WORLD FLY FISHING CHAMPIONSHIPS 2022 IN ASTURIAS SPAIN: SESSION THREE ON THE TRUBIA RIVER

Session 3 was my chance to fish the Trubia River. The Trubia was the prettiest of the rivers in the championship in my opinion. It was small and intimate with very clear water. Much of the surrounding watershed was protected in conservation areas. There is even a remnant population of brown bears in several of the side canyons. The flows were very low like all of the other rivers and its small size made stealth a big priority.

My teammate Michael Bradley had scored a fifth place on the Trubia the day before with 10 fish. The same set of flies and techniques had been successful as on the other rivers. Going into my session, I planned on keeping up the program I had used on the Pilona but also looking for more dry fly opportunities. Several of the few fish I had caught on the Trubia during practice were on single dry fly rigs. In the back of my mind, I was hoping to reach 10 or more fish since I assumed that would be a top five finish given the results from the day before. Instead of focusing on the result, I wanted to focus more on the process goals of minimizing mistakes that might lead to tangles, re-rigs, and missed or lost fish. To achieve these goals, I was determined to slow down a little and try and enjoy the session as it came to me.

I set up the same set of rigs as the day before. To recap, I rigged three rods for the session including a rod for a single dry fly, a rod for a dry dropper on a micro Euro nymph leader, and a rod with a micro leader for straight Euro nymphing. The dry fly rod was a Hardy Ultralite LL 9’ 9” 4 weight with an Airflo Tactical Taper Ridge 2.0 two weight line and a dry fly leader that was a Soldarini 15’ 4x Camo leader which I had chopped and added to until I had the taper that I wanted and a leader that was 2x the length of my rod (19.5 feet). I underlined the dry fly rod to provide better control over casting loop formation and maximum delicacy when the rig lands on the water. My dry dropper rod was a Diamondback Ideal Nymph 10’ 2 weight and my straight nymph rod I switched to a 10’ 9” 3 weight T and T Contact II. Both micro leader rods featured Airflo Euro nymph lines. All three rods were paired with Peux Fulgor semi-automatic reels.

Given the clear water, my plan was to fish a drab pheasant tail under the dry fly. On my nymph rig, I planned on having a drab olive perdigon or pheasant tail on the point and a flashy perdigon on the dropper for those fish that might be incited to come up through the column.

The session started off better from the minute I left the bus. The drop off of anglers and controllers on the Trubia was a lot quicker than it had been on the Caudal and Pilona. I had once again drawn beat number five. The difference was that this time I reached my beat with about 45 minutes to rig my rods and scout the beat. After I rigged, I had a full 30 minutes to scout what ended up being about a 400-meter beat. The combination of a shorter beat and more scouting time helped me settle down and come up with a plan for the session.

The beat started with two pools and then a slow medium depth run in the first 150 meters. I knew these deeper and longer pieces of water would take a while to work through. The remainder of the beat bordered a small farm. The water was a series of shallow flats, pocket water, and shallow broken runs. There were some important locations to spend a little bit of time on here but there was also a lot of water to speed fish with a couple of casts before moving on.

My plan for the session was to be to the bottom of the farm with at least two hours to go. Then I would fish quickly through the rest of the beat and save 30 minutes to return to any water that I had rested which had been productive.

I started at the split pool near the bottom of my beat. There was a truck sized boulder here that divided the pool into two parts. Along the far bank there was a deep slow channel which a log slanted across which was resting on the boulder. I opted not to fish this channel because I worried I might push waves into the channel while wading into position. This choice became an interesting one at the end of the session.

The water in the top of the split pool was deep and a little turbulent. I crawled into a kneeling position behind the log to use it as a shield between myself and the pool. I began fishing with the dry dropper rig and hooked a nice fish in the 32-35 cm range on my very first cast. It had taken the 2.3 mm bead pheasant tail below the dry fly. Sadly, as I brought the fish toward me it made one last dart under the log and managed to spit the hook on a head shake. When you hook a fish on your first cast, you really hope that was a sign of good things to come and not the ultimate jinx. Thankfully I am not very superstitious and I told myself there would be more.

The top of the split pool at the bottom of my beat. The first fish I lost dove under the log in the photo.

I did not get any more takes on the dry dropper rig. To get a bit deeper I switched to my nymph rig. I found that the near left side of the pool was not as deep as it looked and faster than I expected as well. The far-right side gave up a smallish brown trout though and I was on the board. Despite a couple more fly changes, I could not coax any other fish from this pool.

I moved to the next pool above. This pool had a slower smoother tailout on the right side and a faster more turbulent center and left side where currents came into the pool being split around rocks at the top. As I approached the pool, I saw a fish rise in the slack water near the bank in the tailout. Time to pull out the dry fly rod. I had a larger split wing dry fly on for the pocket water. This fish had taken something small out of the surface film, so I switched to a #20 split wing shuttlecock style BWO pattern. It took a couple of casts to get the pile of slack right for a drift, but the fish took confidently when I did. I quickly put it in the net and very carefully pivoted to take a couple of careful steps to my controller. Each holding lie was going to be critical and I had to ensure that I avoided spooking any willing trout that remained each time I brought a fish over to be scored.

