Fly Shop Welsh Hawks Take Gold At The Airflo Invitationaljenn
Airflo Spring Invitational
Last spring, we the Fly Shop Welsh Hawks were 2nd at the Airflo Spring Invitational, a great result but we really wanted gold. We took that frustration out during the Autumn International match, picking up the trophy for the third time. However, we wanted our name on the Spring Trophy. As such, the team prepared and practiced hard for the May Airflo Spring Invitational held on Rutland Water from 6th to 8th May 2022. Practice really started a good month ago with day trips helping us to get a feel for the water, but the hardcore practice started an incredible 8 days before the match with Gareth and Christian arriving at the lake the Friday before the match. Russel Owen arrived on Monday with myself, Wayne, and Guss arriving on Wednesday.
The week of practice helped immensely. Each day fish locations were plotted on our maps along with weather conditions, wind direction, and of course flies and lines. What was striking was how the fish weren’t moving from the following areas; Yellowstone Bay, Whitwell Bay, Dickenson’s, and Barnsdale Bay.
The competition was run to a 12 fish limit then a time bonus. You killed your first three fish, then returned the rest. All browns had to be returned, and they only counted once you had killed your three rainbows. This made things interesting, as you could catch 10 browns which counted for nothing without the 3 rainbows… Normally this wouldn’t be an issue, but 5,000 browns had been stocked and they there shoaling in a few key locations which our practice had found (Old hall Flats). This came into play during match day. Because the match was catch and release, it was barbless flies only.
I personally have never bought barbless flies. If I needed to use barbless then I would just de-barb. However, times are certainly changing. I don’t really keep fish these days and most matches are catch and release. So, this season I have made the big decision to stock up on barbless for the first time! Now the next argument is, do you lose more fish on barbless compared to barded? If you had asked me that 2 years ago then I would have simply said yes. However, now I have spent considerable time using barbless flies my take on it is as follows. You will lose more fish on a barbless fly when compared to a barbed fly. However, you lose fewer fish on a specially designed barbless fly when compared to a crushed barbed fly. So, in any catch and release fishing where you should be using barbless, then there is absolutely no question that the best option is to use specially designed barbless hooks which leads me on to the Fasna hooks which the Fly Shop barbless range are now tied on. These hooks are curved which seems to massively improve the hook hold. Over the three days of practice and two days of match fishing, I genuinely lost only a handful of fish.
The night before Day 1 of the match we worked out where those who had control (engine) would start. We decided to send Wayne to Yellowstone, Guss to Sykes area, and Gazza to Barnsdale. We were confident that those three boats would catch their limits. Russel hadn’t drawn the engine but his partner kindly agreed to Russel taking charge and driving him to Yellowstone. Christian was taken to Dickenson’s which he was happy with. Myself, I had drawn Derek from Menteith Ospreys (bizarrely Derek was my partner in the Autumn International Match!!. Derek kindly gave me the engine and we decided to work it out together with the aim of us both catching our limits (how match fishing should be).
Our plan was to fish slow with a FAB and three buzzers. Most days there had been some buzzer hatches, but even when there wasn’t a hatch the fish still seemed to take the buzzer. The FAB consistently caught, despite the gin-clear water. The brighter the fly, the more fish we seemed to catch! We found the best line was a Airflo 12 foot slow tip or a RIO Midge Tip 6 foot slow. Barbless FNF Jelly Fire Prawn and Coral FAB (FB029) on the point with two Barbless Brown Buzzers (XBU001) and a Barbless Black Quill Buzzer (XBU009). Our game plan was set!
On the morning of the match, there were rumours that the day before loads of fish had appeared at the dam, something we hadn’t come across. We had a quick meeting and decided not to change our plans and let the others chase those fish.
After the briefing, all 120 anglers made their way to the boats, and at 10 am we were off. Unbelievably only a few boats headed to Yellowstone (good for us) with about 50% of the boats headed to the dam. I set up our first drift at the bottom of Whitwell and was met by loads of rising fish. I thought it would be a mad hour and we would be bagged… Not to be, the fish were tricky and we didn’t put a fish in the boat for over an hour. By 1230, I had 3 and my partner had 2. It was time to move, so we headed to the right corner of Barnsdale. Again there were loads of fish moving, Derek put on drys and took 3 fish quickly then the wind strengthened and the sun came out to ruin the fun. It was now 3 pm and I was getting concerned over the lack of fish in our boat. We headed back to Whitwell where annoyingly it seemed as if the fish had started pulling, with plenty of anglers sitting on 4-5 fish each. We both put fish in the bag quickly and before we knew it we were on 7 and 8 fish each. Most of my fish fell to the FAB deep down.
Our Day 1 plan had worked with our boats in Yellowstone and the Flats on 11 and 12 fish, with Gazza taking his limit from the top of Barnsdale in the shallows on a Di7 (don’t ask!) and Christian taking a fantastic 10 fish. The Hawks were top of the table with a commanding lead. We were not going to let the lead slip.
Day 2 was sunny, hot, and flat. Our boats basically headed to the same areas, each angler knew these areas now very well and there was still plenty of fish to be caught. I drew Mr Ian Barr, who instantly informed me that after 2hrs I would be taken off the engine; it wasn’t going to be a relaxing day for me….. We headed back to Whitwell, I took a cracking brown of 5lb on the brown buzzer which was safely returned. I had two rainbows and a brown, Ian had three rainbows, missed loads and we both had dropped a couple. It was good sport. Then 2hr had passed and I was told its time to change ends; a first for me in 20 years of competing. After rearranging the boat, we headed to Blue Pipes. Ian wanted to fish the shallows. I took a fish on the nymph and missed 4 good pulls. Ian was struggling, then he had a purple spell and put 5 in the boat. All of his fish were taken in 1 foot of water! Sport slowed so we decided to head to Carrot Creek for some brown trout action. I tackled up on the Di7 and promptly started catching. The heat was blistering and it was hard work pulling that line (especially as a lefty on the pointy end), but the browns were on the deck. 2hrs passed so I got myself back on the engine. Ian took 3 fish quickly including one on the wind-in to finish, whereas I missed far too many opportunities but finished with a respectable 9 fish. During the whole day, I hadn’t seen any other Hawks, so I had no idea how we were getting on.
Our Day 2 fish total was 52 which was fantastic and another consistent result. We would be difficult to beat. It was an amazing feeling to hear ‘Congratulations to The Fly Shop Welsh Hawks’. We picked up £1500 cash and a load of tackle along with some beautiful gold medals which my two kids are currently fighting over. I have promised them another gold this Autumn…
As a team, we landed over 100 fish, and between us and using Fasna barbless Fly Shop Flies we lost very few. If you still aren’t sure about going barbless, then why don’t you try just a few. I am confident that once you have tried them, especially when catch and realising you won’t go back to barbed or crushed barbed flies.
A full range of Fasna Barbless fabs Buzzers and Boobies will be uploaded this week. If you would like some sooner please message us.