Coal Tar Classic
The Coal Tar Classic held in Hamilton, Ont., is Canada's biggest, best and only fly fishing for carp event. Now in it's third year, the 2010 Coal Tar Classic will be our 10th anniversary and you can rest assured it will be nothing short of outstanding. The Coal Tar Classic is a friendly fly fishing event, where those taking part - the competitors - freely exchange fishing techniques and flies with each other, while the carp - the quarry - spend most of the day totally ignoring the competitors and their flies. It's a win-win. The anglers have a great day out with a superb lunch, while the carp spend the day getting on with life and in general swimming around doing carpy things.

Coal Tar Classic: How can I help?
The Coal Tar Classic is full and we have about 30 anglers on the waiting list. After you have finished reading this page, if you and your friends want to help support the children at the Jamestown Community Center in Hamilton, please contact us. Last year quite a few fly fishermen donated to the charity, and the funds were put to great use.

Coal Tar Classic: The Beginning
The brain child of Ron Marini and Ian Colin James, the first Coal Tar Classic took place on the last Sunday of May, 2008 but it took close to a year of planning to get the event up and running. In 2007 Ron, Kevin the Lucky, a bunch of fly fishermen from the Hamilton Area Fly Fishers and myself were fishing in Hamilton Harbor, when I said "Hey Ron, we should hold a carp event down here. It's perfect. The gentle and refined art of fly fishing set against the rugged industrialized beauty of the slag heaps and the steel mill smokestacks. It's a perfect location." Ron's face lit up like a Christmas tree, either he liked the idea or he had taken in a deep lung-full of Hamilton Harbor air, and after we both dried away the tears of laughter that was that.

Coal Tar Classic: The Name
You can't have an event of any substance if you don't have a catchy name for it, so Ron and I spent at least a full 2-minutes working on it. You can't fill a jug of water in Hamilton Harbor and then pass it off as mineral water although on the plus side you may be able to develop a roll of film in it. That said, there are lots of minerals - and other goodies - in the water, most of which are man-made, and most of which should probably not be there. The city of Hamilton was built on steel production, and in order to produce steel you need to have steel mills, furnaces, pollution and all that fun stuff. Part of the pollution from the steel mills was the leaching - a non threatening word for "dumping" - of coal tar into Hamilton Harbor.

Now when we picked the name for the event, quite a few folk were ticked-off at us for promoting the not-so-nice side of Hamilton Harbor. Yes, there are several groups trying to remove the coal tar from the harbor and some folk even took up the issue with the Coal Tar Organizing Committee, based in Geneva, Switzerland. In essence the CTOC told them to "sod-off," but in a rare compromise - as the CTC is run by "The Benevolent Dictator" - CTOC said that when Hamilton Harbor becomes 100% coal tar free, the name would be changed as we would not want to be arrested for false advertising nor for misleading the public.

Coal Tar Classic: The Venue
Due to a confidentiality agreement signed by the Ontario division of Coal Tar Classic Public Relations and Legal Department with an unnamed agency, the exact location of the CTC can't be divulged. What I can say is that the event is held in Hamilton Harbor. As the water is 22-feet deep no wading is allowed, plus the pier is 13-feet up from the water surface and the kicker being the carp grow to 40-pounds or more. Now that's too much information, so unless I see some security credentials from you, authorized by CTCPRLD, you are out of luck.

Coal Tar Classic: 2008 Year One
On May 22nd, 2008, 22 anglers, and two marshals, headed into the shadows of the smokestacks of Hamilton Harbor and the inaugural Coal Tar Classic took place. When the smoke cleared - on a Wednesday afternoon in mid June - the winner was Gerhard Hirmer who not only out-fished the rest of the field, but he put on what can only be described as an aquatic beat-down on all the anglers. In the sprit of the event, over lunch, if you asked him what flies he was using, or what techniques he was using, Gerhard told you. At the end of the event, Gerhard was presented with the prestigious CTC trophy, a gorgeous 15-pound lump of coal donated by Stephen Douglas from the Oxford County Geological Society based in Aylmer, Ont. The trophy was given to Gerhard in its own carrying case, which looked suspiciously like a bowling ball bag. Gerhard a.k.a. The Bavarian did not attempt to lift the trophy over his head, partly to prevent back injury and partly because we were unsure if the glue securing the lump of coal to the mahogany base would hold. Hey, safety first.

Year one was trial-run to get the bugs out of the event, because in year number two the plan was to hook the CTC in with a local charity as a fund raising event. We did not want to get a charity involved during year one just in case it all went pear shaped. Having 22 anglers out on a pier catching carp could not possibly go wrong ... right?

