This is the story of 12 year old Charlie Drinkwater, who appears to be an emerging talent with wisdom beyond his years.
My first fishing trip
I first went fishing about three years ago, aged nine. I went carp fishing with my dad for 72 hours to Lynch Hill. The car journey down was filled with excitement. On arrival we selected a swim. The excitement of the possibility of big fish was great.
We cooked some food and savoured the atmosphere of that tranquil lake. In the early hours, we were awoken from our slumber by the sound of the buzzer, alas the fish dad hooked was eventually lost in a snag. Unfortunately, that was the only bite of the three day trip. As much as I enjoyed being out with dad, I just knew that wasn't the type of fishing for me.
What I wanted was bites and constant activity to keep my brain fully occupied. Fish size and species is irrelevant, just seeing the float going under was what I wanted. Dad understood, soon acquiring an elasticated six metre take apart pole.
Away we went with a pint of pinkies to the local pool. I started to catch perch, WOW I absolutely loved it. I was given an old seat box making fishing a lot more comfortable. Seeing that I was enjoying it, and was sending time studying fishing video's, my parents brought me a new box with pole bar, footplate and side tray and also an 11 metre pole.
Club match debut
Steve Wytton at Droitwich Tackle suggested I fish the adult Tuesday evening summer matches as long as a parent accompanied me. I arrived early, almost shaking with nervous anticipation ready for the draw. I'd never fished a match before and only knew a couple of people.
I set up one line (I only had one top kit then) catching a few of the pool's small carp that fought hard. Even though it was a match, the support, encouragement and advice I had from people really helped to calm my nerves.
I enjoyed it so much that I booked on to the following weeks event. Before long, dad brought me a new 13 metre pole with spare top kits and cupping kit. This was a game changer as I could really compete. By having more than one line to fish and being able to feed in accurately I started to get decent results and the occasional top three finish.
After that series ended I only went pleasure fishing. I missed the buzz of the draw and the weigh in, especially following the Reuben Heaton scales. By now I'd turned ten; the urge to go fishing was stronger than ever. I couldn't wait for the new summer evening series .
This changed my fishing life more than I could ever imagined. I was fishing against Rob Francis plus Tony and Joe Skinner. They'd pass on tips but what they probably didn't know was that if I was pegged near them, I would watch what they were doing. I'm sure this cost me missed bites on some matches, but I would then go and practice what I'd seen them doing. I wanted to try and win like I'd seen them do on many occasions.
I drew a peg next to Rob on one match. He said he was impressed with my attitude & ability, asking if I'd like to represent Sensas Smithy's Match Group. This really took me by surprise for it's an adults team who compete in the top national division. Could I really step up in matches and be able to perform beyond my age if needed on unknown venues? Only time would tell.
Canal circuit debut
I was fortunate to be mentored by Rob Francis, Sensas Smithy's captain who's pretty decent on canals. I liked the idea of natural venues and really having to think deeply to try and get the wary fish to take my bait. I learnt I had to scale down line diameter, shot size, and floats compared to what I'd used on the pool. I undertook more research watching people like Let's Fish coach Jason Cunningham and Dave Brown, who subsequently became 2021 national champion.
I entered my first canal match at Mildenham. I struggled to get my box set up correctly on my own. Stu Blunsom helped me out which calmed me down. I landed a few fish but I didn't do brilliantly. More importantly, I met Neil Chapman, Wayne Sharp and James Poulton who offered advice. I knew I could take this advice and use it during my next match.
Sensas spring league
I decided to enter the 2021 Sensas spring league on the Droitwich canal. This would be a real test for me with names like Rob Francis, Paul Murrin, Paul Bick, Mark Downes, Leon Blundell, Simon Christian all participating. My goal was to enjoy the occasion and try not to finish in last place. 72nd had entered, 71st position was my ambition.
I fished my heart out on all six rounds; my best result being on my last match finishing section runner up behind Tom Boulton earning valuable points. Back to the pub (for a coke) with the men. To my surprise I'd finished 42nd overall receiving a nice trophy for the best up and coming angler. This really spurred me on and gave me the confidence to fish in other big matches.
