It beats me why computer games seem to be more popular with youngsters these days than spending a day in the fresh air, casting a fly and trying for a Trout.
Fortunately eight young hopefuls descended upon Exe Valley today with Playstations & XBoxes far from their mind. Instead their aim was to catch as many Trout as possible during the Exe Valley Heat of the Greys Junior Bank National organised by the Angling Trust, the first ever youth fly fishing competition we have held at the venue. I sincerely hope it is the first of many!
To say it has been a pleasure to watch these youngsters fishing their socks off all day would be an understatement. I have been totally gobsmacked by their dedication, huge amount of skill (there was some quite simply awesome casting & fishing) and above all their “go for it!” attitude. I didn't hear a whinge or a whine all day. Like I said it has been an absolute pleasure.
The match was fished on a point’s basis, so big fish were not so important; instead the idea was to find the most consistent youngster. Each competitor drew their peg and when the whistle sounded at 10.00am, they were off with 30 minutes to try and catch the maximum of 5 fish per peg. Scoring was 2 points for the first fish on a peg and then 1 point for each additional fish. The first 10 minutes were slow, but then all of a sudden rods began to bend all around the lake, with a few of the boys matching one another fish for fish.
Seth Mayhew-Tusom from Bideford was certainly catching fast, possibly due to his boosted confidence from a successful practice session last week. Meanwhile another angler who had been practising, Toby Bennett from Taunton (see last week’s reports here), was also enjoying some brisk sport when all of a sudden his rod took on an alarming curve. But Toby held his nerve and managed to bank a fantastic fish which would have been into double figures. However in a break with our usual no catch & release policy, just the first 2 fish could be killed and the rest were to be released. Toby had already banked his first 2 fish, so after carefully reviving the big fish and a quick snap, it was safely released back to a newly refurbished home!
Barbless hooks were proving troublesome for some as a few lines went tight ... and then slack. Angus Cameron from Dorset was suddenly going up the gears though, managing to catch fish on every peg in the morning. With four peg moves complete it was time for lunch and while the boys refuelled, I totted up the scorecards. In just 2 hours they had landed 37 fish for a rod average of 4.6!
The morning session was won by Angus with 8 fish and 12 points, with local lad Will Scripps on 7 for 11 points, a tie with Sam Tester who had journeyed all the way from Kent to fish the match, although he moved into 3rd as his 2 fish bag was weighed at a pound short of Will's.
Seth Mayhew-Tusom took the 4th Spot with 6 fish and 9 points and Toby Bennett was also on 6 for 9 points. One of the younger competitors, eleven year old James Mockridge was pleased to catch 3 including a 5 pounder which was looking like the best fish to be weighed in so far.
This left local rods Charlie Cooper & Jamie Pankhurst who despite fishing hard and losing several fish had not yet managed a score. Never mind, this kind of match can turn quickly and although it was a competition the main aim was to have fun. Both the boys were smiling and raring to go in the next session.
Fed and watered the whistle sounded once again at 1.00pm and the boys began to cast in earnest. The break had obviously done Jamie the world of good because he was the first to latch into an all important 2 point fish and he followed this up with another very quickly. Great just one boy, Charlie Cooper , needed to get on the score sheet now.
But the fishing had slowed considerably, with lots of chases, short takes and the occasional lost fish. That was until Sam Tester cleverly stalked 5 fish on the feeder stream, the only competitor to take a limit on a peg. Charlie meanwhile had lost a couple and then breaking away from his lure approach he decided that perhaps a dry fly might work. And it did ... fantastic, no blanks!
Meanwhile Angus, the winner in the morning was struggling and Will also wasn't having much luck. But Jamie had added another fish to his score, while Seth & Toby just kept at it landing some important 2 point fish. And then all too soon it was 3.15pm and I was blowing the whistle to end the match.
Retiring to the office while the lads swapped fishing stories, it was interesting to see the afternoon results and a change in fortunes. Angus, the morning session winner had not managed to add to his score, Will was also fishless and so was James. Meanwhile Jamie had managed a top three placing, a great result after a tough morning ... so without further ado here are the final results!
All the boys received a Greys Fly Box, with the winner Sam Tester going home with a Greys GR50 Fly Rod, second placed Seth Mayhew-Tusom won a Greys GX900 Fly Reel and Toby Bennett bagged a new Greys GS Net for his 3rd place. The top three will now go to fish the final that will be held in April of next year on Ellerdine Fishery. Well done to all the qualifiers, thoroughly deserved and we hope you carry your success to the final.
James Mockridge may not have got into the top places but he did land a stunning 5lb Trout to win himself a 2 fish permit and a special prize went to Charlie Cooper for being the most determined angler. At just 9 years old he just kept on fishing, despite losing several Trout and was a great example to everyone.
In fact I can go no further without saying once again that it was a pleasure to host this event and I just hope that these boys will come back for a repeat performance. It would also be fantastic to see some young ladies having a go and perhaps next year we could double the attendance? After all with this being a match sponsored by Greys & the Angling Trust the entry and fishing fee was only £5! My thanks to Ben Thompson, Corina Smith & Danny Williams of the Angling Trust for all their efforts behind the scenes to help organise the event. Without people like this banging the drum for youth fly fishing the future may look very bleak indeed.
Just look at the expressions on the faces of these guys, you don’t get that from X Box! And to round off the match report the final stats were a whopping 54 fish were caught by the 8 competitors for a final rod average of 6.8 per rod! And remember that 39 of the fish were returned, a little wiser, so if you like light leaders and small nymphs this could be a good week to visit Exe Valley!!!
From 19th October to today 25th October the attendance at Exe Valley was 30 anglers who managed to land 105 fish for an average of 3.5 fish per rod (not including the match). Lures will catch but once again it those people willing to drop their leader size and fish with Diawl Bachs or similar who often have the most success. 14 year old Sam Tester, the winner of our Greys Junior Bank National Heat may have travelled all the way from Kent to take part but the prize this week for living the furthest from the fishery goes to Ian Hart, all the way from the West Indies! Swapping Tarpon for Trout he managed 4 Rainbows for a total bag of 11lbs and commented that “it was cold but fun” Well I expect we are a little colder than the Caribbean!
Slightly closer to home was Joe Adams from Taunton on his first ever fly fishing trip, he exclaimed “First Fishing Trip – Best Ever!!” heading home with two Trout for a total of 6lbs but from a bit further North came Andy Hazell, also with 2 fish and a comment that his visit was “Worth the trip from Lancashire!”
And on that note it is time to wrap up this extended report, ready for a new week. The forecast shows an Atlantic low coming in, but there will be some sunshine and right now with the water in such beautiful condition it is well worth wrapping up and trying your luck.
As always thanks for reading, we hope to welcome you soon and please do not hesitate to call us on 01398 323008 for up to the minute info. Plus look out for some improvements to the website coming very soon.
Best Fishes for the week, Nick.