ALAN Wright completed a magnificent golden double when he used his local knowledge to devastating effect to capture the Individual title in the Embassy Division Two National Angling Championship on the River Soar and Loughborough Quorn Canal on Saturday (July 19).

And Wigan‘s Shaun Birchall, the individual runner-up, also enjoyed a double celebration when his squad, Team Van Den Eynde Wigan, romped to a runaway victory in the Team event with 511 points!

It was glory all the way for Alan, a 60-year-old retired railway engineer from Long Eaton, Notts, as he had won the Division One National on the River Witham in 1973. He is believed to be only the third angler to win two Divisional National titles since the competition started in 1906.

As soon as Alan (Long Eaton Victoria) drew the pylons peg (M44) on the River Soar at Ratcliffe Deeps, he knew he had a great chance…and he took his opportunity brilliantly with a bumper 11 bream and two perch haul of 18.260 kg. Remarkably, it was his first National for eight years.

“When I drew the peg, I thought it was Christmas and my birthday all in one,” said a delighted Alan who knows every peg on the venue, “I had won a match with roach from the same peg last year and, obviously, I knew it was a cracking draw.

“I took the pole out but had no intention of using it as this was an out and out peg to fish the feeder. I spent about 10 minutes bouncing a bomb around to find a gap in the weed but there wasn’t a really clean spot although, if I went more than two thirds of the way across, the weed was totally solid.”

Fishing a groundbait feeder with Van Den Eynde Bream and chopped worm and casters, Alan kept changing his baits, using double red maggot, a single red maggot and worm, and double caster on size 14 and 18 hooks to 4 lb main line and a 2.6 lb hook length.

He added: “I had the first bream in the net after 30 minutes, landed seven more after 2½ hours and then caught three more before the end. I also had a couple of perch.

“I can remember my win in 1973 as though it was yesterday. I landed 41 lb 10 oz (18.88 kg) of bream on the float and I was also fishing in M Section on that day as well. I am really proud to have won two Nationals – it’s a great honour.” In 1973, Alan won £1,300 and bought himself a brand-new car – this time it could have been a lot more but he didn’t fancy a bet and went home with £1,251 from the Pools.

“I fished 22 Nationals in a row but then took a long break before being asked to fish on my local water. Of course, I know the venue very well though I usually prefer to fish the canal,” he added. And there was more good news as Long Eaton Victoria also gained promotion in ninth place with 399 points.

Before the match, it was the river sections, particularly, A, B and M, that were expected to produce the top weights but, remarkably, the next FOUR places all came from G Section on the canal.

Runner-up Shaun Birchall, a 39-year-old glass fibre worker from Hindley Green, Wigan, was on the Swing Bridge Section at G38 and landed skimmer bream to 0.5 kg, most of the better specimens falling to maggot, for a total of 10.160 kg. But Shaun wasn’t afraid to ring the changes as he also tried squatts, pinkies, worms and casters on sizes 20, 22 and 24 hooks.

He said: “I caught at five metres and between 9½ and 10 metres and the fish came steadily throughout the match. There were some residential barges on the opposite bank but the boat in my peg had moved off . It’s only my second National and I only practised once on the venue about a month ago.

“I was outside the HQ having my photograph taken when the team came out and I discovered we had taken the gold medal as well. It’s unbelievable that I will be going home with two medals – it’s been a superb day for the us all.” Shaun picked up £1,144 from the Pools and made it a personal-best pay-day of £1,337 with a £5 each way bet with angling bookie, Billy Knott.

The bronze medal went to Myles Phillips, a 44-year-old electricity board linesman from Newport Pagnell, Bucks, who was pegged next to the runner-up on G37 and weighed in a skimmer bream and roach catch of 7.650 kg, his biggest bream scaling 1.36 kg. 

Myles is no stranger to National success, having achieved a superb golden double – winning Individual and winning Team (Image Black Horse) – when he collected £4,800 on the Lancaster Canal in 1992. “I haven’t fished a National for years and I didn’t even have a canal rig in my tackle box. In the end, I polefished at 11 metres close to a houseboat on the opposite bank, using red maggot on a size 20 hook to 1½ lb line,” said a happy Myles who pocketed £1,295 from the Pools and a £10 each way bet.

There were a couple of quiet spells as Myles, who fishes for Towcester & District AA, said: “Someone from the houseboat came out and watched my float going down river in the clear water. I stopped catching but started getting bites again when he went back inside – it also went a bit quiet in the last hour. Overall, it’s been a great day.”

Two pegs away on C35 was Craig Mather (Reddish AC) who picked up £1,182 from the Pools and a £12.50 each way bet with a haul of 6.450 kg while in fifth place was Chris Gale, a 47-year-old carpet technician from Kidderminster who fishes for Mallards Bewdley. Chris, who caught skimmer bream, roach and perch, landed a bonus carp in the last five minutes to boost his weight to 6.000 kg.

