International Canal & River Trust lure fishing challenge

Eric Edwards recounts how the International Canal & River Trust lure fishing challenge first got off the ground and its subsequent growth. He also explains how you can take part in 2020.

Inaugural Lure Fishing team 2015

European Union enlargement

Way back in 2004, the enlargement of the European Union meant that 10 new countries joined the European Union. Their countrymen became eligible to move to any member state to live and work. As we know, many came to the UK, particularly Polish people, but also many Lithuanians, Latvians and other nationalities.

It's fair to say that the appearance of these newcomers on the banks of our rivers, canals and lakes brought a mixed reaction from the angling public. Some of them brought with them customs that didn’t fit well with the British way of fishing, particularly the habit of taking the catch home to eat. (Remember, in the UK we catch and release our fish.) At some locations, friction soon developed between the indigenous anglers and the new wave.

Law abiding majority

Many migrant anglers were, however, keen to fit in and soon adopted the traditional British fishing ways, even converting their friends in the process. The fact is that while there are still a small number of migrant anglers who illegally take fish, the majority are law-abiding anglers who don’t. But the good news is rarely publicised and so who gets to hear about it? Understanding between the two camps has been slow to develop.

Angling Trust initiative

Our governing body, Angling Trust, took the initiative and developed the Building Bridges project. This is very much aimed at integrating migrant anglers into mainstream UK angling. Building Bridges was headed up by Poland’s Radoslaw Papiewski and Patrycja Bury, along with Martynas Pranaitis who hails from the Baltic state of Lithuania. It was in support of this excellent initiative that the Canal & River Trust International Lure Challenge came about.

Inaugural event

The competition was started in 2015 on what turned out to be a bitterly cold, wet and windy day in the May of that year when England met Poland on the banks of the Pike Angler’s Club’s controlled Lancaster Canal fishery. Fourteen English anglers were soundly beaten by 14 Polish anglers. Although England did at least produce the individual best angler on the day, Poland stormed to a thumping victory and took home the handsome annual trophy, which had been kindly donated by the Trust.

The 2016 event

It was agreed that the competition in 2016 would be fished on a different canal venue. A stretch of the Grand Union Canal controlled by the Lure Angler’s Canal Club was chosen as the venue. The event was organised by the very capable Patrycja Bury and was advertised far and wide. As a result, it became a much larger event with teams from four different countries; England, Poland, Lithuania and Romania taking part.

Nearly 80 anglers lined the towpath and conditions could not have been more different from the previous competition with a cloudless sky and temperatures soaring to 26 degrees Celsius. These are not especially good conditions for catching predatory fish on lures.

Interest in the event took us by surprise and we had something of a hiccup when we realised that we didn’t have enough space to park all the cars that would be brought by such a big field. Fortunately, the Trust’s John Ellis stepped in and helped us to negotiate a large parking area with an adjacent landowner.

2016 International Lure Fishing Challenge Team

Integration

The event went fantastically well and with a great spirit of co-operation. The anglers were put into pairs, each angler fishing with another of a different nationality and they were to mark their catches on a scoresheet which was then ratified by a signature from their partner. The system worked seamlessly. Not only was it equitable and fair but it also made people of different backgrounds, nationalities and customs work together towards a common aim. By the end of the day, many new Facebook friends were made, and new partnerships struck. It was the most perfect way to raise understanding of one another’s culture.

Poland retain their crown

Once again Poland won the day in the team event, thus retaining the Canal & River Trust trophy. For the second year in a row the top individual angler was an Englishman. The results were as follows:

Individual

  • First - Leo Heathcote, England, 174 points
  • Second - Stefan Catalina, Romania, 165 points
  • Third - Robert Mulawa, Poland, 163 point

Team

  • First - Poland, 721 points
  • Second - Romania, 466 points
  • Third - England, 407 points
  • Fourth - Lithuania, 264 points

2017 event

The Gloucester & Sharpness Canal was the venue for the 2017 event. For those who don’t know it, it is not a typical canal for it has an average depth of 15 foot plus and is up to 40 metres wide. It was a time for English celebration as they took the title for the first time ahead of Poland with the Lithuanian team in third spot. Individually Stephen Collett recorded a memorable victory mostly comprising small perch for 1,045 points ahead of Jakub Potrykus (834 points) and Nick Marlow (457 points).

2018 event

It was a return to the Grand Union Canal around Long Itchington for the 2018 event. The fishing turned out to be quite challenging. The England team retained the title with Romania the closest challengers taking runners up spot with Poland in third place. The top three individuals were Richard Haines on 165 points, Jacob Stone with 155 points and Daniel Everitt 154 points.

2019 event

This year’s event was held on the Coventry Canal with the support of Tusses Lure division. Two new nations, Russia and Hungary were represented for the first time and 125 anglers lined the bank in what was probably the biggest match of the weekend in the UK. Romania took the title for the first time. The full results are:

1st - Romania: 1564 cm with average score: 62.56 (25 people)
2nd - Poland: 1514 cm with average score: 60.56 (25 people)
3rd - England: 1313 cm with average score: 52.52 (25 people)
4th - Hungary: 323 cm with average score: 40.37 (8 people)
5th - Lithuania: 269 cm with average score: 33.62 (8 people)
6th - Bulgaria: 224 cm with average score: 24.88 (9 people)
7th - Russia: 486 cm with average score: 20.25 (24 people)

Individual winners:

1st place: 227 points Marian Olărean
2nd place: 162 points Bogdan Florea
3rd place: 160 points Hay Felix

Biggest fish of the day:

Zander: 54 cm Alin Rupa
Pike: 67 cm Yankov Petar
Perch: 38 cm Litvjakov Deniss

Looking forward to 2020 and beyond

There is no reason why other East European nations such as Estonia, Latvia, Ukraine to name but a few should not enter a team in future years. Of course, all the home nations are equally welcome to get involved too.

Please do get in touch if you would like to find out more about how your nation can take part in 2020 and we will pass your details on. Email fisheries@canalrivertrust.org.uk.

Last date edited: 23 October 2019