When I walked out the door into the dark at six in the morning I was met by the sight of sparkling cars reflecting the street lights. I knew it had been cold but this seemed a bit more than a sharp frost. Sitting there as the ice melted from the car window screen I was nervous, this was a big event I was going to and it had been playing on my mind for a few days now that this was only my third ever lure fishing match and frankly I didn't want to make a fool of myself. To sooth my nerves I just kept repeating over and over again in my head my mantra of the day 'just get something on the sheet'. Soon enough though I was speeding through the frosty countryside headed to the McDonalds on the A45 near rugby where Dave Mutton, the team captain, had called us for a team meeting and breakfast.
If I had felt a little out of my depth before I left then now I felt worse. Most of my team mates were seasoned competitors and the mix of lure branded kit indicated they did this regularly or a manufacturer had faith in them. There was me in my bobbly fishing hoody and hat looking like I was going flipping paint balling not fishing. A few of them I knew from the Tusses match a few weeks prior, a couple I knew via Facebook but for most they were all new to me, happily though we all spoke the same language of fishing. Talking about our practices and sharing snippets of knowledge served to settle me and soon enough Dave stood up and began his captains talk. He went through the does and don'ts and ultimately made it clear this was first of all a team event and thus helping out each other was paramount to the general effort, which made a lot of sense.
On the road again the sun was now rising and I was bleeding lost like an idiot! Some of the team had come half way across the country and here I was travelling through my own county lost looking for a village I have driven through hundreds of times this year alone. Soon enough I was back on track and found myself queuing to drive onto a half frozen half fallow field filling with keen rubber chuckers of various nationalities
It seemed to take ages to get ready to be set free by the CRT chaps in charge and people were getting very impatient to be off after registration. After discussing plans with many of my team mates I had just about decided on where to go. Of the three sections the match stretch could be divided into I liked the look of the middle heavily featured lock section or the more distant top section. The bottom section from the start down to the welsh road bridge held no appeal at all as I knew this section was a royal pain in the arse once the locks opened and I wanted no part of that. From what I could see there were a lot of people intending to hit the locks so I made the decision to go for space over features and head up to the top in order to have more water to fish. This in mind I never took my gear out of the car and instead lingered on the periphery of the crowds looking for my pre-assigned Bulgarian partner for the day, Svetoslav Ognyanov, whom I had already contacted via Facebook. With the initial parings officially brought together they gave the milling crowed some final instructions before they cut us all loose to fish. As we had previously agreed I headed back to my car, partner in tow, to zoom up to the top of the match stretch and get fishing...
The CRT international friendly
Venue = The Grand Union Canal bridges 18-30
The first hour was hard! The colour had dropped out of the water overnight with the cold and visibility was good, but this made the fish nervous to begin with. I had several slight enquiries early on fishing tight to features but nothing was prepared to commit. To make matters worse I saw some of the other competitors catching, which made me panicky. It wasn't till we all started spreading out along the stretch that I caught my first small perch just off the shelf which served to settle me down. All I needed was another one and a few zeds and that would do.
Quickly me and my partner developed a method of working together. I continually moved at a snail's pace working the inside hard as he picked spots he liked the look of and fished them before catching me up, either choosing a spot in front or behind of me to cast across the canal. For quite a while I felt like we were in a fishless void and was wondering if I had made a mistake coming up the top.
Pluck...I was sure something snatched at my lure then bang! I was into a fish which was straight away pulling line off my lightly set clutch. I have never been so scared of a fish coming off as I was this one. My heart was beating fast; I was fumbling with the net. This had to be a good zander I thought just before a mottled head broke the surface. At the first opportunity I salmon scooped it up and was proper on the board now with this 57cm pike...
Reports were now coming in via the whatsApp group that things were very hard all over and everyone was experiencing the same with odd fish here and there. Myself and my partner pushed on until we came across one of my Team mates, Gary Coulson, and his polish partner who were dug in hard on a spot where Gary's partner had caught two zander. Although invited to jump in quite close the spot produced nothing for us and we carried on up the stretch. Literally we covered probably half a mile before I snagged a small zander in the lea of a bridge which brought me so close to a metre of fish.
With that metre score now in sight I was working harder than ever making sure I had every chance to get another fish. After heading to the top of the match stretch and coming back again I doubled my efforts to cover the area where I'd had the small zander from, but the spot now seemed barren. With lots of other competitors all around us all the features were getting hammered. A quick chat and myself and Svetoslav agreed to work our way back to the car, stopping at any spots that had produced fish. Not long after, as my partner fished a very fishy looking reed bed feature, I hooked a second small perch tight to the edge which came up in tandem with a copy of itself. At 17cm I knew I was over the metre with this valuable little gem.
A change of tack...
On the way back up the stretch we again came across Gary and his partner who were still holding firm on the spot that had produced now three zander. As I chatted to Gary he hooked a zander on a jig in the centre of the trench. It was then that it occurred to me changing tack might bring me those few zander I now wanted so much. I'd already covered all the margin I was about to fish with the dropshot on the way down, so why not change things just a bit to see if it might work. The micro jig was moving much quicker than I had worked the dropshot and as a few boats were now chugging down the canal I opted to work the lure off the marginal shelf just on the edge of the trench and this plan worked perfectly, producing my best zander of the day by way of a very pleasing 42cm fish to top off my catch.
Having a decent length on the sheet I was mindful to get back with plenty of time to hand in my score; I was sure under the difficult conditions of the match I had done pretty well and being late back would be a stupid thing to do with a good score. Soon enough we pulled back into the field with all the other cars to find out how things had gone. With my sheet handed in and my length added up by an official and double checked by myself I was happy to confirm I had attained a little more than my target of 150cm with a satisfying 154cm. I then went about locating some team mates to try and figure how we had done. It seemed I had done well as had a few others in our team, but most of all it seemed as a team we had just about all caught fish.
I had it half in mind that I might have been in the running for the biggest fish with my 57cm pike but news of a few bigger fish soon came in. One chap had caught a 70cm zander on his first cast, rolling the dice with a humongous lure and one of my team mates was rumoured to of had a 68cm zander as well. From what I could tell only Jacob Stone had scored over a metre with 155cm, so I was chuffed to be up there with him.
After a long wait the officials finally had the results ready to announce, the team was all together and we were hopeful that we had done well. Dave, our captain, was just about ready to explode with nerves. They first announced the biggest fish was, as we suspected, the Romanian competitor with a huge 70cm zander then they quickly moved onto the individual winners. When the third place winner was called out as Daniel Everitt with 154cm I could hardly believe it was me. Then they called out Jacob Stone with 155cm was second, much to his amazement, and not long after that Richard Haines with 165cm was first. We could barely believe it at all, we had done a clean sweep of first, second and third, and better was still to come. We all thought it and a few mumbled it, we had to have won if we'd done all the top places. And when the called out that the England team had won the overall competition we all went bonkers! Dave the captain was beaming as the bottle of champagne was sprayed all over him. What a result for team England on such a hard venue in competition with some really great teams. As for me, I still can barely believe that all my hard work paid off and on my third ever lure match I was lucky enough to get my hands on some silverware!
Finish position = 3rd
Team finish position = England 1st with 1435 point and an average legnth per angler of 57.4cm
|Me and my new friend and brilliant partner, Svetoslav Ognyanov.|
|Dave couldn't stop smiling after such a brilliant victory.|
and neither could this lot!
Well done again chaps on a great overall performance and victory. I had a brilliant day and made loads of new friends that I hope to fish with again and again in the future.