by Roman Heimlich
Between 21 and 27 September 2015, the 21st European Fly Fishing Championship was held in the area of Trentino–Alto Adige, just under the peaks of the Dolomites, Italy. Our team formed by Tomáš Adam, Martin Drož, Lukáš Jahn, František Kouba, Roman Heimlich, a coach Tomáš Starýchfojtů and a manager Martin Musil. We set out already on 12 September to have enough time for proper training. For the Championship, the organizers chose four river sectors on the Sarca River– where individual sections were very different from one another due to the character of the river bed and water quality. The fifth sector, where the competition was held, was on a crystal clear, but not very deep mountain lake called Nembia. The lake was intended for the bank competition.
We accommodated in a nice guest house near the village of Stenico in the elevation of about 700 m above sea, from where there was an amazing view of the valley of the Sarca River. The practice venues were relatively near from our place. And the second day it all started – breakfast, fishing during the day, tying after dinner and this repeated every day for the entire period of the training camp. During the practice, we tried to visit all allowed training sections of the Sarca River repeatedly and on first training days we learned which flies will be successful. We tried fishing in milky water which was flowing in the river and stream beds for several days after a few days of heavy rains. This experience was good just for the first day of competition. One day we went to train bank fishing to the Nambino Lake located on the elevation of 1,700 m above sea level. It is a beautiful mountain glacier lake with a wild population of brown trout. Trouts were not big, but there were many and they were rising. Simply beautiful!
After eight practice days, when we tested many various styles and fly patterns, we were quite sure about the sets of flies. We caught plenty of smaller brownies, several dozens of marble trouts. Some of them were bigger and also we caught several smaller graylings and chubs. Most often, we were fishing traditionally with a nymph, but also we used dry flies and wormies. Our favourite fly patterns, normally used in our waters, worked well in Italy too. Hooks with sizes 14–18 seemed to be optimal and with respect to the fish, the tippet with a diameter of 0.09 – 0.12 mm was sufficient.
On Monday 21 September, we moved to one of the official hotels, after a week of hard training. Hotel Cattoni Holiday in Comano Terme was a great choice, because everything there was simply great! In the afternoon, there was a Captain´s meeting and the Official opening. Already in the evening, we knew who will go where. On Tuesday 22 September, there was an official practice and everybody could chose a training place according to the sector, where he was starting the competition. Therefore, I went to train in the afternoon to the section downstream of the Sector II.
On Wednesday 23 September, we woke up to a very rainy morning. When we were crossing the bridge across the Sarca River, we caught a glimpse of the river with little worries. Water was not higher and muddy, but we could expect this will not be for long. In sector II - Caderzone-Pinzolo – I was assigned on the beat No. 6. Quite a long stretch, in the lower part there was a line at the bank, holes behind stones and upstream there was a weir and from here upstream a bit more shallow stream after a shorter and calmer part. I said to myself that it could be a good place. The only thing which made me worrying was the stream getting a bit muddy and it was meeting the river just upstream of my beat and the most beautiful part of the river for fishing was getting muddy. Fortunately, during the session, it was not worse and the river was not so muddy that one would not be able to fish.
I started fishing with a nymph from the depth, fished in shallower places, streams and also pools behind the stones. I sometimes used heavier nymphs, sometimes I reduced the weight of heads. In all nicer places, there was a fish. When I got to the start of the beat after an hour of the session, I had 10 fish on my score. There was also a marble trout almost 40 cm long and also nice brown trouts. One bigger trout dropped from the line and one nice marble trout also disappeared with a fly. Therefore, I increase the thickness of tippet from 0.10 mm to 0.12mm during the competition. Then I was playing with fish without problems. I walked along my beat once more, changed flies and focused on deeper parts. From place to place, I got a trout again. In the last ten minutes, the wind was so strong that rain drops were falling horizontally. Leaves were flying everywhere, but at this moment and in the worst weather and after using flies with beads of 3.5 mm, I caught incredible 7 fish and I definitely did not understand why the fish were so active in such a horrible weather. Finally, I had 25 fish on a completely wet scoring card and I finished as the first. The second finished Stephane Poirot from France with 12 fish. A great start! The bad thing was that we all were wet into the skin and half an hour long waiting for the bus was not good too. When I raised my head, the peaks over our heads were covered with snow and we felt it on the surrounding temperature. Fortunately, we were taken to the hotel for the break, so we could change our clothes for dry once and this was really pleasant.
