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
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
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
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
"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
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
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." ...
||... "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."
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?" ...
apologies to "Snatch," the funniest movie I have ever
||... "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. " ...
Coal Tar Classic Ethics Committee (Brian and Karlheinz)