Additional canal experience
I've since picked up good section points to help my Smithy's team qualify for the teams of four Hankat final on the Dudley canal. I've also fished the Black Country championship and the Cavalier Cup on the Worcester Birmingham canal picking up good section points helping my team to third place overall. A few matches have proved ‘useful learning experiences' but we all have those now and again, don't we?
Joining evesham juniors
Rob Francis recommended getting involved, thinking it would be good for my future progress to fish with kids my own age. I met with Iain Jennings and Glen Robinson who do a fantastic and attended some of their matches held at Manor Farm in Evesham. I really learnt to get the best out of stillwater fishing with so much great advice and support. I participated in Howard Kaye's events designed to encourage kids into the sport with coaches available to teach different methods.
Howard taught me how to fish the pellet waggler properly. Evesham youth hold plenty of club matches and also enter other competitions, including adult matches. I've had a few section places on club matches on the pools at Manor Farm and also the Warks Avon in Evesham. Iain is a great river coach who has given me confidence in my river fishing.
Angling Trust junior national
The 2021 was held at Makin's fishery. Evesham youth held a practice session and I chose to target the silver fish instead of carp. I felt this was more to my strengths with my canal fishing experience. The practice day went well and had a few carp on very light elastic that gave me the run around. I knew that come match day; I couldn't afford to spend excessive time playing fish so would have to figure something out.
Matchday came and the nerves kicked in. This was my first junior national. I'd heard the talk of how people love to win nationals above all other events. Hundreds of adults spend their lifetime in the hope of at least one medal. I drew peg 16 on Snake lake. Everyone around me was focused on the carp, I decided to focus on silver fish with the occasional go on the carp line. The carp line didn't produce so I focussed on the silvers instead, catching steadily.
For good team points I needed to keep the fish competing and not over feed them. I also knew the importance of a bonus carp. There was a tree stump down to my left that I couldn't ignore. With two hours to go I fed it with a couple of pots of dead maggots and casters waiting to see if anything came over it. I went back on my short line and by hardly feeding kept the bites coming. I drip fed the margin with the odd caster before going on this line with an hour to go.
First put in, the float disappeared, a small perch and this happened again followed by a small chub. I changed plan, chopping two full pots of worm and cupping them in. I went over this with worm on the hook and immediately I was into a carp, I topped up with a full cup of worm after every bite to keep fish interested until the whistle went.
The scales man asked me to get my silvers net out first. Seeing it was heavy to lift he said, “no lad, it's your silvers net I want, not your carp net”. This is my silvers net I responded. The guys on the scales looked somewhat shocked. This made me feel like my silver fish plan had worked. The scales registered 35lb & my carp went 25lb, so 60lb in total. People commented this was a great weight but I was most concerned I'd ensured good team points. As chatter continued, there were rumours I might have won individually.
Due to Covid, there were no live results or medal presentation so it was time to load the car and head home. I fell asleep in the back of the car. Suddenly I was awoken by dad shouting “you've only gone & done it champ, we're so proud of you'.
We had to pull over to calm down and let it sink in. When we got going again I just had to phone Rob and let him know that I'd won. I had to wait for my medals to be posted out and they were presented at the finale of the Monday night league. I'm now the very proud owner of three Angling Trust national medals, individual gold for winning, silver for winning my lake & bronze for my Evesham Youth black team.
National celebration of young people and fishing
In 2020, I went along to see what it was like. I enjoyed the fun atmosphere so was looking forward to participating again in 2021. I managed to persuade brother Alfie to enter lending him some of my old tackle. He drew next peg to me. On the whistle, I started on my top kit as per the 90 minute three metre rule. I fed a small nugget of groundbait, squatt, and fished single pinkie on the 22 hook. I landed a few small roach and gudgeon, securing my gudgeon mug in the process. It was the same story for Alfie too.
