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.