Andrea Smith recently returned from Ireland's Lough Melvin, where she was part of a 12-strong England Ladies team participating in the 2017 Loch Style International and gaining her First England International Cap. Here's her story, in her own words...
I never in my wildest dreams thought that I would be representing my country in a sport I only took up three years ago. The England team was made up of twelve ladies to fish the competition and one reserve, a Fly Tyer and Manager. Some of the ladies have as many as 22 England caps to their name, so it was an honour - but also a little bit stressful - to be fishing with so many capped ladies.
The competition took place in Ireland on Lough Melvin, which is (to make it even more daunting) internationally renowned for its unique range of plants and animals. It is located in the northwest of Ireland, on the border between County Leitrim and County Fermanagh. With an area of 20 square km, it was a daunting expanse of water to be out in such a tiny little boat fishing.
The team practised for four days prior to the match fishing, from 10am till 5:30, with a 20 minute comfort break to replicate the match day conditions.
With winds gusting up to 20 knots, torrential rain every day, and a tiny little boat, it was hardly the idyllic idea of fly fishing I had when I first started. But I am always up for a challenge and it was certainly that.
Match day saw conditions worsening. With up to 30 knot gust and 48 ladies from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales taking to the water, it was all very nerve jangling, but it was a grand sight as the flotilla of 24 boats waited for the claxon to start the match.
My boat partner was from the Irish team, and this was her local water so I had to play that to my advantage, as well as listening to the boatman who was our controller and driver for the day.
I had the captaincy of the boat, so I got to decide which end I wanted to fish, and where we went first. So that was me on the pointy end (bow) and heading to where I had caught three fish the previous day. Unlike the day before, the wind direction had totally changed which meant the fish had moved, which put kybosh to may plans for my favoured location.
Both the boatman and my boat partner said that a more shelter location would be better, and they knew a good spot, so I bowed to their local knowledge, and headed to Lareen Bay on the north east side of the Lough, where my Irish Partner had caught eight fish the day before.
FISH ON !!! - but unfortunately it wasn’t measurable, qualifying fish have to be 25.5cm long from nose to fork in the tail to count. Several fish later from me and my partner saw me get the first measurable fish - a Monaghan - and we're off.
Phew! a weight off my mind, at least I wasn’t going to blank on my first International, I could relax and enjoy the fishing, wind and rain. Mid-morning saw both of us with a fish a piece, but the wind was playing havoc with our lines, and wind knots were coming faster than the fish.
Second fish in the boat and it's only 11:40 - 'this is looking good', I thought. Then my boat partner got her second, and while the boatman is dealing with hers, I am into my third fish. It was definitely a good decision to listen to the boatman and my boat partner.
3 - 2 to me and the weather is getting worse, and the fishing is getting a lot more difficult.
Fishing with barbless hooks in such challenging conditions was making keeping fish on very difficult. I must have lost at least three measureable fishing and numerous small fish.
With only 40 minutes to the end of the match it was time to head back, the waves on the lough were so big we had to surf the tops of them, as we headed back to the safety of Garrison.
Then the results were announced.
o England Ladies Team - Winners of the Team Gold
o Individual 2nd Overall.
o Top England Rod Winner
o Angelo Irish Cup winner
This has been one of the greatest moments of my fishing career so far, which hasn’t been very long one;
As well as the competition fishing, I have also been working with some really great charities that do some great work, not only supporting people but encouraging people young and old male and female to the sport of Fly Fishing.
It has become an over whelming passion.