After 90 minutes, I fed the far bank lines and started on a longer pole with squatt as bait. I changed my short line to a punched bread managing a few fish. Back across and I had to work hard to catch a few more on the squatt. Sometimes, you just have to do what you can from an average peg. I spent the last 30mins on chopped worm but bonus fish deserted me.
I put 800 grams on the scales enough to achieve the world championship challenge (Alan Scotthorne, five times world champion had caught 195 grams per hour here at the 2017 national). Alfie comfortably beat me recording an impressive 1.2kg. I gleaned a lot of useful knowledge and recommend all youngsters to enter) in the future. Regardless of experience. If required, you'll be fully supported & guided from the technical Let's Fish coaches.
Let's Fish teams of four
Next up was a team event with an international style flavour as a trial for a large Commonwealth Games community event planned for 2022. Wales were also to be involved. I thought that selection in any of the eight English angler teams would be an amazing privilege but put it to the back of my mind as I'm only 12, thinking those selected would be older.
To my amazement, I saw my name in an English select silvers team with Jack Crystal (captain), Michael Wallwork and Jacob Lees. Pride, amazement, shock, I felt it all. I texted Mum at work to tell her knowing she'd be proud. I felt that all my hard work and determination had paid off.
I drew the peg next to where I was at the celebration knowing I'd have to concentrate harder than ever to help my team out. Instead of getting upset over the mediocre draw, I used this to help spur me on.
I really enjoy team fishing and wanted to do well to help the team out. In the build up to the match and even during the match, I heard it said that I was too young to have been selected for this team or even to be present at all. Deep down I knew that I had the experience and knowledge that lots of respected canal anglers had passed on to me. Today was the day to step up and put that information to good use.
The autumn weather had turned cold with lots of heavy rain with a further heavy drenching forecast throughout the day. This was going to be the sort of day when the best anglers shone through hard work and persistence. I started fishing squatt over bread short for a few fish which settled the nerves. I knew I'd have to work hard on for fish and couldn't sit for too long waiting for better fish as all fish help build weight towards final points in team fishing. When the scales arrived I managed to record 650 grams, third out of nine in the section. I was very satisfied with that.
Back at Cheswardine village hall for the results. Talk was we were second or third team. The third place team was announced as English gold team. Now the nerves were kicking in as there was only my team and the English girls silver team with two section winners, Lottie Wootton and Izzy Gibbins left to be announced.
When John Ellis announced the final result, we'd triumphed by a solitary point. It doesn't come much closer than that, an amazing feeling that I will never forget. Following my junior national success, I thought the feeling would never be repeated, now it had been, perhaps more so as there is something unique about being part of a team all pulling together.
Continuing to improve
It's important to be an all-round angler and not a one trick pony. My river fishing (bolo, stick float, waggler) is work in progress. Smithy's team colleague Simon Pickering spends a lot of time on the Avon and I talk to him a lot about these methods, which floats to use and how to shot them.
I've watched him fishing waggler over-depth with good results so I feel this is a must for me to improve and to compete on the river match scene. I also feel I need to learn bloodworm and joker fishing so I can compete better on matches where this bait is allowed. Fishing's a sport for everyone and if you want to take it seriously and improve you're always listening and learning. But if you are happy just to catch what comes along and not worry much about improving, that's fine too, as long as your realise the fish won't always oblige.
I plan to participate as much possible on different venues without letting it get too much for me. School work is vital, for realistically a job in the angling industry isn't likely to happen. It's important to have a break from fishing every now and then too. I play snooker that week instead. I find this clears my head and remotivates me.
Going forward my biggest ambition, as I assume it would be for any sports person, is to one day represent my country at the world championships. Next step will be applying for Talent Pathway. There are 45 places so fingers crossed, if not for 2022, then on a future occasion. I have to be realistic though, there are only four or five spots in the team.
Domestically, I'd like to qualify for the Evesham festival, frame in the national celebration and when older fish national championships with my team and reach Canal Pairs, Riverfest or the Fish O Mania final. I'd also like to put something back helping get more young kids into the sport so hopefully they too can fall in love with fishing, just like I have.
Last Edited: 02 March 2022
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