Just one fish away.
That was Arron Varga’s reaction after he considered his team’s fourth place finish at the Commonwealth Fly Fishing Championship last month in Scotland.
Canada had two teams represented, and the one Varga was on finished in fourth place, Canada’s highest ever result in international fly fishing championships.
The event was held in Islay, an island off the west coast of Scotland, and the home team, with a bit of an advantage, edged the English team for first place. The English had the top angler, though, with Phil Dixon in first place after winning all five of his tests, and Robert Irvine and Ian Jones, both of Scotland, in second and third place respectively.
In the team competition, Varga said Canada was in third place the night before the final day of angling, and hoped to hang on. Instead, Australia passed it on the final day with five points.
“It went right down to the last bus coming in,” Varga said. “Five placing points (the measure of defeat) is nothing in an international competition. That’s a fish.”
In seventh place among the dozen teams competing were the Ospreys, which included Ernie Kalwa, of Elora. He had the honour of catching the biggest fish in the event, a wild brown trout over 20 inches long.
The fishing was all done from shore, on what are called lochs, in Scotland, known as lakes in Canada.
Varga said his team mainly used a ginger hopper to catch most of its fish.
“We worked hard,” he said. “We worked hard as a team.”
He said team fishing is different from any other type. For one thing, the anglers have to trust one another. Varga explained that if a certain fly appears to be working when fished with a certain type of technique, the team members have to trust each other and use that fly and that technique themselves. He said that the five best anglers might likely not win, but the five best teammates often do.
The two were fishing against a number of anglers who competed the previous week in the World Flyfishing championship in England. In fact, several Canadian world team members were on the same team as Varga, including David Thom, of Ottawa, who finished second in the individual world competition.
Kalwa said that the Commonwealth competition is “different from the world’s but there is a lot of overlap.”
Both men have experience in fishing competitions. For Varga, he fished in New Zealand last year in the Commonwealth championships, and Kalwa is a veteran of Canadian fishing. This was his first international angling.
Kalwa also noted, “We placed higher than both Welsh teams, and both teams from the Isle of Man.”
And, he said, “They surprised me by awarding me with a nice high-end fly-reel for landing the biggest fish.”
There was also another pleasant interlude for the duo. Kalwa noted that all the competitors were taken to the Bowmore facility, which makes whisky “where they served us with copious amounts of scotch.”
He added that all the competitors received a special commemorative bottle of scotch, with the bottle special, and the contents unique. He expects his one litre bottle to increase significantly in value – if he keeps it closed.
Varga noted, too, that on the final day, Kalwa took a picture of him fishing from a boat on Loch Leven. That is the lake that supplied most of the wild brown trout that were brought to Canada. He called that day’s fishing for fun a great “last hurrah.”
The next competition is the Canadian Championships in Fernie, British Columbia in the third week of September. Varga and Kalwa will likely both be attending, looking for spots on the national team again.