My first winter visit to GHOF was set to be a challenging one. With the cold temperatures the vast majority of fish will drastically reduce the amount they feed as their metabolism slows down. Today we had a group from Insight School Skills Academy which provides learning opportunities for children and young people with additional needs. Only a group of four teenagers between 14 and 15 years of age were able to come as appose to a normally larger group. They had been coming for several weeks now and most of them were able to move on from whips to more advanced techniques. Whips simply being a rod with a line attached to the end, perfect for beginners. However, they were now ready for the classic rod and reel setup. As well as this, we did have a pole available which a young man called Luca was keen to try out. This is an approach which many match anglers prefer and is essentially a larger version of a whip. Some poles can be several meters long and normally made from carbon fibre so they are incredibly light for their strength and size. They allow for the angler to place the bait directly over the fish and are normally suited for the smaller species.
The remaining three were to fish the rod and reel. Usually we would use a float and fish the bait mid water or just off the bottom. However, during the colder months fish tend to stay in the deeper water near the bottom of the lake. Therefore we opted for ledgering, fishing the line directly on the bottom held down with a weight. Since catching any fish at all was going to be a bonus, we kept them engaged by working on their casting technique and accuracy. There are two ways to cast a rod, overarm and underarm. We started by allowing one of the boys to cast overarm on the open field behind the lake which gave him plenty of room for error. After a few goes and some sound advice from James Thornhill (GHOF London Coordinator) he was starting to get the hang of it. We then moved on to underarm which I coached him through and this time he was casting into the lake so he needed a little more accuracy and finesse. This proved a little more difficult as there is a lot to think about which hinders accuracy; wind the weight to the right length, trap the line, open the bail arm, feel the ‘swing’ of weight, flick the rod tip up, let go of the line, trap the line again and feel the weight down to the bottom. When you put it all together its clear why casting takes some practice.
In terms of catching any fish to say we were struggling was an understatement. The water was extremely clear which never makes it easy. We tried a few different methods and a number of different spots but unfortunately no fish was going to grace the bank today. One boy, Bradley, was extremely keen and would have happily stayed out in the cold despite the bleak prospects of landing a fish. He had demonstrated great skill over the past few weeks and had a mature head on his shoulders. James and another full time coach at GHOF, Charlie, had decided to offer Bradley the opportunity of becoming a peer mentor. This is part of a programme called ‘Angling in a Box’ which is designed to provide young people with the skills and confidence they need to make positive life choices. The programme is split up into three modules from basic fishing and health and safety to project management and becoming a full-fledged peer mentor and coach. It’s a truly excellent programme that will undoubtedly open many doors for Bradley in the future and help embed direction, ambition and drive into his mentality.
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