By Martin Drož

Rio MondegoThe team of the Czech Republic departed to the European Championship to Portugal already on 7 May with these team members: Captain Tomáš Starýchfojtů, experienced guy Jája Šram, Pavel Chyba (European Champion 2009, World Champion 2010), two newbees - Martin Černoch and Bořek Kopecký and me. I got into the team at the last moment as a substitute, because last spring I had a very serious accident on a snowmobile in the Giant Mountains and after that I spent long time lying in hospital with a broken kidney and bleeding into the abdominal cavity.

This injury also affected my training and competition and there was no surprise that I did not succeed much in autumn´s qualification and in the annual evaluation I finished as a substitute of the B-team. Nevertheless, I accepted this nomination, because I was in Portugal at the World Championship in 2006 and because I wanted to try to use the knowledge gained from several of my trips to Spain with Milan Čubík.

Martin DrožAfter our arrival in Lisbon and a bit more complicated pick up of rented cars from the car rental, we set out on the way in direction to Pinheiro Bordalo, where we had accommodation arranged for the period of our training days. The accommodation was in a spacious house not far from the practice and competition venues and it was not very expensive. The first practice day we spent on a short observation of competition waters and permits for angling. The level of the Mondego River was about a meter higher, but as we learned, it should be possible to fish there during trainings and competitions. The competition venue was located under the dam, and thus the flow could be changed. Now after strong rains, they were intensively draining water from the reservoir.

Five musketeersBy the way, we also learned that organizers exchanged competition and training venues on the Alva River, thus our careful home preparation related to the access roads was for nothing. In the afternoon we tried to fish in the lower flow of the Alva River upstream from the confluence with the river Mondego. Also the water level was high after rains, but we caught some fish. We were mainly testing nymphs which were probably the best, but also a dry fly brought some fish and Pavel also caught some fish with wet flies and micronymphs.

On other days we successively tested also other training options, but the sections were not too long and thus we were meeting other teams near water. They were mainly the French and Polish. I think that we were as successful as them regarding the number of fish caught. We did not get to the Mondego River because of the high flow; therefore we got there for the official practice. We normally do not take part in it in most competitions and these two days we usually prefer preparing for the contest and tying some flies.

From the trainings came out this result: the best nymph was our favourite Threaded Nymph with silver head and Orange Tag Nymph with a silver head. I had all flies tied on very tiny and sharp dry hooks H 130 BL and used fluorocarbon lines from Hanák Competition. Fish were taking very carefully and they had to be hooked even during the smallest takes. When you were dry fly fishing it was also possible to catch something with upwings. Not to underestimate the wet fly and get accustomed to the place and in the case of need you simply have to improvise and change fishing styles. It was also clear that on small streams, it will not be possible to ask judges to carry other rods along the water due to bushy and in many places inaccessible terrain. The use of rods Four in One from the company Hanák Competition seemed to be as a great option. Just during the change of fishing styles, we often used the length of rods during competition.

Local brownieThe transfer of our group to the official Championship hotel was planned for Sunday 13 May and there we found that only 12 teams applied, which shows that many countries preferably gave up their participation at this difficult championship. On Monday there were first official trainings. We set out only to the Mondego River. I started with a streamer and the nymph, but it was nothing special. Martin Černoch caught one trout with a dry fly and several fish with a wet fly. The second day boys were working well with a Threaded Nymph again.

And the competition started. It means early getting up and getting to bed late night, and this is quite difficult and tiring. I should have participated in the first round in the upper section of the Alva River. There we met the only mistake of organizers that the judges did not know anything about the beats and their starts and ends. This was probably the only problem of otherwise a greatly-organized championship.

In the middle of my beat, there was a more stream place and it was clear, where to begin. After about five minutes I caught the first brownie and not long after the second one. I slowly walked upstream and sometimes I added a fish. With some fish I had to return along a very deep pool about 40 meters back to one of a few places, where the judge could get near the water. When I fished the streams, I wanted to walk upstream in slower water. I suddenly saw a circle, but when I changed for dry fly, the judge returned me back that this is not my beat, even if this was still about 80 metres to the red ribbon, which marked the beginning and the end of the beat. She saw somewhere a board from the old contest, but when I showed her that this is from the year 2011, she was not at a loss at all and insisted on her opinion. I did not want to risk any problems and argue. In my scoring card I had 12 fish and I told myself that this was not so bad. Finally, this was a nice victory in my sector.