In the afternoon, I went to the sector III – Tione. On the way to the sector by bus, my colleagues woke me up to have a look, where we are going to fish. The river was high and muddy. I had beat No. 12. In the morning, a Polish colleague was fishing there and he caught 22 fish, however, in clear and relatively low water. The beat looked monotonous and practically there was no place, where to get into the river, because the water was really high. The rain was ending. I decided to go slowly with the nymph upstream from the lower border of the beat and on the way I wanted to find places, where I could wade. The first 45 minutes, I carefully fished from the entire bank and practically did not enter the river. I caught 5 fish which was not so bad in the muddy water. I tried to wade in some places and casted even further to the river bed, but near my side, there was a really strong stream and moreover, better looking places were already fished by the Polish colleague in the morning. It was clear that if I want to catch a fish, I will have to go to the other bank, where shallower places looked promising with some trouts who were removed by high water to the bank.
It seemed to me that in the upper part of the beat water made the river wider and thus it could have been shallower. Moreover, for the first hour of the session, water went down a bit. I tried to wade the river across in this place and on my way, the ice-cold water got over the rim of my waders, but after while I was on the other side. So I ran to the entire end of my beat with the intention that I will fish along the entire bank upstream. A few casts and a fish, quickly up, wade across the snow water, measure, record, wade across back, run to the lower part, catch the fish and again and again. It was quite hard. This way I fished the entire opposite bank and altogether fourteen times I was wading to the controller. There were last 10 minutes and I caught one marble trout which touched my fly in one pool at my starting bank and at the end it cheekily took the fly. Finally, I had 20 fish and another victory in the sector. The second in the sector in my group was Dariusz Rakowski from Poland with 14 fish. The first day, we all fished really well and for our team it looked very promising. After two rounds we were winning with the sum of 28 before the Finns (38) and France (46).
On Thursday 24 September, the competition was held only in the morning and the afternoon was free. I went to the sector IV directly into the town - Terme di Comano. I was looking forward to this sector the most. The river reminded me our Volyňka River upstream from Strakonice. I was a bit afraid that after the strong rain, the water could be a bit muddier. But to my surprise, water was very clean in the morning and furthermore, the sun started to shine a bit. I had beat No. 7, exactly opposite of the main hotel. A nice beat started with streams, while in the lower section streams were spreading into slow sweeps. I started with two nymphs at the bottom. The first cast upstream from the bank brought a fish immediately. A good start! I went slowly upstream and casted to all possible places. Eligible fish were in the deepest places and I knew that everyone will catch many fish and if I want to win I must catch more than 40 fish. I was not getting the fish as fast as I imagined. Then I found a pool at the beginning of the beat, where I managed to get a good number of brownies in a short time. Another part of the river, upstream from the aforementioned pool, was nothing special again and the last hour I walked through the beat from the bottom border again. I changed to a finer tippet of 0.09 mm and took smaller flies. First few casts signalled that the change could be good. Unfortunately, the negative point for the finer tackle was several lost fish. I was adding a fish from time to time and for the best place I had last 20 minutes near the noon. I asked the controller to sit behind me, I leaned against the bank not to scare the fish. At first, it was nothing special, but after a few minutes the fish got calmer and in the last fifteen minutes I caught 10 very important fish – 3 nice trout of this number with a little squirmy wormy. Finally, I finished with 42 fish. The second in sector was an Italian competitor Andrea Adreveno with 38 fish. Great again, first again.
After three rounds and two competition days, we increased our lead in teams and on the last days we had a very high lead. Our sum of placings was 43, second was France (68) and the third was Poland (70). Into the last competition day, the medal hope had also very well fishing young Finns (74) and Slovaks (75). After three rounds I was on the second place in individuals with the sum of placings 3 after greatly fishing Sébastien Delcor from France (3). Lukáš Jahn was also fishing for a position on the stage with his sum of 6.
On Friday 25 September, there were two last and decisive rounds. In the morning I went to the sector V – the Nembia Lake. I was aware of the fact that just the lake can decide and this will be nothing easy, especially after Franta’s talk who was fishing there before me and in the third round he caught a really important fish from the only one take. On the bank, I was supported by my coach and my manager. Within the lake competition, everybody was fishing 45 minutes, each in four various places. Regarding the fish stock, there was an abundant population of small older rainbow trout around 20 cm. Several dozens of older rainbows between 35 – 50 cm, but they were hard to catch. The rest of the fish were stocked brownies. One sort of these fish were between 30 – 40 cm and several brown monsters up to 60 cm. Majority of fish were seen in crystal clear and shallow water.
I started with a floating line, dry fly and a tiny nymph just under. The first 45 minutes I was fishing mainly statically and sometimes I casted a streamer. Two brown trouts followed my streamer. One was smaller and one huge, but none of them took it. Then a small rainbow hit the nymph, but the take was so quick that I did not see it on the dry fly at all. The fish only jumped from water as it was pricked by the hook tip. This was all. The French was rotating with two fish, whereas the first one was the biggest fish of the entire championship – 58 cm.
