The tiny River Savinja was a raging torrent for much of our stay and played its part in changing the main rivers colour... as you can clearly see!The tiny River Savinja was a raging torrent for much of our stay and played its part in changing the main rivers colour... as you can clearly see! Saturday Overview
Well, once more a poor day one would cost England dear, but then how many teams are capable of re-analysis and amending what was basically a mis-calculation of the conditions, for it was the conditions which proved England's undoing, not their technique or catch rate.

To understand this, you need to look at the area where the championships were held. Slovenia is one of the most beautiful and heavily wooded countries in Europe, ranked third in density behind Sweden and Finland. It's main river, the Sava, runs from Northern Slovenia, through it's capital Ljubljana and down through Croatia towards its junction with the mighty Danube at Belgrade, Serbia's capital city.

Fed by its mountainous northern border, the river is susceptible to peaks and troughs in rainfall and although a constant level is controlled in its lower Slovenian reaches, around Radece, by Hydro power plants, it's still affected by pace and colour. This can be seen quite dramatically by the view of the River Savinja joining the Sava, just a few kilometres above the match length. What is unusual in our understanding of this situation is this colour does not filter in quite as evenly as you would imagine. One can clearly see 'blotches' of dark chocolate mingling between the green of the main rivers flow, as each tries to dominate the other. It's this colour which has such an affect on the fishing, not the pace, which really doesn't increase that much.

Our flight to Trieste in Italy was some 2hrs+ driving from the venue and my two associates (soon to be nervous ones), Lee Kerry and Rob Hewison, were making their debuts as official site reporters. Both highly skilled anglers, their input and knowledge would prove invaluable to the site. Their presence was also an added bonus to manager Mark Downes limited personnel resource. Rob, as many of our more 'senior' visitors may remember, use to be a 'fixture and fitting' in the now defunct Image Blackhorse squad of the 80's and 90's, perhaps one of the finest canal teams in the country. Lee, by contrast, is a mere 'baby' but has risen to the peak of the game with his inclusion in the crack northern side, Maver Barnsley, as well as securing valuable sponsorship with Preston Innovations. As an added bonus, he's also 'bussom buddies' with 5x World Champ Alan Scotthorne! These two would be my eyes and ears in sections B, C and D for the whole tournament as I drew the spaced out sections, A and E.

During England's first week, prior to the official practice week, the team had been 'dabbling' just off the match length and been taking bags up to 10 kilos. Darren Cox in particular had the fish of a lifetime, a 4lb 6oz roach... yes ROACH. That's equates to TWO KILOS, for our continental visitors. Things were looking good for the squad.

Boxed in
On commencement of the official practice week, all teams are allocated what are termed 'boxes' for each of the practice days. These are numbered 1 through to 25, as there were initially 25 teams competing. Unfortunately these numbers were disrupted by the late arrival of Portugal and FYR Macedonia, so some quick re-structuring of the areas was called for and a bit of tight pegging 'off' sector were called for. The box numbers were linked directly to the sections, i.e., Boxes 1-5 where in A section, some distance away downstream. Boxes 6-20 spanned sections B to D. Finally Boxes 21-25 would take in section E upstream of the main road bridge.

After a highly successful practice week, England were coming out favourites, with Hungary, Italy and Belgium in close attendance. Host nation Slovenia was expecting great things. An element of doubt still surrounded whether France could put years of poor results behind them and finally come good. Current Euro Champs Russia, would undoubtedly not go down without a fight and they have some impressive anglers in their squad to ensure this happens. Serbia too would be a threat, along with Holland and Germany. But one thing was clear, the river was stuffed with roach, nase and vimba so any team which couldn't get to grips with these, may well fall away from any expected results. It was also apparent that this river was not like last year's in the Czech Republic. Big fish would figure, but they wouldn't dominate. Another factor relating to the river's colour was that the bolognese would definitely not work. This required clear water and the Sava was not going to oblige! It would be pole... and pole only! That said, there was one more element which would have a bearing on this and that was depth. The whole length varied between 3m and 9m, dependant where you were of course and what lines you wanted to fish so choosing the right line would be dependant on depth. Steve Gardener's E21 had little variation so two lines would have been largely ineffective whereas some pegs in D section saw 8-9 metres at 13m and 3-4m on a shorter line.

