England international shore angler Heather Lindfield has just returned from the World Shore Championships in Montenegro where the ladies turned in a fantastic silver medal winning performance. The beaches were tough to crack but hard work and unbreakable team spirit saw England’s women come good. Here’s Heather’s story of the championships.
Being selected to represent England at the World Shore Angling Championships is about as good as it gets. I love the buzz, the camaraderie and that deep sense of group achievement when all the hard work culminates in a successful result. Team selection is never a foregone conclusion however, and the torturous time spent waiting, hoping for that letter to drop through the letterbox is always nerve-wracking…perhaps more so than the actual event itself. When my England ladies’ team confirmation letter for the 2009 event at Budva on the coast of Montenegro finally hit the carpet, relief and pride warred with excitement and trepidation in a strong emotional cocktail that I am sure all international anglers experience and try to channel.
Months were spent sourcing and assembling the correct tackle in readiness for what would be more than two weeks of non-stop graft under the Montenegrin sun facing the Adriatic Sea. Good preparation is paramount and more time yet was spent on the telephone and Internet gleaning as much pertinent information as possible. The kitchen became a bombsite with tackle everywhere as I divided my efforts between precision rig building and preparing dozens of frozen meals so that my other half, Bill wouldn’t starve while I was gone.
Fellow team member Pauline Ferry arrived three days prior to leaving and more hours were dedicated to fine tuning terminal tackle. Pauline has been an inspiration for many years and we became best friends when I first joined the team in 2002. When not fishing, Pauline and I are constantly guilty of larking around and laughing ourselves hoarse – acting our ages certainly wouldn’t be half as much fun!
The car was crammed full of gear. There was barely room enough to breathe as we travelled to Gatwick and the prospect of a night in the plush Ramada Hotel before flying out to Dubrovnik the day after. We set off in high spirits only for me to crash the car three miles from my front door! Now, this is my first motoring dunt in 30 years so no ‘women driver’ quips thank you very much. Luckily no one was hurt and we limped back home to an astonished Bill Lindfield.
We had a spare number plate, but replacing the windscreen cracked by our rod tubes when I slammed on the brakes was another matter. Numerous phone calls were made to no avail. Bill said: “A little crack wouldn’t stop me driving to a match!” Wimping out wasn’t an option, so we taped up the damaged glass and left.
This time we arrived safely at the Ramada Hotel. We joined team mates Sheryl, Adele, Avril, Janet and our manager, Stuart the following day, and flew into Dubrovnik in darkness. A tiny transfer bus was waiting to transport us and a mountain of kit across the border into Montenegro and our final destination Budva. We travelled for two uncomfortable hours like trussed chickens with legs wrapped round our necks. The route followed the coastline and even contorted in darkness the aspect was one of outstanding natural beauty – something that daylight would soon confirm. We arrived at the team hotel just the right side of midnight, decanting gear into small and basic rooms that would be home for the next fortnight.
Despite just a few hours sleep we were out practising on Slovenska beach (one of four beaches used in the World Championships) first thing in the morning. Getting up at 5am and fishing one or other of the championship beaches hard for 6 – 7hrs quickly emerged as our practice routine. The evenings were no less intense, and spent tweaking tackle and game plans.
Glorious weather blessed the first week, providing fantastic conditions for snorkelling along the beaches and a spot of underwater reconnaissance. The seabed supported all kinds of colourful life. Mediterranean breams, wrasse, garfish, mullet, comber, weaver, mormyrus and dorado were the target fish, while mussel, shrimp and squid baits were the baits provided to catch them. The scorching weather did have a buzzing downside -WASPS! I’ve never seen so many of the damn things. They were attracted in droves by our baits, and I lost count of the times we were mercilessly stung. But we had no choice other than to ignore the stinging demons and stay on task.
By contrast, thunder, lightning and teaming rain prevailed over the weekend before the official practice and start of the Championships. However, with the wet opening ceremony behind us, attention turned fully to the fishing ahead. There would be five separate matches contested by 14 countries, with the first – the official practice – kicking off at 9am on Monday.
Official practice match
7am Monday saw us gathered at Jaz beach waiting for the officials to appear and peg the practice zones. The wind was bad as we huddled in the car park and we watched a 60ft tree uprooted. We gathered that something was amiss when, by 8am, no one else had bothered to turn up. On return to the event HQ we discovered that the match had been postponed. The decision disappointed the England team as we believed the venue remained fishable in the offshore blow. We also felt the conditions favoured our anglers with the continental teams possibly struggling…but it was only a practice.
The weather improved on Tuesday and the rescheduled official practice session got underway at Slovenska in front of the Championship hotel. Refined tackle was key. We used 0.12 – 0.18mm hook lengths on 2 – 5mtr rig bodies. It didn’t help that the men’s matches preceded ours on the same beaches, effectively cleaning out many of the resident fish. We soon knew that catching fish would not be as easy as had had been in our previous week of practice. I had done well on Slovenska to date and felt confident fishing here. Although I wanted to catch a few fish to maintain momentum, team thinking was to play our cards close and not reveal too much of our real match tactics to any opposition eyes. I decided to ignore all that had been learned, and to fish the beach as I might back home.
