As if teams had not seen enough twists in this roller-coaster weather affected event, Saturday evening produced another downpour which would yet again influence tactics. This time England were ready and in no mood to throw away the opportunity to recover their disappointing 4th place position into some form of silverware, albeit it the unlikely gold spot they so dearly coveted! They would have to be on top form to improve and pull away from a hungry chasing pack of at least 7 teams behind them, capable of taking a medal. Could Hungary hold their nerve and secure a first ever Championship win? Belgium, who have been the most successful team in European Championship's since it was first introduced in 1995, also have their sights are firmly set on the podium as well... Sunday would indeed be a Day of Reckoning for some!

A small Sunday Nobfest!
As expected, the main river had coloured up right through the match length and England were more than confident of a good result. As Rob Hewison commented, after he'd been taken to the section D by Alan Scotthorne. Alan of course had been substituted as lowest scorer on day one, which gave Darren Cox the opportunity to fish. Rob continues, “as Alan was driving me round to Steve Hemingray's section, which he would be covering, he said, “England will win it today, it’ll be a small nobfest!!!” Once I'd stopped laughing, I realised that England's confidence was based on the river's darker colour and more consistent distribution, something which was sorely lacking on day one.” Rob concluded, “Alan's words would eventually prove quite prophetic!”

We shall be giving Rob and Lee's view of the central meaty sections, B to D, later in this overview, but first I'll cover what turned out to be a close run thing in sections A and in particular E.

ONE car equals TWO sections!
I was left again with the two sections, A and E, to cover as I had the only car! It would be a busy day and one I'd be sorry to see finish, for my visit to Slovenia had been full of pleasure and new experiences, not least of which were my two fledgling reporters talking fishing, all-day and all-night. I assume it was all-night as they shared a room together and were still 'talking the talk' as we came down to breakfast! They were in their element!

I started off in E section where Stevie Gardener had drawn once more, this time three pegs off the top end. As Steve prepared I spoke to England coach Steve Sanders about the days outlook, who assured me that England had fully prepared for a long big fish line, they would not get caught out today! As we were to see in the dying minutes, this line would seal a close run section for Steve, one which contained some very dangerous opponents.

Everyone within my focal distance started to catch immediately, especially Steve, who initially had a few problems with loosely hooked fish coming off. It was, however, clear that his systematic build-up of the peg was being carried out methodically and with great style. To the untrained eye he was catching fish and feeding, just like everyone else, but to those of us who look beyond the basics, there was a machine-like smoothness which few, even at this level can equal. It's not that he was catching more fish, they all were, it was the manner in which he was doing it which impressed! You needed to be there to appreciate just how this looked. His section of 13 pegs was going to be tough and would later include, under the new section points system, the weight from peg 14. That was the Russian Sergey Federov... and he's no mug! Remember, the new section points for these championships involved using peg 14's weight as a POSITION ONLY factor within the second part of the section (pegs 15-27). Yes... I know it's confusing!!!

Bait Management
We mentioned Steve's methodical and systematic build-up of his peg. This is something many anglers in the UK simply do not place in the important position it deserves, while our continental cousins apply it all the time. This is down to TWO main factors:
  1. Bait Limits
  2. 3hr matches
Now you may think that what we do here in the UK follows a similar pattern... maybe, but it's still very rough round the edges! Continental matches are a perfect example of how to manage your bait on venues which, while containing plenty of fish, do not carry the volume of ravenous species which frequent the thousands of commercial fisheries in the UK. Bait management is perhaps the single, yet most important procedure an angler carries out during the course of a match, whether in the UK or abroad. Get it wrong and you'll either run out of bait and see fish leaving your peg in the crucial stages, or not use enough and find your swim contains fewer fish than those around you!

Anglers have to use what they consider the correct amount, of the stringently checked allocation of bait, during their initial pre-baiting period, a fixed feature on the continent. Then hopefully, enough has been kept in reserve, sufficient to maintain a consistent and balanced feeding strategy over the remaining three hours, not as simple as it seems. Perhaps this is something may look at more closely in a later feature!

Flat or Round?
Back on E section things were moving well and everyone was catching, albeit at different rates. I kept a close eye on current Euro Champ Günter Horler, who was some eight pegs away. If anyone could catch big fish then Günter's your man! Most were fishing flat floats between 3-6gr and nailing the bait, generally maggots as these were sorting out the better fish, to the deck. It was a ploy England were not using as they were 'tooled-up' with river floats of between 1.5-4gr to make the most out of their 'catch-all' policy. Which, incidentally, was being applied by near points rivals Belgium. As manager Mark Downes was to say later, “had it been a straight fight between us and the Belgians, it would have been a very close contest, as both teams were on the ball when it came to catching small fish.”

