World Championship Diary: Day 1
I think it must be every anglers dream to get a chance to represent their country so when I got the call up for the England feeder team this year to say I was made up is an understatement. The venue was to be in Italy, the River Tevere to be precise and the first job was to find out what to expect so I could sort my kit accordingly. Information though was sketchy to say the least and it wasn’t until Tommy Pickering and Mick Vials made the trip out there that we had anything concrete to go on. Basically though it was a very slow moving river which ranged in width from between 45 yards and maybe 70 yards at its widest point. Species present seemed to be carassio, carp and catfish although there were other smaller species such as chub, sun fish and nase.
With preparation now done before I knew it we were on our way and after a gruelling 17 hour drive we arrived at the hotel where we were staying. The first thing that became apparent was the temperature, it was 40 degrees plus in the middle of the day and believe me that took some getting used to. As we had gone out early and there was nowhere to practice off the match length we opted to spend a couple of days fishing at a nearby venue in a place called Umbertide, this was similar to the Tevere but slightly narrower, it also contained a lot more fish. After a couple of productive days on there we were all chomping at the bit to get on the actual venue and when Monday morning dawned 6 more eager anglers you’d have been hard pushed to find.
The night before we had all discussed tactics that needed to be tried and each of us had been given a job for the day. Mine was to put a lot of bait in three quarters of the way across the river and just sit on it. This I did and four and a half hours later I had managed three carp and a carassio for a weight of just over 5 kilo’s which was enough to win our session. I had also been smashed by a large carp, mainly due to the fact I wasn’t watching my tip. The river was extremely snaggy and you literally had to hit and haul once you got a bite on a lot of pegs. If you let the fish get up any head of steam then nine times out of ten it was gone. The rest of the weights in the team ranged between 2 and 4 kilos so we were all happy that we had managed a few bites and a plan was starting to form.
On practice day 2 according to team instructions I again filled the three quarter line in albeit with a different mix and then fished past it with a small cage feeder. On a short line I also put in three giant cage feeders full of groundbait and joker just to see. Well to cut a long story short I couldn’t buy a bite and eventually weighed in a paltry 1 kilo for last in the session which was made up of two small carp caught on the short line. Tommy had 5 kilo’s to easily win the session. Even though I hadn’t caught it seemed as a team we were learning all the time and with just one day’s practice left it felt like we were on the right track.
On the final days practice we were to fish as if it were the match, so I had a block end feeder line for tight across, a carp line on the three quarter mark and then a middle line for catfish and carassio plus last but not least a short get out of jail line. To cut a long story short I struggled all session until the last hour where I pretty much had a bite a chuck to finish with 4 kilo and 4th out of the 6 of us. Dean Barlow actually won the session with just one carp of 6 kilo plus!
The night before the first match day was spent tying hooks and making sure everything was right as regards tackle, we then had a meeting whereby we were to find out our sections for day 1 of the world championship. A section had been the best in practice and as a result this is where everyone hoped to be, in particular the downstream end peg which was to be A1. As assistant manager Glen Lawrence read out the section letters I was the first name read out and A section was to be my destination. Whilst this was great on paper for me the word was unless I drew 1-5 I was going to be up against it in terms of getting good points for the team. Anyway I couldn’t worry about that until it happened so with the meeting finished it was off to bed for a good night’s sleep.
On the morning of day 1 we were up at 6am to sort bait out while Glen went off to make the draw. Bait wise for day 1 I had half a litre of joker, quarter of a litre of worms, and then half a litre of casters and the rest was then made up of live and dead maggots. Groundbait consisted of two mixes, one a bright yellow mix for the carassio and cats, then the second a darker mix which was to be used to hopefully catch carp. With the bait done Glenn soon arrived back and started giving out the bibs for each section. He handed me mine and it was with some trepidation that I unfolded it to look at the number. Well to say I couldn’t believe my eyes is an understatement as A1 stared me right in the face. Now A1 was the downstream end peg under a bridge and from what we had been told was carp soup. Although the pressure was now well and truly on I couldn’t have asked for a better draw and it was now down to me. Team wise we felt we had a decent draw also so it was all to play for as we said our ‘good lucks’ and made our way to the river.
