Competition angling is a just a wee bit of a different morning over the regular type heading out for the day deal. For one thing you get up much earlier, if you are like me you had a tough job even getting to sleep the night before in the first place. You also got into the rack well after you meant to, because the evening over flowed with ‘things to do’ and if you are a mad man like myself, you probably fished the day before. In fact the morning of a competition usually (if you are serious about it) starts days and often weeks before you even set the alarm for event day with fly tying, technique honing, and of course either researching or prefishing the venue you are about to encounter.
Stuff like patterns you can’t live without being in the box when you show up riverside need replacing because you lost them that day, new leaders need be tied on, and the first fly choice for each rod tied on as well. Fly boxes must not only be full but organized, paring everything down until all that is needed for a fly change is a single box, possibly 2, to be accessed for short shopping list to go through. Nobody needs the head scratching hundreds of pattern choices give when literally seconds count.
In short you need to be ready, not only with your gear, but mentally as well. You need to have a game plan which should be determined through both prefishing as well as conferring with team mates (if applicable) to develop what should be your goals during your sessions. Of course putting fish in the net is the primary part but most often that comes with a set approach to each fishing opportunity which should be formed far before you get into the car that takes you to your first beat.
Each venue and piece of water within them is unique unto themselves. As such each will have a microcosm of its own nuances which fit a technique, the key is realizing which one applies ‘here’ and after that what the secondary as well as third option should be. Make no mistake, the fish targeted, forage available, should be the uppermost thoughts in your mind when choosing a technique. For instance if the fish are keying on bugs reason dictates a form of bug presentation would be more prudent for numbers of fish over stripping streamers. By the same token if one finds themselves on a long shallow glide section that is fairly shallow not much sense in pulling out anchor fly patterns (flies packed with lead and tungsten beads) and attempting to drift those unless you want a static presentation with your offerings lying on the bottom.
My preparations as I have begun to age go a little different than some I am sure, because I even try and regulate what I eat the evening before an event. You can see some difficulties should it be chili night at Aunt Martha’s the evening before, having 3 helpings so Aunt Martha doesn't think you dislike her cooking. Come competition morning there will be a reckoning to be paid, and probably for your fellow competitors as well as yourself if they happen to be downwind when you wade deeply and force the sealed contents of your foolish choices out the wader tops. There could be a wading safety issue as well, depending on wind strength vs holes in your breathables over the speed of water leaching into that left leg, again.
These days to guarantee my timely exit out the front door it’s strictly the 3 major food groups. Meat, some sort of roughage, and cake. There is always room for cake and if there isn’t, you need to get some priorities. Not too much cake that night either. It’s rich and it’ll bung you up. Yet another night before rookie mistake in the making.
My morning routine is pretty standard I think amongst early risers. I tend to hit snooze a bit (and get hit by the wife proportionately) and so the night before I trick myself by setting the alarm ahead a half hour to compensate. However, I wake up much more sly that I think I am the evening before and take advantage of the extra time and hit snooze (and get hit by the wife) several times before getting up.
Then I snap awake realizing I have slept past the last snooze option and leap into action. (The wife tries to hit me again but I’ve already catapulted into action ha-ha!) I turn on the light and start flailing through the room looking for the clothes I laid out the night before – which are GONE.
“Where are my clothes” I’d seethed, under my breath.
“I folded them up nice for you out in hall” sleepily comes from the area of the bed which houses the lightening backhand, along with somewhere the love of my life.
I swear if something was ever where I left it it’d be lost because who would ever think to look for something where they left it anyway..?
On go the layers, socks, then long underwear, then the fleece pants, then tucking the cuffs in the heavy socks over top. Next is the poly pro undershirt, followed by a team shirt the top three buttons stylishly undone followed by a fleece over shirt. This will be followed by 3 more layers or not depending upon the time of year that consists of a hoody, a thermal jacket, and a rain shell. All of these garments will make the trip even if “I’m sure not to need them” because I’ve needed stuff I’ve not needed before. I also have on hand a toque and gloves with the flip over mitts because if I am wishing I had gloves it’s sure nice to have some when I do. Same goes double for the toque. They travel well, keep your noggin warm, and do wonders for your hair-do relaxing by the fire in the pub afterwards.
