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We were honoured to have been chosen by Team England as their practice boat for the Home Internationals fished from Milford Haven and to be one of the boats for the competition itself.
Over the course of a few days, on tides that corresponded to the competition, we fished the various zones that may be used . The team focused on speed and efficiency in landing the fish, unhooking, rebaiting and getting back down super fast. Various small issues were ironed out but overall the lads impressed with their appetite for hard work and desire to do the utmost to win.
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On the Official Practice Day Team Ireland were drawn to fish from Excel 2. These boys were good, bear in mind they've won the Home Internationals for the past 2 years and were going for the hat trick. We fished the 3 different zones and different styles. 2 hours at anchor over sand, 2 hours drifting over rock and 2 hours anchored over rough ground. We caught a good range of species, various Wrasse, Pollock, Coalfish, Spotted Rays, Turbot, Dogs, Huss, Gurnards, Dabs and more.
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Come the morning of the first match day the wind was building from the South West, not ideal. However the lead skipper decided that we would fish out from The Haven in the lee of the Islands. The run out to Skokholm was quite bumpy with an "interesting" confused sea at St Anne's reef on the entrance to the Haven.
As I set the anchor it immediately started to drag, so I pulled it and reset just before lines down was called. The swell that were pushing through were 15/20ft high at times. Lots of anchor rope was payed out and the big Bruce anchor held well.
Everyone was relieved when lines down was called and it was game on !
The seas remained rough and all the anglers coped with the conditions at the different zones really well. My 4 anglers for the day fished superbly, totally focused on the job in hand, the atmosphere could have been cut with a knife as the lead constantly changed but by the end of the day Team Ireland's angler Brian Whelan was the victor on the boat.
However when we got back to port it soon became apparent that Team England had the overall lead on the first day, all to play for on day 2 !
Wisely the choice was made to stay and fish in The Haven for day 2, with over 20 miles of sheltered waters to choose from we weren't going to be limited in any way.
The format was slightly different, we still had 6 hours for the competition but all the fishing had to be at anchor and we were allowed 1 move with the clock stopped, any other moves and the time would come out of the fishing time. Obviously this took a bit more thought as to the best strategy to catch the maximum amount of fish taking into account when slack water was.
In a clever move by the England Team they had changed over one of the anglers on my boat. New cap Brett Lomas from Lagoon Bait & Tackle, Hove was swapped onto another boat and substituted by team manager Steve Batchelor. I believe that the thinking was that it was unlikely that Ireland's angler and England's angler would both end up with 100% scores . Gamesmanship at its best and huge pressure on Brian Whelan .
At the first mark we caught steadily, even through the slack water period, but strangely as the tidal flow picked up and I expected us to catch more , we caught less ! We collectively made the choice to use our 'free' move, so the clock was stopped and off we went to re-anchor where I thought we'd catch. Thankfully the move paid off and we started catching again. The mood on the boat was tense as Phil Clarke from Team Wales took the lead, then Steve Batchelor , then Brian Whelan. Over the next few hours the lead constantly changed until the last hour when all the boat slowed down catching apart from Team England manager Steve Batchelor who seemed to have become inspired and moved onto a different level as he swung in Dogfish and Gurnards like a man possessed !
When we got back to the Mackerel Stage at Milford Haven Marina it soon became apparent that all the training and hard work had paid off,
Team England had won the 2016 Home Internationals .
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A huge thank you to all the competitors for exemplary standards of camaraderie, sportsmanship and friendship. This competition was a wonderful showcase for all that is good in angling.
Many thanks to the Welsh Federation of Sea Anglers for choosing to host the competition from the fish rich waters of Milford Haven and running the whole show superbly.
We were thrilled to have been the top scoring/fish catching boat on both days,
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Dave.
www.havenboatcharters.com
 

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Wales beaten in the international by England on Wales home ground !

Can't wait to get down the pub !

Thanks for the report !
 
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