On arrival at A1 I have to admit it looked fantastic, the bridge was just downstream of me and from what I could see I had plenty of options including the extremely fishy looking bridge stanchion in the middle of the river. With my kit all unloaded and still twenty minutes to go before I was allowed into the zone at 8am I discussed my options with Dean who was to be my bank runner for the day. He agreed with me as in block end feeder right across, three quarter line for carp as per the team plan. Then with the bridge stanchion looking so carpy we both felt it right to look for carp there too. Lastly there was plenty of scope for a catfish line short well away from my three main lines.
At 8am I was allowed into my zone and it was time to tackle up. First job was to get my box and all the various accessories sorted before moving onto rods. On the subject of rods I had them all ready made up in holdalls and eventually decided on the following for each line. Two Tournament 13’5’s for right across, these were teamed up with Caldia 4000x reels which were loaded with 4lb sensor line to an 8lb shock leader of tournament ST monofil. Set up was the same on all rods with a simple running rig and a hooklength of 0.17 Guru N-gauge to a size 14 hook. Next up were my rods for the three quarter line, these were Tournament 12-13’s at 13’, again teamed with Caldia 4000x reels only this time they were loaded with 6lb drag line. For the middle stanchion swim I then set up two 12-13 Tournaments at 12’ as it was only a short chuck. These were loaded with 8lb Tournament ST monofil as it could well be hit and hold should I hook a fish on this line. Then lastly another Tournament 12-13 at 12’ for my short catfish line.
Before I knew it 9.30am had arrived and the hooter sounded. The plan was to put 6 big cage feeders of bait on the three quarter line, then ten large cages on the stanchion swim before 3 giant cages full of joker on the catfish line. A block end feeder was then launched across full of maggots with three whites on the hook. In any match you want an early fish but no more so than in the world champs as everyone’s worst nightmare must be blanking. After a couple of minutes though the tip started bouncing and a 4oz chub was in the net, a nice nerve settler that’s for sure. Only one more small chub followed though and with the Dutch angler Theo Leijrik at the next peg already off to a flyer with a small carp and two carassio it was time for a change. A cast onto the three quarter line produced a line bite straight away but when I went to reel in I was snagged solid and upon pulling for a break I lost the lot. The river all the way through was very snaggy so lost gear was expected and one of the reasons for duplicating rods on each line. To give me time to retackle I quickly picked up my second three quarter rod and cast that out. Five minutes passed though without a sign and again when it came to reeling in I was snagged up. This time only a hooklength was lost but already the three quarter line wasn’t looking good. The weird thing about the Tevere was you could plumb it with a bomb and it seemed clear, yet put a feeder on and in the same area you could be snagged every cast.
With nearly an hour gone it was time for the stanchion line as although still early days Theo was getting away from me and others in the section were also catching. Baiting up with two big worms I dropped the small 28 gram cage feeder just off the stanchion and waited. I didn’t have to wait long though as the butt of the rod nearly hit me in the face as a carp made off with my hookbait. After an extremely nervy 5 minute battle I eventually put the net under a 4lb common carp which certainly made me feel a lot better. Back out again and I expected it to be solid but no more bites were forthcoming. A quick look on the short cat fish line also failed to produce an indication.
Back on the block end and two tiny chub weren’t really what I was looking for, Theo next door was still nicking an odd carassio on groundbait feeder though and was pulling away. I decided to drop on the three quarter line again just to see, but again on reeling I was snagged solid and this line was now starting to look like a right off.