It was getting time to leave for A section as I'd heard on the grapevine that Hungary's Szilárd Magyar was not catching... and he was in Sean Ashby's part of the section... could this prove Hungary's undoing? The thought did flash across my mind.

Arriving at the bottom end of A section (high numbers), after an exhilarating drive up the mountain road (or very big hill) I walked past the likes of Italy's Ballabeni and Frances' Capoulade, towards the first part of Sean's section, who was on peg 12. His progress was good and it was apparent that he was well up in the section. Szilárd, who was two pegs away, was, as I'd heard, clearly struggling and about to make change of strategy! (see video interview) I wandered towards the beginning of the section to see one of Holland's top performers, Dieter Friederichs on peg 6. As on day one and all through practice week, Dieter was coming up with the goods, despite his team mates jibes about his good looks, today was no exception. A section had been one of the most consistently 'poor' sections with the odd quality roach, carassio and vimba coming to big fish tactics of maggot. Small fish seem to be more hard to come by. Sean was nevertheless enjoying some success over his near section rivals, fishing England's standard 'catch-all' policy, as well as employing their new 'big-fish' 13m line to good effect.

I left A section after half an hour, having arranged with my good friend Henrik Moscari, to take some appropriate catch-shots for me of Sean and Szilárd at the end as it was very difficult to cover both E and A successfully. If you're not close by after the weigh-in, the anglers you want to photograph sometimes forget and tip their nets back... no names mentioned!

Returning to E section, I found the situation similar to the one I'd left. All were catching well, but it was clear Stevie G was looking the best. His next door opponent, Poland's long established star, Zbigniew Milewski, was enjoying some success at maximum distance. He'd been focusing on maggot and was picking up some decent fish. Italy's Jacopo Falsini was also keeping up with the pace, but would marginally slacken off towards the end of the 3 hours. Germany's Günter Horler kept putting some good fish in the net, but his catch rate was well down to that of Steve's. Dutchman Arjan Klop was another who kept up a good momentum. Others in the section were dropping behind, including Hungary's Tamas Walter. This looked like good news for England at this stage, for if they could push Hungary further down in their respective sections, along with a few others, England may resurrect some glimmer of hope regarding a more glittering medal! The last hour would be crucial to this, as well as other factors elsewhere.

While I watched this final hour unfold, I could hear Mark on Steve Sanders' radio saying that Sean was still in front on A section. My reliance in friend Henrik would not be misplaced and I would have the section winners catch shot, along with the other requested subjects, delivered to my hotel room later that evening!

As the minutes ticked away Steve's battle, with next door neighbour Zbigniew, was becoming more acute. Both Steve Sanders and myself had Stevie up there, but it still needed to be sealed. Steve shouted down to Stevie to try the long line with 45 minutes renaining on the clock. First fish was a small vimba coming to Steve's double bloodworm, followed by a number of smaller fish. With just a few minutes remaining, Steve put on double white maggot and immediately conected with a better size fish followed by another. There was just a couple of minutes left now and when the float sank Steve hooked what would be a defining moment in his quest for section points. It was obviously a decent fish and as Steve brought it towards the surface it 'kited' to his left and towards him. A stroke of luck saw the fish, a carassio of around a pound (500gr), almost jump into his net. Steve Sanders was quick to 'quip' “there's still time for another one Steve!” On what was to become an interesting weigh-in, this fish would seal Steve's position in the section.

Now, while the 27 peg section had been split into two, one of 14 and the other 13 pegs, it was still weighed in the old way i.e., from peg 1. As I decided to remain in Steve's half of the section I was unaware of Frances' Stephane Linder's narrow win from Belgium's Guido Nullens. France had come good with at least two of their newer imports while Belgium was keeping up the pressure on England for that silver medal position.

Key players in our section were Dutchman Klop, Germany's Horler, Hungarian Walter and Italy's Falsini. All could pose a threat to Steve's and England's final position. I followed the scales as they weighed each of these anglers respectively. Pegs prior to the Dutchman had not shown anything of significance, but Arjan took a clear lead when the scales hit 5.810kg! Next door neighbour Günter posted 5.440kg and was clearly disappointed. Tamas followed two pegs later with another disappointing return, just 5.280kg. It was now left to Italy's Falsini to register any credible challenge to the Dutchman... and as yet to weigh, Stevie. The scales stopped at 5.750kg, Arjan was still in front. Peg 24 posted just 5.270kg then it was Steve's turn. The scales were zero'd and an apprehensive Steve carried his catch towards them... it looked good to me. As the scales stopped at 6.460 it looked all 'cut n' dry' with two pegs left to weigh.

