Despite the biting north wind spirits were high among the 16 anglers who assembled at Mavis Grind last Thursday evening for round five of the Shetland Anglers Association fly bank league.
This was undoubtedly due in part to the fact that the irrepressible Alex Fullerton was making his comeback to competitive fly fishing after an absence, that everyone agreed, had gone on for much too long.
Controversy is never far away in the fly bank league and it reared its ugly head again at the check-in. It appeared that there had been several reported sightings of Barry Robertson having been fishing already that same day. Angling on the same day as an evening competition is very much frowned upon by the association and the committee will take a very dim view of anyone engaged in this practice.
However, further investigation revealed that this nasty rumour had been generated by the Whalsay dirty tricks brigade in the shape of Harry and Jeemie Sandison and Magnus Reid. They view Robertson as one of their main threats to qualification for next year’s team and were keen to see him out of the picture. The association is currently carrying out an investigation.
Another talking point was the story that one of the association’s foremost boat fly fishers had been spotted the previous week wading through one of the north lochs in his shorts and equipped with a spinning rod and a size three Mepps! This tale was met with a certain degree of incredulity, however. Surely one of our top county anglers wouldn’t have stooped so low.
Back to the evening in question and competitors had a choice of nine of the North Mainland’s top lochs and the 6.15pm start saw anglers fairly evenly spread out. However as Alex Fullerton had already pointed out, “a nort wind isna a fishy aert”. His wise words were born out at the 10.30pm weigh-in.
First was Bobby Irvine with four fish out of Lochend and Housetter for 2lb 4oz. His top fly was a “Brown Palmer Muddler”.
Second place was Barry Robertson with three fish for 1lb 12oz out of Punds Water, whose successful fly was a “Liquorice Allsort” and not, as one of the aforementioned Whalsay trio suggested, a bubble float and worm.
Third spot went to Craig Smith who was attending his first fly competition of the season. He had three fish for 1lb 9oz out of Kilka Water and Punds Water and his top fly was that old Orkney favourite, the “Ke-He”.
Fourth place was the ever-consistent Peter Laurenson with two trout out of Lunnister for 1lb 4oz on a “Bibio”.
Others weighing in were Billy Reid, Jeemy Sandison, Harry Sandison, Dave Wright, Alastair Jamieson, Alex Fullerton, Frank Watt and Leslie Barclay.
With five of the nine bank league competitions fished the league table is very tight with most anglers still in with a realistic chance of making next year’s bank team. The remaining four competitions will be extremely interesting indeed.
Positions: Frank Watt 84; Bobby Irvine 83; Billy Reid 78; Peter Laurenson 68; Mark Sandison 67; Kevin Robertson 57; Harry Sandison 52; Alastair Jamieson 49; Leslie Barclay 47, Barry Robertson 43; Jeemie Sandison 39; Magnus Reid 38; Alan Smith 25; Dave Wright 25; Craig Smith 18; Alex Fullerton 10.
The competitors had barely dried off before it was time to don the waders again for the annual pairs competition on Saturday. Always a popular competition, fly fishers arrived at the Tingwall boat shed for the 10am start determined to ensure that defending champions Bobby Irvine and Mark Sandison did not make it four in a row.
The draw, seeded and based on this year’s bank league, meant anglers from the top half of the league would be paired with those from the bottom, and some interesting partnerships were drawn.
The first pair to emerge were Frank Watt and Dave Wright, second was the useful looking pairing of Jeemie Sandison and Peter Laurenson, then last year’s runners-up Billy Reid and Derek Tithridge, Barry Robertson together with Alex Fullerton and Harry Sandison with Craig Smith. That left Alastair Jamieson as a wild card and he would be drawn with an unseeded angler at the weigh-in.
Frank Watt and Dave Wright, Bobby Irvine and Mark Sandison and Alastair Jamieson had all obviously all heard the news that a few trout had been coming out of Spiggie despite the water still being coloured. They arrived at Spiggie to find the trout rising steadily and this carried on all day. This should be a fly fisher’s dream. However, trying to tempt the rising trout with artificial patterns proved to be extremely difficult and frustrating. The trout were obviously locked on to the great variety of buzzers and other insect life on offer and were very unwilling to look at anything else.
Frank Watt showed great self discipline to ignore the rising trout and stuck resolutely to sub-surface, sinking line tactics in the deeper water, which gave him and Dave a combined basket of 25 fish for 12lb 12.5oz. Bobby Irvine also did really well to assemble a basket of 12 better quality trout for 8lb 8oz. If his partner had been anywhere near the races never mind at them then they might have had a very good combined weight. As it turned out Bobby and Mark’s total was 20 trout for 12lb 12oz.
Both teams must have felt that they were in with a decent shout of taking the trophy. However, they were in for a surprise. Billy Reid and Derek Tithridge had elected to stay in Tingwall Loch itself where Billy had a red letter day and an amazing basket of 18 fish for over 12lb. With olives blowing down the loch he had been among feeding fish all day. Derek had weighed in with another two to make victory absolutely certain. Their combined basket of 20 trout weighed 14lb 13oz.
None of the other teams could come anywhere near this so Billy and Derek were crowned pairs champions for 2009, much deserved after coming so close last year.
The other teams had done tours of the West Side. Jeemie and Peter had nine fish for 4lb 8oz. Barry and Alex had six for 4lb 1oz, and Harry and Craig’s basket weighed 3lb 15oz. Realising that he had no chance of winning with his four fish out of Spiggie for 1lb 13oz Alastair did the honourable thing and withdrew meaning that competition secretary Billy Reid didn’t have to go through the motions of a redraw.
The next fly competition is the annual marathon that is the Pottinger Benston trophy. This takes place tomorrow evening with a 7pm start at the Benston boat park.