Around a year ago it was announced that there would be the very first Canadian Youth Nationals. Instantly I signed myself up alongside one of my teammates. In January our team started to practice every other weekend. We all spent what seemed like endless hours tying flies to fill our competition boxes. Finally it was the week before the comp and the tying, practice, and team strategies were about to come into play. Two days before the comp one of my teammates who is from Nova Scotia flew down so he could practice on some of the non-competition venues so he could get used to how competitions work. Overall the day was a success as he fished great for his first time loch style fly fishing. The next day my two other teammates made their way to Maple Ridge to practice and walk the river venues.
The next morning was the day one of the competition and my team was fully prepared for each of the venues. The first venue I fished was Rolley Lake. I had practiced the lake before the cut-off date and had a very good game plan. My plan was to fish in front of the boat launch because only a few days before the competition the lake had been stocked. So I figured that the fish probably hadn’t moved from where they were stocked. I also thought that most of the competitors in my group hadn’t fished the venues yet so they would probably stray from the boat launch in search of fish. This meant that the water I was fishing stayed relatively unpressured. I was fishing a fast intermediate line with 5x because in practice that was the most productive line and tippet combo. I had a few different patterns that I planned on rotating till I found the pattern that was most working the best. I didn’t have to rotate much till I found a producing fly. Overall my strategy worked well as at the end of session 1 I had 10 fish and took 1 placing point for the session.
The next session I fished Mike Lake which I had also pre fished. I had talked to my teammate who had just fished it and he said that the fishing was super tough and he had won the session with only two fish while there was only two more fish caught in his group. I figured that one or two fish would probably win the session so I focused on catching two knowing I would probably have a good chance at winning it if I could score two. I decided that fishing unpressured water was going to give me a better shot at catching fish. So I went to the far side of the lake and fished a bay where I had caught fish in practice. My original plan was to fish a fast intermediate with 4x tippet because there is a few bigger fish in the lake and breaking a fish off could be devastating. But instead I decided that it was better to take the risk of going to smaller tippet to be stealthier. Even using stronger and durable hooks was on my mind because I didn’t was to bend a hook out or snap it if I were to hook a larger fish. So I chose to use the Hanak 230BL to tie all my flies on as I find it to not only be the best hook in terms of hooking the fish, but it is also a very durable hook as I have not had any break or bend on me yet. I started with a pulling pattern that had worked in practice and within the first 10 minutes of the session I managed to land a fish. As the session went on the pattern was not producing anymore so I went to a more natural pattern thinking that they might have seen to many pulling patterns already. And with my first cast on the new fly I landed a fish and not long after did I land another. With only 3 fish I won the session while all the other competitors in my group blanked.
Our team was super confident after fishing well on the first day but we knew that anything could happen on the second. I started fishing on the west side of the Stave which I am super confident fishing because I practice on it all the time. I went into the session knowing the fishing would be tough. So knowing this I started with a smaller fly and 7x tippet by Arcay. I like to use the Arcay tippet because I find it doesn’t break super easy even when using smaller diameter like 6.5 or 7x. Also I figured that fishing water I believed wasn’t fished often could be productive. This included fishing farther from my body and staying lower to the water so I would stay out of the fish’s sightline. All of the fish I landed were from long line nymphing, this is due to the fish not being able to see me so they don’t spook right away. This is where the Arcay nymphing line excelled because it is so light there is hardly and sag in the line. So this enabled me to be constantly tight to the fly. I also found that once I got into the water standing very still so if any fish were spooked they would push back into their lies. All of these small techniques helped in me ending the session with 3 fish and 2 placing points.
I moved to the east side of the stave knowing that if I placed well in the session I could have a chance at winning the competition both individually and as a team. Knowing that the east side of the stave is often harder than the west and again I knew 1 or 2 fish would possibly win it. I focused my attention on trying to fish the whole beat while still fishing the primary lies. I managed to land a fish at the beginning of my session in very shallow water and another on the far side of a large seam that didn’t count due to the 18.0cm size limit. Then at the end of my session I fished super close to the beat marker. I did this purposely because I figured that due to the amount of new competitors they probably hadn’t fished near it. This payed off as in my first few casts I had landed one whitefish and lost another. So at the end of my session I had two fish and I won the session.
At the end of the day we all came back to meeting area and went together to the closing ceremonies. We knew right away that we were going to contend for first place but it would be very close. After the third place team was announced we knew if we weren’t in second place we won it. We took first place as a team this was the most important to me personally because it showed that over all the sessions we all had consistent results. Finally it came to individual results. It turns out that I won the competition with a total of five placing points and 18 fish over 4 sessions. I honestly am still shocked that I won it. After 12 years fly fishing never did I think would be a national champion. It took a ton of dedication and practice to get to this point and I am hoping to continue to learn more tactics to get even better.
More about Callum:
At the age of 16 Callum Learmonth has already been fly fishing for ten years and competing for four. He lives on the West Coast of Canada in Surrey BC with his parents, younger brother and two dogs. Callum is currently on the Kingfisher Fly Fishing Team and he has competed with them in a few larger competitions such as the BC River Provincials, and the North American Loch Style tournament. In April 2019 Callum took part in the first Canadian Youth National Championship. His team took home a first place finish and he won the individual gold. Besides fishing he enjoys robotics in his school club. His robotics team has earned a spot to go to the world championships in Houston, Texas 3 years in a row through competing in various regional competitions.