After this fish I grabbed my dry dropper rod and crept back into position. I worked the slower water in the left of the pool and into the seam along the current coming down the middle. It took a few drifts, but another brown took my nymph along the seam adjacent to the fastest water coming down the center. I repeated the slow pivot and turn process again to get the fish back to my controller while avoiding standing or sending waves into the pool.

I fished this pool for another 15-20 minutes. I switched nymphs and then progressed through several nymphs and weights on my straight nymph rig. Despite all the effort, no more brown trout decided to play ball and take. I was about an hour into the session at this point with one more spot to fish before heading into the water along the farm above.

The second pool in my beat. I also returned to this pool at the end of the session as you'll read about below.

After this pool there was the slow medium depth run above. This run had a smooth surface in the areas where there was depth and potential holding water. The bumpy water coming in at the top was only inches deep. To fish this smoother water, I knew my best option was the dry dropper. The cast would need to be from as long of a distance as I could hold my leader mostly off the water. I crept into position on the exposed rocks along the river left bank and made lateral casts under the tree branches which hung over the run. A few casts in a fish took and I had my fourth brown trout in the net and on the board.

I worked the run for around another half a dozen drifts. It was clear that the last fish had taken the nymph suspended in the column since I only had the minimum legal distance between my flies (50 cm). Given the characteristics of this run, I doubted that I could get a good drift with my nymph rig as I would likely have to get too close. Instead of nymphing to get deeper, I added some tippet to my dry dropper rig. I also switched to a Gasolina Perdigon with the same bead size (2.3 mm) as the sink rate would be faster than the pheasant tail I had been using.

I did not get any more fish in the lower half of the run. As I progressed toward the top, a trout took as my flies drifted along the bankside boulder that pinched the flow coming in from above. Trout number five was on the board with about 2.5 hours left in the session. I went through the run one more time with a 2.8 mm bead pheasant tail. This fly ended up being a bit too heavy and it ticked bottom prematurely on several drifts.

The run above the two pools in the lower 1/3 of my beat. You can see the boulder jutting out from the bank on the right which scoured some depth in the run. My second fish in the run was adjacent to this boulder.

I now had the shallower water along the farm to fish. I was about 20 minutes ahead of the schedule I had set in my mental plan at the beginning of the session. This gave me enough time to slowly dissect each spot as I saw fit. I had felt much more comfortable at this point in the session than in my prior sessions. So far, I had slowed down, minimized mistakes, and settled into a good rhythm. I was actually having fun!

Near the bottom of the farm there was a long section of skinny pocket water. Most of it did not have enough depth to warrant my attention. I did spook a few fish from it but they were all fish that would have been too small to measure (under 20 cm).

The shallow pocket about 1/3 of the way into my beat.

Eventually the gradient eased and there were some pockets with smoother surfaces and a little more depth. I decided to pick my way through this area with the single dry fly I had caught my fish on earlier. I had an immediate slapping rise from a trout which looked a bit small to measure. I could not raise any other trout from this water as I progressed upstream.

After the pocket water there was a short shallow run with the current funneled along the far bank. I tried a few casts with the dry fly at the tailout with no success. I then switched back to the dry dropper rod and rerigged to the minimum distance between my dry and nymph below. I quickly caught a fish on the nymph where I had just drifted my dry fly and #6 was on the board.

As I progressed up the run, another trout slapped angrily at my split wing dry which was holding up my nymph. The take was lightning quick, and I missed it. I decided to rest the fish for a few minutes and crept to the top of the run staying as far away from the holding water as I could. I switched to my nymph rod and began making drifts along the turbulent water coming into the run. After ticking bottom a couple of times, I switched from a 2.3 mm bead on the point to a 2 mm. I then caught a fish on the Gasonlina perdigon which was on the dropper. This sequence mirrored the one I had experienced on the first run of the Pilona River the day before.

After this fish, I slid back down the run a few feet to where I had missed the fish on the dry fly. The light nymph rig sailed through this portion of the run where the current had a bit of turbulence. I switched my point fly back to a 2.3 mm bead perdigon. The rig still did not slow down where I expected the trout to be. I then switched to a 2.8 mm bead nymph with some soft hackle. This nymph would sink a bit faster than the 2.3 mm bead perdigon but the hackle would keep it from sinking too fast. I made a couple of “normal” dead drifts following my sighter with the rod tip. With no response, I stopped the rod tip upstream of where I had missed the trout to force my nymphs to swing down and then up through the lie. On the second drift the trout hammered my dropper tag nymph. Sadly, all I saw was the flash and the jolt on my sighter. Assuming it was the same fish, it had taken my nymph in the same quick, nimble, and suspicious way that it had taken my dry fly.