Although several carp were hooked during the inaugural event, no one managed to land one so only sheephead made the score cards. Using a 10 weight Orvis rod, Leonard Bulmer hooked the biggest carp of the event, which decided to sit on the bottom or make short runs while sending up basketball size bubbles. After about an hour the fish decided it had had-enough so it made a long run, threw the fly and swam away. There was a collective, "Oooooooooo" from the crowd of anglers who had given up fishing to watch the man-o-a-fish-o battle. The first fish was landed at 10:30 am by myself with assistance from just about everyone taking part, most of whom were rooting for the fish to make a clean break away.

Coal Tar Classic: 2009 Year Two
While the first CTC was an outstanding success, there was room for improvement. What we did not have room for was the number of anglers who wanted to take part in the event. We had 26 folk on the waiting list for the first CTC so we expanded to 36 anglers, but that was not enough. Even with the expansion of the number of anglers taking part, by the time the event rolled around there was a staggering 31 anglers on the waiting list.

During the first CTC the lake was like glass, there was hardly a puff of wind and the sun was beating down from a cloudless sky. This was not the case for the second CTC when 3-ft waves and cold strong winds greeted the 36 anglers with open arms. While sunstroke was a hazard in 2008, hypothermia or getting blown off the harbor wall into the lake were the hazards for the 2009 event.

To add to the festivities, only a few weeks before the event kicked off there was a much bigger issue to deal with ... a 731-foot Great Lakes freighter named the M. V. Canadian Transfer. Someone had docked - maritime lingo for parked - the Canadian Transfer along the pier wall where the CTC was to take place. Our first plan was to cut the anchor ropes, but once we got a good look at the darn thing we opted for plan "B" which was to contact a bunch of Somalian pirates. When that failed we thought of contacting the magician David Copperfield and then as one person said, "If we sink it there will be some interesting structure..."

In a very strange twist of fate during a flurry of emails, one of the CTC competitors who shall remain nameless - Paul Lacy from Mersyside now living in St Catharines - confessed to being part of the team who built the Canadian Transfer. Here is an actual quote from his email:

"I feel somewhat responsible for this debacle. I worked on this ship back in the 80's: In early 1983 the forward section of the boat called the Northern Venture arrived at the Port Weller Dry Docks to be joined with the stern - blunt end - of a boat called the Cabot. In the fall of 1983 the new bulk carrier was christened the Canadian Explorer. Later in the St Lawrence seaway, the Canadian Explorer was involve in a collision with another boat called the Island Skipper. The blunt end of the Canadian Explorer was cut off and glued to the pointy end of the Hamilton Transfer to create the Canadian Transfer. Sorry."

Everyone at the CTC was relieved that a scant three weeks before the event was to take place, and due to the tireless efforts of Al Dore with the City of Hamilton, the Canadian Transfer was moved. It's no wonder I've had two heart attacks. Note that I said moved and not scuttled.

Somewhere along the line Ron had contacted the Reverend Sue-Ann Ward, Vicar of Christ's Church Cathedral and the person in charge of the Jamestown Community Center in downtown Hamilton. The Reverend does some amazing work and runs both an extensive after school program for children and also a breakfast program for them as well. It only took a few seconds to realize all the funds from the CTC should go to Sue-Ann, plus we would add a donation of a breakfast item to the entry fee for the event. Apart from the funds, the CTC competitors donated close to half a pickup truck full of food for the kids breakfast program.

For the record the decision to support the Jamestown group was made by the accounting department of the Coal Tar Classic Funding Allocation and Interior Design Team, (CTCFAIDT) southern Ontario division.

The second CTC was a very tough fish. The water was cold, the air temp was around 9 deg, there were 3 foot swells for most of the day and the wind gusts were incredible. Noah Flemming from Kingsville, the bedroom for the city of Leamington, hooked the first carp of the event but during an epic battle trying to land it, Dave Forgeron hooked and then landed the first carp in the history of the event about 5 minutes before Noah landed his fish. Dave wore the coveted yellow leaders work-vest, scrounged from a local car manufacturing plant, for almost the full event until he was piped at the post in the last 20 minutes by Steve "Epoxy" Hunt from Burlington.

During the last part of the event, Steve was actually coached by Gerhard who was fishing the same peg. In the sprit of the event the coaching earned Gerhard the Joe James Sportsmanship Award. The CTC is not about catching fish, it's all about sharing the information you possess - you don't necessarily have to be possessed but it could help - with your fellow competitors so that they can catch a few fish.

