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En­joy­ing a break from rep­re­sent­ing his coun­try, for­mer World Cham­pion Iain Barr pon­ders the new se­lec­tion pol­icy and his fu­ture in­volve­ment

Trout Fisherman (UK) - - Contents - Iain Barr: Has fished for Eng­land 24 times across World, Euro­pean, Loch-style and Rivers In­ter­na­tional Teams.

Iain Barr dis­cusses Eng­land’s se­lec­tion pol­icy

REP­RE­SENT­ING your coun­try is the pin­na­cle of any sport­ing ca­reer. I’ve been lucky to have rep­re­sented Eng­land at ev­ery fly­fish­ing dis­ci­pline and feel hon­oured. I’ve reached the very high­est ac­co­lade by be­ing the best in the world at my sport, some­thing I still find un­be­liev­able to this day. I did it in­di­vid­u­ally and as part of a team, and that mo­ment when the late Ian Green­wood con­firmed I was the in­di­vid­ual World Cham­pion will never leave me.

Was Eng­land a closed group?

I have so many great mem­o­ries from World and Euro­pean cham­pi­onships and have made so many great friends. It’s these mem­o­ries that many as­pire to and want to be part of. Eng­land Team se­lec­tion was of­ten seen by many as­pir­ing an­glers as a closed group, some­thing they’d never be part of. Some thought the teams were se­lected based on their friend­ships with the se­lec­tors. The un­founded ru­mours spread and many cried out for a trans­par­ent se­lec­tion process. It’s ar­rived.

The cur­rent sys­tem

Any an­gler as­pir­ing to fish for Eng­land in World and Euro­pean teams must have earned a loch-style cap and rivers cap to be el­i­gi­ble. These are the ba­sic skills re­quired in most cham­pi­onships. You can en­ter an elite pro­gramme over five week­ends. All dis­ci­plines will be tested – loch-style, river and small wa­ter bank fish­ing. Re­sults from these week­ends will be used to es­tab­lish the in­di­vid­u­als to qual­ify for the cham­pi­onships. Venues will be care­fully se­lected to test an­glers to the lim­its and mimic the forth­com­ing cham­pi­onships. There are two cham­pi­onships per year cur­rently – Worlds and Euro­pean. I un­der­stand in the im­mi­nent fu­ture it will be one cham­pi­onship per year. Teams will be se­lected from the qual­i­fiers based on the venues and the in­di­vid­ual skills.

It’s fair but not with­out fault!

I have to say it seems a very fair sys­tem. Meet the el­i­gi­ble cri­te­ria to be able to en­ter this pro­gramme and the path is clear. There is a £30 en­try fee per week­end with fish­ing and ac­com­mo­da­tion etc on top. Money will be an is­sue for many and it’s an­other five free week­ends to find on top of an al­ready busy sched­ule for the match an­gler. I guess an­glers can pri­ori­tise and if I should try to get back in, I would have to make these choices. The sys­tem does, how­ever, have its crit­ics. Some an­glers feel they have met the cri­te­ria to be in the Eng­land Team through hard graft and ef­fort only for the sys­tem to change. I do feel for these peo­ple and think the An­gling Trust has bowed down to pres­sure from many on the side­lines hav­ing their say, who sim­ply wouldn’t be good enough at these lev­els.

You must han­dle pres­sure

There’s a huge gap be­tween fish­ing Home In­ter­na­tion­als and step­ping up to the big stage. You of­ten see your river sec­tion for the first time as you start your three-hour ses­sion and you can’t get to prac­tice on the lake venues. Then there is the pres­sure. It’s dif­fer­ent. I’ve seen great an­glers crum­ble as they sim­ply can’t han­dle it, and top an­glers strug­gle. It’s not just about abil­ity, it’s much more than that and those in­volved will know ex­actly what I mean. You have to be fit, you have to be ag­ile. It be­comes tac­ti­cal, it be­comes a science, ev­ery­thing is fine­tuned and fine-tuned 10 times over again.

Does it breed in­con­sis­tency?

But the An­gling Trust is try­ing to do what is right. No one can ar­gue with re­sults and an­glers have five week­ends to im­press and de­liver. If this elim­i­nat­ing process con­tin­ues ev­ery year the only down­side I can see is that the teams will be in­con­sis­tent. New faces will be in year in and year out and there’ll be no con­sis­tency. Teams im­prove by fish­ing with each other over a pe­riod of time. The win­ning team of 2009 had fished to­gether for sev­eral years with a few of us hav­ing fished to­gether for al­most 10 cham­pi­onships. That spe­cial team was soon split and no World medals have ar­rived since. I ex­pect the cream will come to the top and some fa­mil­iar faces will no doubt be in more than oth­ers, but it will be a mix of ex­pe­ri­enced and in­ex­pe­ri­enced. I’m not sure that this is the per­fect so­lu­tion for suc­cess. I have no doubts the pool of skilled an­glers will grow with this process so hats off to the An­gling Trust for giv­ing it a go. But is it the right so­lu­tion? Only time will tell. I hope in­di­vid­ual qual­i­fiers are scru­ti­nised on abil­ity, ex­pe­ri­ence of adapt­abil­ity, in­di­vid­ual traits, will­ing­ness to work, will­ing­ness to sac­ri­fice, per­son­al­ity types and a hunger to win. It is a mine­field but I would love to see it work and bring much more suc­cess to ATTEFF (An­gling Trust Team Eng­land Fly Fish­ing). So, will I be com­ing back? One day I would like to. Nor­way is very tempt­ing! The cham­pi­onships are spe­cial, they push ev­ery com­pet­i­tive bone in my body. The team be­comes a close unit and in one very spe­cial year we got it right. A team of hun­gry and highly-skilled an­glers with a de­sire to win. I’d like to be part of a team like this again.

“You have to be fit, you have to be ag­ile. It be­comes tac­ti­cal, it be­comes a science, ev­ery­thing is fine-tuned 10 times over.”

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