Poland's Zbigniew next door brought his net to the scales... this looked very close indeed. But wait. As he tipped his fish into the weigh sling, not only did some quality fish appear, but a sh**load of gravel, which had been used for weighing down stickymag in the deep water of the Sava. A flurry of surprise and indignation swept the assembled officials and assorted onlookers as the embarrassed angler was instructed to clean away the offending gravel.

Right: After several minutes of shifting the fish and gravel through a landing net, the catch was deemed eligible to weigh. As the scales settled, it was extremely tense as the final weigh registered 6.410kgs... Steve had taken the section by just 50 grams. Steve was quick to state that he believed Zbigniew was an honourable man and no underhand tactics had been employed. It was obvious that Zbigniew had unwittingly dropped small amounts of gravel into the net as he topped-up during the course of the match. The final peg of Denmark's Rikard Jensen was 4.600kg. That last gasp carassio had sealed Steve's section win and set England on a, hopeful, medal course.

However the drama did not end there! Following the scales are managers and runners from the surrounding represented nations, including Luxembourg, who thought that the scales had not been correctly zero'd for his man. Fortunately, these internationals have a safeguard procedure built-in which ensures that all competitors catches are returned to the keepnet after the first weigh-in, until the whole section has been weighed and catches verified. Then, and only then, is the order to return fish given by the chief FIPSed section scales adjudicator, in this case Holland's Jan Van Schendel. There had obviously been some form of objection from Luxembourg so the scales returned to peg 15, 17 and 18 for a re-weigh. Having been satisfied that the original weigh-in was 'good', Jan gave the order to return fish. It's a good and fair system, if not sometimes time-consuming, but in three hour matches it really has little effect.

I had left Rob in charge to cover middle sections B, C and D, along with Lee, who was doubling-up as England's extra bank runner. Rob now takes up the story of these sections:

The meat in the sandwich!
As I arrived near the middle of D section, I could plainly see where the England lads had drawn. Steve Hemingray (D2) and Darren Cox (C27) had only one angler between them... D1! This was a far from ideal situation because if the area turned out to be 'pants', then they would both be in deep trouble! As Alan and I looked at the respective pegs, it became apparent that Steve’s was good compared to those above him in his section, due to a much steadier pace, Darren's end peg 27 on the other hand, looked by far the deepest, in comparison to the rest of his section. In fact the peg below (C26) was nearly a metre shallower!

On B section Will Raison had drawn B17, two pegs below Alan’s Saturday peg, and with the extra colour really he fancied it for some fish. Belgium's danger man Eric Di Venti, who was just two pegs above him, was fancied to catch some small fish after his teams tremendous display the day before. In between was Ferruccio Gabba from Italy... this was going to be some three-peg battle! Will debated which was the best line and eventually settled on 9.5m, or seven sections of pole. Gabba next door fed at 11m, whilst Di Venti opted for six sections and 11m.

As the match got underway it was soon apparent that the Belgians were flying, feeding this slightly shorter line 6 pole section line with smaller balls of feed every chuck, they were obviously going for broke on numbers. Will had started quite well, as had Darren and Steve. We'd heard that Sean was bagging in A section and Stevie G was holding his own in E, so all was looking good. However, the Belgians catch rate appeared to be rising. John Raison, who running Will's section, was on the radio suggesting that Di Venti was well ahead of his son, because he was catching much faster. I went for a look and decided that in general, Will looked to be putting a slightly better stamp of fish in the net... in my opinion, it would be a close run contest. Gabba seemed to be just holding his own. Steve Hemingray was making good use of his slightly slower-paced peg in C section and was catching fish regularly at 6 sections.

Darren Cox was also catching, but it looked like the rest of his section were just as productive, in fact 45 minutes into the match, I noticed a big crowd behind Czech angler Jan Heidenreich, whom I had seen catch a massive bream in training. It turned out that this time he'd hooked a big carp and that it had been on for over 30 minutes. The crowd continued to swell as news spread along the bank. It proved a marathon event and the now swelled gallery, roared as he netted it with 11m of pole in the air... some ONE HOUR and FIVE MINUTES after first hooking it. It looked to be well over 5 KILOS and pretty much won Darren's section on it’s own. Being so overjoyed in the achievement of hooking this beast on such light tackle, Jan paraded the fish up the bank to display it more clearly to the assembled and considerably over-sized audience, much to their delight! Things almost went embarrassingly wrong when Jan tried to return it to the net and nearly missed!!!

