I have to say at the outset, that I was amazed by the amount of interest. Even given some small degree of apathy amongst the other teaching staff, that resulted in four forms not finding out about this new opportunity, 32 pupils signing up for my fishing tutorials was beyond my expectations.
Brixham is traditionally a hotbed of sea fishing, so when I put a note in the register at the Community College where I work suggesting pupils come to find out about coarse fishing, I wasn't really expecting the response I received. Still, it was very encouraging and dates were set for four groups of eight to attend an evening session in the classroom to look at the basics, followed by two sessions on the bank at local fishery New Barn Farm Angling Centre.
One or two of the pupils had experienced some kind of coarse fishing before, but really, all were raw beginners. First lesson was to be a very simple look at the kinds of venue available for coarse fishing and the kinds of tackle needed to fish effectively. It's amazing sometimes to listen to more experienced anglers trying to pass on tips to youngsters; just imagine for a moment, that you know nothing about fishing whatsoever, I mean - absolutely nothing. Now, if I say "throw a handful of maggots into your swim", that surely does not make any sense at all. So to begin, we have to start to make sense of this incredibly technical sport of ours, explaining that a swim is the area of water immediately in front, or downstream of us. That a hooklength is a thin piece of line with a hook tied to it and is sometimes called a bottom, sometimes called a trace.
First lesson done, now it's time to move on to watercraft. Hands up all those who have a favourite swim they always head for? The first watercraft lesson was on swim selection in the prevailing weather conditions. In the summer, look for the windward bank and floating debris, scum etc. this area is where most of the natural food items will congregate and the fish will follow. Winter time and warmth is the main priority for the fish. This may be in the deepest water, but on sunny days the shallower areas can hold huge shoals where the sun can strike the surface and raise the water temperature by even a fraction of a degree. After all this theory, a bit of light relief was found by learning to tie a few knots, or was it knotting a few ties? Anyway, by now, all the pupils were eager and straining to be let onto a fishery and put all this into practice, the only stipulation from me before they went, was that they buy a disgorger, all the other tackle was provided by myself, a small payment from the Lottery funded New Opportunities Fund and generous discounts at Brixham Bait and Tackle. Off to the bankside we go.
Island Pond at New Barn is a small pond capable of holding maybe eight anglers in comfort with a good stock of roach and perch, the chance of a carp of a couple of pounds and an occasional tench. Maximum depth is around 6 feet and the island is only 7 metres away, making it an ideal venue for a beginner armed with a 4 metre whip. Light floats and ample supplies of maggots bring bites-a-plenty, with 30 or 40 small fish a realistic target in the three hour sessions. The small fish are not particularly tackle shy, so the whip set-up used a 2lb hooklength, enough to stand a chance of subduing the carp should one happen along. At first, I carried a couple of landing nets, strategically placed and netted the fish for the pupils, but soon, most were capable of landing their own fish and getting to grips with using the disgorger, hooking maggots and all the myriad details that experienced anglers take for granted.