35LB Fish Caught in the TOPS Corporate Challenge!!
Deon Nel with the winning 63cm brown trout
After 15 years, you would think that you've seen and heard it all at a fly fishing event.
From tales of 10 pound Trout lost at the net to filming trophy fish (that would have won a Yamaha Ski Boat) being landed in the wrong dam...the disbelief etched on the anglers face to this day gets me chuckling...fortunately he is now a good friend of mine, so I can still take the piss. But this year the antics on the field made the headlines. And I'm not talking about the urban fly fisher who put his new 4x4 in the dam, needing to be hauled out by a tractor either.
Incredibly a 35lb, yes a 15 Kilogram fish was landed in one of the WildFly waters, the ensuing battle around which, had this talented angler clenching more than his jaw. That he was using only 6lb tippet seems impossible, but this is one young fly fisher who is destined for great things with a fly rod in hand. In fact when Daniel Factor first saw the fin, he had flashes of him behind the console of that R250 000 prize. Of course it wasn't a Trout, but regardless, to land this behemoth of a fresh water fish from his float tube is an experience he will not forget.
Daniel Factor with the 15kg / 35lb Gass Carp that he landed on 4X / 6lb tippet
Going into the grand Final of the TOPS Corporate Challenge, a total 0f 1090 Trout had been caught and released, with much expectation from the returning finalists, for the snow melt to revitalise the dams. And although the water temperature inverted a few waters, another 443 fish brought the tally to 1533 Trout from SA's premier fishing event.
It always going to be a closely contested affair, when you bring this many highly motivated fishermen together. I would estimate that collectively, their fly boxes hold more flies than the average tackle shop and there's no doubt that the combined experience of these entrants leaves little room for learning. Not that too many were sharing their knowledge gained. One could hardly blame them, with WildFly Travel arranging R650 000's worth of holidays from their represented properties. Unbelievably every single entrant received a fishing holiday for the whole team, regardless of whether they caught a fish at this final. Now that's what I call a winning formula!
Being a session based competition, every 5 hour fishing session is a separate competition, with your teams collective points ranking you in each session from 1-15. And it's only your ranking that you take through to the next session. The twist in the tale was three fold -:
- only 10 fish to count (preventing absolute stocky bashing) - 4, 3, 2, 1 in the respective sessions.
- your team mates could bequeath you fish, should you hit that dreaded blank, in the first two sessions only (unless you have fished competitively).
- and if you were a Pro (as in fished for SA Proteas) you were given a -10 fish handicap of your biggest fish.
This ensured that it remained an Amateur affair and Lady Luck could always play the definitive role.
The Top 5 teams at this year's TOPS Corporate Challenge were -:
- 5th Place - The WildFlies on 26 points, giving them a fantastic Tiger fishing trip to Ichingo River Lodge on the Chobe river;
- 4th place - Stealth Fly Fishing, on 23 points, earning themselves and their better halves a fly fishing trip to the 5 star Zulu Waters;
- 3rd Place - AfriGuide logistics, also on 23 points and they walked away with a Tiger fishing adventure at the incredible Royal Zambezi Lodge;
- 2nd Place - Team WBHO, who on 22 points get to enjoy the action packed of fishing off Benguerra Island at the luxurious Azura resorts.
3rd place - Afriguide Logistics
2nd place - WBHO
And the Winners of the 2015 TOPS Corporate challenge were Team Zimmers, comprising of Anton Smith, Charles Woods, Wayne Stegen and Andrew Beach receiving a trip to the renowned Trophy Tiger grounds of Barotse, at the outstanding Matoya Lodge.
1st place - Team Zimmers
The rose among the thorns - Jess Nicholson from TOPS presenting the prize.
Best Fly Fisher of the tournament was Michael Peterson, catching in every session with the highest average size.
And although Warwick Albertyne (the young man who had received an entry into this event as his 18th Birthday present from his dad) had led the field with his 60cm Rainbow in the Legs still walked away with a small boat, it was Deon Nel, who managed to record a beautiful 63cm Brown Trout from Fish Eagle dam in the Final. This earned him a brand new Quintrex boat and motor. The satisfied smile in the cover photo says it all.
The Earls of Warwick - with the stick-waving Warwick walking away with an inflatable and sneaker motor,
after being arrowly pipped for biggest fish of the tournament.
The accolades really do need to be bestowed on the Sponsors though, with TOPS at Spar continuing to support fishing as a celebratory sport, and of course the lady who makes it all possible, Genna and her incredible team.
As I will always prescribe, make sure you support the sponsors who allow us to enjoy our sport, all of whom are well represented on Fishtube.tv.
And if you hope to gain a coveted invite to this festive gathering of fly fishers, make sure you start enquiring early.