I had the same problem today, but it is in C#.

all you need to do is declare the control with it's name instead of declaring it as a user control. For instance, in my case:

public class sniff : System.Web.UI.UserControl {

code here

}

is then instantiated on my page thus:

protected sniff ctrl_Sniff;

I had tried to do it this way unsuccessfully:

protected System.Web.UI.UserControl ctrl_Sniff;

HTH,

~ Knute