An angler for more than 50 years and an experienced coach, Dennis Hunt says you can teach an old dog new tricks. In this blog post he encourages coaches of all ages to keep building on their skills.
Last November my wife, Ruth, started asking what I'd like for Christmas. I didn't really want ‘things', better some sort of memorable experience. Being a lifelong angler and Level 2 Let's Fish! coach, I really fancied a day out with one of the angling greats, with the opportunity to learn something new and hone my technique.
The man in the white hat
Ruth researched some options. The best was a day out with one of my all-time angling heroes – four-time world champion, the man in the white cap, Bob Nudd. I'd been lucky enough to meet Bob a couple of times before. He has a reputation for being a real gentleman, with time for everyone. We had spoken, but I'd never had the chance to fish with him or against him. Would this be my chance?
January in March
Soon after Christmas I contacted Bob. He asked me what I'd like to do and when. I fancied an outing on a river for winter roach fishing. He suggested the Old Nene at March. I'd obviously heard of the Old Nene, a famous match venue. I'd never been there, let alone fished it, so I jumped at the idea.
I asked my friend, fellow Luton Angling Club Level 2 coach and National Angling Championships team member Mark Brooks, if he would like to accompany me. We settled on a day in January, hoping the river would be in good condition and the weather kind. We were told to bring our gear, with Bob providing a couple of rigs each, and we were to expect to do some punch, pinkie and hemp fishing.
We left home that morning full of excitement. Whether you are a real kid or an older version, like Mark and I, the excitement of fishing never leaves you. We arrived to find Bob's car parked and the great man, instantly recognisable in his white cap, leaning over the bridge studying the river.
Bob said the river had a lot of water in today, a good colour but flowing fast. He didn't believe it was suitable for either punch or hemp but may slow later (it didn't). Then he said he thought it would be a 10lb day! Mark and I just smiled at each other and thought how glad we were that Bob was with us. On our own it might have been a 10oz day at best!
Achieving perfect bait presentation
We collected our tackle, found our swims and set up our gear. Bob explained that we were going to fish at about 4 metres and should select pole top kits with No 5 elastic with pinkies as bait. He produced two hemp rigs for later if the river slowed, plus two 1g pole rigs. We were going to overshot the floats by a No 1 shot, running them through the swim by ‘holding the float up', slowing the bait down and giving a natural presentation.
Photo: Dennis catching roach
Correct bait presentation is something constantly emphasised at ‘Mottification' sessions (technical training for Let's Fish! coaches by Canal Pairs champion Simon Mottram). But, if I am honest, this is not always heeded by all coaches. Bob told us this was a technique he had learnt on the River Bann in Ireland with Kevin Ashurst. It helped him win his first Angling World Championship on the River Drava in Yugoslavia in 1990. Neither Mark nor I had used this technique in this way before.
Lessons from the master
After cupping in groundbait and getting the float to run through correctly, we were off. It didn't take that long to begin to recognise and hit the bites. With Bob's support, careful feeding and running through correctly, we both quickly developed a ‘sweet spot' in the swim, catching roach at a consistent rate. When the bites slowed it was time to feed again.
Bob was sitting on his box beside me making encouraging comments. With the bigger fish he encouraged me to swing them in as it was faster. That's another example of how fishing a match is different from a Let's Fish! coaching event. In a coaching situation we'd have an opportunity for a participant to learn how to use a landing net, which is the best option if they're inexperienced.
Later in the day a cold downstream wind got up, making presentation even more challenging. Bob suggested we add yet another No 1 shot to our rigs. This improved the presentation again and helped us to continue to catch during the afternoon.
Bob spent the day moving between the two of us, giving us help and tips on how we could improve, revealing his technique for hooking hemp and so much more.
At packing-up time, had Bob's prediction of a 10lb day come true? For me, yes, as I'd ended up with around 12lb. Mark had slightly less, but not far short of double figures. We took some catch photos, carefully placed the fish back and packed up very happy. Bob was kind enough to say he thought the pair of us had done well in the conditions.
Photo: Dennis (left) with Bob
Did we learn anything? You bet we did. We went home tired but very happy. I've been back to the venue twice since, with good results on both occasions. I've tried fishing hemp in the way Bob described and it worked perfectly, of course.
On the second visit, Bob came down to see how we were getting on, and while there signed some prints I'd had done. I now have one of those signed prints framed and hung on my wall at home as a memento of a brilliant day.
Never stop learning
It's so important and rewarding for Let's Fish! coaches to continue to learn and develop their angling and coaching skills. My belief is that, just as in any other sport, working towards becoming a master of their trade is something all coaches must aspire to do as part of their personal development. There are many ways to do this. Surrounding yourself with those more knowledgeable seems a good principle.
I'd like to thank Bob for his enormous generosity on that day, sharing his knowledge so freely and helping make some great memories, which was after all one of my goals. Also, to Mark for putting up with me and sharing the experience. Last of all a very special big thank you to my wife of nearly 40 years, Ruth, for such a great Christmas present.
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