Mark Downes interview
Dateline: 29th June 2008 – Uhertske Hradiste, Czech Republic
Closing ceremony, 14th European Championships's Kevin Pack talks to England manager Mark Downes in an exclusive interview at the closing ceremony.

MA: Mark, thanks for talking to It’s been a frustrating weekend for Drennan Team England, did you do anything wrong, or was it simply down to the draw?

MD: Well, it didn’t go wrong really, today we fished exactly the same tactics as day one and we won it. So you could attribute the draw to it on Saturday. It was evident that once the river rose on Friday, it came up a foot and the pace doubled. In actual fact, there’s a website over here that you can actually see what the rivers going to do. You can track every time it was rising and dropping and the flow rates, so we had a reasonable picture from Friday onwards, and that, come Sunday, the river would have dropped off again.

On Saturday, the river had risen quite substantially and because there was more colour in the water, end pegs and those towards the ends of sections tended to dominate every section. We had some draws in the middle of some sections and the only peg we had right near the end of a section was Will on E2... and he was on a section that wasn’t fished the day before.

You know, we can winge and gripe that we had bad pegs, but the bottom line is that the teams that had reasonable pegs did fantastic from them. You look at the Russian result with 22 points, the Germans with 28, also the Poles with 40, they were great team performances on day one.

MA: As you say, today your tactics were right, 29 points to win the day. Baitwise, did you feel you got that right. Was it the mixture of bloodworm and chopped worm, there seemed to be a fair amount of it going in?

MD: Yes, I think if we fished it again we might have put more bloodworm in the feed, as opposed to joker. It definitely seemed to hold more bigger fish in your swim, but during practice we hadn’t found it worked that well, because during the practice week the river was running slowly and it was difficult to catch lots of big fish. They were on particular pegs, so we just fished for everything that swims and on the Sunday it proved it.

All the lads had between 4 and 10 kilo, lots more skimmers, gusta’s and silver bream than anybody else, our consistency was perfect.  The extra colour and pace on day one wasn’t conducive to the way we planned to fish it. Looking back, we possibly could have fished it slightly different on day one.

MA: Your rigs were very interesting. So often on these International events you’re doing things that we don’t do in the UK like using the big lollipop floats. What sort of lines and rigs were you using over here?

MD: Well believe it or not the main tactic, especially on the second day, was a light 1gr to 4gr float, running it through with a 16 hook baited with 2 or 3 bloodworm and catching everything over a bed of groundbait, leam, joker, a few dead maggots, a few casters and some chopped worm and you could catch everything doing that.

Believe it or not, with an hour to go on the second day, we were sitting good on about 13-14 points, AND, in gold medal position! But as on day one, when we were lying fairly pretty, there were teams that weren’t doing so well who just sat there waiting for a big fish, which came late and pushed them up through the field.

It put some of our lads down from where they were lying in 3rd and 4th to 7th and 8th.
Tactically, it’s very difficult to mix both methods, you do one or the other. If you feed for a big fish and sit there for an hour for two bites, you’re not going to catch a lot of small fish, so this method wasn’t conducive to how we wanted to fish it.

The bottom line is you had to make your choice and on second day we chose dead right and won. Had the river not been up, coloured and pushing, I think we’d have had a good result on Saturday as well but you’ve got to fish the conditions and fair play to the teams that did well on first day, they matched the conditions perfectly.

MA: I’ve spent some time both on the first and second day watching Günther Horler win the individual event.  The feature of both his days was fishing a big lollipop, putting line on the bottom and holding the pole dead still, clearly you were aware of that?

MD: Yes we were aware of this tactic and we honestly assessed it to be quite hit and miss. As it turned out, it wasn’t hit and miss. For example, I was running in D section on the second day and the Russian guy, Daniil Galuzo, had five or six fish for 11+kg. He’s had a 2.5kg barbel, two 2kg bream, that said, tactically it’s worked very well for them and I honestly believe that ninety out of a hundred times they would have had one or two anglers that it didn’t work for. Their name was on the cup from that point, they fished it perfectly for the conditions and they won it.

Both, Serbia and Germany fished it exactly the same as the Russians, they blew out on day two because they had a couple of bad results fishing those methods. Russia fished the same today and had four good results and one really bad one. They still scored 51 points on the final day to win it and because it worked so well for them on day one, with no bad results, it was difficult to pull that back.

I honestly thought that to get into a medal position was virtually impossible after day one, but we came so close, just 6 points from a silver, 5 from bronze and 11 gold, so fair play to the teams that have had a good result. It’s great to see teams like that on the podium. It’s not just Italy, France, England, Belgium on the podium nowadays, it’s now a dozen teams in these World and European Championships that compete regularly on these types of fishing matches. You’ve got to realise that, in England, we don’t fish big rivers... we don’t fish lollipop floats... we don’t fish bloodworm and joker. I would’t say we are ill-prepared, because the team we have got is massively experienced, but when you are up against teams that are doing it all the time, eventually you’ll get your come-uppance and that's what happened on Saturday.

MA: The FIPS President, Claudio Matteoli, in his closing ceremony speech commented on the Russian team being victorious this weekend and that they were all young guys, I must admit I hadn’t particularly noticed until he said that. He’s right, all those guys do look young!

MD: I’ve had it on good assurance they are not as young as they look, some are in their thirties, they are not teenagers, but that said, cast your mind back to 1999 in Toledo, Spain when the Russians turned up basically on stools with 3 or 4 whips, they weren’t even in the race, they just turned up as a representative nation. Year in year out, every team, especially eastern european teams, have got stronger and stronger.

Nowadays, once you take the anglers away from the pegs, then walk along the bank, you cannot see any major differences between the equipment they are using. All these  eastern-europe sides, have now all got the equipment. A decade ago they never had anything, and they were fishing these venues all the time! It’s going to get tougher and tougher as the years go on.

MA: So next year it’s an even longer trip to Slovenia for the 15th European Championships!

MD: Looking forward to it, it looks like a good venue, given fair conditions and fair pegging we can win.

MA: Mark, many thanks for your time today and have a safe journey home.