5 AM arrived without the need of a wakeup call. I was ready. Scott was ready. We drank coffee and relaxed before a 6:30 breakfast then all of Team USA boarded buses for the last day and last two sessions of the World Masters Fly Fishing Championships.
My first session (actually session 3 of the competition) took place at Lough Muck. Muck has proven to be as testing as Lough Corrib. The Wednesday afternoon session here caused seven blanks! That’s incredible and I’ll admit I was a bit nervous on the bus ride. But when I got there I liked the looks of my beat (Beat 9) and despite the harsh wind and cold I felt assured I’d catch a fish.
Just like on Lough Fee session 1 I dissected the shoreline of my beat with dry flies. The wind and waves made the idea seem questionable but I had to look for that quick easy fish close to the bank. 30 minutes in without a swirl I reeled it in and switched to nymphs. Nymphs also failed.
An hour passed and I hadn’t scored a fish to liven up my young Irish controller, Evan. The wind was borderline cyclone and thoughts of a blanking disaster did cross my mind. I picked up my 6-weight Winston with the Stillwater line and went to work with the simplest but most proven method of subsurface fishing. I tossed three Woolley Buggers as far as I could and let them sink the same ten count that worked on Fee and began retrieving in an erratic strip.
Erratic is the key. I start with three fast short strips then jump to a couple long slow ones then some short fast strips again then stop. In my mind I see a following fish and do whatever it would take to make him eat. The method works like you cannot believe. On my second cast I dropped a fish that felt good. Next cast I got him – 21 cm – no blanking for me on Muck!
I’d scrape up two more solid wild brownies and finish with three. Three doesn’t sound like much but in the end, the Frenchman had five, I had my three and the Scottish angler caught two and the rest of my sector opponents struggled. I was on track for my plan. I won 2nd place and scored a mere 2. More than half my group blanked.
We had a nice lunch at the historic old Inagh Lodge. My lunch overlapped with Scotts. Scott’s morning beat was on Lough Inagh and good news, Scott caught three and also scored 2nd place! No doubt, he and I propelled the team!
My final session was on Lough Inagh and I went head to head with Irishman Dennis whom I fished against in Poland back in 1998. He’s a great guy and fished on Lough Inagh before. When it came time to decide who was in charge of the boat – I trusted Dennis to choose our locations for the entire session.
The wind still howled and the sun and clouds took turns. The scenery was terrific. I gazed around in all directions while we bounced over waves racing the other competition boats to get to our first location and the 3 PM start. This was my last time fishing in Ireland perhaps for many years. Perhaps even in my life. I took it all in like we all should at such moments.
Dennis led us to a rocky forest filled shoreline and soon our controller Podraig told us to start. I was fishing three Buggers on my Stillwater with no intentions of changing flies the entire session. This is about keeping your fly in the water for all the three hours not 21/2 hours because you’re changing them so much. My point fly was the same one I used in the morning, a bead head bugger Scott tied for me last night. The simple pattern had already been fruitful.
Inagh had been fished hard for three sessions by some of the best anglers in the world. No doubt I expected another tough three hours. However, I won the practice session here on Tuesday by a long shot. I was extremely confident until after the first hour when I hadn’t a fish. I’d watched Dennis catch one and boil a few others on a floating line and some sort of wet fly he was keeping out of sight.
I thought hard about switching to a floating line and changing flies. Who wouldn’t after watching Dennis? But rather than spend the ten minutes it might take to make the adjustment, I stuck to my druthers and continued to cast and cover water like a machine.
Another hour went by. I’d pricked three fish and landed zero (my set up was ok). They were typical short strikes that occur after fish have suffered from pressure. Of the four venues in the competition, Inagh was the one I least feared to blank. But here I was with less than an hour to go and not a fish on the score card. It was cold but I was sweating.
With 55 minutes to go it happened. We were in a random spot, I guess you could say a desperate area hoping for one easy fish, when I got slammed. This time he stayed buttoned on and I swung him to the net. He was an obvious measurable brown trout. Not only was I on the board but he was bigger than Dennis fish which means my fish scored higher.
I’m confident in my angling enough to know that if I was having troubles so were the other competitors. Next on my mind was catch another. One fish would score well but two would be even better. With thirty minutes to go I landed yet another nice fish at 29 cm!
The “Currier” persistence continued. Cast after cast covering every inch of water I could reach. I knew there was at least one more in me. With six minutes to go I got him. He barely measured at 20.5 cm but he measured.
I ended with three fish. As I expected, the session was tough for everyone. The big winner was Pierwigi with four then 2nd place for me with three. I’d scored my second 2 of the day and beaten my own goals set before the day even started. Consistency in the World Championships of Fly Fishing always scores best. I was pumped!
It’s unexplainable how exhausting competing in the World Championships of Fly Fishing is. I was knackered by the time I boarded the bus back for the hotel. But I wasn’t tired enough to doze off. What kept me awake was knowing I’d kicked butt today and that if my team did the same we might win a medal.
When I arrived to the hotel Jerry was waiting and quick to congratulate me on my day. But then came the bad news. While Scott also did well throughout the day, Jay and Joe blanked the morning session then in the afternoon Joe blanked a second time. Had we one less blank we’d have won the bronze medal. Instead we’ll smile with a respectable 5th place finish as a team and I got 8th as an individual.