Angling for Medals

Corporal Dave Keay, 6 Platoon, 3 Company, the 3rd Battalion has been a key angler for a number of years. His story is below.

I’ve been a keen fly fisherman for a number of years, usually fishing rivers and occasional small still waters. I’d never ventured out on the large reservoirs however, such a Grafham or Rutland Water, despite being relatively close to them. That changed last year when I decided to take a boat out at Grafham with a friend and really enjoyed catching their hard-fighting trout. At the start of 2021 I came across Army Angling Federation (Game) also known as the Soldier Palmers and after making contact with the secretary I decided to join.

Due to Covid 2021 there would be a reduced competition calendar but the first competition was the AAF(G) Spring match held at the beginning of May on Rutland water. The day prior to the event all those new to AFF(G) undertook a development training day that covered a number of topics including the international competition rules. Loch-style competition fishing involves fishing in pairs from a drifting boat casting in front and retrieving the flies back. Flies can be a maximum 15/16 inch long with the hook being no longer than 5/8 inch. They can’t be weighted so it’s only the fly line used to get flies to the correct depth. This is what makes loch style competition fishing so challenging not only do have locate the trout in large expanse of water (Rutland water is 10.86 square kms), but you have to find out what depth of water they are feeding at (by choosing the right fly line) and then what fly they want to take.

The first day of the Match was a practice day and all the novice rods were paired with experienced anglers from AAF(G) so we could learn the techniques and tips. Due to bad weather there was only going to be one day of competition, and to keep things fair the boat pairings remained the same. The match was based on most fish caught, the first 2 fish were killed for the heaviest fish prize, and then the remaining released. The time of first two fish landed was also recorded and in the event of two anglers catching the same amount of fish the earliest fish caught would be the winner. I managed 10 fish which meant I won Top Novice, a great way to start competition fishing.

The next match was AAF(G) Intra Army June match.  Traditionally this would be the army championship but due Covid this is being delayed until later in the year. The match followed the same setup as the Spring match however involved one practice day and 2 competition days with boat pairings changing every day.

A descending points system was employed where the top rod each day is awarded 1 point, 2nd 2 points and so on, the winner is whoever has the lowest combined total at the end of both days. After the practice day I was confident for the competition however it was tougher than expected with me landing 4 and my boat partner 7.

I also found out another novice had landed 6 so would be ahead of me on points.  The last day of the comp was even harder and by 13:30 both my boat partner and I had one fish each. At 16:30 I found the fish and the right method to catch them. We had to back in the harbour for 17:30 so in a frantic last 40 minutes I managed to land 7 trout with just as many lost. The other novice who had caught 6 the previous day only landed one and therefore I managed to win Top Novice for the second time! Two competitions and two top novices wins – I’m looking forward to my next comp!

If anybody is interested in joining the Soldier Palmers Army fly fishing team look up the Army Angling Federation (Game) on defence connect.