My name is John Brice. I was invited to join Dick Pilkinton at a Canal & River Trust Let’s Fish! coaching session run by Tring Anglers on the Grand Union Canal. Initially my thoughts were, I’m a boater, not a fisherman. How is this going to work?
For those who don't know him, Dick is the Tring Anglers chairman, and is well known and respected by the fishing fraternity. But that's not all he does. He has sat on several advisory committees such as the Grand Union South Angling Consultative, the South East Fisheries Plan steering group, the Trust's Fisheries & Angling Advisory Group and remains a London Partnership Board member.
He's also a committee member with IWA Chiltern, the same committee that I sit on. Additionally, Dick is the Tring Anglers lead level 2 coach, the club being an active deliverer of Let's Fish! events, a programme designed to encourages youngsters to try the sport and hopefully acquire the fishing habit.
At one of our IWA committee meetings, Dick said he could be short of someone to record Covid track and trace for the youngsters being coached during Let's Fish!. I thought ok, I can help out by doing that. Another committee member, Liz Norris volunteered to make tea and coffee for Dick and the other coaches, which was well appreciated and earned Liz a lot of brownie points, and an invite to their next event!
Junior fishing experience
My fishing CV is not the greatest. The opportunities to be taught by those with decent technical knowledge of the sport to pass on were not around when I was a youngster. I probably bought all the wrong tackle and bait and didn't know how to use it. Nobody taught me about balanced tackle, suitable line strengths and hook sizes and the basic principles of bait presentation. The result was that I caught very few fish, became disenchanted with fishing and quickly gave up.
Let's Fish! experience
What I witnessed on my day out with the fishermen was an eye opener and stark contrast to my experience back in the day. 24 youngsters and adults were booked in, each for a 50-minute one to one coaching session with a qualified licensed coach. As far as I know, every one of them caught at least one fish. Dick said to me, you too can do that.
I did have a go and with his guidance quickly caught a reasonably size perch. Committee member Liz, my sister, Chris, and my wife Jenny, who also joined us for the day, were also encouraged to have a go and they all caught fish.
Equipment to get you started
What was surprising was the absence of expensive kit. The coaches were using simple short poles with no reels, just line and small float with a barbless hook, some pinkies, and a type of maggot, as the bait.
However, the magic ingredient is the knowledge of the coaches knowing how to read the water, plumb the depth, understand water flows and the nature of the canal bottom, reed, gravel, or mud, and the habits of the different species of fish. Also, best practice such as how to handle and unhook fish, water safety and respect for other waterways users are all covered in the Let's Fish! programme.
A message to parents
My message to parents with kids that are thinking of taking up fishing is simple. Do sign them up for some introductory coaching at a Let's Fish! event to see if it something for them. They will learn the best fishing practices and thus get more enjoyment out of the sport. The Let's Fish! programme is ideal for youngsters and adults alike and it's free to participate in. (Although there's a £50 fee is you do book on and simply fail turn up without notice).
From my perspective, on the day I attended, I learnt more about fishing and had a better understanding of the sport. I also understand the challenges anglers face. There are plenty useful guides to a starter kit.
From our Chiltern Branch viewpoint, having a fishing representative on our committee has been a positive experience. Not only do we know more about the sport, its problems and requirements, but we now work together on the ground to solve issues which are beneficial to those who use our waterways.
For more information about the IWA Chiltern Branch contact John Brice, Events & Fundraising: [email protected]
For more information on Let's Fish! events in the Tring area please contact Dick Pilkinton: [email protected]
For information on Let's Fish! events nationally please contract: [email protected]