Grayling Classic Event organiser Adam Sinclair reports back on this years competition held during the last weekend in October on the River Test at Broadlands.
T he Grayling Classic is now in to its third year and apart from one other grayling-fishing event, there are no other such competitions on the river angler’s calendar. In 2016 myself, river guide Ben Bangham and Jon Hall river keeper on the Broadlands Estate on the River Test hatched a plan to run a grayling competition. In the first year we set up a single angler event but after the initial match many of the anglers asked about a pairs event. In 2017 we made the change to a pairs match and this will be the format we will follow in to the future. Like the Elite Performance Programme, that was recently set up to select the England World and European teams, we organised a pegged event. It’s simple and easy to manage giving the angler the opportunity to work out the water in front of them.
The Test At Broadlands
The event was held on the famous, and in my opinion the most amazing, stretch of the River Test at Broadlands. With a little over 8000 metres of double-bank fishing available we had no problem in pegging 20 beats for the 40 teams that were taking part.
It was great to see that word of the event had reached Europe. We had four teams from Wales, three teams from Spain, a team from Belgium, the Czech Republic, Poland and one angler from Norway.
The event was broken down in to three days. The first day, Friday, was the draw for the teams. We had booked the Romsey Golf Club function room where the teams arrived to a hot meal, an open bar and to a couple of retailers- Tom Leslie from Fin and Game and Toby Merigan from Funky Fly Tying. With food out of the way and anglers working out how to hide their new purchases from their wives, the draw started. Each team pulled their score cards that identified the beats and in what order they would fish. One team controls for another and after their session the controlling team then climbs in and fishes. The rules were simple; measure your first grayling and all others are shown to the controller, a maximum of three flies, barbless hooks, as many rods as you would like set up, but ultimately our aim was for all to have fun!
Match Day One
On Saturday morning the anglers arrived to sausage baps being served at the side of the river after a hard frost. It was great to see anglers chatting and catching up as they drank their hot coffee on what was a very cold morning. The first session started at 9:00am and was fished until 10:30am. A quick swap and the controllers were in the river fishing session two which would be fished until 12:00pm.
Lunch was waiting as the anglers arrived at the lodge. Don, the chef, had prepared and served a fantastic beef stew with horseradish, a welcome sight, as the weather had not improved from the cold early morning start. As I collected the session scorecards I was amazed at the size of some of the fish that were recorded. There were lots of grayling over 40cm! With lunch the teams were back out on the water to fish and control a two-hour session each.
Beat 10 was located outside the lodge. Malcolm Hunt and Peter Scholes (Manningford Monkies) had pulled the “A” session so were fishing first. Their controllers were Milan Hladik and Martin Musil Jr, from the Czech Republic. With each fish caught you could see the frustration on the Czech team’s face. The Manningford Monkies were cleaning up in a beat that really didn’t produce many fish in the morning sessions. As expected, the Czech Team still managed to catch fish but were certainly hindered by the efforts of Malcolm and Peter. Word had got back to the lodge that there had been a few swimmers in the water. One angler had lost his entire set up as he changed his leader; this was eventually hooked and landed!
With the first day over, the Manningford Monkies were sat in top spot with Mike Heritage and Baz Reece (Smokey Bacon) in second, followed by Ben Beckwith and Ben Fox (Ben Squared) in third place. After the fishing many of the teams got together for the evening meal and sat chatting about all things fishing and obviously about the fish that got away!
Sunday morning was milder and the day was started off with bacon rolls and another 22 pints of milk for the tea and coffee! A hog roast was cooking in the background and the air was filled with anticipation and a real buzz. Again, the anglers were controlling and fishing a two-hour session and those in the top spots were keen to start. I managed to fish a session, as one of the anglers was unable to fish. This gave me the opportunity to fish with the new Hardy Sintrix 9ft 9in, 2-wt rod. This is a fantastic rod that not only offers great reaction and sensitivity but also great power: thank you to Tom Leslie from Fin and Game for letting me use it! My partner for the session was Martin Thumwood. He had already seen a pod of fish whilst walking the bank. The plan was simple. He would target those and fish in the lower section of our 200metre beat and I would fish the fast water near the top of the beat. I managed eight grayling and a handful of chub and roach. I even managed to have a cup of tea whilst in the river, perfect! We finished with a respectable ten fish in total.
As the fishing on day two came to an end the 80 anglers made short work of the hog roast and after the raffle they waited for the final results. The team that finished in last position was awarded a grayling sculpture and this went to the Don-casters. The biggest fish prize, for the Gavin Irwin Grayling Print, went to Del Spry and Gilliaum Vermeulen, both anglers caught a grayling that measured 46cm.
Third place went to two great young anglers, Ben Beckwith and Ben Fox. In second position went to Malcolm Hunt and Peter Scholes and the Winners of the 2018 Broadlands Grayling Classic were Make Heritage and Baz Reece.
A total of 794 grayling were caught in some tough conditions. Anglers on the Wednesday of the same week were wearing t-shirts with temperatures at 18C. Come the Saturday we saw a high of 6C.
The support shown for this event has been amazing and I would like to thank all those anglers who took part. A special thank you must also go to our chef, Don; the food delivered over the weekend was top quality and very tasty. I’d also like to thank our amazing sponsors, Costa Del Mar, Hunts Original and Vision Fly fishing, and most importantly a huge thank you to Jon Hall who is the River Keeper at Broadlands, without him the event would be a non starter.
If you’re interested in fishing this event next year then please find us on Facebook under Broadland Grayling Classic.
Grayling Classic Winners
2016 Winner – Hector Rodriguez (Single angler event)
2017 Winning Team – Adam Sinclair and Ben Bangham – Team name “Costa Del Mar”
2018 Winning Team – Mike Heritage and Baz Reece – Team name “Smokey Bacon”
Hampshire based Adam Sinclair is a serving soldier in the British Army and has fly fished for nine years. Adam is a committee member of the famous Services Dry Fly Fishing Association that was once kept by Frank Sawyer. Much of Adam’s fishing is on the Chalk Streams of the South, however, he had fished across the United Kingdom, Canada and Slovenia. Adam is an ambassador for Hunts Original and has recently been appointed the Pro Team Co-Ordinator for Costa Del Mar and Seapower UK.