, but then experienced the worst 20 minutes of the entire championship. I caught another undersized grayling and lost four fish bigger fish, that would have scored. The pressure to catch fish in the first part of the session, the lack of inspiration and information combined with childish mistakes and bad angling left me after the first half of the session with only 4 fish on the scoresheet. I knew that if I had invested more time fishing in the upper part of the beat, I could score more fish.

      On my way to make the switch with the beat 17 I met the angler from Montenegro who informed me that he had caught 7 fish. This was an unexpected number of fish. Apparently, I was wrong and unprepared for this type of water so I realized that I have to adapt. I started from the top going downstream this time and I did something that I was supposed to do at the beginning of the session I bent the point of the hook a little bit on the side, which helps a lot in setting the hook, especially when the fish are not cooperative (thanks to Daniel Suceava, he reminded me of this method that I knew but I had forgotten).

      About 20 minutes into the second period of my session, fishing the fastest current I scored a grayling. Meanwhile, I saw the fisherman from Montenegro in beat 17 go directly to the area where I caught the graylings: he had the right information.  Later on the bus, he told me that he didn't even try the lower part of the beat. He stayed up and caught 5 fish.

      I also scored another brown trout and a grayling for a total of 7 fish: way too low a number to hope for a good placing in the session.

      In conclusion, I have to accept my failure in the 3rd session. Probably, with more concentration, the result would have been different. After a cold analysis, I think that my biggest mistake was my assumptions about the fish location and the number of fish in each beat. That led to a completely wrong strategy. After all the competition is mostly a mental game...

      World Fly Fishing Championships 2023 as I experienced it. Session II, Orava river. By Ciprian Rafan

      World Fly Fishing Championships 2023 as I experienced it. Session II, Orava river. By Ciprian Rafan

      My second session of the WFFC was on the Orava, a large tailwater with many differences in depth from one beat to another. During the training together with my team mate Raul we learned a bit about the connection between fish holding spots and depth of course the variations of favorite spots by fish specie. Most were grayling, followed in numbers by trout and chub. All 3 species were included in the competition. My top producing fly was a classic pheasant tail in different variants but very importantly on small hooks (16 and 18) with small beads (2.5mm and 2mm). The color of the bead that worked best varied by the fly pattern (gold, silver or copper).


      On the morning of my competition session the noise of a heavy rain woke me up at 4:55 a.m., before the alarm went off. The forecast had called for rain but not this much. I was still hoping that the river would remain clear as it is a tailwater.

      I stepped into the bus full of thoughts and worries, I knew from the training days and from the results of the first day of the competition (I would like to thanks to Mihai Vasilescu "Mișu" for the real time data) that there would be a lottery depending of the sector we will fish and the rain would make things worse.

      Once we arrived near the competition area, we passed by the river with the bus and I was calmed by seeing the river running clear. The first beats were announced and everything seemed ok. I hoped to get a lower beat number, between 10 and 26, but it was not to be, I was assigned beat 7. I still hoped this would be good considering that over 30 fish were caught on 5 and 6. Beats 10 to 26 had produced the most fish with a few exceptions. Beat 22 had been the best. As a novelty for me this year, the organizers decided to do a beat rotation at the half-time, a factor that totally changed the fishing tactics, especially when you had a long beat and you had to find fish quickly even though you didn't really have enough time to cover the whole water.

      I had to switch with beat 8, assigned to the angler from Luxembourg. My controller, a boy around 16 years old, walked with me to the river. Going through the forest we passed by a little muddy tributary. My controlled confirmed that my beat starts right below where this tributary enters the Orava.

      Once I arrived to my beat I was a bit relieved to see that the water was muddy only on the near bank with the far side running clear. Above me in beats 5 and 6, the river was crystal clear.

      My beat at 8 am. Water still clear on the opposite bank. 

