The Airflo Invitational Fly Fishing Team Competition At Rutland Water 2018
Kevin Porteous shares the tactics and flies that saw his team FNF Falcons take top spot in this years Airflo Invitational six-man team competition at Rutland Water.
Rewind the clock back to Autumn 2017 when I received a call from Airflo’s Gareth Jones wanting to have a little chat about an idea he had. Gareth, with Airflo’s backing, wanted to create a superb six-man team competition.
So how was this going to be achieved? Gareth recognised that competition anglers already have a busy calendar so he decided to make this an invitational match. Qualifying teams would be invited on merit from the Sportfish and Anglian Water team events and just to spice things up he added a few wild card team spaces. The match was to be held on Rutland in May giving anglers the opportunity to fish for buzzer feeding fish. It all sounded like a recipe for success.
I was ever so pleased when the FNF Falcons, of which I am a member, received an invitation. We were quick to accept. From that point on the work started to research Rutland as none of the team had any previous experience fishing the water in May. It was evident that the fishing was usually very good at this time of year on Rutland and this year was no exception. This competition boasted 21 of Europe’s top teams all desperate to get their hands on the new trophy.
The whole event was played out in a relaxed, friendly atmosphere, but there was no hiding the fact that everyone was there to win and a lot of practice was put in by the teams participating.
Practice Day One
With such a vast area of water to cover in only two practice days we had to be rather selective where we sent boats to practice. We used reports from friends and previous matches to highlight spots to concentrate our firepower on and just hoped we hadn’t missed anything crucial. Practice day one was breezy with bright sunshine and occasional cloud cover. It was quite evident that fish were not on the immediate surface and the best tactics would be on this day to drop down to get in the correct zone. On day one pulling a Di5 40+ was proving to be a great tactic however we all knew the weather was to change for practice day two and the two-day competition. We noted areas that fish were caught and decided to go back to these areas on the second day of practice to hone our tactics.
Practice Day Two
The weather was now to remain consistent for the next three days so we would have this day to get our tactics right. In the very calm and bright conditions we started to get an idea for the immense water clarity. It was like fishing in an aquarium. Never have I seen so many fish swim under my boat including large browns, shoals of rainbows, pike, huge eels and perch. I was fortunate to catch one of the large brown trout estimated about 7lb close to the hotel in the morning of the second practice day. The team also noted other areas where large brown trout were in abundance, which proved crucial to the competition.
Despite the change in weather the team proved that various methods were working on the fish and it was almost a case of area rather than tactic as fish could be taken on various methods, especially early in the day.
The Competition- Day One
The team ventured out with various tactics depending on what area they were wanting to fish. James Bews and Scott Reith headed up the North Arm, Campbell Morgan, Alan Porteous and Sean McCaffrey covered the Main Basin whilst I ventured over to Spud Bay and ended up staying there for the entire day. Spud Bay saw five boats head straight there which is quite a lot for such a small area. My boat partner for the day, Dale Burgess, assured me there were plenty fish in the area and he was right. The fishing was good for the initial hour but boat pressure on such a small area very quickly slowed things down to a point we were the only boat left in the bay.
However, we noticed the fish were coming and going into the bay. For a spell you would see nothing, then after a while, the fish would populate the bay again. You could see them swimming under the boat in numbers and with no apparent reason vanish again. In the morning the fish were hard on the deck but by lunch time the fish could be seen cruising about mid water. Dale and myself were very patient and made the most of our opportunities when the fish moved in.
After the first day weigh-in, our team the FNF Falcons, were in first place with a healthy 13lb advantage over second place Flash Attack Reservoir Dogs.
The Competition- Day Two
We knew there would be a number of very good teams snapping at our heels so we couldn’t afford to be at all complacent. Armed with all the information from the day before we decided to have a similar split in boats with team members heading back to the areas that had done well the previous day. Again the team had noted where the large brown trout were and we purposely covered these areas early in the chance of catching one. This proved to be a crucial tactic as Campbell Morgan and Sean McCaffrey did just that both landing large brown trout, which was to make a big difference to their bag weights. Rutland fished exceptionally well again but the rod average fell slightly on day two from 9.48 to 8.95.
After the weigh-in it was evident to see the chasing teams had done slightly better than us but nobody knew if it was enough to leapfrog us into first place.
After a tasty hog roast and many anxious minutes the individual results were read out first. FNF Falcons Sean McCaffrey secured the top individual over the two days. Everyone was on edge waiting for the final team standings. When FNF Falcons were called out in first place it was like having all your birthdays at once. A wave of emotion poured over the team quickly followed by smiles a mile wide.
• 1st FNF Falcons
• 2nd Iain Barr Costa
• 3rd Flash Attack Reservoir Dogs
With only 6lb separating the top four teams this was a close run competition and very exciting.
Over the four days fishing it was evident fish could be caught using various methods including the bung, straight line buzzers, pulling and washing line. Leader choice was critical in the clear water. It came down to a confidence thing. I opted for the new Fulling Mill Masterclass while the rest of the team used Grand Max Soft Plus. When pulling we used either a Di5 Sweep or Di5 40+ and a single Sunburst Block Jelly Booby on a 12ft leader. This was either used early in the day or out over open water.
When fishing the washing line the team either used a Fire Prawn/Blushing Sunburst Jelly FAB or Tequila Slush Jelly Blob if we wanted to get a bit deeper. Despite most of the field fishing Buzzers, Blobs accounted for a large percentage of our total bag. The Airflo 12ft Slow Tip, fished slowly, was achieving the perfect depth and presentation when fishing the washing line.
Buzzer patterns didn’t have to be to specific, getting them to the correct depth quickly felt more important, either using a bung or straight-lining to achieve the correct depth, baring in mind the fish were coming up in the water through the course of the day. Black and red buzzers seemed to be popular with the team and would occupy at least one dropper on everyone’s cast.
The new Airflo Invitational match turned out to be exactly what Gareth Jones had dreamed up all those months ago. Rutland Water proved an excellent venue married with an excellent field of anglers. A special thanks has to go out to sponsors FNF and particularly Airflo who have once again hugely supported competition fishing. I’d also like to give a special mention to the FNF Falcons, James Bews (captain), Alan Porteous, Campbell Morgan, Scott Reith, Sean McCaffrey and myself. Thanks lads for making a dream come true.
Kevin Porteous is a multi-capped Scottish International angler having represented his country at both junior and senior level. He started fly fishing at the age of nine and spends most of his fishing time on still waters in pursuit of trout. He has recently developed many modern synthetic fly tying materials and is the man behind the Frozen North Fly Fishing brand.