Some of my students have expressed an interest in river fishing, I can’t imagine where that idea came from… (if you keep on about something for long enough they will eventually come to believe it was their idea). This obviously shows a great deal of wisdom, often beyond their years and a mature understanding of the finer points of angling!
So I gave in under immense pressure and took some of them river fishing over the summer.
I have worked with one lad, Josh, off and on for a couple of years. He is becoming quite a good angler and is developing a real love for the sport. So this summer I decided to give him a real treat. Up until then the only river he had fished was the tiny river Bourne near Chertsey and then only when it was carrying a little colour as its size dictates the fish will be too shy to feed in clear water. He had also seen the Thames but in summer – these days it is often little more than a long lake with no flow at all.
I cannot describe the expression on his face when we arrived on the banks of the Hampshire Avon at Britford near Salisbury. Here was a fast flowing, crystal clear river in which you could see the weed and the fish amongst it (with a little practice). He was totally captivated as so many of us have been in the past.
I had already shown him the basics of trotting with a centrepin and he was soon catching fish, mostly minnows but with some small chub and dace. His first bigger fish was this perch which he almost failed to recognise as it’s colours were so much brighter than the pale washed out perch he was used to in still water.
He fished on and the harder he practiced, the better he got. Josh even caught his first grayling and this chub.
He was becomming proficient enough to be able to cope without me hovering over him so to develop his own problem solving skills I moved a couple of swims downstream but still within earshot. I could still hear him if he shouted, in case he got into trouble or caught a big fish and I was downstream in case he fell in, in which case he would drift past me if he was unable to regain his feet…
This meant that I could do a bit of trotting on my own and equipped with my favourite rod and centrpin reel I started to fish a channel between the streamer weed about two rod lengths out. To reach this channel I used the Wallis cast, a method of casting with a centrepin reel that has achieved almost mythical status over the past few years (unjustly so, I believe.) I was soon catching roach, dace, grayling and small chub and was in a world of my own when I was joined quietly by Josh ( he must have listened to the lesson I gave about the need for stealth – frightened me half to death).
He had been watching me Wallis casting and asked how to do it, I explained that it was very difficult and required practice to develop the necessary coordination and timing. I mentioned how I had tried to teach more experienced and skilful anglers than he without much success. He asked if he could have a go but I didn’t want what had been a great day for him to end on a note of failure (besides the rod and reel I was using cost the price of a cheap second hand car!)
He persisted with his request and with a quiet prayer to my own patron saint (Jack Hargreaves, if you must know and if you don’t know who he is then that’s what google is for!). I explained what was required and handed over the rod.
As I expected, his first effort was a disaster and his second little better but no dreadful tangle resulted so I reached for the rod as a damage limitation measure but instead of admitting defeat or at worst throwing the rod down in frustration as he may well have done six months before, he said “I can do this!”.
I then switched into full coaching mode to minimise any damage to my tackle, still not believing he would be able to master it but within half an hour he was casting a medium sized stick float out to the channel I had been fishing previously. To say I was amazed at what he had achieved in such a short time would be an undestatement but it was explained that evening when I held a very low level debrief of the day with him and we decided that his success was explained by his expertise on the Xbox. Both require the ability to do two seperate actions with each hand simultaneously and Josh’s brain had already been trained to do just that.
It has made me re-think my attitude towards computer games.