Before this of course I had already padded into the kitchen (kicking over the nice pile of clothes en route) and got the coffee going. This is a heady ritual in my house; the beans need be fresh ground and brewed very hot. Dark roast is king here served with half and half and brown sugar. Life is too short to drink shitty coffee. Dressed, I get the first cup and have a sip or 5 and check the weather network online to see how many layers need go under the waders. Next the rest of morning rituals play themselves out in a slightly fast forward manner because of the time. Things like forcing the remainder of the toothpaste to the business end (Why am I always doing this, don’t other people need any?), taking care of the business end (which goes smoothly see above notes on “dinner the night before”) and checking for more ear hair are accomplished tout sweet.
Making a thermos and grabbing my lunch, I turn to the last step before leaving the house – suiting up.
The gear assembled the evening before lays (thankfully) laid out where I left it. The fishing area is classified in a system only I understand so as to keep organizers away from helping me. It looks like a pile to the untrained eye, but it’s a model of efficiency to me.
Rods, vest, stripping basket, and gear all like ducks in a row, I squirm into the waders. I like to show up ready to rock, so I can lean lazily stream side watching others try to keep one foot dry while hopping into a wader leg. Gives me a small sense of superiority which might be a trifle small of me, sue me.
Wadered up and sagely not forgetting the jacket and rain shell, I shuffle out the door minding rod tips, while trying not to squeeze the bologna out of the 2 pieces of bread under my arm pit (because I am compelled to carry everything at once) I lay my eyes on the trusty Pathfinder ready to whisk me away, and it’s frozen solid.
Right, it was minus 5 out on the Weather Network. I try the key in the lock, and there’s no in part to be had. Down go the collective rods, reels, basket, jackets, and thermos which helpfully lands on my sandwich aiding it along its path to resembling some sort of ethnic dish without olives encased in Zip-Loc.
Out comes the Bic lighter and the heated key slowly melts itself home in what became a key hole in the door. 378 wiggled turns later, the mechanism finally rolls to the right enough to grudgingly unlock. Fearing the worst I pull the door open expecting the weather stripping to split or some fool thing but thankfully that is saved for another day. Car started, defrost deployed all around I stow the gear in the rear section and then jump in and try the washer fluid on the windshield and it promptly freezes thicker than it started out with.
I give the window a quick scrape and put my now halved Visa card back in my wallet. I think to myself I’ll report it ‘lost or stolen’ so I don’t have to explain to the lady in Tulsa with the Southern accent. What would she know about a frozen windshield anyway?
Finally I am on the road and off the property. Knowing I have all my gear, I can suffer without pretty much anything I left behind, after all I have the gloves and toque I’ll be warm if not nothing else. One last stop before the straight through drive to the venue, and that’s a large cup of coffee from 7-E. I’m a Starbucks fellow (coffee snob) but at 4 or 5AM and beggars can’t be choosers. Besides 7-E has pretty good coffee when you get it fresh and it’s a 50/50 chance its either fresh as can be or carve me a chunk this early.
20 oz, 5 cream, 4 brown sugars, stirred up, to the counter and whip out the…. wallet which is at home, still in the work jeans at the foot of the bed which coincidentally houses all my fishing licenses as well. DAMN!!! I tell the fellow at the counter I’ll be back, back into the Pathfinder; I wait at 2 traffic lights watching the concrete dry without any traffic on it on the way. Back into the house I go, rip into the bedroom throw on the lights, and grab the wallet. I’m out the door before the wife’s backhand hits the pillow where my head usually is, retracing my steps. Into 7-E I fly, pay for the coffee, get 2 cents less in change because a penny quit making cents and off to the races finally.
Somehow all the delays don’t usually add up to me being late but I sure can cut it close.
Like I said earlier, a lot of preparation goes into things before one even arrives at a competition. Not everybody realizes this and can make mistakes so it’s good to be a nice person and help others out when they get caught unprepared. Why that very day I was just describing I offered to share my sandwich with a fellow who forgot his. He declined and I ended up with it all to myself but I’m of a mind that it’s the thought that counts over all else. Besides I only had one spoon anyways.