My second day at GHOF was set to be a busy one. We had around 15 children to coach and this meant setting up 15 rods and 15 tackle boxes along with nets and spares before anyone had even arrived. The children were made up of two very diverse groups. One of the great qualities of GHOF is its capability to take children of all ages and ability. The Ealing venue has great disabled access with all swims being suitable for wheelchairs and the educational centre having disabled facilities including a ramp and a disabled toilet. Around half of the children that arrived that day were disabled and were assigned to the more experienced coaches. I was assigned to coach three young girls of 6, 8 and 13 years of age. We also had another young coach with us of 15 years of age who had kindly been given the opportunity of working for GHOF.
After allowing them to choose a swim that was large enough for three people, myself and the other young coach demonstrated how to cast and how to hook on the maggots. Yes, we were attempting to persuade little girls to pick up live maggots with their bare hands! After the screaming stopped we decided that for now we would put the bait on and they can just concentrate on catching their first fish. It wasn’t long before the youngest one had a bite and she was over the moon. Her next challenge was to hold and unhook the fish herself but again the thought of this petrified her. A flurry of fish followed and she could not stop catching however the other two were struggling. It is important to us that everyone has a fair shot at catching their first fish so my attention turned to them. After a steady flow of bait (little and often is the key) we had them all catching and the swim came alive. This kept us extremely busy as understandably the two youngest needed plenty of help. Thankfully for us the eldest girl was a natural and able to unhook the fish herself, although still wasn’t keen on the maggots. With all the excitement the inevitable tangle happened on not just one rod, but all three! Fortunately they couldn’t have timed it better as we were just about to stop for lunch which gave us time to untangle and retie the rods.
After a well-earned break the fishing was a lot quieter as it normally is around this time. This gave us a period where we could teach the girls about the surrounding environment and wildlife; an important part of the day. Since they had all caught plenty of fish, myself and the other coach decided to challenge them to put the wriggly maggots on the hooks themselves. With a little reassurance all three of them plucked up the courage, faced their fears and successfully hooked a maggot. In fact it was the eldest that actually found this the hardest. Our aim is by the end of the day we would like them to be able put on the bait, cast out, strike the rod, unhook and return the fish all by themselves. The fishing started to pick up for the last few hours and with a little encouragement the two youngest girls were also able to unhook the fish and return them safely, providing the fish didn’t wriggle too much!
All in all I was extremely impressed with all three of the girls and how quickly they picked it up. I have seen plenty of older boys that weren’t as good as they were and it is a shame that the angling world today is so male dominated. The day ended with all three catching good size roach at the same time in front of their teacher, perfect! They all had a wonderful time and the little 8 year old said, “thank you for making my day so special!” We really hope that they will go against the grain and take up the sport, inspiring other young girls to do the same.
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