Terry's Teach-in at Baronscourt
Teaching children angling techniques at Baronscourt
This month’s “teach-in” is one with a difference.
Not only was it a weekend adventure rather than a single day, but also, it would be better described as an “angling clinic”.
On this occasion I had seven budding superstars to contend with.
During a recent angling-coaching event, I hi-jacked some of the pack away from the game angling theory to teach them the art of pole and waggler fishing, along with the correct mixing of ground bait and how to clean and prepare maggots prior to an angling session. If there was any time left, a crash course in pike angling, safe-handling and release would be crow-barred into the lesson as well.
The plan was to go through the angling theory on Saturday and follow up by putting what the lads had learnt into practice on Sunday. On paper, this may sound straight forward enough but in reality, seven youngsters “chomping at the bit” to catch a fish is exhausting stuff, believe me!
Mixing ground-bait to the correct texture
With the preparation work sorted on Saturday morning, I was ready for the young apprentices. I must have found a magic formula because they were all polite and attentive and genuinely wanted to soak up any knowledge available that would be of benefit in the quest to catch a fish. This is the magic that angling has, and something that should be implemented into modern day youth culture.
The first step was to sort out the maggots, and these happened to be in quite bad shape. With the majority being casters or old husks, the smell was awful and it was great fun watching the facial expressions as I forced the youngsters to take a sniff! These were quickly sieved to remove old sawdust that reeked of ammonia and then left on the riddle over a bowl to allow the healthy maggots to crawl through, leaving dead maggots, husks and old casters on the surface.
Cleaning and preparing half a gallon of maggots
While the maggots were safely sorting themselves out, I could turn the attention to ground bait preparation. To keep the boredom threshold at bay, I quickly breezed through the reasons why ground bait should be so fine in order to attract fish rather than to feed them. I also explained how it could be used as a medium to accurately introduce attractive particles such as boiled hemp-seed and casters etc into the swim. It is important not to over complicate explanations at such an early stage but to keep things simple and fast moving. With water introduced into the mixing bowl, followed by the correct amount of crumb, I asked my pupils to turn their fingers into whisks and go mad mixing the ingredients. This was great fun, kids love getting their hands messed up and we soon had an almost perfect bowl of ground bait. I say almost, as it still required a little more time to sit and soak.
We could now inspect the maggots, and found that the active ones had worked their way down through the riddle into the bowl beneath. These were poured into a standard two- pint maggot container, with a little bran added to clean off any un-wanted grease and dirt. It was obvious how much of a difference this made as the maggots were lively and the strong smell of ammonia had gone completely.
Next stage, and we were back to the well-soaked crumb. This was sieved through the riddle, explaining that it removed un-wanted lumps and also gave the mix a “fluffy” texture. Particle baits could now be added as attractive freebies, and each ball of ground bait could be easily squeezed into a golf ball size to be thrown into the imaginary swim.
Brimming with enthusiasm, youngsters are fast learners
With their concentration waning slightly, it was time to look at the roach poles, and I knew that my budding anglers were keen to see what these were all about. The kids loved the simplicity of simply attaching the loop of line to the end of the telescopic pole and un-winding a pre-made rig. They could not believe that these complete set ups can be bought for as little as £10 in most tackle shops, well within a young persons budget. Explaining the shotting pattern and hook length, they were soon over- head casting. These guys had little to learn! I gave some instruction on under arm casting, as this will drop the tackle into a swim without any disturbance, important in shallow water or if fish are on the “spooky” side.
After ten minutes, there was just enough time left to check out the mechanics of the pike rod-pod, drop off indicators and bite alarms before the end of Saturday’s session.
Explaining the mechanics of the rod-pod, bite alarms and drop-off indicators
It’s amazing how time flies when you chat about fishing, and the kids left with their parents, buzzing about what type of fish, and how many they were going to catch the following day. In order to guarantee success, if that’s possible, Peter from the Loughs Agency, Gerry Campbell of the professional angling guides and myself took the entire mixing bowl of crumb I had mixed earlier and we secretly pre-baited a few likely looking areas in preparation for Sunday’s teach-in. We couldn’t resist having an hours fishing ourselves and were soon catching Roach, Perch and decent Skimmer Bream. The kids were going to love this! By Sunday morning, I was first on the scene at our pre-baited venue. Basically to check that all was in order regarding health and safety, and also to prepare tackle and bait for the gruelling marathon, sorry, angling day ahead.
As the youngsters arrived, it became obvious that most had their own gear, largely due to sponsorship from the Lough’s Agency on previous angling events. At this stage of the game, there were no benefits in holding the guys back any longer so, with the green light from me, some lads lure-fished for pike, while others took up poles and light spinning rods to target Roach, Perch and Bream.
The smile says it all!
Within seconds, a small Pike had been hooked on a spinner and this gave me a perfect opportunity to explain how to net the fish once it had been played-out, along with the necessity of forceps and an un-hooking mat. Calls of “can you eat this” and “can I take it home for tea” also led to a discussion on the merits of catch and release!
I am glad to say that the gang saw my side of the argument and happily released the fish to fight another day. It was going back no matter what, but it was good to have the opportunity to explain why conservation is so important regarding this species, and indeed all coarse fish.
Another Pike caught and lost really had the lads buzzing, but this was the only activity from the predators and pretty soon, the Roach, Perch and Bream fanatics began to overtake proceedings. It wasn’t long before the pikers were asking if they could try a spot of pole fishing and I soon had a few converts on my hands. The fish came thick and fast to the delight of all, and I spent most of the day un-hooking and un-tangling. It was obvious that the coarse fish had responded well to our pre-baiting the night before. Bt 3pm, I had to blow the whistle signalling the end of a hectic day.
It simply flew in, and by the look on all the little faces staring back at me; it flew in all too soon for them too. I couldn’t get them to stop. Eventually, after strong protests, they were gathered up and ferried back to the meeting point by members of the professional angling guides, where they joined the many others participating in this event. Here, they received awards for completing the event, along with superb tackle prizes to boot!
Meanwhile back at the water’s edge, I sat in a heap wondering how the heck I was going to sort out the mountain of tackle and bait left lying by the “little darlings”. If you are thinking of becoming an angling coach, don’t let anyone tell you that it is easy, but it definitely has its rewards.
Many thanks to the crew at the Loughs Agency, for allowing me the chance to carry out my angling teach-in, to the Professional Angling Guides and Instructors Network for their support, and most importantly, to the budding young anglers that turned up, listened to instruction, and performed in a totally responsible manner. Great fun was had by all.