How competition fly fishing can improve your catch

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As Lubin Pfeiffer explains in this article, involvement in competition fly casting can improve your on-water results.

Competition trout fly fishing has been a major influence on the fishing knowledge of many anglers around the world – on a personal level it has dramatically improved my skills over the past decade or so.

The Fips Mouche (International Sport Flyfishing Federation) style of competitions, not only betters you as an angler, it exposes you to techniques and methods you’d never otherwise have the opportunity to see. The Fips Mouche body, formed in 1989, sets the rules in which all participating countries, including Australia, run their trout-based fly fishing competitions.

While competition fishing may not be everyone’s cup of tea, I believe its benefits are something the everyday angler simply cannot ignore.

Simple things like time management, how to approach a section of water, boating techniques, how to arrange a vessel for trout fly fishing, and numerous other snippets of information are easily accessible to a competition fly fisher. And you don’t have to be a diehard specialist to reap the rewards. Throughout Australia every year, Fly Fish Australia runs state-based trout competitions in South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales, Tasmania, Western Australia and Queensland. I believe attending one of these events equates to around five years’ of knowledge if you were instead fishing alone or with mates. The exposure to a number of different anglers and to see how they manage their time is gold, especially when it comes to learning new things. Most of the techniques used by the general fly fishing community, with the exception of a single dry fly or a nymph are the result of competition fly fishing.

Benefits to the boater

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Lubin with a quality lake caught trout.

In 1996, Australia sent a team to the World Fly Fishing Championships held in England. What this team learned completely changed the way Australian boat-based fly fishers target their fish. The Australian team had their first encounter with ‘Loch Style’ fishing, a simple method with three flies from a drifting boat using different fly lines.

The boats are fitted with a drogue – a device that helps slow the drift to the perfect speed to effectively cover water with flies. Imagine now being able to go out on a lake in Australia, in any wind, and fish productively! Add to this the fact that with a range of lines they could also fish many levels of the water column, from a slow sinking intermediate, all the way to a fast sinking Di7 line.

The use of longer ten foot rods made fishing from a boat even easier and hanging flies became common place at the end of the retrieve. Hanging the flies is difficult with a nine-foot rod however the extra length of a ten-footer makes things a lot easier.

There’s nothing more an Aussie brown trout loves than a stationary fly at the end of a retrieve. In years to come anglers would also learn the success of fishing these techniques using woolly buggers. This technique, which was exposed to the Australian fly fishing community by anglers Max Vereshaka and Stuart Reese, has entrenched itself as the most productive and consistent way to fish a mainland Australian lake.

The method is simple; three woolly buggers are connected to a straight leader of 10lb fluorocarbon and placed five-feet apart. The point fly should be around eight to nine feet from the braided loop of the fly line. This way you can change lines in a matter of seconds depending on the water you comes across during the days fishing. Retrieves should be mixed up, from slow to very fast or rolly polly until you find a pattern the fish are after. This style of fishing can produce high numbers of trout and is always my go to when lake based.

River Methods

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Off water training and practice will greatly enhance your river fishing skills.

European fly fishers have to be seen to be believed, particularly when they are lined up and fishing rivers. Due to the high demand of Fips Mouche events Euro-based anglers have become absolute masters of pulling big numbers of fish from water most people would walk past.

While most anglers would fish all the best section of water, competition anglers learn to get the best out of any water they are given. For the average angler this can be a huge advantage, especially when rivers get busy or are under excessive pressure.

Competition fly fishing techniques are useful on a wide variety of levels. Czech nymphing opened the door to areas anglers were never fully benefiting from. Heavy water in rivers is a sanctuary for fish looking for cover and sometimes the number of fish in these locations is astounding. Czech nymphs allow the angler access by sinking a fly down very quickly. These nymphs are not necessarily heavy in weight but tied in a manner that allows them to quickly sink through the water column.

Another major change in fly fishing for river trout has been the introduction of French nymphing. This is a technique where light weight nymphs are used on a long leader. The leader incorporates sections of coloured line giving the angler the perfect bite detection system. French nymphing is perfectly suited to slower water and spooky fish. By using short, repetitive casts, anglers can fool fish into thinking a hatch is starting. This in turn gets the fish on the move and makes them more willing to eat. Using French and Czech nymphing techniques anglers can now pull fish from waters they normally would’ve walked straight past.

Time to get involved?

I’m not saying drop everything and only fish competitions. However I do believe the benefits of occasionally competing in organised events is energy very well spent. The exposure to all-things fly fishing has thoroughly helped me get the best from my time on the water and I’m sure you could benefit from it as well. Check out for more information.








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