Left for Holland last Wednesday at 10pm making the two hour journey to Dover, first problem was the A3 at Guildford was closed, long detour and I was back on the A3 at Ripley, next problem was when I arrived at Dover, the town centre was closed another massive detour and I just made it to my 2pm sailing to Dunkirk!
In France I headed off towards the venue of the PWC event on the Haringvliet, I'd fished it before and knew where the fish might be, so a good place to try out the new lures and techniques I wanted to apply at the Hobie Euro's.
9am and I was out on the water, joined by four lads from Finland who had also had the same idea.
By 3pm I'd had enough, with the Finnish lads having disappeared up the canal and having just witnessed some naked old boy bent over on his yacht, it was time to head in.
It was just over an hour to the Hotel in Willemstad where I was staying with Shimano/Rapala's Matt Boast, we were due to meet up with Willem Stolk to get the run down on the Hobie Euro's venue, only thing was I was in the wrong place, another hours drive and I met up with Matt and Willem for a briefing. We had a game plan and Matt had a huge box of Shimano and Rapala goodies! Then back to Willemstad... to much driving, I was knackered and hadn't slept since Tuesday night!
Friday morning and we were at De Banaan, a beach on the Haringvliet and the competition venue. It had taken us over an hour to find it, travelling over the same bridge 3 times, we were to find out it was a 5 minute drive from the Hotel on the way home!
Meeting up with Radjiv de Waal, a street fishing lad from holland, this was to be his maiden voyage in a kayak, we prepared our gear and headed off on the water for a prefish.
First stop was less than 100 metres off the beach and a weedy patch, Radjiv was soon into a pike, caught on a new jointed X-Rap, this was looking good for the rest of the day.
Next stop was an area east of the launch site, banked by trees and a row of Wind Turbines, it was very weedy, but with paths through the weed making it OK to fish with most lures, although a little trickier when the wind got up and we were drifting. No fish.
Then over to the far side of the river which was nearly an hours peddle. Fishing the shallows and getting a few takes on Spro Claws, I was using a Jaki Rig for the first time and was getting regular hits, but not getting the hook up. We worked the barges for Perch, no luck and then headed back towards deeper water around the bridge pillons, Matt had a stonking take on a shad close to one of the pillons, still no more fish. Time to head back in for registration, briefing and a cracking BBQ. This was my 8 day fishing in Holland over the past 14months with no fish! But I was getting bites, so not all bad.
Saturday, competition day, a 5am start, at the venue for 6am breakfast, thought it might have been full English, sadly not.
It was a very foggy start and we headed an hour over to the far side of the River. We were hoping to drift along the bank, Matt, Radjiv and I taking a different depth each hunting out the Perch and Pike. Matt and I were both fishing soft baits and Radjiv swapped over to a sinking micro hardbait in bright pink and was fishing between the weed. First fish of the day and a nice Zander for Radjiv.
With one fish in the bag we fished and fished and fished the area, working the shallows and the depths. We finally headed back towards the bridge where we had hits the day before. Nothing. With the time nearly up we headed back over to the launch area and tried the hardbaits around the weed, spinner baits, Mepps, nothing.
Day 1 over, Day 9 of no fish in Holland.
With everyone back at the beach it became apparent that less than half the 49 fishermen had managed to catch anything, Dizzy had caught a few Asp, but Rob like me had blanked. That night much beer was consumed back at the campsite, and I managed to impress the Spanish Team by my pronounciation of Bathelooonah. It got me an invite to go Cat Fishing with them next April... won't mention it to Tina just yet!
We also tried to make some heavier weedless hooks by melting down some jig heads into bottle cap moulds around the hooks... they looked nuts and we knackered the ladle.
Day 2 another 5am start, bang or bust, change of rods and end tackle, no heavy gear. 4lb fluro drop shot rig, two rods rigged with 8lb Fluro leaders, one with a Chatterbait, the other with a Spro 115 Bladdershad in green/yellow.
Plan was to fish under the wind turbines in the heavy weed, drifting the length of the spit. Only a light mist at the start line, today was going to be hot.
I was still tying on a lure as we left the start with empty lines, Matt gave out a whistle, he had a Perch on the chatterbait.
After an hour we moved off along the spit, Daniel had arrived and started to fish, now this Dutch fishing machine must be doing something very different to me so I watched him from a distance, his retrieve was startlingly slow.