Jay's Fly Shop in London sponsored the second CTC with a donation of some cracking stainless steel water bottles from Corporate Promotions also in London, and this is a great opportunity to thank them again for that.

Coal Tar Classic: 2010 Year Three

With year three being the 10th anniversary for the CTC, we are expecting big things. Look, it's our event, so if we say it's the 10th anniversary, it's the 10th anniversary. End of. We are booked in for a BBQ lunch, we have scrubbed the CTC dinner and we have moved the CTC from a Sunday to a Saturday. What I can't tell you about are the CTC email exchanges between the competitors. The pre event smack, or as they would say in Ireland "the craic," is outstanding. It gets to the point that before you open up a CTC email you make darn sure you are not drinking something.

The lads from Hammertown are very quick witted - something in the water perhaps, or as they say they are happy and thankful not to live in Buffalo - and so are everyone else taking part. As you would expect the Scots like to pick on the English, the Italians like to pick on everyone or are picked upon by everyone, the folk from London like to pick on the folk from Burlington and even the Leafs fans like to pick on... well ... no one really. The sleeper was the reverend Sue-Ann. Last year she threw out some gut-busting emails, and I for one almost drowned on a coffee while reading them.

In less than two years the CTC has become a very close knit fly fishing family and it has become a great forum for the exchange of fly fishing information. When the Hammertown lads are down there prefishing the event, they will flip an email out to the rest of the group to let everyone know which flies were working and the techniques they were using. I doubt that you would find that sort of openness in any other fly fishing event. I am particularly proud of the Moes Gambit rule which is an essential part of the event.

Coal Tar Classic: Moe's Gambit
At the first CTC, Moe Babinsky from London landed a nice drum on a crayfish he had tied up. As soon as the fish was in the net, he cut the fly off the leader and handed it to Tate Lincoln the guy fishing beside him. Three casts later, Tate landed a fish, bigger than Moes fish on the fly Moe gave him. So, during a CTC event, you can ask the person next to you to cut the fly off their leader so that you can fish with it.

Personally I am looking forward to going head-to-head with my good buddy Joe Boirier in the 2010 CTC. Joe and I are the only two anglers who have landed fish in both CTC events, so it's going to be lots of fun. Someone has suggested a cage-match and the last I heard it was being considered by the CTC Rules and Ethics Committee, CTCREC.

Coal Tar Classic: The Conspiracy
As the CTC moves into its third year folk across Canada and the US are sitting up to take notice. We have even had a few fly fishermen from the UK wanting to take part. Being a conspiracy theorist, I find it odd that this year our National Fly Fishing Championships are being held on the same weekend as the CTC. Out of all the weekends they could have picked, they end up with the same one as the CTC. Coincidence? I don't think so, especially when you consider that they usually hold the Nationals in September.

Now, there is absolutely no truth to the rumor that the CTC have hired the law firm Carpio & Carpio to set up a hostile take over bid for the National Championships. That said, I did try to reach the Coal Tar Classic Acquisitions and Expansion Committee in Brussels, CTCAEC, but to date, no one has returned any of my phone calls. That in itself is deeply suspicious and somewhat disconcerting because as we all know, where there's smoke, someone is probably roasting a marshmallow.

Coal Tar Classic: Ticket Scalping
Do not purchase any general admission tickets to spectate at the Coal Tar Classic as there is a good chance they will be fakes.



... "The 2009 CTC was a fun house full of great friends and characters. It was chalked full of endless laughs (and I mean endless!), good memories, great angling and great life lessons. Oh let us not forget the 1mt high waves and the gentle breeze of 26 knot wind-gusts that descended upon Hamilton Harbor. A definite repeat in 2010." ...
......................... Heather from Toronto
... "This is an angler friendly event. In other words, you need to be considerate and courteous to all the other anglers and to any members of the public, or the media, who happen to show up. Catching fish is not the primary goal, but enjoying each others company is." ...
..........................The Coal Tar Classic Organizing Committee
... "It's a 731-foot boat Tyrone. It's not like it's a bag of peanuts, now is it?" ...
..........My apologies to "Snatch," the funniest movie I have ever seen.
... "You have to fish barbless. All fish, not just the targeted species of carp and sheephead, must be released safely back into the water and done so with lots of tender loving care. This is a friendly event. " ...
...........The Coal Tar Classic Ethics Committee (Brian and Karlheinz)