Completing the top six was Stuart Fotheringham, a 26-year-old block paver from Seacroft, Leeds, who netted 25 skimmer bream, one perch, two roach and a 1.36 kg bream at 15 metres from K50 from the River Soar at Sutton Bonnington.

Team Wigan Van Den Eynde completed a full set of Team medals after taking a bronze medal in Division Five on the Basingstoke Canal in 1997 and a silver medal on the Boston Drains in 1999. However, they did not enter the Team Pools which meant they missed out on a £1,050 pay-day!

Skipper Barry Smith, a 47-year-old project manager from Wigan, said: “We like fishing canals and, for this match, we practised on the Trent & Mersey Canal and the River Weaver which are similar types of venue. And, in addition, four anglers went down to the match venue to practise.

“We went for small fish on the squatt and for bonus fish if they were there. But,  basically, we left it up to the lads to tackle the peg as they saw it – we have a very good side and they knew what to do. To get into Division One has been our aim since getting promotion in 1999 and we are thrilled to bits to have finally made it. We also had a couple of very good 17-year-olds (Danny Martin and Shaun Kervney) in the side and I was delighted for them to pick up a gold medal in their first Senior National.”

Leigh’s Danny Martin finished a fine fifth in F Section with 1.660 kg while, of course, runner-up Shaun Birchall scored maximum points in G Section. In addition, Blackburn‘s Paul Robinson was second in D Section with 1.900 kg while Wigan‘s Steve Royds was third in B Section with 2.070 kg.

The silver medals and £1,050 in the Team event with 483 points went to Midlands aces, Sensas Dams & Locks Match Group, who have completed a meteoric rise to Division One after finishing third in Division Five in 2000, fourth in Division Four in 2001 and third in Division Three last year – a magnificent achievement!

Skipper Ted Yearby, a 48-year-old toolmaker from Polesworth, near Tamworth, said: “To go from Division Five to Division One and win three medals in four successive years is a fantastic achievement for the squad. We work very hard and put in loads of practice over eight weekends. We didn’t fish the Open matches because we didn’t want to go into the National as the pre-match favourites.

“We produced an excellent all-round display and we had seven anglers in the top 10 in their sections. We were looking for 1½ kg a man on the river and 1 kg a man on the canal.” Skipper Yearby was fourth in E Section with 1.670 kg while their top points scorer was Tamworth‘s Darren Massey who collected 52 points for winning F Section with 2.580 kg.  

In third place in the Team event were the pre-match favourites, Quorn AS Van Den Eynde, who totalled 440 points to win £750. Quorn captain, Roger Marlow, a 54-year-old sewing machine technician from Barrow upon Soar, Leics, said: “Obviously, being a local team, we knew the venue inside out. We didn’t have any tactics or a team plan – the anglers knew what to do when they drew their pegs. It would have been nice to have won the match but this is the first medal the squad have won and we are delighted to be going into Division One after being in Division Two since 1999.”

Quorn’s top scorer was Colin Beech who won C Section with 2.250 kg while Roger added: “Everyone did well but Adey Reynolds did especially well to come ninth from a really poor peg on B Section.”

EMBASSY DIVISION TWO NATIONAL ANGLING CHAMPIONSHIP (River Soar and Loughborough Quorn Canal) (Top 10 teams promoted to Division One) TEAM: 1. Team Van Den Eynde Wigan 511 pts; 2. Sensas Dams & Locks MG 483 pts; 3. Quorn AS Van Den Eynde 440 pts; 4. Army AF 434 pts; 5. Webbs Team Yaxley 420 pts; 6. Peterborough & District AA 413 pts; 7. Handsworth AC 408 pts; 8. Dick Clegg’s Team Tring 403 pts; 9. Long Eaton Victoria 399 pts; 10. Tonbridge & District A & FPS 398 pts.

INDIVIDUAL: 1. Alan Wright (Long Eaton Victoria) 18.260 kg; 2. Shaun Birchall (Team Van Den Eynde Wigan) 10.160 kg; 3. Myles Phillips (Towcester & District AA) 7.650 kg; 4. Craig Mather (Reddish AC) 6.450 kg; 5. Chris Gale (Mallards Bewdley) 6.000 kg; 6. Stuart Fotheringham (Adrian Carlsberg) 5.780 kg.


Left, new Embassy Division Two Champions Van den Eynde  Wigan. Right, individual winner Alan Wright with part of his fine bream catch.

Result: 1 Wigan; 2 Sensas Dams and Lock, 3 Quorn AS.