A sure sign that spring was in the air occurred on Saturday when 15 fly fishers tackled up at the Tingwall boat shed for the first Shetland Anglers Association fly bank competition of the season.
However, with a raw easterly wind coming across the loch one could have been forgiven for thinking that it was still a weekend in January.
Fly fishers are by their very nature an optimistic breed and spirits were of course high as competitors renewed acquaintances after the long winter break. Prospects were discussed and comments passed on any new tackle or accessories obtained over the winter.
It was particularly pleasing to see the indomitable Barry Robertson returning from injury for his first outing of the season and resplendent in a brand new wading jacket. Among all the old faces it was also good to see a new face in the shape of Geordie Pottinger from Burra.
Conspicuous by their absence, however, were competition stalwarts Derek Tithridge and Leslie Barclay. Derek is out of commission for a couple of weeks after an operation and we all wish him well for a speedy recovery – but what could have happened to Leslie? Speculation was rife in the ranks as anglers sallied forth to kick off the 2010 campaign.
Competitors had a wide choice of lochs in the Tingwall and Girlsta area. The 12pm starting gun saw anglers well spread out from Asta in the south to Sand Water in the north with perhaps Tingwall receiving the bulk of the early attention.
It was not long, however, before the telltale signs of anglers moving quickly along the banks or indeed motoring between lochs meant that the trout were not being particularly co-operative in the cold conditions.
Sometimes a change of loch works and sometimes it doesn’t and often successful competitive angling can hinge on such decisions. The grass always appears to be greener in another location – and quite often it is – but sometimes it pays to just stick it out in one spot.
One angler who did exactly this was Tingwall expert Frank Watt. With all other anglers struggling to make any kind of impact in Tingwall Frank stuck with it for the whole day to put together a superb basket of six fish for 4lb 12oz and give him second place on the day. His successful fly was the local killer “Norski Lad”, inspiration of master Lerwick fly tier Stephen Breivik.
Frank was pipped to first place, however, by Mark Sandison. Having spent half of the day in Tingwall where he had picked up two lucky fish Mark made the move to Asta. This coincided with the wind veering and freshening southerly which had the effect of bringing the fish on in the loch during the second half of the afternoon. His final basket contained seven fish for 5lb 12½oz and his top fly was early season favourite the “White Cat”.
Third place went to Alastair Jamieson who had picked one out of Tingwall before again making the move to Asta at the correct time. His final basket was five trout for 3lb 9½oz, all of which were taken in a couple of feet of water without even getting his boots wet.
Alastair’s killing pattern was the old traditional “Hardy’s Gold Butcher”. Many of today’s fly fishers would be hard pressed to tell you what this little winged wonder looks like let alone find one in their fly box. It just goes to show that although anglers’ tastes may change over the years, it is questionable as to whether the trout do. Anyone interested in obtaining a “Hardy’s Gold Butcher” can contact AJ Flies Ltd where they are retailing for £5 each.
In fourth place was the ever-consistent Magnus Reid who had also read the weather signs correctly and fished Asta at the right time. His three fish – one from Tingwall and two from Asta – weighed 2lb 10½oz.
It is interesting to note that three of the county’s top anglers had struggled in Asta during the first three hours of the afternoon with the cold easterly wind swirling down off the hill. It was only when the wind veered and freshened that the loch “came on”. It should be pointed out, however, that Harry Sandison had spent a lot of his fishing time in the car warming up and making a dent in his picnic.
Other successful anglers on the day were Peter Laurenson, Kevin Robertson, Dave Wright, Barry Robertson, Bobby Irvine and … wait for it … Leslie Barclay. Leslie had slept in for the check-in but still managed to get a measuring trout out of Sand Water.
Heaviest fish on the day was shared between Magnus Reid and Mark Sandison who both successfully landed a trout of 1lb 5½oz. Magnus took his fish on the controversial Whalsay fly the “Orange Hammel’s Spider”. The legality of fishing this fly is still being discussed at committee level in the association.
The next competition is the Shetland Times Trophy. This is a fly or spin event and takes place on Saturday 17th April with a 10am check in at the Tingwall boat shed.
The next fly bank league competition takes place on Saturday 1st May with an 11am check in at the Spiggie boat shed.