As soon as I knew that I was in the squad for this years Euorpeans, I started to plan my preparation. I knew a bit about the venue, at Novi Sad in Serbia, as I was part of the under 22s who won gold there 7 years ago, it is a cut off channel from the mighty Danube.
The main part of the preparation was a quick weekend trip to watch the Serbian Championships, this is a 3 day event fished on the venue. Will, Lee Kerry and myself flew out last weekend to try and find out as much as we can about how it was fishing.
When I fished it the target species was small skimmers on the pole with the occasional small catfish or poison chat, a spiny black catfish, that go around in shoals, but the fishing had changed a lot since then. The catfish were far more numerous and most of the fish were caught beyond pole range with either a bolo float or a slider. There was still some bleak and the odd Asp.
The amount of preparation I needed to do was enormous, the 13m pole limit meant that I had to measure all of the 5 poles I was taking, all the top kits had to be exactly the same length for light and heavy elastics, some of my pole sections were more worn than others, so I had to check that the least worn section with the longest top kit never went over the 13m limit and that the most worn sections and the shortest top kit never left me short of my bait or at a disadvantage from the anglers around me.
I have been tying hooks like mad for the last 4 weeks and must have at least 500 bloodworm hooks tied up, in all my favourite pattern, tied up to cover everything from sun perch down the edge to poison chat on the 13m line. In addition to these bloodworm hooks, Ive tied up over 100 waggler hooklengths suitable for the bolo as well.
Rigs, last time I was there I wasnt 100% happy with the floats I was using so this time Ive tied up 9 Rive trays full of different bloodworm patterns, just so that I will have the right float for the job, my misses is sick of all the rig tying stuff hanging about the house all the time, she will be glad when its all finished.
Peter Drennan has very kindly given all the team brand new Rive boxes for this years event, so I have been sorting everything out with this box, getting all the attachments to my liking, so that I am comfortable when fishing.
Slider fishing is something I practice on a regular basis, but I have set up 3 sliders ready for use and have been out practicing with them on a local reservoir and having some great fun catching bream with them. I have 3 Bolognaise rods set to go, this is a method I don't get chance to practice much, the rivers around here dont respond to this method, so most of my experience of this method was when I fished the big rivers in the Czech Republic.
When I was there last time, bleak were important in the hard sections, so I have set up 9 different whips ready to use and made a tray of bleak rigs, so that I have every option covered.
I have left renewing all my elastics until the last minute, the temperature in Serbia at this time of year is very hot and elastics dont last long in the 30 degree+ heat, so I have packed plenty of spares. When the new Rive box turned up there was also a full range of the latest Drennan luggage, so I have been busy swapping over from my normal Maver luggage.
International rules say that you must use a 4m keep net, you try getting a 4m net in this country, again Peter Drennan had some made for us.
Catapult elastic is another thing I need to take plenty of, the hot sun shortens the life of it. Every time I have an international rules match I always go out and practice my ground baiting, accuracy with a catapult is vital and there is only one way to get it, practice, practice and more practice. My local reservoir gets more than its far share of mine and Des's groundbait at this time of year.
Another option I needed to cover was flat floats, the chance of using them was pretty remote, but occasionally the venue can pull hard, so I have renewed 2 trays of these floats up to 50g.
The amount of work involved in preparing for a match like this is immense, and there is a good chance we won't use 80% of it, but that is what is involved when you have the honour of fishing for your country.