I thought the ‘home’ rigs would have proved too heavy, but that is not how it worked out. I took fish steadily and changed to other rigs with ‘thick’ line in the hope that I wouldn’t catch too many fish. The confounding result was that I continued to catch and won the zone without meaning to. Unfortunately, results achieved in practice count for nowt, and I hoped this would not come back to haunt me later in the week.
World Championships: Day 1
Sveti Stefan is a beach that is rocky in parts going to sand. I was happy to be pegged on a stretch I had pre-fished, but disappointed at the lack of fish. I could see fish being caught but I struggled despite working my socks off. I am not the strongest caster and worried that I might not be achieving the necessary distance, but then I saw anglers taking fish at 30 – 40yds – there was no set pattern that I could read. Over the years I have learned not to panic, and I plodded on determined to get as many points for the team cause as I possibly could. I finished up 5th in section but things could have been worse.
World championship teams consist of five anglers, one reserve and the team manager. The points system allows for one of the five score to be dropped, with the best four individual results being tallied each day to determine the team score. When all the results were collated England ladies occupied 6th place overall.
Jaz beach was the venue and we knew it would be the scratchiest of all the beaches. It was rocky for the most part, with two zones pegged on largely featureless sand. We had spent three practice seasons on Jaz, in the knowledge that we were scheduled to fish here twice in the Championships.
I drew the sand. Fish were even scarcer in the event proper and many anglers were staring a blank in the face. I worked my way through the whole team rig and bait repertoire with little to show and was beginning to despair. Practice had determined that there were a few small weavers, but those had come from parts of the beach with obvious features. With my options pretty much exhausted, I went back to basics with rigs that I would have used on the Wirral. Bingo! After ages without a bite, the switch brought a weaver almost immediately. I could of kissed the spiky little b*****d.
The Croatian girl pegged next to me had slaughtered me on day one, and lead the zone with two fish. I persisted with the basic approach and ended on three weavers for a precious zone win. Pauline and Sheryl also won their sections, with Avril turning in a 3rd place. This collective performance gave us the day win and pushed England up to the Silver position. The mood in the camp that evening could not have been more buoyant.
I was pegged number 2 in Zone B on Becici beach for day 3. Off to my left, a good fish came out second cast, which was a little disconcerting when small fish were the norm.
There was definitely more fish activity at the left-hand end. Four pegs down, a girl was pulling one fish in after another, while there was absolutely nothing being caught around me. I strained to see the type of rig she was using and could only make out that it was very short. I put one together quickly and started catching right away. Knowing I had quite a bit of pulling back to do I just had to keep working. Despite hoping hard for a bonus big fish it never came. I finished up second in the section, satisfied that I had done as well as I could.
Sheryl had a fantastic day win, while Pauline and Adele recorded section wins that collectively put us in the Gold medal position. The camp was ecstatic, but we knew we would have to perform again if we were to stay in the medals.
It was at least 2:15pm by the time we got back to our hotel each day. We would rush some food then gather for a team meeting to discuss/plan next day tactics. After that, it was back to the rooms where tackle boxes were up-ended, trashed rigs discarded and get the next batch ready. Reels would be re-spooled, more hooklengths tied…. the list goes on. Tasks would be completed by around 7:30pm, after which you might just be lucky enough to get some warm water for a shower, before the evening meal and bed at 10:00pm – international fishing is no jolly!
Slovenska Plaza was the venue for the final match. Originally this last day was to be fished at Jaz, but the location was altered the evening before for reasons that were unclear. The Plaza was a mixture of rocky and sandy areas across the zones.
I was on peg D2 and all the action was coming to the Croatian girl on D7. I was casting the same distance but not catching. I tried everything that had worked previously but steadily fell further behind. I felt awful and could only picture the Gold medals being prised from our grasp as the hours unfolded.
Two fish were the sum total of perhaps the toughest session of my international fishing life. The girl to my left had blanked, and another three anglers to my right had also suffered the same fate. I was depressed but quietly thankful for the two little fish that spared me from a similar nightmare.
All of us left the beach deflated and unsure of the final outcome. Sheryl had a section 4th, I finished 7th, with Avril and Adele both 8th in their sections. The next couple of hours spent waiting for the final results, seemed to last forever. When the news was finally delivered we were disappointed to have missed out on the Gold medal, but delighted on the other hand to have achieved the Silver medal on a really testing set of beaches. This World Championship medal is a first for the England ladies in these types of waters.
A scurrying hour later saw us showered and dressed for the presentation ceremony. Having those Silver medals placed around our necks was a very emotional experience that I shall never forget. I was proud of everyone in the team and unashamed tears rolled down my face as I stood straight-backed while the national anthem played.
Sheryl had also won individual Silver and we were doubly thrilled for her. She was grinning like a Cheshire cat as she straightened with the medal in place. Sheryl had worked tirelessly for the team and had got her just rewards. Well done that girl.
It was a hard-working and solid team performance from everyone involved. We arrived on the beaches an hour before anyone else, and no one complained at an itinerary that had us fishing 11 out of 13 days. As a team, we worked without letting up and figured out how to fish those difficult beaches ourselves, without outside assistance or interference – and it worked.
I cannot finish without mentioning our manager Stuart, and Janet our reserve. I would like to thank them for their tireless and invaluable work of relaying information along the beaches. Janet carried on uncomplainingly even after breaking her toes during practice – what a star! Many thanks also to Snows Timber for providing over £1000 of sponsorship for essential minibus hire.
Overall team results
Overall individual results