Bait-Tech's Andy Neal discovered just what it means to be a fishing coach for a day.
When Sparsholt College in Hampshire got in touch to say they were running their annual FLC coaching day I just had to be there. This day is organised by Sparsholt College fishery students and is there to give other students with learning difficulties a chance to try and enjoy the sport we all love so dearly. Fishery lecturers Sue and Simon Scott along with Dan Gale always make this a day to remember and utilise the skills and knowledge of their year 2 Level 3 Diploma students (all of whom are level 1 coaches and some have progressed to the Level 2 coaching qualification) to offer the FLC student group one-to-one coaching for the day.
In my opinion there is nowhere near enough effort made for days and events like this and one such reason I was so pleased to be invited along. I personally feel very strongly about being able to give something back to our sport so was really keen to get involved and help where I can.
The day arrived and I was greeted by twenty or so smiling faces of the Level 3 Diploma students, all of which were getting their tackle set up and making sure everything was right for the day ahead. Simon, Dan and Sue very kindly introduced me whilst we walked around their beautifully landscaped lake. It was all I could do not to pinch a rod and have a go as there were fish topping everywhere, it looked superb. Although offered I declined as this day was not about me but helping others and we soon gathered for the arrival of the FLC student group. Understandably there were a few nervous faces at the prospect of being paired up with someone they had never met before but all were very keen to get started on their coaching day.
The group arrived shortly after and being so far out of their comfort zone clearly showed with lots of nerves. The coaches spotted this immediately and were soon offering themselves up to be paired up for the day's events. This showed an awful lot of character as I’m not too sure I would have been so forthcoming when I was their age. A credit to themselves and the college, it was so impressive to see them instantly putting others before them. Although a little shy and nervous the pairs of coaches and students moved off to their pegs for the days fishing.
Instantly there was calm and smiles as the coaches got into their stride explaining about the fishing and environment. I actually dropped in on a few whilst doing this and learned quite a bit myself. This was clearly their domain and it showed, their confidence was clearly very settling to the FLC students too as before long we could hear ‘when will I catch a fish?’ ringing out around the lake. Well, that question was soon answered as all were very quickly rewarded with some lovely roach, rudd and perch. And with a few specimen anglers in our midst surely it was only a matter of time before a carp was hooked too.
With the camera round my neck I was to be the photographer for the day. Didn’t I earn my half time hot dog! Before we knew it, as we walked around there were fish coming out all over on various methods, the smiles on the novice anglers faces were incredible. The images just don’t do it justice! Instantly I understood why Sue, Simon and Dan go to so much trouble to support the Level 3 Diploma students to organise this event and I for one applaud them.
With the sun beating down and fish being caught everywhere I was glad to have my trainers on. The call for the camera was ringing out all over the lake!
The half-time whistle blew and we gathered to enjoy Mrs Scott’s fruits of the BBQ, that was until we realised we were missing four people! ‘Too busy fishing’ was the reply and we looked across the lake to see a student doing battle with a very well angled carp, off the top too!
After a well-deserved break for lunch we were back in action and little did we expect the morning sport to be a fraction of what the afternoon promised. The carp had decided to feed! Rods bent everywhere and lots of fish splashing meant lots more work for me but what a pleasure it was. Speaking to a few of the learning support assistants who accompanied some of the students they couldn’t believe how engrossed they were. It even got competitive as one young brilliant angler had caught 23 Rudd and two Carp! I’m glad I left my gear at home as I would have clearly been embarrassed!
As the day drew to a close we once again gathered on the lawn at the front of the fishery, this time for the prize giving. What an unbelievable difference in two sets of people in the space of a few hours. With rounds of applause and certificates for all who took part everyone beamed from ear-to-ear. There were biggest fish prizes of which an excellent 11lb fish won! This particular gentleman gave me the impression he had done all this before as it wasn’t long before he was loading and molding his own method feeders and then casting it out and caught several large carp on it. Bob Nudd, look out!
A fantastic day enjoyed by everyone. The college student coaches were truly brilliant, Sue, Simon and Dan, flawless! The FLC students all left with HUGE smiles and certificates, don’t bet against seeing one of those in the angling press in the not too distant future.
Let me take this opportunity to say a massive thank you to Sparsholt College, Sue, Simon and Dan, the college students and all from the FLC group including the students themselves.
One thing was made very clear, the sport we love so much had just given a group of people some memories they will never forget. Why doesn’t this happen more? The cost is little, the effort, a lot!
The end result…. Priceless!
Roll on next year!