2011 European Championships, Opole, Poland

Thursday 23/6/11, An early start saw us catch the 6.30am flight from Bristol to Krakow and a 2 hour drive from the airport to Opole and we were at the venue in time to see the last hour of the practice session for that day.
The venue looked great, approx 60m wide, canal type venue that flowed at a nice pace, colour lokked good, everybody had plenty of room, one problem - no fish, in the hour we watched we only saw 2 perch caught. We watched the weigh in and when we saw the poor weights by europes elite you really have to question the choice of venue. The best any of our lads had was 590g, which was Will on the end peg, mainly 4 perch.
During the weeks practice before we arrived the best anyone of the english lads had caught was 2kgs, the best anyone had caught in the official practice sessions was 3kgs, this was going to be a tough match for the anglers and not a lot of elastic stretching action for the spectators.

Friday, was the last practice day, time for the final tweaking of tactics and the last chance for the 2 Marks to pick their team. The fishing was just as tough as the previous 4 days practice, Will took the top weight of 800g, mainly 4 perch. This match was going to be c**p. The rest of the lads caught some bleak and the odd perch and some tiny fish down the edge.
Friday evening everyone went for a chinese and the team meeting, after the meal, was very positive, the basic plan was to feed at 13m for bream, bottom of the stones for perch [5-6m] and set up some bleak rigs with long lines to fish 4-13m with a sloppy groundbait mix and finally a tiny fish rig for down the edge. The team was picked, Darren was the unlucky one for the first day, now all we needed was a few bonus fish.

Saturday morning saw all the usual excitement and anticipation after the draw.
A section was Will Raison, B section Sean Ashby, C section Alan Scothorne, D section Steve Gardner and finally E section was Steve Hemingray.
9.50 saw the start of the 10 minute prebaiting session, I watched Stevie G, he cupped one ball of joker rich groundbait down the edge at 3m, 3 balls at 5m and about 15 balls at 13m.
10am the hooter blew and steve dropped in at 3m and started to catch tiny fish straight away, this was a decent start compared to the anglers aroung him. 30 minutes into the match Steve struck and a real bonus fish was hooked, after a tense fight lasting 6 minutes, on a size 24 to 0.06 line with a number 2 elastic a 1lb chub was in the net, pressure off as this fish was worth megapoints, maybe a section winner by itself. Not a lot happened for the next hour or so, just the odd tiny bleak, until Steve hooked another chub on the 6m line, the fight was over a lot quicker and another 10oz chub was in the net.
The rest of the section was fishing really tough, the spanish lad on peg 4 was catching bleak steady and after 3 hours he had caught around 100 fish, it looked like it was going to close between the two of them. At the weigh in Stevie G weighed 973g and the spanish angler 793g, so it was a section win for Steve on day one.
The rest of th team didnt do so well and Steve hemingray finished 5th, Will was 5th, Alan Scothorne and Sean Ashby were both 8th, this points total gave us 7th overall and the Spanish team were winning, we were a long way behind.



On the Sunday, the fishing got even worst with fewer small fish feeding, but as the day went on more bonus fish were caught and the weights looked better. Steve Gardner caught a 800g skimmer with half an hour to go to give him a third in the section. The team improved on the previous days result and finished 4th overall, Steve Gardner finished 4th individual. A top performance by the new look French tem gave them the gold medal, Spain finished 2nd, Belgium 3rd, we were 4th and italy came back from the dead to finish 5th overall.

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