The stanchion line looked the most likely and on the two hour mark two decent sized carassio in two casts gave me hope but the swim quickly died again. At the halfway point I felt I had 3.5 kilo in the net which Dean felt put me top 5 in the section but being on A1 I felt I should have been doing a lot better. Especially with Theo still nicking fish across on the groundbait feeder. It was time for a change as the block end which had worked in practice just wasn’t doing the job. On the three hour mark I had a chat with Dean about a switch to the open end tight across, he confirmed it with Glen and the change was made. A 44 gram small cage feeder was needed to get the distance and I baited up with a single grain of corn. First cast and the tip tapped once and fell slack. Picking up my initial thoughts were a small carassio but once under the rod tip it started to kick a bit and after a few hairy moments a 2lb carp was in the net. Back out again but no more bites, meanwhile Theo was really starting to catch and was too far ahead for me to worry about him. Second in the section was now my priority although Dean reckoned I was probably 4th from what he had seen.
The fourth hour was spent alternating between the long far line and the stanchion with just a very odd carassio for my efforts. It seemed the whole river had switched off as even Theo had slowed up thank god! Going into the last hour a few fish started coming out again and another 2lb carp was a handy bonus off the far bank line. Next cast saw a proper bite only when I picked up I was snagged solid, pulling for a break resulted in me losing the lot so it was back to the middle which produced another carassio and then nothing again. Switching back to the far bank also proved unproductive and with just 30 minutes to go I decided to gamble and sit on the stanchion line as this had proved the most productive in terms of bites. The next twenty five minutes produced three decent carassio before the hooter sounded to let everyone know that there was just five minutes to go at which point any fish hooked have to be out of the water. With two minutes to go the tip went round on a single grain of corn and my initial thoughts were carp. Straight away though it became apparent it was a carassio and a decent one, dean was counting me down and with one minute thirty seconds to go I decided to take my time and make sure I got it out as opposed to cranking it in when there wouldn’t be time for another fish anyway. Then to my horror with the fish just half way back the final hooter sounded. I couldn’t believe it and neither could Dean and several others who were all timing the last five minutes. That was that though and I had to return a carassio of around 750 grams in weight. To say I was fuming is an understatement as had I known I had just seconds left I could have cranked it in! Suffice to say I was convinced it was going to cost me as Dean reckoned I could be second but I also could be fifth so tight were the places behind Theo.
The scales started at me and when my weight was recorded at 6 kilo’s 557 grams I just hoped that would be enough for second. After the weigh in the fish have to be returned to your keepnet until the whole section has been weighed in. Then if there are no objections you can return your fish. Because of this I was unable to follow the scales but I did see Theo put a brilliant 14 kilo’s on the scales. I have to say he fished a very good match, sticking to one line throughout and taking the fish when they were there. It’s always hard being beat, especially off the next peg but I take my hat off to Theo as his performance fully merited the inevitable section win.
It was a long wait for Dean to return but when he did he had good news in that the last second disaster hadn’t cost me and I had indeed ended up a comfortable second. It was now a case of waiting for the rest of the teams results to come in. Dean had hinted that we weren’t doing well but rumour had it a few late fish might have bumped us up in a few sections. Sadly it wasn’t to be and other than Tommy’s third place finish, Darren Cox, Steve Hemmingway and Mick Vials had all finished 12th. Definitely not the start we were looking for and as the official results were added up we were 8th after day 1 and a massive 22 points behind the Dutch who had literally run away with it. It was a sombre England camp in the team meeting that night as we knew Gold had gone and our chances of any medal were slim to say the least. We knew we hadn’t got it right tactics wise so a more positive approach was called for on day 2. Particularly for me as after my second in section Tommy gave me free reign to go for a medal on day 2. In other words I could be ultra positive and fish my peg as I saw it in the morning.
The section draw was also done and amazingly I was to be back in A section again on day 2. The only downside was that I was no longer able to draw pegs 1 or 2 as they are both considered end pegs and teams can’t draw end pegs on both days. It was going to be tough to win a section without drawing those pegs considering they had been first and second on day 1, in fact the top 5 in section were pegs 1-5 so you could say I went to bed that night praying Glen would pull me out another early draw!
To find out just how day 2 went then check back next week whereby I’ll update on both my own match and the team’s performance.
(All images supplied by Steve Lockett from www.coarsefish-torbay.co.uk)