Above the shallow pocket water where the gradient eased into the run on the left side of the photo.

I could not coax any more trout from the run, so I moved into the flatter water above. Most of this water was a featureless glide compared to the pocket water below. However, there were occasional depressions to work the single dry fly through. After fishing with Pablo on his home rivers of Leon last year, I have worked really hard on presenting dry flies with pile casts into tight quarters. The details of repeatability with his style of fishing are difficult to replicate but I have gotten a lot better over the last twelve months.

I spotted one of these depressions in a difficult spot near the far bank and under some trees. I knew I would have one shot at making the cast and drift. If I was off target with my placement of the fly and slack tippet, I would likely spook a fish if there was one there. I took a split second to check my back cast for obstructions, visualize the casting path I needed to make with my rod, and the shape I needed in my leader for the drift. I made my one cast, a trout rose, and I stuck it. It was one of those moments in my competitive career where the universe let me know that all the effort has been worth it. Though the trout was only 23 cm long, it was my favorite fish from the whole championship and one that will stick with me for a while.

I progressed upstream to the final run in my beat. There was some flat featureless water in between that I skipped. However, as I crept into position at the bottom of the run, a fish rose in some dead water on the opposite bank about 40 feet below me. I carefully stood up and switched back to my dry fly rod. I waited for the fish to rise again to confirm its location. It seemed like an eternity but eventually it surfaced. Unfortunately, it was in an incredibly difficult spot. I tried to make the same visualization again, but the cast crossed over some moving water into completely still water where the fish had risen. I piled as much slack as I could, but my fly sat in place for only a couple of seconds before being drug from its place. I tried a couple more casts, but the game was up.

I moved back up to the run above. This run was smoother on the surface and most appropriate for the dry or dry dropper rig. I worked the dry through the lower end with no response. I then switched to the dry dropper rig and methodically worked through the middle and into the upper part. In the upper third my dry dipped and I set the hook into another brown bringing my total to nine on the scorecard.

The smoother run in the upper 1/3 of my beat.

Above this run there was some more high gradient shallow pocket water. I speed fished through it with only a slapping rise from a tiny trout. There was one last deeper pocket below an old cement slab at the top of the beat. I was able to rise a trout in the pocket but it looked slightly too small to measure. I worked the dry dropper rig through as well without a response.

The top of my beat. The pocket on the left hand of the photo produced a rise from a trout that was likely undersized. 

I had 20 minutes left in the session with no water left to work at the top. I ran the ~400 meters back through the farm, up the bank to the trail above, and then back down the riverbank to the bottom of my beat. I was about to start back in the first spot I fished when I took a second look at the channel on the far side of the boulder. I decided to give it a few casts to see what happened.

I slowly waded into the deep water keeping my wakes to a minimum. I made a few diagonal casts under the log with the dry dropper rig to the deep channel beyond. Two drifts in a trout took my nymph and I put it in the net as quickly as possible without letting it run into the top of the channel. I had hit my goal of 10 fish. Could I get anymore?

I went back in with the dry dropper rig but no other trout took on my next few drifts. I did not have enough time to re-rig, so I grabbed the nymph rod instead. I worked my way upstream until I had to cast over the log. I hooked a fish a couple casts later and knew it was going to be tough to land. I had to stand on my toes in deep water and bring the rod tip downstream over the top of the log to clear my leader. Somehow this actually worked, and I was able to get the fish back under the log and into the net. This fish was a bit larger at 27 cm so the extra weight probably kept it pinned during the awkward movement.

This photo looks downstream toward the split pool at the bottom of my beat. The channel to the left of the log and boulders produced two fish. I wish that I had fished it at the beginning of the session as well. 

I now had five minutes left. I slid into position upstream behind the log where I started. I could not get any fish to eat in the top of the split pool after a few casts. I jumped up and ran a few steps to the tailout of the next pool and quickly but quietly hit my knees. My controller told me I had two minutes. I speed fished to the top of the pool. With 30 seconds left, a brown took the point fly on my nymph rig, and I put it in the net. Time ran out as we measured my 12th fish. I love ending a session that way.

As I entered the bus, I wondered how my finish would stack up. When I heard 10 fish from David Arcay (Spain) and 11 from Gregoire Juglaret (France), I couldn’t help but smile as I wondered how everyone else had done. That last minute fish ended up winning the session for me. I could feel a nice momentum shift going into the last river session on the difficult Narcea River the next day.

Looking at the results of this beat over the championship, it averaged just under 10 placing points per session. Andrea Pirone of Italy had scored an 8th place in the first session, Santeri Kinnunen of Finland had won the second session, I won the third session, Mike Cordiner of Scotland blanked (23 placing points) the 4th session, and Andy Taylor of England had scored a 16th in the final session. It appeared to be a bit of a roller coaster beat but the fish were there to be had if they were targeted well.

Sadly, our team had a really tough session three. We dropped from 3rd place to 5th place overall. Going into the 4th session we were 23 points behind the Czech team in 4th place.