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.
Meon Springs anglers raise record £6,955 for Wild Trout Trust
Money raised will help fund a graduate post of Assistant Conservation Officer with WTT.
JUNE 23 2017 – A record £6,955 was raised at the weekend for a leading wildlife charity following a popular fly fishing competition at Meon Springs, near Petersfield.
Now in its eighth year, the ‘Three Fly Challenge’ – which is run in support of the Wild Trout Trust – has now raised almost £30,000 for the wildlife charity. The money raised from the competition last weekend will help fund a young graduate to learn about river conservation.
The winner of the event was Neil Mundy – the second year on the trot he has held the coveted Three Fly Challenge Silver Platter. The runner-up was Mark Roberts and the angler with the biggest rainbow trout was Tim Mundy with a fish in excess of 10lb.
Neil is also a great supporter of the Wild Trout Trust. And when you include the fundraising he’s done over the eight years – including being seconded to the charity – the total raised is nearer £40,000.
For Roger Greentree, fishery manager at Meon Springs, the most important part of the day was to see so many anglers come together to compete and raise money for charity.
“The Three Fly Challenge is a really popular event and it just keeps getting better and better,” said Roger.
“It was a blisteringly hot day – but despite that plenty of fish were caught – and some big ones too. This year the lunch and auction was held in our newly-converted 17th century barn – it really made the day!” said Roger.
The Three Fly Challenge is held each year in memory of Pasco James, an avid fisherman, whose life ended tragically early in 2010 at the age of 22. Since then, the Wild Trout Trust and Meon Springs Fly Fishery has run the Three Fly Challenge in his honour. All the money raised is used to improve the wildlife and habitat on the River Meon.
This year, the money is going to be used to fund a graduate post of Assistant Conservation Officer with WTT.
According to WTT Director Shaun Leonard, up until now, the funds raised have been used exclusively for project work on the River Meon, most recently in the village of East Meon.
“Now, though, we’re going to re-direct Pasco’s cash to fund a graduate post of Assistant Conservation Officer with WTT,” said Shaun.
“The ideal candidate will be a young person who can learn from our expert team and, who knows, maybe one day become a leading light in river conservation. I imagine this would be Pasco’s dream job,” he said.
Next year’s Three Fly Challenge is to be held on Saturday 16th June 2018.