Wybunbury Anglers, one of our Let’s Fish! premiership clubs, has gone from strength to strength. Judges were unsurprised when Zack Enderby finished the top-weighed cadet in the Let’s Fish! end of season team event. Like most successful clubs, they’ve built up a small army of quality coaches who continue to develop their skills. Here, we hear from one of the clubs coaching team, Tom Davies.
Once upon a time
I have dad to thank 56 years ago for taking me and my younger brothers from under mums' feet and introducing me to fishing. Dad was a brilliant angler and great instructor, always positive and wanting us all to get the best from each day. No such thing as 'can't do it' in dad's dictionary. Not only was every trip we made was full of anticipation and joy at what we would catch, but I learnt about the natural world around me.
From the plants and trees to the names and type of scudding clouds above and the birds in the hedgerow, dad seemed to have endless knowledge. He was keen his lads should acquire it too. I didn't know it at the time, but by encouraging an inquisitive mind and engagement with nature he'd started me on a lifetime's journey beginning on the local canals in Manchester and which has ultimately taken me all around the world.
You never stop learning
After all these years, angling continues gifting every time I step outside into the fresh air with a rod in hand. Rarely will it be the fish of my dreams that make the day, more often it's an encounter with a kingfisher, water vole, barn owl or a scolding wren that are the highlight of a trip. Each session is always full of anticipation and what ifs, because as anglers we never have all the answers. However, with the passing of time, I found I was able to answer more of the 'what if's'.
All those thousands of hours pouring over angling books, magazines, videos, CDs and YouTube presentations, trying to become a better angler, I've found that some knowledge had stuck. Weighing nothing, easily transportable and transferable, living in my head a gold mine of angling knowledge and wisdom. But what to do with it next?
When I retired, I thought I'd fish every day. I did my fair share in that first year. Get up, fish, sleep, eat, repeat and at the end of the week update my angling journal. However, something appeared to be missing. Sure, I was enjoying my time on the bank and catching plenty, but could I get even more enjoyment from it. What if I fished myself out? Was the gift of angling losing its lustre after 50 years? Something needed tweaking, but what?
Pondering the situation one day while staring at a float, I realised two things. Firstly, when working, how I enjoyed coaching apprentices joining the business. Giving people the tools to do a wonderful job and seeing them develop provided a great feeling. But it was a two-way street as I always learned something from them which helped keep my mind open and provided a buzz in building new relationships; something since retiring that now was missing from my life.
Secondly, it became obvious there were fewer young people going angling, whether that be coarse or game. Game fishing always carried a mystique of being difficult and exclusive, and possibly cost prohibitive. Whilst attending angling shows, it became apparent that most game anglers either had grey hair or none at all.
Where had all the young ones gone
Seeing few youngsters on the canals or local ponds where I grew up was a worrying trend. They're the future of our sport; guardians of our precious waterways. Without new blood, I pondered that angling, my passion of 50 plus years, was facing a long decline to become a marginal pastime conducted by the stereotypical demographic. Could today's youngsters be enthralled by the allure of the water's edge and what lay within?
The Eureka moment!
Renewing my Wybunbury Anglers Association membership card in 2020 I spotted a table labelled with a coaching sign. Manning it were two handsome young-ish fellows, Andrew Fairclough and Pip Reade who had inaugurated a junior coaching sessions for the club. Chatting with them, it was apparent these guys were full of enthusiasm after their successful first season.
However, their hopes and aspirations for future growth relied on delivery resource. It was a case of the right place at the right time. Here was an opportunity to be actively engaged in my passion. Andy and Pip were pushing an open door and I happily walked through it, putting my name down there, delighted to begin my club coaching journey.
My first Let's Fish!
The guys suggested attending a couple of Let's Fish! events on the Shropshire Union near Nantwich to observe the day and see if it was for me. I rolled up one Sunday morning full of enthusiasm. It proved a sensible approach, getting a feel and flavour of a day and seeing how they panned out. I'd recommend this approach to anyone considering coaching, so you experience the amount of time, levels of skill and concentration required to coach all day. These events are longer than your 5-hour matches, so buyer beware! Sitting alongside each coach in turn observing, manning the welcome desk and generally running the bank, I felt instantly at home.
I was blown away at just how far people travelled in the hope of catching their first fish. We've had participants from Leeds to the North, Lichfield to the south and Liverpool to the west, all desperately keen to learn to fish and with nobody in the family to show them. I then realised just how lucky I'd been with dad as my coach, always on call and ready with encouraging words and guidance.
It struck me what brilliant events Let's Fish! were. A coach with countless hours of experience and knowledge providing undivided attention in helping catch someone their first fish. Effectively fast tracked and dodging so many of the pitfalls that befell me and many others when we started out.
I was hooked and after further discussions, Wybunbury Angling Association supported me in taking my level 1 coaching badge to enable me to support Andy and Pip. With their encouragement and support, the level 2 lead coach qualification followed. This enables you to lead an event which is massively rewarding.
No age barrier
In the last two years, I've coached people from the ages of 6 up to 75 plus at Let's Fish! events. Regardless of age, the smile and look of wonder when people hook, play, land and touch that first fish is something unforgettable. I still feel the same after each fish caught, even after all those years fishing. If you feel you can give of your time freely and would like to put something back into angling, then I can assure you coaching is extremely rewarding.
Don't forget it's a two-way street, and you will get back more than you put in. Coaching has helped me take the gift of angling to the next level by keeping the passion alive fostering the next generation of anglers. To any angler out there pondering getting involved, I would say ‘Go on, give it a go, you just might like it'.