It's often reported that England are the comeback kings, chiefly by myself, and this year proved no exception. Having been soundly trounced by Hungary, who produced one of their best results ever, they'd set themselves up with an almost guaranteed Gold medal slot. Lets face it THREE sections wins and TWO seconds doesn't get much better! It was now Hungary's to lose!

What proved England's undoing on day one was the lack of knowledge regarding the far line at 13 metres. This had been largely ignored because practice sessions had not revealed anything of significance coming from it. The Hungarians however had been on the river for a couple of months prior and had obviously got to know it moods much better that England. They freely admitted that they couldn't keep pace with England when it came to catching small fish, so opted for the gamble of setting out a stall for the rivers quality fish. This proved inspired, if not fortunate, as the river's condition played directly into their hands on day one and they forged well clear of the whole field with an outstanding result. Other teams had followed a similar path, but for whatever reason they hadn't maximised their particular draws.

England had relied on lighter 1.5 to 3gr river floats, with size 17/18 hooks to 0.10mm and double bloodworm, whereas Hungary for example, had put on heavier lollipops, like the Cralusso Torpedo's and nailed size 14's hooks to 0.17mm to the deck with four maggots!

Their initial groundbait mix had only Terre de Riviere included... NO bait was added to this mix! Their top-ups relied purely on stickymag balls with gravel. England's in comparison were positively small fish focussed. Individual groundbait mixes varied, dependent on what each angler was comfortable with. For instance, Alan used 2kg River, 2kg Gros Gardons and 20% Terre de Riviere. Then added dead maggots, casters and 250ml of joker. His top-ups were the same mix and he didn't use stickymag on the far line. Steve Gardener in contrast opted for a simple 50/50 mix of groundbait and Terre de Riviere because he felt that the fish had had enough of rich-feed over the practice weeks. This was something we covered in our double leam article with Steve.

The draw itself didn't seem too bad for England and apart from William and Alan's returns from sections A and B respectively, England had a relatively good session, but nothing like the incredible score that Hungary posted. Day two would be a make or break for the lads and the question was 'would the river conspire to push them out of the medals?' With Gold realistically beyond their reach, the minor placings offered something to take back home, so Sunday would take on a different attack strategy. There was also the small matter of individual glory with Steve Hemingray posting a 1 point for his win in section D.

Didn't they do well!
Special mention must be made of the home side Slovenia and the achievement they made in finishing just half a point behind England's first day score. For a country of few anglers to have a team capable of reaching this position in such exalted company, albeit on just one day, would have been a great boost to their international credibility and fully justified. Another team worthy of mention were the Belgians. Their record in these European Championships is second to none, especially their skill in catching small fish... freely acknowledged by England's manager Mark Downes, as FAST! Their performance will set them up nicely for the forthcoming World Champs in Holland. Team manager Roland Marcq has a wry, if not coy, smile when asked about his teams chances there! They will be a major player for podium positions.

Our next overview will cover the final day, but in the meantime we will be adding loads of slideshows featuring anglers from the many participating countries, a new presentation approach for us which we hope you will enjoy (we have over 200 photos lined up already for Saturday's section). We also have special video interviews with the new European Champion Steve Hemingray, Hungary's Szilard Magyar and an audio interview with England's Mark Downes... all to come over the next two weeks so there's plenty to keep your interest.

Don't forget we shall also be featuring a special in-depth look at Alan Scotthorne in his run-up to the weekend by his Barnsley team mate Lee Kerry.

How about this for a clubhouse. Local organising club Ribiski Dom Radece had this fantastic three story 'Fishing House' built as the Hydro plant was being constructed. I believe it cost them very little! Their 100+ members now have somewhere to put their feet up when the weather turns nasty. Now would that happen in UK... I THINK NOT!