Once again I feel obligated to mention that I’m aware these reports have been appearing at a slower than usual rate, though I suppose by now it would be unusual for them to appear as often as they once did. After I finished a few weeks of recovery from the shoulder surgery in August I fished in the Fall Fly, once again with Brandon Cyr. We had reasonable fishing, scoring a fair number of releases but not being able to catch a weight fish. This proved to be a problem early on, as Captain Honson Lau and Jeremy Alderman posted two large weight fish on the first day along with a release to add to their total. Rumor had it that the release was also a smaller weight that they released with hopes of upgrading later on–a bold move, to say the least, and one that I prayed we had an opportunity to turn into a bad call on their part. We kept on, trying everything we could to catch larger fish, but the closest we came was twice within a centimeter of the threshold. After lines out on the final day no one else had been able to score a weight fish and their lead held, and while they weren’t able to upgrade their released weight from day one they still caught infinitely more weight fish than anyone else and consequently took top place honors in the tournament. Second and third were vacant, given the lack of large fish from the rest of the field, and Brandon and I took home most releases.
After the Fall Fly came the IGFA Permit Invitational, and while I wasn’t personally in the mix I was watching Kat and Wes Smith and others I root for fish it. What took place was actually a great tournament from the sidelines. It was low scoring, which meant that going in to the last day anything could happen, and as such held a big amount of interest for me as a spectator.
On day one only two teams (Captain Shawn Mckay and Sandflea Vega, as well as two-captain team Jeffrey Holland and Drue Eymann) posted fish, and neither were large. Day two the same number of teams caught fish, though neither had caught any the day before. On the board it was Ian Slater and Wes Smith in the lead with a 70 cm fish in the lead, followed by Shawn and Sandflea, then Drue and Jeffrey, then Luke Kelly and Jason Mullen with the smallest of the fish caught in fourth place. Typically, going in to the last day of a tournament, it’s clear who isn’t in it anymore as much as the teams that are, and while noteworthy turnarounds happen it’s their rarity that makes them notable. This tournament experienced such an upset on the last day two years ago, when Chad Huff and Scott Christian caught four on the last day to knock Will Benson and Evan Carruthers out of a sizeable lead. Even then, it took a superb display to overturn the pending win from another team; this year, a single cast from any of the players could shuffle the leaderboard.
My best wishes are, unurprisingly, with my wife always. Once I found out that she hadn’t caught anything on the last day, however, I was happy to turn my hopes towards Ian and Wes, both of whom are perhaps my closest personal friends. Wes has stayed at our house for years, and Kat and I have each spent many days on the water with him during his frequent trips. Ian is of course someone that I fish a lot with, as we are locked in a battle for a win in the Gold Cup, and while we haven’t yet been bonded by a win we have been forged by our near misses and continue to work as hard as we can together as a team. For me, the idea of these two guys collectively pulling off their first major tournament win was as appealing as could be, and as I watched the other teams check in I had a strange feeling as if I was myself in a position to win or lose something by the performance of others. Ian and Wes hadn’t pulled further ahead in the final day with another catch, so each team that checked in was in a position to disrupt their thin lead. As it happened it was a slow burn to a conclusion I loved: no one else caught a fish on the final day, and Ian and Wes took grand champion honors. The rest of the standings were unchanged from the day prior, and Shawn and Sandflea took second with Jeffrey and Drue behind them.
On a personal note, I’m very happy for two of my closest friends for winning their first major. To watch friends succeed is one of the greatest privileges I can imagine, and I look forward to watching these two compete for years to come.
In other news, I’ve been involved in an upcoming project that starts in earnest in the next few weeks. In essence, it’s a 15-day attempt to catch a world record, this one the 4lb tippet permit record. It promises to be frustrating and very difficult, which is exactly what I’m looking forward to.
Reports, and an eventual project, will follow. We’ve got three five-day blocks lined up with John O’Hearn and Zach Stells.
More to come,