My 3rd session at the WFFC was on the lower part of river Vah, downstream of the confluence with the Bela. A beautiful river but also full of surprises: just like the Orava, the beats were quite uneven in fish numbers, probably also due to the fact that there were several dams along the course of the entire sector.
After the training, I already had a clear idea of the areas where the fish are. After the first day of, it was confirmed that the bottom of the sector from beat 19 to 28 holds a good amount of fish except beats 24, 26 and 27. In the upper part beats 1 to 7 were good, too. The beats in the middle of the sector, from 8 to 18, right between the dams, had fewer fish, perhaps also due to the shape of the river with higher and faster water. However, the most difficult beat from my point of view was beat 17, where during practice I caught only one fish.
Another factor that influenced the fishing results was the position of the sun over the beats. With the nights getting colder, the fish preferred the sunny side in the morning and in some of the beats they became active only in the second part of the session. During the training, I discovered that the dominant species is grayling, followed by brown trout and rainbow trout. The flies that worked best for me were pheasant tail variants in sizes 16 to 18 with beads from 3 mm to 2 mm. Bead colours were copper, golden and silver.
My pheasant tail variants.
Friday morning, September 15: the departure for the lower Vah was scheduled for 6:30. I still woke up at 5 a.m., had breakfast and prepared my equipment. The weather was supposed to be good with clear, sunny skies. I knew that the water level was a little higher after the pouring rain on the previous day. River levels are available daily on the official Slovak website: https://www.shmu.sk/en/?page=1&id=ran_sprav.
I was hoping to have clear water and not to fish beat number 17. About 20 minutes after boarding the bus, the organizers announced the beats and the rotation for each country. Being lucky by nature, I got beat number 18 in rotation with the angler from Montenegro on beat number 17. The good news was that I had clear water, and I would fish the good beat first. The bad news was that I would fish beat 17 in the second half, where I thought there were no fish.
Arriving at the river 1.5 hours before the start of the session, I had enough time to prepare and scout my beat and get an idea of how to approach the water. Beat number 18 was about 400 meters long. In the upper part at the limit with beat number 17 it fast moving water with between 40 and 60 cm deep, in the centre part there was a long pool that transitioned into a fast water channel with depths between 70 cm and 150 cm. In the lower part, in the vicinity of the beat number 19, the river looked ideal for grayling with shallow riffles, 15 to 30 cm deep.
The lower part of my beat.
My strategy was to start in the lower part, where I would insist more on what I believed was the best grayling water, and where there was more sunshine. The beat was much wider than the upper part, where the river was narrow with deeper faster water with almost no sun because of big trees on the opposite bank.
At 9 o'clock the start was given and I entered the river. At my first cast, I caught an undersized grayling around 18 cm. It seemed that the fish were cooperative, so I continued to advance and approximately 3 m from the opposite bank I caught the first eligible fish: a brown trout. I brought it to the controller for the measurement, dully signed and got back to the opposite bank where I cast under the bank and I caught the second brown trout. Same story: measure, sign, return to the hot spot where after another 5 minutes of casting along the banks I caught the third brown trout. In the meantime, a few small graylings also came in, which gave me hope that I would find bigger grayling in the area.
I was about halfway through the session, and I only had 3 fish and no grayling. I knew beat 19 produced a lot of grayling on the first day and I was hoping to find them in the vicinity of the beat where the water was similar to what gave us good results in practice. I insisted for about 20 minutes with not even one touch.
Good looking water on beat 19
I still had 30 minutes left from the first half of the session, and I decided to try at the top of the beat. I wasn't sure that I could find grayling, yet when I got there, the sun now covered more than half of the fishing area, and the first cast in the high and fast water produced a grayling of about 24 cm.
I still had enough time to put more fish on the scoresheet, but then experienced the worst 20 minutes of the entire championship. I caught another undersized grayling and lost four fish bigger fish, that would have scored. The pressure to catch fish in the first part of the session, the lack of inspiration and information combined with childish mistakes and bad angling left me after the first half of the session with only 4 fish on the scoresheet. I knew that if I had invested more time fishing in the upper part of the beat, I could score more fish.
On my way to make the switch with the beat 17 I met the angler from Montenegro who informed me that he had caught 7 fish. This was an unexpected number of fish. Apparently, I was wrong and unprepared for this type of water so I realized that I have to adapt. I started from the top going downstream this time and I did something that I was supposed to do at the beginning of the session I bent the point of the hook a little bit on the side, which helps a lot in setting the hook, especially when the fish are not cooperative (thanks to Daniel Suceava, he reminded me of this method that I knew but I had forgotten).
About 20 minutes into the second period of my session, fishing the fastest current I scored a grayling. Meanwhile, I saw the fisherman from Montenegro in beat 17 go directly to the area where I caught the graylings: he had the right information. Later on the bus, he told me that he didn't even try the lower part of the beat. He stayed up and caught 5 fish.
I also scored another brown trout and a grayling for a total of 7 fish: way too low a number to hope for a good placing in the session.
In conclusion, I have to accept my failure in the 3rd session. Probably, with more concentration, the result would have been different. After a cold analysis, I think that my biggest mistake was my assumptions about the fish location and the number of fish in each beat. That led to a completely wrong strategy. After all the competition is mostly a mental game...