Thursday, 9 January 2020

Inspiring the Next Generation

Last year I was discussing with a friend how I got into fishing. For me it was a trip with my dad to Huck’s Farm that started it all off, fishing for whatever would fall to maggots and sweetcorn. For my brother it was trips onto the river with my uncle. I imagine for most of us it’s the same – generally someone took them fishing as kids and inspired them to take it up as a hobby. With this in mind, I’ve been keen this year to do what I can to help the next generation get into the sport.

A friend at work had been bending my ear ever since he discovered I was into fishing that his son Finn really wanted to give it a try, so I agreed to take both along for an evening session to see what it was all about. Shortly afterwards some other friends asked me to take their daughter Lib to give fishing a try, and again I agreed.

I mused over the best venue to start a youngster on and recalled an article I’d read by a fly-fishing instructor. He was asked what was the single most important thing for someone trying fishing for the first time? His response was simple, catching a fish. For all the tuition in the world if there isn’t that contact with the fish, be it a bend in the rod or just seeing a fish on the bank, the trip would largely be frustrating rather than inspirational. I agreed entirely with the logic. For most established anglers it’s not all about the catching, but the joy of being out fishing – but for the unbelievers there’s the eternal myth to be dispelled that fishing is boring, endlessly sitting around doing nowt. This seems especially pertinent to children where everything these days seems to be about something new and exciting. The first objective was clear then, go somewhere with a reasonable chance of a few fish, preferably of a size that would make catching them really exciting for a youngster.

With this in mind, I chose Packington Somers Fishery near Coventry for Finn; and Astwood Lakes in Worcestershire for Lib. Both venues were convenient for parents and children to get to, and I was able to get there easily enough around work for a reasonable afternoon/evening session. There’s a good head of fish in both fisheries and an evening’s margin fishing would almost certainly bring a few fish to the net.

My other objective was to instill a few ethics into the new would be anglers. For me there are a few Fishing Commandments. Fish welfare comes first, always. Respect the water and the dangers associated with it. Respect your environment, take all litter away with you and leave only footprints. I’m still developing this list, but these were the ones I decided to pass on as golden rules for session one.

It was interesting to see the different children’s personalities come out in their approach to the fishing. Finn was excitable and brimful with enthusiasm for catching; Libby calm, methodical and eager to learn. I took a huge amount of pleasure from teaching both and will be more than happy to take them out again for another go.

Finn – Packington Somers Fishery 8th August 2019

I met Finn with his dad Dave at the fishery at a little after 4pm. I’d never fished the venue before but a quick call to the fishery put me onto the northeast bank of Gearys. There was an evening match on the other side of the pool, but otherwise we had a good range of swims to ourselves. With Finn eager to get going I kept my reccy to a minimum, finding a couple of pegs large enough to get the three of us into with 18 inches - 2 feet of depth against the bank. This magic depth should give the fish enough cover to feed confidently down the edge, but be shallow enough for Finn to see the tail swirls from his quarry and get the heart racing!

Learning the ropes
I chatted Finn through the golden rules as I began to set up the peg. With hindsight I brought way too much stuff and over-complicated things a little. There were a few hitches, but within half an hour I’d baited up a swim and got Finn ready for the off. Explaining that we had to approach the swim super-quietly, Finn lowered his double sweetcorn down into the margin where we’d baited up. The float settled momentarily, bobbed and then shot straight under! The fish had already hooked itself as it tore out of the margins, pulling line off the clutch as it did so. Just the start we were after! Finn controlled the fish admirably and quickly got to grips with when to reel and when to lift the rod to make ground on the fish when it wasn’t making a break for it. With a decent carp successfully landed, I talked Finn through unhooking and resting the fish and then weighed and photographed his catch before slipping it gently back.

First Fish!

Big Ghostie!
I’m sure Dave won’t mind me saying, but he’d admitted a little while ago that he has a phobia of touching fish. We chatted it through and he was adamant that he wasn’t going to pass that fear on to Finn, so we set about lining Dave up for the next fish. Once again the float shot under. Dave lifted into a magnificent… gudgeon. As you can imagine Finn thought this was hilarious, and I’m not sure Dave will ever quite live down the size difference between their respective first catches. As the evening went on, both Finn and Dave managed to catch half a dozen carp between them on both rod and pole, with Dave conquering his phobia and Finn catching a beautiful ghostie just shy of double figures. It was fair to say Finn had done brilliantly and whilst he didn’t want to leave as it started to get late, I took that as a huge positive that he’d enjoyed himself.

Dave - setting a great example and THAT gudgeon...

Lib – Astwood Lakes, Worcestershire 1st September 2019

I met Lib with her mum Sophie at Astwood mid-afternoon. I introduced Libby and Soph to the owner Frank and his warm Geordie tones and explained that we’d brought Lib for her first ever fishing trip, he seemed genuinely proud that we’d bestowed Astwood with such an honour! Frank's a really nice chap and I always enjoy a bit of a chat with him before fishing.

I’d brought maggots and corn as bait. With Libby being a bit younger than Finn, I’d planned to start her on catching silvers before moving her onto catching a few big fish later on. I was going to set her a species challenge – to catch as many different types of fish as possible. However, as we walked along Smokey Joe’s lake with Lib helping to carry the gear, our eagle eyes spotted a few carp already feeding in the margins. I’m not one to look a gifthorse in the mouth, but I asked Lib whether she’d like to proceed with the original plan or get stuck straight into going after those big fish right in front of us. Unsurprisingly she wanted to go after the whoppers! Again, I talked Lib through the golden rules and set up a rod for her whilst she (liberally!) baited up the margins. I quickly came to realize that Lib has an expensive loose-feeding technique and certainly knows how to pile in the bait! Still, it worked a treat with the swim soon awash with tail swirls.  

Focused! Ready for that first sailaway bite!

It took us a few put-ins to get Lib’s striking technique right, with the fish time and time again bolting out of the margins with the float sailing away but not connecting with the fish. Soon enough though we were flying as Lib hooked and landed fish after fish. For the first few I was helping her hold the rod, but by the end she was landing them all by herself. Magic. After some frantic action and landing a couple of doubles up to 12lb Lib was looking a little fatigued, so we moved onto the species challenge for the last half hour. We managed common carp, ghost carp, roach, rudd and bleak, not bad going!

First double-figure carp!

Double #2! 11lb 10oz!
I was really impressed by how confidently Lib had fished, despite her junior years. She listened intently to everything we discussed and applied it to her fishing. She’s done nothing but pester her parents for outing number two ever since we went, and has taken to watching all of the fishing programmes on Sky. Brilliant!

Technique! Lib soon got the hang of landing some impressive carp! 
To those of you reading who have friends and family with little ones – get yourselves out onto the bank to teach them the craft of angling, I guarantee you’ll enjoy it every bit as much as they do  as well as inspiring the next generation into the sport!

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