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What?! Fishing?! This time of year?!

Filed in Uncategorized by on December 15, 2011 1 Comment

I quite often get a response like that when people ask me what I do for a job. But yes, it’s true. My job, all year round, is helping people to learn and love fishing. I’ve worked with Lapwing students for a few years now. I take students who think they might enjoy fishing and introduce them to every aspect of the sport – freshwater ,sea and game.

Is it a sport? people say. Well it is officially, but it’s more than that, and it can be a lot of different things to different people. What I teach is technically called angling – that means fishing with a rod and line. Fishing is a more general tern and could involve using trawlers or spears or dynamite or whatever. But people tend to call it fishing and we do too – usually.

Fishing is Britain’s largest participant sport by far and there is a whole community of anglers out there waiting to get to know you. The Lapwing students I work with become part of this community and are recognised and respected for what they do and achieve. They meet tackle shop staff, bailiffs, club members and officials, Environment Agency workers, other anglers, curious members of the public … the list goes on and on. They get to talk to and get known and accepted in this community and they get to put something back into it. They get involved in club work parties, and conservation projects and special interest groups and so on. One young man I worked with, Jonathan, (read “˜Jon’s Story’) started off not being very confident about meeting people and through getting involved in fishing did work experience in a tackle shop, become a respected and valued member of some angling development groups and became a fully trained and qualified angling coach. Jon learned to coach by getting involved with Suffolk Disabled Anglers Forum and coaching and supporting people with disabilities to enjoy angling.

Fishing provides the opportunity to learn about and enjoy and respect the environment and nature. One of my Lapwing students is learning all about the weather and how it affects angling and this will lead to him gaining an AQA qualification. It involves finding out information and using it to make informed decisions about aspects of fishing. Knowing how to do this can help you make good decisions about where to go, what to do, how to be safe and comfortable and so on. In fact becoming a good angler involves planning and reviewing, setting goals and working towards them and enjoying the success and achievements that it brings. My students keep records of what they do and use these to inform their decisions in the future. I’m sure that learning to take this approach to success in angling transfers to other aspects of people’s lives too.

We sometimes see spectacular things, like the full moon rising over the sea (which can look jaw droppingly huge!) and we see it sparkling on the water, shooting stars (which we find out information on when and where to see the best showers), wildlife that you don’t get to see that often and so much more. We’ve seen rare birds and animals like ospreys and bitterns and otters, and regularly see seals and kingfishers and many other interesting creatures. We see and experience fantastic weather conditions, like complete horizon to horizon rainbows, storms, unusual mists and so on. The first time I took Lapwing student fishing at Shingle Street it was a hot summer’s day and we had to put up a shelter to protest us from the sun. The next time we went the sea was rough and wild and the wind drove the salt spray across the beach like smoke and the sun, low in the sky, filled the spray with shimmering rainbows.

One student, Andrew is interested in bushcraft and survival skills too and we work that into his experiences. Recently he caught his first cod and he learned to cook it over an open wood fire. It tasted lovely but the taste of success and achievement was even better for him. As we are out in all weathers and environments we make cooking a hot meal an everyday part of our sessions. We plan what we need to take with us and the students learn the fundamentals of cooking and things like healthy eating, good nutrition, food hygiene and so on and they gain qualifications relating to these topics too.

Here are a few excerpts from my reports over the last few weeks

After his busy session on Tuesday he had decided he would like to learn about targeting big carp so we went to a lake at Gt Horkesley which is good for learning that. Aaron was really keen to learn as much as he could and do as much for himself as he could. This type of fishing is quite “˜strategic’ and he really enjoyed this aspect. It looked like he wasn’t going to get anything but just as we were about to pack up he hooked and caught a nice one. It was his biggest fish yet and his first double figure one. It took him about ten minutes to land it as it fought so hard. Then we unhooked it, photographed and weighed it and put it back and watched it swim away. It was almost dark! He was really proud of himself and showed all his family the pictures when we got back

We decided to move further up the river and soon after that the water erupted in front of Aaron a he hooked a big pike. He was really excited and the pike fought really hard but eventually Aaron won the battle and his pike was in the net. We weighed it and took some photos. It weighed 11lbs exactly – a very good pike for the Gipping. Aaron was so pleased with his achievement.

Although Andrew has only been sea fishing twice before his sea fishing skills and understanding are developing fast. His casting skills are already excellent. Andrew caught 20 whiting, 2 codling, a rockling and a dab. We took the largest codling and I showed him how to clean a fish to take home. I took the fish home to fillet and we plan to cook and eat it in our bushcraft session on Monday.

Andrew collected materials to build a fire suitable for cooking a meal on. We then went to a site by the river where it is safe and ok to build a fire and we have permission to do so. Andrew built the fire and we cooked the cod fillets from the fish he caught on Saturday along with fried potato slices and ate these in the light and warmth of the fire as it got dark. Andrew extinguished the remains of the fire when we left and left the site as we had found it.

A special moment occurred during this session. Aaron had not seen a seal before whilst fishing and one popped up in the distance but Aaron missed it. We kept looking for it to pop up again then suddenly it was right in front of us only a few yards away and was observing us. It happened that Aaron had just caught a fish and was about to return it to the sea and the seal could see this and came even closer so it was right in the surf in front of us . Aaron put the fish back and the seal took it immediately. The seal stayed there for about 10 minutes looking at us as if it was begging for food. During this time Aaron caught two more fish which the sea pounced on as he returned them. I’ve never had such a close encounter with a seal in nearly 50 years fishing. Aaron was thrilled by this and was thoroughly amazed at his luck and the seals antics. A little episode which made a good day into a memory for life.

Well I hope that gives you a taste for what we do and why we do it… and why we do it all year round! Winter fishing is a bit special. I think the students find that it’s harder but that it’s more rewarding too. Some of the pictures here might save a thousand words here and there. I’ll let you know how we get on in the spring!

News from Dave Nelson
Angling coach and guide
December 2011

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  1. James Willer says:

    This articles was quite long and I found it quite hard to understand.

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