Fishing: Catch of the day as Mick's mullet men amaze the world: Keith Elliott reports from Belleek on the distinct lack of fish willing to be caught up in the World Angling Championships

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Mick the Mullet Man was deeply disappointed to be only reserve for the Channel Islands team in the World Angling Championships. But he travels back to Guernsey today with a bronze medal after an event that could only have been choreographed by the Irish.

The Channel Islands finished third, ahead of the world champions, England. Yet they took part for the first time only because the Irish invited them. (Germany vetoed their application, fearing that soon the Isle of Man and the Hebrides will want to play, too).

It was an extraordinary result for a side with fewer than 300 freshwater fishermen to choose from. The team have to buy their tackle from England because their two tackle shops only stock sea gear for anglers like Mick Weysom, the chairman of the local mullet club.

Before the competition, a team member, David Copperwaite, the director of Guernsey's Lloyds Bank branch, said: 'We will be delighted to finish half-way. So they were ecstatic after finishing fourth, just ahead of England, on the opening day and though they were 10th yesterday, the convoluted points system that decides overall results pushed them into third overall

But the points system makes more sense than the Irish choice of venue, the River Erne at Belleek, Co Fermanagh. Normally a salmon fishing water, it has only been used once for coarse fishing and was so poor that it was scrapped.

Yet somewhere between pounds 65,000 and pounds 100,000, depending on who you listen to, has been spent to reshape the banks without a penny being invested on attracting a few fish.

Almost half the competitors failed to catch anything - even one of the tiny fry, born only a month or two ago, which a few anglers captured on hooks smaller than a pinhead. The superb electronic scales were unable to cope with these lightweights and so the anglers were given a minimum weight of 10 grams.

The Welsh team manager, Doug Hornblow, said: 'This is a terrible venue. It is not a test of skill because everyone is doing the same thing and hoping that just one fish comes along.'

There have even been bitter behind-the-scenes rows between the Irish themselves about how they have managed to reproduce a disaster. In 1982, this event was held on the Newry Canal, and it has since reigned as the worst contest in the event's history. Until now.

The former world champion, Ian Heaps, said last night: 'I can't understand it. There are several other waters that would have been far better - especially considering the money they have spent.'

The result came close to being even more Irish. After the opening day, it looked possible that a Croatian would become the individual champion despite having just a fold-up seaside seat to sit on rather than the fashionable hi-tech boxes.

It wasn't to be. But the underdogs Australia had some cheer for making a 6,000-mile journey that will scarcely encourage them to book a fishing holiday in Ireland. David Wesson, a 21-year-old computer operator who moved to England to improve his match fishing with the ultimate aim of becoming world champion, achieved his dream several years ahead of schedule. It was an amazing result for the Leicester man, who cannot even make his local team.

Italy took the individual title from France by two points despite two of the squad, including the millionaire Milo Colombo, failing to catch anything on the final day.

Interviewed on television, one of the American team put it in perspective. 'You've heard about the Dream Team,' he said. 'Well, this is the nightmare.' But an even better assessment came from the one- time England international, Dick Carr, renowned for his individual use of the English language. 'It was very disenjoyable,' he said.

WORLD ANGLING CHAMPIONSHIPS (Belleek, N Irl): 1 Italy 94pts; 2 France 96; 3 Channel Islands 120; 4 England 125; 5 San Marino 129; 6 Ireland 137; 7 Scotland 139; 8 Wales 144. Individual: 1 D Wesson (Aus) 3; 2 C Guicciardi (It) 4; 3 M Thill (US) 7.

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