Czech team after the competitionThe second contest and the little river of Ceira and its lower part were expecting me. A text message from Pavel was a positive one, because with 11 fish he was second in the sector and no change compared to the agreed tactics. Another woman judge was expecting me there. I learned from her that in the morning there was an Italian and he caught 9 fish and as I found soon, he fished the beat very well. In the lower part I caught only 1 fish. Then there was a big and deep inaccessible pool under the bridge and some streams above. The judge told me that this beat ends about 20 m upstream from the bridge. As I found, she said it for the reason that then the garden followed and she could walk along the bank. Therefore, she set the end just there. But the real end was about 200 meters upstream. Upstream from the bridge there was about 10m high rock where I found a bit more difficult way to the water. Probably, the Italian did not want to climb here, therefore I started getting some fish from there. The problem was how to climb to the judge. The distance which I had to go back to the judge was at least 70 meters.

After some fish I managed to persuade the judge that this is not possible and she must get into the garden and follow me along the river upstream. I added some more fish and when it looked very well she told me that I was outside my beat and I have to come back. She did not mean it badly, but she saw a place, where another competitor was getting off the bus and she thought that this was his section. I did not see any ribbon, but I did not want to risk a problem and I preferred to come back. It was a pity, because I had to turn back in the best place about 50m under the weir, where I would certainly add something more. I did not have enough fish to win, but otherwise it was a nice third place in the sector with 11 fish. The return to the hotel was at about 11 pm. We quickly chatted who and how fished, gobbled our dinner and went to bed.

Another competition day I had only one afternoon session. My bus was departing in the direction to the lower Ceira River and when I was leaving I knew that the team was leading. There I had enough time to walk along all the beat and find, where the start and the end of the beat are. The judge was trying to set the upper end of my beat a bit lower again. In the upper part there was one little stream and the judge told me that nobody was fishing there. Thus I started just there, but after about half an hour I caught only one fish. After a faster walk back down it was better and better and I was adding a fish after fish. As well as in all sectors the best proved to be the Threaded with silver head. Altogether 17 records into the scoring card and another victory for me. The afternoon was free and we were tuning up our tactics for other rounds and actively relaxed as it proved well also a week before the Championship.

On Friday morning I departed to the Mondego, probably the most feared river. After the arrival to the river I found that my place was a complete stream and I think that this could have been the most beautiful place from the entire river. I did not let myself off the balance and started fishing with a wet fly and at longer distance at first. After about ten minutes there was the first take for March Braun with orange tag and I caught a very nice 30 cm long trout. I did not get more with the wet fly and started nymphing. On this big river, it was necessary to fish for longer distance, thus I took my favourite three-meter long rod Greys Streamflex size 3. I let flies freely drive into a large bent at the end of the cast, as well as Jája was testing during training and this was exactly what trout liked. And under our team captain´s great support I managed to catch 7 fish and this was victory in the sector again.

After the lunch we got a message from Pavel that he and Bořek are also sector winners, but Martin and Jája did not report anything and we were afraid whether Jája did not go to search for some local brown bears. After the lunch our bus headed for the last sector – lower part of the Alva River. It was clear to me that there are many bad and hard-to-fish deep places and I could only hope that my beat will look reasonable. Unlike from the Championship in 2006, now we were searching for fish mainly in streams. On a calm surface we could get some fish, but the quantity was incomparable to the catches from small streams.

Already on the bus I learned that my place was not bad at all, but I have heard many such tales for 13 years in the Czech team. After inspection of the beat which was about 400m long, I started fishing slowly from the lower end and carefully fished all possible and impossible places. I changed nymphs and dry flies, but the result was only one small undersize trout. After about an hour, I got to a small weir with three streams. There I managed to catch something and I was happy not to be blank and continued totally balanced. When I fished this place, I walked along the long area above the weir and continued in other streams above the backwater. Also there I managed to add something and after three hours I had altogether 11 fish and this was the last victory at the Championship.

Already on the way to the hotel I calculated that this is practically impossible for anyone to be better than me, because the day sum could not be better today. Finally, the team had to leave the first place for the Spanish, but also a silver medal was very nice. And I completed my collection of individual gold medals. After the victory at the World Championship in New Zealand (2008), I also appreciate this European gold medal from Portugal.