August 23, 2005
by Todd Oishi
Following are excerpts from the daily diary that I kept while attending the 25th FIPS-Mouche World Fly Fishing Championship and Conservation Symposium in August 2005.
11 August 2005: After five memorable days spent sightseeing throughout England and Scotland, I have finally arrived in the small northern town of Lycksele, Sweden, situated just inside the Arctic Circle. As I walked through the massive revolving doors and into the lobby, I finally felt as though the months of research, preparation and practice are finally coming to a climax.
Following introductions and a warm welcome from the rest of Team Canada, we sat at our table in the hotel's dimly lit dining room and dined upon Swedish-style spaghetti. As "new kid on the team", this gave me a chance to get to know the four other teammates with whom I will be spending the next 11 days.
Our captain, Gord Bacon is from Ontario (he has since moved to Kamloops, B.C.). A veteran of numerous WFFCs, he is a great source of information regarding competitive fly fishing. John Nishi from Alberta and Sorin Comsa of Ontario competed at last year's (2004) NFFC in Quebec, and both were also at the 24th WFFC in Slovakia. Terence Courtoreille from Hay River, NWT, also competed at the NFFC, and at last year's Commonwealth Championships in Scotland.
Over dinner we discussed plans and strategies for our practice sessions, which will involve fishing on waters similar to those of the actual competition. Over the next seven days, we will experiment with various patterns and techniques that we hope will yield significant numbers of arctic grayling and brown trout.
12 August 2005: This morning our local guide, "Yimmy", drove us through avast wilderness to view the actual competition areas. Recent heavy rains have drenched the region, causing the rivers to rise up to 50 cm higher than normal. This meant that searching for insects in order to match the hatch was nearly impossible. The extremely high water levels have also impacted the fishing severely, so the mere handful of grayling and trout that we managed during our"unofficial" practice session were much appreciated.
16 August 2005: Five days of practice and our nightly meetings to compare notes and analyze our day's fishing has bolstered our confidence. Each day has offered a few more pieces of the puzzle. Along with Gord's guidance, we felt prepared for our two days of official practice.
With the arrival of seemingly endless waves of fly fishers from around the world, the previously calm, serene atmosphere of the hotel lobby and dining room are now filled with laughter and a rich mix of foreign languages.
17 August 2005: Day one of the official practice. My assigned group was dropped at a central location near the lower Gigan River. Some competitors had obviously scouted it beforehand and knew exactly where to go. I jogged about 1 km downstream along a logging road, then hiked through the gently rolling hills toward the river. It was beautiful -- dense growths of moss, lichen, mushrooms of every imaginable colour and shape, and an unbelievable abundance of low-growing blueberry and fiery-red lingonberry bushes. Upon reaching the river, I saw that the grassy banks were well below the surface. The practice session proved challenging, but I managed two grayling that took nymphs retrieved tight against the bank.
18 August 2005: Day two of official practice on Lake Rodentrask.
Today's calm conditions meant that locating brown trout in the lake was visual. I chose to practice with Gord and Sorin, and we all managed to land brown trout averaging 25 cm long. We kept detailed notes of our individual successes, then set aside our most productive fly patterns for duplication later at our nightly meeting. All trout were taken in shallow water on nymphs just barely subsurface, and retrieved with short, medium-paced strips.
19 August 2005: First official day of competition. Morning session on Lake Rodentrask. I shared a brightly-coloured green and yellow boat with a Swedish team member for the three-hour session. Rise rings on the calm lake left clear indications as to where the fish were. After much searching and several pattern changes, we each landed trout and lost several near the boat. My second trout was slightly under the 20-cm minimum, but by the session's end I had one 25-cm brown that counted, as did the majority in my group. Quite a few "blanked" (zero fish).I placed 14th in my group for this session.
19 August 2005: Afternoon session. I drew a "break", which means I had the afternoon free to rest and prepare for tomorrow. This also means a Zero score and placing for everyone in my group.
20 August 2005: Morning session on the lower Logde River. I began on Sector IV, Beat 13. As the controller and I hiked through the dense bush to my location on the river, she informed me that on the preceding day, Pavel Machan, top rod from the Czech Republic's team, had managed only two grayling on this beat for all of his efforts, with the longest 27 cm. This didn't discourage me, for I felt that once the session began it was just my fly rod and me matched against the river and its fish.
Upon arrival, I saw that the water was too high and swift to wade safely, which limited the fish-able portions extremely. I could understand why the Czech had experienced such a difficult session. After spending most of my session working a small outcropping of rocks that extended from the riverbank, I landed two undersized grayling (less than 20 cm) and one of 35.1 cm. Given the river's condition and degree of difficulty, I was satisfied with my results. I placed 14thin my group in this session.
