Loch Leven, home of trout fly-fishing
Loch Leven, home of trout fly-fishing

SCOTLAND PLAYS host to the world’s top fly fishermen next week as the World Fly-Fishing Championships descend on the picturesque Stirlingshire village of Drymen for the blue riband angling event.

Teams from 27 countries, including Japan, Australia, New Zealand, the United States plus many European nations, will battle it out on 15,000 acres of Scotland’s best known trout waters, and several miles of the River Tay.

The odds for gold medal success are better than at any time in the last 28 years, because home turf, or in this case water, will have a significant bearing on the results.

Many of the most successful nations, such as the Czech Republic and Poland, specialise in river fishing, whereas Scotland’s traditional expertise is rooted in loch-style boat angling.

Fishing will take place on four stillwater venues – the Lake of Menteith, Carron Valley Reservoir and lochs Awe in Argyll and Leven in Kinross – plus the Tay near Stanley in Perthshire.

This is familiar territory for the Scottish team of David Chalmers (Glenrothes), Simon Cocker (Eaglesham) Calum Crosbie (Newton Stewart), Donald Forbes (Glasgow) and James Litster (Kilmarnock) who were selected last summer after a testing four-day competition using all of the championship venues.

They are led by one of the top river anglers in the UK, non-fishing captain, Derick Logan from Coldstream and manager George Mackenzie, himself capped 12 times for Scotland at international level.

If you thought that trout fishing meant a relaxing afternoon on the river bank or casting a line from a gently rocking boat, think again.  Competitive fly fishing at world level is serious, intense and high pressure.

Each match day is divided into two sessions of three hours at separate locations, in angling terms a very short period of time in which to become familiar with local weather, fly life and fish activity.  Boat partners and river beats are drawn at random.

All fishing is carried out on a catch-and-release basis using barbless hooks and each fish is measured by an independent controller and recorded on personal score cards.  Highest points totals win.

George Mackenzie, Scotland team manager
George Mackenzie, Scotland team manager

Mackenzie explained: “The team will rise around 5.30 each morning to prepare their tackle. There’s a limit of two rods for each session, plus reels, lines and flies.  Then it’s breakfast and travel to the match venue.

“After the first session, there’s a quick lunch, load all the tackle back on the bus and on to the second venue;  it could be a boat on Loch Awe in the morning and bank fishing on the River Tay in the afternoon, so a big change in methods, tactics and even weather.”

“They might not get back to the hotel before 7 in the evening for dinner, then there’s a team briefing. Later the guys will probably tie up new flies depending on what patterns have been successful that day. Some countries bring their own fly-tyers with them. We can’t afford that luxury so we do it ourselves.

“If the lads are lucky they might get to bed by midnight. Repeat for days two and three.”

Mackenzie knows they will all feel the strain. “I think the home venues will be important, but they do add to expectations and with that comes increased pressure. Having said that, I do feel confident that we can do well.”

Scotland has never won a team medal in the WFFC though it did pick up a silver in the European championships held on Islay in 2003.  The success of that event boosted Scotland’s campaign to secure the world championships, though rival bids from Poland and Belgium were strong.

In New Zealand last summer, the host nation finished second to the Czech Republic with France third.  Mackenzie is wary of the Poles, the French and the Italians whose teams all benefit from direct government funding and of course the auld enemy.  “The English can never be written off,” he says.

Medals or not, the event is intended to boost Scotland’s reputation as an angling and tourist destination overseas.  Backers include visitscotland who will be hoping the country’s scenery and hospitality capture the hearts of the hundreds of competitors, team officials and supporters just as easily as our fish.

Scotland squad in detail