      It was 8 and I still had 1.5 hrs until the start of the of the session at 9:30, so I had enough time to see my beat and get an idea of ​​how to approach it. The length was about 400 m. In the upper part where the muddy tributary entered there were short runs that looked promising at first sight, in the middle there was a channel with high and fast water up to the chest. Near the banks there were several stretches with fast low water where I hoped to find a few grayling. At the bottom was a section of about 30m with fast water and large boulders in the middle. Close to the far bank it seemed ideal for grayling.

      After a careful analysis of the beat, considering the bad conditions and the muddy water, I decided to start at the bottom and slowly fish my way up. At 9:30 a.m. when the session started the water had become muddy on both banks, but below me in beat 8 on the opposite bank I could still see clear water. I immediately understood that my session depended on finding areas with clear water. Both my banks were affected by muddy water, with only the middle of the river clearer.  I also tried the banks where grayling normally hold. After 20 minutes without results, I moved slightly up, reached a deeper area, where the clearer water flowed between large boulders covered with vegetation. After about 5 minutes in this area, I had the first attack completed with an under-measure grayling of 19.3cm (the limit was 20cm). However, this fish brought me hope that bigger will follow. in the next 20 minutes I caught 2 others grayling of the same size around 19 cm and I decided to move towards the upper limit of my beat where I thought I had a good chance for grayling. Moving up I cast in the channels between the vegetation and boulders. When I arrived somewhere at 20 meters from the upper limit of my beat I had the first serious touch, a nice fish that stayed on the hook for only a few seconds.

      Finally, I reached the upper limit of my beat where in normal conditions was supposed to be the best water, but after I tried for 10 minutes without a touch I found myself with only 30 minutes left from the first half and no fish on the board. So I decided to go down and insist on the area where I had hooked a fish, right in the middle among the boulders and vegetation. In my second cast I scored a 26cm grayling. I made a mistake that would cost me dearly: in a hurry I left the controller without signing. When I had walked 5 meters I realized my mistake and came back to sign but it was too late. The controller had already made a note that I left without signing. I realized this only later back in my hotel room when the results were displayed...

      Returning to the area where I caught the first fish I had another touch and for the the next 5 minutes it was a complete pause, then out of the blue I had a fish in the same spot: a scoring size grayling. On my way to the referee to the opposite bank, I also took the first bath, due to the lack of visibility and rush. I fell into a hole one and a half meters deep. It had been raining heavy for 2 hours and a little water in the waders brought balance on the inside 😅... In the last 10 minutes of the session I dropped another grayling.

      The deep water channels between rocks and vegetation where I got activity. 

      The first part of the session was over. Before moving to beat 8 below me, I had 30 minutes in to take a look at the new water fix my gear if necessary. On the way, I met the angler from Luxembourg who had caught 9 fish, a record number considering the conditions. Later on the bus he shared that he actually caught them in the first 30 minutes when he had some clear water in the beat.

      The good grayling water on the opposite bank in beat number 8: by the time I got to fish it it had changed from clear to chocolate.

      Then followed 1.5 hrs of agony with 3 non-scoring grayling and 3 more baths in the muddy water that had now covered the entire beat. Back in the bus I found l out from the Luxembourg angler that in the second part he caught 2 grayling, exactly in the area where I had activity. Above our beats, the fishermen from Spain and Scotland enjoyed clear water almost throughout the entire session and did very well with 30 and 22 fish.

      In conclusion, the bad conditions combined with the lack of experience on colored water, mistakes like failing to sign my fish and dropping fish, cost me a lot in the final ranking.

      The fly that worked for the fish I hooked was a size 16 pheasant tail with a red hen collar and 2.5mm copper bead.

      World Fly Fishing Championships 2023 as I experienced it. Session I, Dedinky Lake. By Ciprian Rafan

      World Fly Fishing Championships 2023 as I experienced it. Session I, Dedinky Lake. By Ciprian Rafan

      My first venue of the WFFC was Dedinky Lake. I knew from practice that it would not be easy.