I peddled past him about a 100 yards or so and cast the chatterbait, first cast with a slow retrieve and I had an aggressive hit, fish on, a nice pike which I bullied quickly to the net, I brought it into the kayak and it went mental, the lure popped out which saved a job! Once on the measuring stick it flipped out, bouncing of Radjiv's kayak and back in mine, then upto the front of the kayak, I had to chin it and hold it chinned on the board, place the token and get the shot.
27 inch's and I was off the mark.
Rajiv was soon into a Perch once again on the micro lure.
We continued to work the drift with no more fish, Matt had more Perch and finally a pike all on the chatterbait.
Setting up for a second drift I had bumped into Rob, he told me had just had a nice Zander, I'd seen him sat out in the deep water for a while so guessed he was around that area when he hooked up. Then Sebastian Kummerer the PWC Champion peddled past, vertically jigging, when he neared where Rob had been he hooked up, I thought he had a Zander, he later told me it was a Perch. I called over Rajiv and we started to vertical jig in the deeper water. My finder started to show fish on the bottom, there were four clearly under the kayak, I cast ahead of me and let the green death Bladdershad swing down below the kayak, we were in around 8.5 metres of water, as the line went vertical, I gave a couple of jigs and then things went mental, the reel started to scream, as fast as I was winding, the line was stripping, running only 4lb fluro on this rod I had to take it easy and not tighten the drag too much. It felt like forever before I saw the gold colour flash of the Zander and then its huge tail as hit headed deep again. Rajiv heard my swearing and the noise from the reel so came over to see what was happening. Finally in the net and my first Dutch Zander and first Zander ever, I wanted to catch one more than anything else at the event, they put up a fantastic scrap and look stunning. She was hooked well by the stinger in the bottom jaw, I chinned her to be safe, she was still a little feisty and she wasn't going anywhere before a photo and measure.
I was made up and couldn't stop shaking, to have seen those fish on the bottom and then to actually get one was an amazing feeling the Dragonfly's screen is so clear it made it almost to easy. With it all happening so fast I had failed to mark the spot, so couldn't find it again to try for its mates.
With less than an hour to go I headed west leaving Matt and Rajiv trying to hunt the Zander. When I got to the next mark it was wall to wall kayaks, I played for a while then headed back in to register my catch, with just 5 minutes to spare.
Dizzy arrived back to shore with tails of a monster Pike, he'd managed to hook up in the last 20 minutes with a 20lb'er, it was huge and gave him a bit of trouble as his net was to small and he had to borrow one of the German Team's nets.
Rob had remained on one Zander and it had been another tough day for most.
Once on the beach we all had to line our kayaks up, they were numbered and the competitors had to select the Best Rigged Kayak.
I went to register my vote and had a drink before returning to the beach to grab my Hobie, it wasn't there, it had been moved up beside the Registration area, along with a ProAngler.
At 6pm the award ceremony started, First award was for biggest fish. Rob Buijsman, Netherlands won with a 111cm Pike. Then the Best Rigged Kayak... David Morris from UK. Was chuffed to bits, it meant a lot as it was voted by the other competitors, obviously cost me a round of beers for the Dutch lads who all voted for mine.
I also had to explain that I had fished Holland for 10 days over three trips and today had been my first fish, embarrassing, but many of the competitors understood as they were also waiting that first fish.
Then the Champion was crowned. Daniel Van de Post was crowned Hobie European Champion, 55cm in the lead with an overall length of 311cm. Well deserved.
So how did I do overall, well after a slow start I'd managed 16th place out of 49. My Zander was 3rd largest on the day. And I had fished with and met some great new friends as well ad meeting some older ones too.
These are the lures that worked for me. The Chatterbait and Spro 115 Bladdershad.
I learnt a lot on this trip, met some amazing people, were given some great lures including a hand made crank bait which is just outstanding, it doesn't look hand made.
Massive thanks have to go to Rob, Dizzy, Matt, Rajiv and of course all the sponsors who have made this possible.
Sadly I didn't qualify for the Worlds this year, Dizzy and Rob will be heading back to Holland in three weeks time for that one, Rob had qualified at the PWC event earlier this year. Bring on next year, I'll be better prepared.
Hobie Worlds Team GB. Good luck chaps.