Heart-stopping journey to Feeder Champs gold

Well where do I start! Basically my whole summer has evolved around the World Feeder Championships in Holland and finally it was here. The venue was a massive shipping canal in Holland called the Gent Terneuzen canal and the fishing in practice was best described as tough with a fish an hour over five hours a realistic target.

Come Friday night, though, after five days practice, we as a team had a plan which was to fish two lines. The long line at 39m was just to try and catch a fish whereas the short line at 25m was our bonus fish line. The plan was to put four big feeders full of bait in on the long line in the ten-minute baiting up period and then feed two kilos of leam with 100ml of joker, 100ml of chopped worms and 200ml of casters with a great big feeder short.

It was then to be a case of starting long with a view to keep dropping short to try and pick up a bonus fish as one bream virtually guaranteed a top three section placing.

Come Saturday morning and match day one, I found myself on A15 which I was more than happy with. With 26 countries fishing it was split sections so my section was 14-26 - with no end pegs I felt it would be relatively fair. The rest of our team draws looked okay on paper too, although with the fishing being so hard it was difficult to tell.

Come the start of the match I fed my two lines and went straight out to 39 metres and literally prayed for a quick bite. In practice I had been last to catch a fish every day it seemed so I felt I was well over due an early bite! The gods must have been shining as after three minutes the tip pulled round and a nice 300-gram roach was gingerly played to the net.

That early fish was a real settler for me as it quickly became apparent that the venue was fishing even harder than in practice with a lot of anglers still not yet off the mark. On the forty-five minute mark a second roach around 250 grams pulled the tip round and I was well and truly up and running.

In practice we had found resting a line worked really well so on the hour mark I dropped short more in hope than expectation. After five minutes though I had a sharp indication on the tip which got my attention as normally once you had an indication there was a fish in the swim you caught it soon after. Sure enough I went back in on double caster and the tip pulled straight round.

I picked up and straight away knew it was a good fish, in fact it went off at such speed that I had to take the clip off to stop it breaking me. Eventually, though, I had it in netting range and a 450-gram perch was soon in the waiting landing net. Dropping back in I was amazed to have a bite straight away, only to lift into thin air!

No more signs followed so it was back out long to try and pick up another roach or two. No more bites followed on either line until the two-hour mark ,whereby I dropped back in short and the tip went straight round, agonizingly though I again felt nothing. Cursing to myself I dropped straight back in and as I was tightening up the tip slowly pulled round only this time when I lifted I was into a proper fish. A bream or a big skimmer was soon in the net and at around a kilo it was a massive bonus!

From that point on the fishing was best described as slow, in fact I managed just one more roach in the next three hours. Word on the bank though was that I was winning the section and so it proved as the scales arrived and I recorded 2 kilo and 60 grams for that all-important section win.

On the team front we had section wins from myself, brother Phil and Mick Vials plus a 5th and 7th from Dean Barlow and Adam Wakelin in very tough areas. This gave us 14 points which saw us in a three-way tie at the top with France and Hungary after day one, so it was all to play for going into day two.

Come day two I found myself heading for E section and peg 5 to be precise, again I was more than happy as with my section being 1-13 there was no end pegs to compete against. Now everyone’s nightmare in a World Championship is blanking fishing for your country and just under three hours into day two this is exactly what I was faced with.

I had started as per day one but other than one tiny indication on the tip I hadn’t had a sign. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t feeling the pressure as word on the bank was that we as a team were struggling, although I was the only one who hadn’t caught. Worse still, the French angler two to my right had a bream and a couple of small fish and was running away with the section.

If I couldn’t beat him I knew I needed to be second to minimize the point swing between us and France. I needed a fish no matter how small just to get me up and running. I made a switch to fishing just two bloodworm but after two chucks without a bite I was starting to think about another change when on the third cast the tip vibrated as opposed to moved. I picked up but never felt a thing, as I was reeling in though I spotted what looked like a piece of weed on the hook, as I swung it in it became apparent it was a tiny Grondel or grumble as we had nick named them in practice. It wouldn’t have weighed 5 grams but it was a fish and I actually felt the pressure lift off me.

Two more casts didn’t produce any more signs and with a fish in the net it was time for a change. In practice we had worked out a little trick for fishing just past your feed. The key though was not to go too early as, although it sounds odd, you needed to let the fish past your bait build up their confidence.

With three hours gone it was time to make a move so I switched to a 50 gram bullet feeder and chucked this on the same 39m clip. Because it was a bullet feeder it goes slightly further so I could fish around a metre past my feed. I knew this was my best chance of a bite so concentration levels as I tightened up were at an all time high. Sure enough just as I got tight the tip pulled round and I lifted into a half decent fish. Now I can honestly say I have never prayed for a fish to stay on like I did this one and eventually I put the net under a 200-gram perch! Straight back out again on the bullet feeder and an indication but no bite.

Third cast though the tip pulled round again and a 250-gram roach was soon in the net. Word on the bank was that this put me possibly second in section but it was too tight to call. I needed another fish but despite trying a few different things, I couldn’t seem to make a bite.

With 45 minutes to go I had one more trick up my sleeve. I put four big feeders out long full of pinkies and joker and spent 15 minutes short to let it settle. This was something my brother Phil had worked out in practice to catch a late skimmer. The first chuck back out was the most important so I had to make it count and it landed absolutely spot on.

Sometimes as an angler you just know you are going to get a bite as it just seems everything is right and this was one of those occasions. Sure enough on two minutes the tip pulled round and I carefully played a 350-gram skimmer into the waiting net!

That was me done and now it was down the scales to reveal all. After a long weight it became apparent that my 800 grams was enough for second behind a brilliant 3 kilo plus from France. It was now an anxious wait for news on the team front.

Unbelievably word started to come in that we had made a late charge, Phil had caught two bream in the last 30 minutes to nick second and Adam Wakelin had netted a bream with just five seconds to go for another two points. On top of that, Mick was also second and Dean managed a 5th.

Our manager Tommy Pickering quickly did the maths and it became apparent that we had won gold by just half a point from France, with Hungary slightly further back in third. Looking back it was an unbelievable finish as the only time we had lead as a team all match was when Adam netted his bream with 5 seconds to go. If team gold wasn’t enough, Mick Vials put the icing on the cake with a well deserved bronze on the individual front.

Looking back it was without doubt the toughest week of my life as far as fishing goes. Because the fishing was so hard the concentration levels required were so high that come the end I have to admit I felt totally drained! That said gold more than made up for it and its now a case of roll on Serbia in 2016!