      6 weeks before the competition, my friend Raul and I finalized the last training session. After a full day of fishing with not-that-bad lake conditions (cloudy, steady wind, lower temperature and a bit of rain), I got only 4 fish. Quite a low number, considering we were the only boat fishing the lake that day. But we discovered a fly pattern that fish seemed to be keyed on, which gave us hope for a satisfying result.

      Fast forward to the morning of September 13th. The bus to the lake departed at 5:55 a.m. from the competition headquarters. The trip took about 1h 45m and about 30 minutes before we arrived, the draw for boat partners was announced on the bus. I was lucky enough to be paired with Christian from Belgium. The gods decided he would be captain for the first half, and I would take over for the second 2 hours of the 4-hour long session: the captain chooses where to fish.

      Arriving at the lake, I had enough time to prepare the equipment, so I took 30 minutes to observe the lake, to look for rising fish and see what the water clarity was. With my boat partner Christian, we agreed to work together to locate the fish regardless of who is the captain.

      Unfortunately for us, the weather was not favourable for fly fishing. We "enjoyed" a sunny day with zero wind and a temperature of over 26°C.

      I decided to use the new Arcay Otter 7wt rod. My strategy was to start for about 20 minutes with a fast intermediate line with a 3-fly setup and 0.19mm leader, hoping to find some active fish just below the surface.

      Christian and I decided that the best initial strategy would be to stay close to the Slovak boat, expecting that the competitor from the host country knows better than anyone where the fish are. At 9 o'clock sharp, the game was on and the first flies touched the inert surface of the lake. My boat partner and I tried different retrieves without success while keeping an eye on what was happening around us. It was quiet in all boats. After about 30 minutes, seeing that Slovak angler had not hooked any fish, we realized it would be a very tough session. Normally, in the first 30 minutes, the fish are on fire. We continued to look for fish, some were still rising occasionally, keeping at an untouchable distance.

      In the meantime, the lack of cooperation from the fish and the lousy fishing conditions led me to change the strategy. I switched to a Di5 line with a set-up of 2 flies on a 0.17mm leader, the top dropper a pink leech with a golden bead (as an attractor). On the point was the one that produced fish during practice: a black leech with a chartreuse bead. Christian used a Di3 line at the same time. Immediately after we started chasing the rises, Christian had the first attack and a fish on for about 5 seconds without success to land and score it. We kept watching the neighbouring boats without seeing any activity or fish caught. 

      After about an hour, I saw the first fish caught and put in the net for measuring. Together with Christian, we immediately decided to go to the area where there were probably more active fish. Meanwhile, a light breeze started to slightly raise the gloss of the water. Arriving in the "hot zone," I also saw a second fish caught in a boat about 80 meters away from our boat. I felt the first light tap on my first cast in that area. A persistent fish continued to give me light taps during the retrieve, but I kept calm and didn't set the hook until I felt a slight weight on the line. When I knew it finally had the fly in its mouth, I set the hook, and in about 5 seconds, a fish of 28 cm was lying on the measuring troph. A small yet very significant one considering the fishing conditions and the number of fish caught. It came 1 hour and 20 min into the session and took the black leech with chartreuse bead. I felt a total relaxation in my whole body, knowing that this fish can be decisive and make a big difference for me and my team.

      We had no single touch for the next 2 hours and 40 minutes. My boatmate Christian tried everything he could. I changed flies and alternated between lines. We moved and tried to find fresh fish, but nothing produced results. In the last half hour, I found out that they were competitors with two fish caught, information that led me to try with a D7 line at depth to capture a larger lake trout that would give me the edge over others. Unfortunately, it didn't work, and I stayed until the end with one fish. 

      In the end, the lake session was won with 2 fish. 5 fishermen had two fish, and 8 had one. I placed 12th with my 28 cm "golden" trout, followed at 13th place by an angler with a smaller fish. The remaining 15 fishermen in the group blanked, including the competitor from host country Slovakia. Considering the general evolution of the session and fishing conditions, I was more than satisfied with the result.

      Ciprian Rafan