Then a couple of good friends asked me to join them in a team that they were putting together, "purely for the fun side of it", and I couldn’t really refuse the offer. I enjoyed the first round of the "House of Hardy" competition; it was fished at Chew Valley and coincided with some great fishing conditions. Provided you were able to slow your right arm down, and let your buzzer nymphs fish very slowly, you would steadily pick up fish. I was drawn with another local angler who wanted to "go with the pack", another aspect of modern competition fishing that is a big turn-off for me and, in the Hardy event, one angler is nominated as being in charge of the boat for the first two hours. I had no option but to follow my partner’s wishes!

I knew that the area that he wanted to fish was one of the top spots, but so did about eighteen other boats. I will not bore you with the details of the day but I caught my ten fish limit before one o’clock and, once my partner had his, we both went ashore and weighed the fish in. I then went home, did some work, collected the children from school and returned to see the results. The team of friends that I fished with won the day easily as each one of us caught our ten fish limit. So on to Bewl in Kent for the next round.

The whole of this trip was a bit of a disaster from start to finish. My team had booked practice boats in advance of the event, but then had to hand some of them back to the organisers. I travelled to Kent on a Sunday morning with Geoff Lambert who was filling in for Gareth Jones. We also had another "substitute" because Lee Sennington had booked a holiday that clashed with this rearranged date. Geoff had also been ill for a couple of days and should really not have been on the trip. We met up with our team-mates at two o’clock when the "afternoon shift" took over from the morning fishers. Luckily I had a quick chat with Bob Barden who, as well as being a keen competition fisherman, is a warden on the reservoir. In the conversation he informed me that all boats had to be back in at six o’clock! I was really looking forward to an evening on the lake and, having driven for almost four hours to get there, I believe that I should have had that option!

I fished with Geoff and we only caught one trout between us, Geoff taking that on a dry fly in the part of the lake called "The Nose." But a practice session that only lasts for three hours is not very satisfactory! Our team meeting that night told Geoff and I what we feared most, and that was that most fish were being caught using DI-8 in the main basin area. I would certainly struggle on the match day because I didn’t have a DI-8 in my bag and every shop in the south of England was sold out! Two of the Blagdon anglers re-routed their journey to Bewl to enable them to buy a set of DI-8 lines for the whole of the team.

The match was just as predicted. Those anglers who caught more than the odd fish were using DI-8 lines and fishing in the main basin. At the weigh-in the rumbles and moans started. Rumours were rife that there had been widespread cheating going on. It seemed that when you use a DI-8 in a strong wind like we had on the day of the competition and count the line down for more than thirty seconds, your boat will then drift over your line and you will be fishing behind the boat. This is something that has always been illegal in loch-style fishing.

As I said, there were plenty of rumours about this having happened, and even some of the guys who were watching from the banks of the different arms were counting how long people were spending "counting down" before they retrieved their line. It was not unusual to time anglers at three and a half minutes for a retrieve! If these things happened then it is certain that rules were broken. The organisers would surely react to this. On the day in question there was a safety boat out to ensure that boats didn’t get too close to the dam. One boat was taken off the water for an hour for encroaching into the hundred-metre zone. Surely if widespread trailing was taking place then these boats too would be withdrawn?

It turned out that no official complaints were made. All of the teams that won through to the next round were deemed to have done so fairly and that was that!

Except that it wasn’t. You would not fish anywhere in the country for the rest of the season without murmurs of what had happened on that day. Various anglers would "justify" their tactics, others would claim that they had never considered fishing behind the boat or letting their lines down for more than thirty seconds. It was all the sort of goings on that the scene could do without.

One thing that it did for me was to cement my thoughts about fishing in these events. It was another case of using a booby or a blob and a fast sinking line and to me that constitutes not a lot of fun. I believe I should have stuck to my original intention of not fishing any more team events. Luckily, on the day I drew a partner who wished no part in the great melee in the main basin. We fished several spots and I managed to catch absolutely nothing. I had but two faint touches during the day, whilst my partner caught two fish – they came in successive casts at about two in the afternoon from around Chingley Wood.

The final of this event was held at Rutland in September and the team that won were the local favourites: "Rutland Kingfishers". At the award ceremony their team captain, Martin Introna brought to the public’s attention some of the dark deeds from that day back in July and this has lead to all sorts of witch hunts ever since.

Martin has been banned from this competition along with his team. He has been thrown out of the England team for the Spring International and there is talk of legal action taking place. I have to say that the whole affair is really sad and should have no place in our sport. Maybe this is what comes from events where large amounts of money are involved; perhaps we have all lost sight of the great tradition of the sport of fly-fishing. I would be very interested to hear what readers have to say about this. Send your views in via the editor.

I was going to talk about more pleasant items this week, but that has been pushed back to next. You will see a few changes in the magazine over the coming few weeks. Bear with us whilst we carry out the changes – it should all be faster, and better, by the time that everything is revamped.

Tight lines,
Martin Cottis