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
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.