I started the second part statically again. During 45 minutes a little rainbow sank my fly, but the line did not move and then one hit the nymph again, so I was still blank. There was time enough, but a very few fish were caught and I believed to catch a fish. Moreover, I went into one of two deeper places near the outflow from the lake where fish were as well. I started pulling streamers on a clear fast intermediate line. After about 10 minutes a take near the bottom, the strike was good, unfortunately a nice brownie escaped after a few meters. Then nothing for long time. The Slovak opposite me caught a fish. At the end of this rotation a large brownie followed my flies and took the end lure not far from the bank. I waited with a strike when the line moves and all was as it was supposed to, but after a while of playing, it dropped off the line again. This was not good.
At the beginning of the last 45 minutes, I went to the shallow corner. Fish were more active near the noon due to warmer weather and sometimes they were rising. I was casting into the track of fish and several of them came to see my set, but none of them wanted to take it. About 20 minutes before the end I saw a large rainbow trout. I carefully casted about two meters before him. The trout swam around and took the nymph energetically from the bottom. Due to the fact that I had fluorocarbon in the diameter of 0.12 mm at the end due to shy fish and that rainbow had 45 cm and he easily won …
I quickly tied a new set, degreased the leader and I saw it was last 15 minutes to the end. I must say that I have never experienced anything similar at the competition, but many times it paid off to fight till the end. But this was too much time for me. I told myself that this cannot finish this way. I tried to concentrate as much as I could. It was about five minutes till the end when I saw an active brown trout about 20 meters from the bank. I carefully casted my flies before the fish. The trout slightly rose looked at the lower fly and swam on. I carefully took the leader out not to scare the fish and casted there again. The fly fell onto his way and I only saw how he opened his mouth and I tried to strike – it was there! At that time my blood pressure must have been 1000/100. The trout started tottering on the surface and I was really praying not to lose him. After two incredible minutes of fight, I landed the fish and shouted from the depth of my lungs! We measured him and the fish was finally in the scoring card – 382 mm.
Two minutes before the end somehow the entire situation repeated. A trout, careful cast onto his track, swimming to the fly, opening the mouth and my strike again. Thus with the acoustic signal marking the end of the competition I landed another brown trout and shouted for the second time. What was happening in me at the end of this competition cannot be described and I think that I am mentally strengthened by the end of my competition career. I do not why it should have happened, when I caught two trouts in the last five minutes and 2 hours and 55 minutes before without a fish… But it was so and I can only think why it was so… After the competition, my captain was moving towards me with such special faster walk and I think that his blood pressure was not lower than mine. Finally, with these two fish I was fourth after the Italian, French and a Polish competitor who had from 5 to 3 fish. Behind me, all had either one fish or none.
For the last round, I went to the sector I - Val Geno, where the river reminded me of the bigger Vltava flowingdownstream of the Lipno I. through the Devils streams. I knew that lower beats have more fish. The draw assigned me to No. 11, where Valerio Santi Amantini was fishing in the morning and he was the first with 21 fish. Of course, Valerio is a great fisherman and I was sure that the beat was very well fished. Nevertheless, I knew that some fish must be there since he was the first here. I liked my beat. There was a deep hole at the end of the beat. In the middle, there was a cascade and at the beginning a hole again. Over the lunch the water had a bit more milky colour, because it got warm significantly and snow in the mountains started melting. Nevertheless, the colour was nothing dramatic. I started at the bottom part of the beat with a nymph and a line of 0.10 mm. After 20 minutes I had 5 trouts, which was great, because for a good result in this sector you roughly needed about 10 fish. Then I walked through the cascade and added 2 more fish. The upper hole brought some fish too and after two hours I had 12 great fish. I reduced the line to diameter 0.09 mm, changed flies and walked from the bottom part upstream again. Thinner line also in a bit muddy water was a significant difference and in the best places I was adding some fish again. Finally, I had 22 fish in the scoring card and the fourth river victory. The French competitor was second with 13 fish.
And then I was only thrilled how this all will end. I knew that the team gold trophy cannot miss us and after a while an Italian competitor congratulated me on the team gold medal. I was extremely excited! And on the way, the French competitor came to congratulate me on the gold in individuals…. An applaud from colleagues of my group on the bus intensified my feelings. It was great! Thus a successful trail of the Czech team under the Dolomites, with a sum of placings 74 before the second French (102) and third Polish (112), was underlined by my individual gold (8) and bronze of the last year´s champion for Tomáš Adam (13). As the second finished French competitor Sébastien Delcor (9), who was fishing excellently for the entire Championship. All our competitors were in the top 10, and Franta Kouba (18), Martin Drož (18) and Lukáš Jahn (20) were on the great 7th, 8th and 9th place.
I was really happy that I could spend 14 great days under the Dolomites with this great group of people. And positive feelings from the entire championship were intensified by our moment of glamour when they played the Czech anthem at the prize award. Those who were at the World Championship in Italy in 2011 might have perceived it as a gold echo of silver medals from that time. This time I must thank to the organizers, because they all managed very well and prepared a great place for the championship in a beautiful nature.