Session One of the World Masters Fly Fishing Championships

by | Sep 25, 2023 | World Masters Fly Fishing Championships

Tunkwa-LakeI’m rooming with Mike Sexton this week during the World Masters Fly Fishing Championships here in Kamloops, British Columbia.  Both our alarms went off at exactly 4:45 am to kick us off for Session One.  While this may seem early its really not.  Mike’s competition bus for the Clearwater River left at 6:30 am and mine for Tunkwa Lake at 7.  Both of us like coffee relaxation and to enjoy some downtime before the rigors of the competition day start.


The way the tournament works is each team has five members.  This year there are 14 teams.  The competition fishing consists of five three hour sessions.  The Canada session venues are Similkameen River, Clearwater River, Corbett Lake, Sullivan Lake (Knouff) and Tunkwa Lake


Each team member is assigned a letter – A, B, C, D or E.  I’m E and today I competed in a session on Tunkwa Lake against all other “E” folks from other teams.  Meanwhile my four team members, Pete, Mike, Loren and Bret fished against their matching letters from other teams.  We’ll fish one session a day for five straight days.


fly-fishingIn order to score a fish it must be 20 cm long and each fish is measured by your personal judge/controller.  It’s best to catch lots of fish rather than a couple big ones.  There are 14 teams so scores after each session range from 1-14.  One being the best you can score and 14 the worst.  The idea is to have the fewest points at the end.  So, if you win your session amongst your group you score a 1.  If you’re second you score a 2 and third scores a 3 and so on.  If you’re the big looser you score a horrible 14!  And if you don’t catch any fish, even if half the contestants don’t catch one, you score a 14.  All session blanks score a 14.  Don’t blank!


The team with the fewest number of points in the end wins and the angler with the least number of points wins the individual.  This is an Olympic style event so winners receive medals with grand champs receiving gold.  It’s an incredibly challenging yet fun event.  And I can tell you, I competed against many of these competitors back in the day and some are the best anglers in the world.


Tunkwa-LakeToday’s weather was awful.  It was cold and rainy and Tunkwa is a large open high mountain lake.  The wind was howling.  Once our bus arrived at Tunkwa after an hour long ride, our sector judge read off our boat partners.  I drew the Czech, Martin.


When fishing from the boat with another opponent there isn’t a judge with us.  We are the judges of each other and we take turns running the boat.  Its rarely a problem as everyone in this event is a pretty cool.  The only difficulties that can occur is when you draw someone that you can’t speak with.  The only Czech I speak is “Ano”, “Ne”, “Děkuji” and I can order a beer at a Czech bar.  Martin spoke zero English.


Our language barrier was unfortunate because it is fun to be able to chat with your opponent.  Martin seems like a super nice guy and we’d have loved to chat, instead, we looked at each other and did our best with hand signals.  What I gathered is that Martin didn’t know how to run a boat so I ran it all three hours.  He also didn’t have proper intel on where to go like I did from Pete and Loren’s previous trips here.  Nevertheless, even though I was driving, Martin had some ideas about where to go that wouldn’t pan out.


flyfishingDespite differences on where to fish, I took control first and followed through on what seemed like a logical plan.  The Canadian in my group, Todd Oishi, is an old friend.  We competed against one another back in the day – like 25 years ago.  Todd knows Tunkwa well so I followed his boat.  He was matched with Chris the Englishmen.  English are notably excellent lake anglers.


Long story short, following Todd didn’t pay off.  Todd, nor his opponent or the two other boats doing the same plan as I, caught anything to start.  One hour into the session I changed plans and took off to a bay recommended by Loren.  One hour wasted.


When we got there it was exactly where all the other boats in the competition were.  This is loch style fishing so you basically pick a wind line, throw a windsock over and start drifting.  The other boats already had a rotation going so it was like a puzzle to work our way in without getting too close to another boat.  It takes a knack for reading the wind and how it will affect you.  After about 30 minutes of positioning we nailed a good drift.


fly-fishingJust as we approached shore near the end of our drift I noticed a small trout rise literally in the whitecap of a wave.  He was on my side of the boat and I launched my Gomphus fly.  I was using my SA Stillwater line and the second my fly hit I stripped.  The fish was on and without letting him hardly know he was hooked I skipped him to my net.  Yes!  No blank!  It was a small one that measured 28 cm but I’ll take it!


By the time I released and recorded my fish the boat was getting blown ashore.  I pulled the windsock and we went back out and got in line again.  We had exactly one hour left.  Right away I got jolted by another fish but missed him.  Dang!


The wind was very strong at this point and our drift went fast.  I had another fish boil on my fly and I watched Martin hook up and lose a fish.  A few of the other boats hooked up also.  Some fish were landed while others looked huge and got away.  We were on the fish and when our drift ended I was ready to get back in line.  Unfortunately Martin had a different idea.


flyfishingMartin pulled a Tunkwa map from his pocket and suggested a nearby location to try.  Wasting time on a boat ride seemed like a bad idea.  Leaving fish to find fish seemed crazy.  But arguing in different languages was impossible.  With my head down we went to Martin’s spot.  There was no one there.  We made two ten minute drifts without a fish.  Martin gave me the thumbs up to head back to where the fish were.


We had exactly 15 minutes to go.  The other boats were all drifting in order.  I slipped us in the top and off we went.  Our flies were ones of many being viewed by the fish.  You needed some luck.  Unfortunately for me, that luck went to Martin.  He hooked a nice fish that took off screaming.  Respectfully I reeled in not to interfere.  The fight went on for a few minutes.  Martin had a couple close calls with the net but in the end he got him.  Martins fish was 42 cm.


flyfishingWhen Martin released his hefty Pennask rainbow there were five minutes left.  We were just about finished with the drift with not enough time to set up again.  We went right to the shore.  On my last cast I was doing my hang and got jolted.  I set and a small, but measurable rainbow launched.  But in his jump he shook off.  Then the session closing bell went off.


Today was a tough start for me.  My one fish was smaller than Martins.  And smaller than everyone else that caught only one fish.  And there were only two blanks.  Amazingly, Todd of Canada was one of those blanks.  I scored a miserable 12.  Tough to swallow and damaging to the team.



I got back to the hotel around 3 pm.  The others arrived around the same time.  Our scores were all over the board.  Bret (last years individual Gold Medalist) won his session.  Pete scored 2.  Loren scored 4.  And Mike blanked scoring a 14.  Team USA is in 6th place.


So we’re not where we expected to be after Day One.  A reminder, we are here to defend the Team Gold Medals we won last year in Italy.  But we’ll turn the page.  We have four days to make up ground and that’s a lot.  One thing we all know for sure – we all gave it our best and we’ll continue to do so until the end.  Stay tuned for tomorrow!


Jeff Currier Global Fly Fishing


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I started fly fishing at age 7 in the lakes and ponds of New England cutting my teeth on various sunfish, bass, crappie and stocked trout. I went to Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin, where I graduated with a Naturalist Degree while I discovered new fishing opportunities for pike, muskellunge, walleyes and various salmonids found in Lake Superior and its tributaries.

From there I headed west to work a few years in the Yellowstone region to simply work as much as most people fish and fish as much as most people work. I did just that, only it lasted over 20 years working at the Jack Dennis Fly Shop in Jackson, WY where I departed in 2009. Now it’s time to work for "The Man", working for myself that is.

I pursue my love to paint fish, lecture on every aspect of fly fishing you can imagine and host a few trips to some of the most exotic places you can think of. My ultimate goal is to catch as many species of fish on fly possible from freshwater to saltwater, throughout the world. I presently have taken over 440 species from over 60 countries!