My experience at the 2019 BC Provincial River Championships, PART II
Chris Puchniak, Smart Angling Pro Staff
Naturally, Day 2 was expected to be tougher due to the angling pressure - an issue familiar to all competition anglers, as it never gets easier as the days and sessions go on. Session 4 was to start at 8:30 am, much like the day before. Fortunately, there were only two sessions this day which meant that the final session would end at 2:00pm
Our first beat this day was the lowest section on the river. I drew the middle section to start. The beat was strewn with large boulders and extreme depths in one part making wading limited, while the other half was pocket water. I chose to start with nymphs (like yesterday), and was rewarded by two trout along the edges, but I was finding the area slow in the early morning. Then I moved to the bottom area and got pair of large whitefish (40-45cm) casting to a series of seams created by some car-sized boulders. The current was strong here, and each one took me a good 100' downstream to land and probably ate up half of my allotted time to fish the area! But one cannot complain about catching fish in a tough beat - only be thankful. At the top I switched to a dry fly and picked up a few trout around the small seams of some pocket water, which started me with a total of 9 fish.
The second beat of the session was just upstream of the previous beat. I started at the top, which had a nice main riffle spilling into a deeper side pool of soft sand - there was a deep slot though on the inside corner and below a nice run for about 150' downstream. A solid 40cm westslope cutthroat (the first I had seen this comp) was the first to take my dry fly coming over the riffle, and after this I found several rainbows sitting about 50-70' further out (almost mid-river) that came up to the dry fly equally as well. They were almost in a line down the river, but I only managed to get 2 before it was time to shift - I had a couple misses, which is always painful to endure, but fortunately none of the one I hooked were dropped. Then I got several more in the bottom section looking for the same type of water until I managed to get 10 fish in the beat. Total for session 4 was 19 fish.
On to the last session of the day, our next beat was a slow moving clear stretch of water that was too deep to wade and limited everyone to mostly fishing from the shore - which meant that by now every inch of it had been covered thoroughly. The bottom was the start point for me. There were lots of shiners and coarse fish (which didn't count) around the rocky shoreline and I was thinking that in the slow clear water a dry fly would encourage some of the pressured fish to come up, while being ignored by the bottom feeding coarse fish that wouldn't be scoreable. To boot I had seen fish rising just as we arrived, which made the dry an obvious starting point (ah yes, we anglers are so smart at noticing the obvious!). Knowing the fish were pressured, I fished from the top down as I approached a group of feeding trout, hoping to float the dry down before the leader. Four times though I frustratingly had a trout come up and slash at my fly without a solid hook up, after which point they shut down before time expired. I suspect they had all been caught or hooked in previous sessions, and by now in the slow calm water they were both cautious and selective. Or maybe I just hadn't made a convincing enough presentation - unfortunately, that is a question I'll never be able to answer...
I went to the top next where I got 4 rainbows fishing the edge of the faster, shallower water I found there. One on the dry and 3 others on nymphs. I could have nymphed the area harder and done better I suspect as I didn't start with the nymphs till my time was almost up, yet that was what got me the bulk of my fish - but considering how fish had been moving to surface activity just downstream, I felt the dries were a solid point to start. Hindsight, however, is always better than foresight and I surely wasted some time fishing a less productive method.
Further down in the middle section (my next stop), it was slow and clear (much like the bottom), and knowing that unpressured fish were growing scarce, I tried to cross to reach fresh waters... but there was no way. Only some wet feet resulted in the attempt as the water splashed in over the top of my waders. Returning to the shoreline I got 1 nice trout on a dry (when I heard it rise behind me against the bank), and then got 2 more trout nymphing among the rocks (again, I should have done that sooner rather than in the last 5 minutes - but then there's that hindsight issue again...). I finished this area with 7 trout in total.
Last beat for the session was another deep clear stretch of river with limited wading, which I figured would be harshly pressured by now and produce little, like the previous beat (is there any other type of beat during the last sessions of a comp other than highly pressured low-number beats?). Surprisingly though it proved much better - I found the trout aggressive towards a dry fly, which was a welcomed occurrence.
I started in the middle section and got 5 trout. As the water was deep, preventing much wading, I found myself standing on whatever rock I could find (not your typical procedure in a comp) while keeping a low and slow moving profile to give me a better casting advantage without spooking the fish. I happily continued this in the bottom section with similar results.
When I rotated to the top, it was clear this area was more pocket water and I only got 2 trout on dries. However, I did manage to find a good area of uneven terrain on the river bottom and take a nice plunge in the river (twice)... That left me with 9 fish for this beat, 16 in total for the session, and need I say it... wet. A fine way to end the final session!
As the competitors regrouped at the meeting location after this final session, the scores were tallied. Our team was stoked to have improved our position from the day before, increasing the margin between us and second place, and proud to have taken Gold as a team! Personally I was happy too when I heard I had taken two more firsts on the day to finish with five firsts for the comp and had eked out the Individual Gold over Isaac Korman (Silver) and Hunter Wright (Bronze), both of Team Bend. Double Gold for Team Cormorant!
To do well as a team is the ultimate goal. There is satisfaction though in knowing that a good individual performance not only helps your team, but is also a reflection of fishing with a good team, as an individual medal is just another "team" medal won by the team as a whole!
Chris has been fly fishing for about 30 years, and his interests have sent him to many fishy locations between Canada and Tasmania. Since 2011 he has been active in the Competition scene, and has been fortunate enough to fish on two consistently medal winning teams within Canada. He has had the privilege to be selected to represent Canada for two International teams (in 2014 and 2017), and has competed in numerous events within Canada, where he has been fortunate enough to have won a number of individual and team medals.
For the past couple of years Chris has also been involved in helping the Canadian National Youth Team as an Assistant coach, as well as being involved with Trout Unlimited.