20 August 2005: Afternoon session on the upper Logde River. My beat looked more like a slough than a river, which meant "Czech nymphing" would be absolutely useless. The water's dark colour and depth would also restrict my dry fly presentation.
Shortly into my session, an Italian competitor fishing the beat next to mine hooked a small grayling. While bringing it in, a 45 cm-long pike latched onto the grayling and refused to let go. He eventually netted both, but as pike don't qualify for this competition only the grayling counted.
Approximately halfway through my session -- and one of the worst mosquito swarming experiences of my life -- I managed to land a grayling just 5 mm shy of qualifying, but several casts later I netted one of 24 cm. This was my most trying session by far and I'm hopeful that tomorrow's fishing will bring better results. This time I placed 18th in my group.
21 August 2005: Morning session on the upper Juktan River. We met our controllers beside the river and were promptly led to our assigned beats. Using polarized sunglasses to cut the sun's glare, I could see the river bottom -- it was shallow. As my surroundings were devoid of cover I would be too exposed to try Czech nymphing. I decided to try a no. 14 heavily-weighted Bead Head Pheasant Tail Nymph as my dropper fly, suspending it under a no. 12 Royal Coachman dry that would act as an indicator. Twenty minutes into the session, a small brown trout took the nymph. It was barely over the minimum length of 20 cm, but the pressure was off and I could now have some fun.
Under such shallow and clear water conditions, a low profile and stealthy approach was absolutely crucial, and resulted in two brown trout and one grayling landed, as well as several strikes on my two-fly combo. Much happier with this session's results, I was pleased to place 12th in my group.
Later, as we were sitting by the fire enjoying another great shore lunch, news arrived about "the incident." Apparently two bear-hunting dogs had chased a rather large cow moose through the dense woods and into the river, where she finally had the advantage and stood her ground. This must have been quite a site to see, and it was even captured by a South African television crew that happened to be on scene. However, the thrill and excitement seemed to have been lost on the competitors whose waters the moose had raced through and then stopped. I'm sure that any grayling or trout that were present had fled for the river's deepest, darkest pools to escape the chaos.
21 August 2005: Afternoon session on the lower Juktan River. I approached what would be my final beat and, for that matter, the final waters on which I would be casting my flies in Sweden. I finally felt as if I had drawn a promising looking beat, and chose to walk its entire length to observe and analyze it thoroughly prior to the session starting. As the water was extremely clear and very shallow, when the session began I started from downstream and worked up toward the top.
A slightly angled, upstream casting technique rewarded me with a 30 cm grayling, and this proved to be the most successful presentation for those conditions. It seemed as though the grayling and browns would rise to the dry quite willingly, but once they refused, would never rise to it again. I would then add a weighted nymph 50 cm above my dry, which proved to be a very effective method for locating and enticing 2 more grayling of similar size and a 26.5 cm brown trout. After thoroughly fishing my entire beat, I quickly ran back to the bottom and started reworking the locations where I had previously rose or sighted fish.
My first cast, followed by a quick mend, produced an aggressive splash as a grayling attempted to drown my fly. I quickly retied a slightly smaller Coachman onto the leader and sent it sailing off to the exact location as before. This time the grayling rose and hammered the smaller pattern, and the hook was set. I carefully played it and eventually brought him skating into my net, not wanting to lose a fish so close to the session's end. I waded quickly back to the bank where my controller was waiting to record my catch. At 33.6 cm, it was my largest fish of the day. With only minutes left in the session, I waded back out to where I had previously raised a large brown and cast two feet above its holding position. As my fly drifted above the trout's location, it rose, took, and quickly came to the net. This final session created by far the fondest memories of my entire time spent fly fishing while in Sweden.
I placed 11th in my group in this session, and finished 79th overall out of109 competitors.
3, Czech Republic
1 Facnce, Bertrand Jacquemin
2 Italy, Massimo Valsesia
3 England, Andrew Dixon
46 Canada, John Nishi
70 Canada, Terence Courtorielle
79 Canada, Todd Oishi
88 Canada, Sorin Comsa
105 Canada, Gord Bacon
Participating in the 25th FIPS-Mouche World Fly Fishing Championship and Conservation Symposium was an incredible experience that taught me far more than I could have ever imagined at the outset. It also reinforced my belief that competitive fly fishing can definitely be a positive experience. It provided me with an opportunity to represent Canada, while at the same time observing the various styles and techniques of fly fishers from around the world. It was truly a grand event, and a memorable experience that I shall cherish forever.