Darren's peg was now showing clear signs of deterioration and he would eventually struggle on to weigh 4.260kgs for just 7pts, in what proved a poor peg in the section. Steve Hemingray on the other hand was now flying. His excellent form all week had continued and he would take the section by an easy kilo margin from the 'classy' Czech angler Josef Konopasek. His  5.910kg winning section weight placed him in the forefront for an individual medal, which was later confirmed as GOLD, a superb achievement from one of England's rising affable stars.

Talk on the bank grapevine was about the terrific battle between Will and Eric Di Venti and not forgetting Gabba in between them. In the end Will recorded 179 fish to Eric's 217, however, Eric only just won the section by 100 grams, showing that Will’s fish were generally bigger. Gabba was fourth on 6.53kg dropping a welcomed additional point on his England man! The first part of B section (numbers 1-14) saw one of Hungary's star players from day one, József Varga, put in a late charge with some good carassio on the long pole to win his section with 8.52kg and secure an individual silver medal for the event.

Meanwhile, up in D section, Luxembourg’s Rene Stronck was putting the finishing touches to what had been an excellent performance over the two days. Having won his section on Saturday, he finally finished second to Holland's impressive newcomer, Stefan Altena, securing himself a well deserved individual bronze.

In the end England’s ultimate third place was a good performance, despite not being the whitewash that many predicted following training. The Hungarians fished to their individual strengths and scored phenomenally well on day one, consolidating on day two to take the team title. In fact Szilárd gives a more in-depth video interview on the site (see contents page).

My overriding memories of this event have been the fantastic venue, the superb camaraderie between the top teams and, in particular, the enthusiasm and dedication of those less experienced in the field. There were of course personal team and individual battles all down the leader board, like Denmark trying to become the best of the 'Nordic' nations by beating Sweden and Finland. Unfortunately they fell short by just one point of arch rivals Sweden, but they did beat Finland! They will no doubt resume this 'blood-free' rivalry in Holland, come September!

Technically it's been fascinating to watch the various approaches of teams and to witness their slightly different thinking. I'm sure I have learned a great deal from my privileged position as an England 'insider', but equally from my newly acquired skill as an unbiased (reasonably) reporter  when it comes to looking at other teams on behalf of

One final observation (and I know this has been mentioned before), that along with Russia, eastern European teams really are looking quite dangerous. Teams who have struggled of late for some sort of form, in particular France, are going to finding it increasingly more difficult to move up the rankings. Even the higher rated teams are looking over their shoulders at these would-be wannabe's!

Hope to see you all again... roll on Holland in September.'s overall impression:
On the team front, England had put in a magnificent performance to win on the final day... as predicted by Alan Scotthorne. Unfortunately it just fell short of what they needed to secure a silver medal. Steve Hemingray's performance in securing an individual gold medal was outstanding in the face of some very high pressure competition and displayed a cool and clinical approach throughout the two day event. The Belgians perhaps proved the most consistent team over two days with scores of 19 and 14 points respectively, and equally, the most difficult to overhaul. They thoroughly deserved their silver medal placing, having managed to catch small fish close in on both days, despite the rivers fluctuating colour. They are going to be a major thorn in any teams' plan for a medal in Holland.

Needless to say, Hungary confirmed their gold medal status with an accomplished second day performance to fend off the powerful late surge of both Belgian and English teams. Whether they come away with anything in Holland remains to be seen, after freely admitting their lack of ability in catching small fish quickly. If bream show in any numbers on the Lage Vaart, then who knows! Holland came through late to displace Italy for fourth spot and must seriously fancy their chance on home soil come September. Italy may feel disappointed, but they apparently did not learn anything new from day one, unlike England and Holland and therefore paid the price. Defending champions Russia showed that last year's win was no 'flash in the pan' with a solid sixth place.

France turned round an appalling day one performance, by their historic standards, to recover to a respectable seventh place. The surprise of the tournament for me was how Germany and Serbia fared. I fully expected a higher position from both these excellent sides, I'm sure that we still have yet to see the best from both. Wales picked up the pace from a poor day one and improved to 12th spot

My final thoughts go to Slovenia. This is a small country of few anglers and their first day's performance was exceptional having pushed to within half a point of Drennan Team England. I'm just disappointed, like them, that they couldnt maintain a higher final position. The Sava is one hell of a river. I for one would not object to fishing here every week... just like our fortunate friend Gido! Nevertheless, well done Slovenia, I think you put on a very creditable event, I hope we see you stage another one soon!