Here's the story about a unique and very special Let's Fish! coach, because Wayne Thomas is the country's only deaf level 2 professional angling coach.
As our award winning Let's Fish! programme continues to go from strength to strength, it must never be forgotten that this success would not be sustainable without the efforts of the growing army of hard-working qualified coaches and volunteers who do the hard miles on the ground.
A wide range of coaching skills
Some would certainly be considered top canal anglers, Jason Cunningham, Ben Sharratt, Paul & Neil Turner, Chris Harvey and Motty to name but a few. Other coaches, who may not yet quite be as technically competent at canal fishing, bring a whole plethora of other equally important skills to the table. The ability to generate instant rapport with pupils and make sessions fun even when the fish are not playing ball is equally important as we strive to make sure the next generation of entrants into the sport get the fishing habit. It's this mixture of complimentary skills that makes the Let's Fish! campaign successful.
British Sign Language (BSL) and some interesting statistics around deafness
One of our recently qualified level 2 coaches, Wayne Thomas is unique, being a fluent BSL communicator. Best we know, is the only qualified deaf coach in the UK. We caught up with Wayne recently to find out what makes him tick. First off, he outlined some interesting facts and figures around deafness in the UK:
There are 11 million people who are currently classified as deaf or hard of hearing
There are currently around 50,000 children with hearing loss in the UK with around half being born with limited or no hearing capacity.
125,000 adults use BSL as their first language as do over 20,000 children
British sign language and American sign language have many differences
Deaf people are up to 50% more likely to have poor mental health
My first fish
I became involved in fishing when I was 12 or 13 years old and went a time or two with my brother. We had no support from my family for they had no interest in the piscatorial art, so I stopped fishing until I was 28. It was my old mate Barry who took me to Alexandra Park in Manchester on a cold frosty Sunday morning in March. Here I caught my first fish, a roach and then I was hooked on angling. These days fishing helps me to relax and to reduce my stress levels. I love being out in the countryside watching all the flora and fauna.
Initial involvement with Let's Fish!
Little Britain Anglers who rent the fishing rights along the Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal held our first Let's Fish! back in 2017. We all had a chance to show kids and adults what fishing was all about in 30-minute slots. It was pleasing to see the smiles on their faces when someone caught a fish which I enjoyed seeing. It was then I thought about taking the step from being a volunteer to gaining a formal coaching qualification.
Challenges and opportunities of being a deaf coach
As a deaf person, the prejudices that you must deal with daily can knock your confidence. I am still learning every day how to handle new situations. There are some unique opportunities which I plan to explore and develop further. I have an ambition to hopefully coach all age groups and abilities within the deaf communities by using BSL and lip-reading.
Future coaching ambitions
My aim is to become the best that I can be on the canal fishing and coaching side of things. With that in mind I was lucky enough to get a slot on the mottification training programme on the Shropshire Union Canal back in the spring along with 50 other coaches split over eight sessions.
There I learnt how to play the fish in different ways, how to control the pole when striking and landing, also more about squatt and pinkie fishing, feeding patterns and the need for light rigs. Pat Byrne, another Let's Fish! coach made some useful notes of the day and there's also a mottification video, although it's quite long but very useful**.**
I am aiming to travel more to different waters meeting different people and other coaches as part of my learning and gaining experience. Eventually I would like to set up my own coaching website and turn coaching into a full-time job.
Favourite species and venues
Carp, tench, roach and perch are my favourites. My favourite coaching venues is the Royal Oak Basin MBBC in Radcliffe where you will often find some of the club's other coaches, such as Frank Shenton or Mick Dodman wetting a line. My personal favourite venues for my own fishing are Jonchery Lake in France and Bradshaw Fisheries in Bolton.
Mark Thomas has inspired me over the last two years, he has been a great mentor. Also, Ali Hamidi through his TV shows Monster Carp etc I think he is a top angler as well as Jeremy Wade from the TV show River Monsters.
Funny moments in coaching
On our last Lets Fish event, one lady caught a shoe. She was playing it well right up to the moment it broke the surface. Only then did she realise that it wasn't a fish. When kids catch a fish and sometimes strike a little too hard and the fish flies up out of the water it always makes me smile although this should happen less often now as Motty is encouraging coaches to use elastic rather than a flick tip and have it set on the loose side.
Voluntary Bailiffing Service (VBS)
Around three years ago I was out of work for a while. I needed to keep active and so I decided to join up on behalf of Little Britain Anglers. I always enjoy being outdoors and I had fantastic support from the excellent Angling Trust North West Regional Co-ordinator, David Lees and fellow club members. I would encourage every club to get involved with VBS.
I want to see the club evolve away from the old ideas of what a fishing club should be to a modern and fresh club that young and old alike would want to join and support. We need to build a healthy junior section as this is the future of the sport I love. Let's Fish! is part of that process. Also, a medium-term ambition would be to develop a disabled match team.
Fishing improves everyone's health and happiness
I want to improve the fishing on our canal and waterways for the local community, build relationships with local groups i.e. disabled groups, mental health groups, dementia groups and children with autism, indeed anyone with special needs that wants to try fishing. I think I am going to be kept busy for a while.
We'd love to tell you more
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