Smart Angling interview with competitive fly fishing legend Bertrand JacqueminIvo: Bertrand, your fly-fishing journey is nothing short of impressive: world champion, multiple other medals at the World Championships and a lot more...How did you start fly fishing and how did you get involved in competitions?
Bertrand: I started fly fishing when I was 16 and I started competing in 1998 at the age of 33. It was in 2004 that I joined the French team, I stayed there for 11 years. I won 11 international medals including 4 gold. Before doing fly fishing competitions, I practiced other competitive sports: tennis, volleyball and handball. I have always loved the stress and adrenaline rush that competition brings.
Ivo: You competed for a very long period of time and you always performed well. What motivated you to keep competing and how did you manage to stay in top shape?
Bertrand: Over a period of 11 years I participated in all the world championships around the world. According to my captain, I have an excellent reading of the river and a strong morale that allows me to make the right choices very often during a competition. I also continue to do other sports to keep a good physical shape and a speed of execution.
Ivo: The French team is one of the most successful in the all-time history of the World Championships. What are the key factors behind this?
Bertrand: The team had great captains, like Jacques Boyko, who know how to unite a team. Individually, fishermen in France must be very good because of the challenging fishing conditions: in my country fish are very difficult to catch. But we also have a variety of types of water and fish: brown trout, grayling, rainbow trout, fast rivers, very clear rivers etc. In France there are all the ingredients to train in all fly fishing techniques and situations.
Ivo: How did the team prepare for World Championships? Did you visit the venues a year or more in advance or was your practice just limited to the weeks and days right before the competition? What does a day of team practice look like, on rivers and on lakes?
Bertrand: Before the championships we try to get as much information as possible about the rivers and lakes that will be fished. We get in touch with local fishermen to learn about insects, local flies, etc. When we arrive for the competition, usually a week before, we try different techniques to try to find the right strategy. Each day of training feeds into a debrief to ultimately flesh out a team strategy for each competition sector. We always practice during competition hours.
Ivo: What is your favourite fly fishing technique and why?
Ivo: You have fished around the world. Which is your favourite place to fish?
Bertrand: My favorite technique is sight fishing with nymphs. You have to spot the fish in clear water without it seeing you first and presenting a nymph at the right spot. Then you have to observe the fish very closely to know when it has taken the nymph. This technique works great in clear water only. With this technique, during the world championship in Slovenia I caught 76 fish in 3 hours, 56 fish in Bosnia. I won my sector many times sight fishing. Today I love fooling very large fish the same way.
Bertrand: My favorite places are the places where I find clear rivers with beautiful wild fish: New Zealand, Bosnia, France, Sweden ...Ivo: If you can give one piece of advice to a new fly fisherman, what would be it?
Bertrand: My advice is to spend as much time working on technique as observing the water. I still learn every day by observing the river and the fish.