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03/06/23 - DDAS Juniors Open Day - Revels Fishery

Updated: Jun 27, 2023

Being English, Apologies come as second nature. Even when entering an empty room, I always lead with an apology just in case there is someone there that I hadn’t seen yet. I need to start this blog with two apologies. First is the lack of photos. I didn’t take any at the event because I was simply too busy. I am waiting for pictures to come in from the parents that were there and, if/when they do, I will post them as a separate blog post or as a gallery at the end of this blog post. Second is a slight misunderstanding on my part about the cost of a Non-Fishing Parent membership. I have been telling anyone that would listen that the fee was £5.00 for the year without realising that it went up to £10 last April. I mean, in the big picture it’s still not a lot of money and I honestly believe that we still offer unrivalled value for money. I just feel bad for unintentionally misleading people. So, just for clarification, Juniors under 10 years old accompanied by a parent or guardian with a full adult membership – Free. Non-Fishing Parent with juniors under 10 years old - £10.oo. Juniors from 10 to 13 (inclusive) - £10.oo Juniors from 14 to 17 (inclusive) - £20.oo

The DDAS Juniors Open Day.

HEADLINES: Lead Coach sees tangled fishing line in his sleep. Table gets torched in BBQ incident. Local Entrepreneur becomes new 'Burger King!'

The day after any junior event if I didn’t hurt, I would have to question if I was still alive? This was going to be our biggest event yet and over the weeks leading up to the date, the names of participants were slowly extending the list. Creating a list of names is one thing. Creating a list of willing coaches is another. Fortunately, I am blessed with the best coaching team since the 1974 Brazilian Samba coaching team that lit the world on fire with their imaginative use of sequins and feathers, or the coaches from the French National Shrugging team who won three titles on the bounce during the late eighties. These guys are a true God send and the reason why we have any success at all… The fantastic five and I were bolstered by help from the former president of the Squirrel haters club (fishing joke!), David Tattersall, and by sponsored angler Steve Crowford (Warburton’s). They were supposed to be more but, this is a sad tale of fate and tragedy.

The first to fall, apart from those that had already confirmed that they couldn’t make it, was Gentle Jon Bass. Jon and wife Lin had switched their ‘annex by conquering’ campaign from Scotland to Ireland in what I can only assume was a change of scenery. Sadly, they managed to not only bring home the spoils of conflict, but Irish Covid too. There were constant enquiries throughout the week as to the state of Jon and Lin’s health and of course to his availability for Saturday. Jon is a fully committed member of the team and I know it was probably a difficult but ultimately sensible decision to sit this one out. A feint positive would have allowed Jon to attend school, but we didn’t want to risk it. A free BBQ is one thing. But free Covid would not have been so welcome. I confess there was a moment when I had in mind an image of in Jon shorts, a blazer, and a schoolboys cap. This was quickly dispelled because even Jon has not seen his legs in 20 years and it was, quite frankly, rather frightening. We all wish Lin and Jon a speedy recovery and hope they can quickly resume their summer campaigns as soon as possible.

The next victim of fate was our newest committee member, Chris Painter. Chris’s car was lame and at the Vet’s for surgery, so Nice Bloke Tim volunteered to give Chris a lift to Revels on Saturday morning. Chris’s wife, Katy, apparently has history of throwing herself from moving horses, but this time she wasn’t on the horse nor was the horse hers. I must conclude that the horse was a mare because, unless you are Donald Trump, you will know that ladies do not like to be slapped on the rear end. A ‘Good Horse’ slap caused the startled creature to kick out and poor Katy was in the firing line. A lot of bruising and a fractured elbow** was enough for Chris to be the great bloke he is and stay home to look after a battered Katy. Again, we wish her a speedy recovery. (** - The elbow turned out not to be fractured in the end. The X-Ray showed an old injury from when Katy had earlier fight with a horse).

The last victim was DDAS Club Secretary, Steve Sudworth. Steve has been using tree hugging cars for some time now with no problems that I can remember until now. I would appear that this latest car had got fed up with Steve’s endless tales about a life at sea and, like a stubborn mule, just stopped. A trip to the car vet should have sorted the problem out. But sadly, on Saturday morning, all the electricity once again evaporated from the batteries and Steve was going nowhere fast. I was halfway through applying suncream when I got the phone call from an incandescent Steve who waiting for the AA to arrive. He promised to try to make it but did not appear. I can only assume that the car had to be shot in the end. Anymore quips about Hyundai’s Steve?

There were a couple of others that didn’t make it either and I hope that things are alright for them too…

I had capped the event at 24 participants. We could have hosted 31 if I had kept the booking open but, with a diminished coaching team and maybe a little fortuitous foresight, I’m glad I didn’t. Six people did not turn up on the day and we were still a little stretched. Not enough to spoil the day, but there were a lot of haggard faces on the coaches at the end. Despite the nonappearance of those six, at eighteen guests, this was still our biggest event to date. A fact that I am very proud of. As in the last school trip that we hosted, I was fully involved (Yes, I know! Two on the bounce!!) and I can only really give you a report on the experiences I had, and there many!

I will not give the names of all the participants as I normally would, but the coaching team was distributed thus.

Nice Bloke Tim and Mr Warburton’s on the Feeder pegs. Sgt Bracey and Si Wag on Waggler duties. Dave ‘The Acorn Worrier’ Tattersall and Captain Chris on whips. I would conduct the casting lessons.

Some people were on Bristol time and arrived a little later than the ten o’clock start time, so my pre-event droning was delayed. I got a kick out ‘pipping the whistle’ to draw everyone’s attention because it made a few people jump and I will utilise that technique more often in future. The droning caused a few titters and even some laughter which pleased me (I’ve still got it!) and we were soon underway. I had made some sticky name badges with the group numbers on which helped with who was supposed to be where and with whom. Organisation thrills me no end. (OCD, except for housework!) I escorted my first group of participants (victims) of the area of grass next to Trendals Lake designated by Jason earlier in the day.

With all the coaching equipment in use on the Main Lake, I was forced to stand four of my own rods and two of Jerry’s on the front line for the casting. Something I prayed that I would not regret. New anglers, especially young ones, have not yet learned to use the rods as and extension of their body. These are now seen as weapons to be brandished and, dare I say, abused at will. There was more than a couple of occasions when I watched my beloved rods bend to unheard of angles during the casts. Fortunately, Daiwa and Maver build ‘em strong and everything survived intact. Almost… The wind was tricky and, if I had been fishing a match on Trendals that day, my opinion would not change. The wind was going to be a problem. For experienced anglers, knowing when to stop the line from pouring from the spool once the cast is complete is second nature. For new anglers, turning around to tell mum that you nearly hit a Goose is far more important. This allows the wind to help itself to your line. If I had five pounds for every time I shouted ‘Stop!’ to retrieve snagged line, I would have been able to sneer in the face of the £111 million Euromillions winner for being poor. The wind was slightly in their faces too which created havoc with tangles around the reels. Of the six rods I had set up for the event, five were useless within the first fifteen minutes… Panic was setting in.

I commandeered the help of a willing onlooker to unwind the meters of line from behind spools and around drive shafts. I had thoughts of abandoning the casting all together because this was not working. The only thing in my favour was the short period of time each group was spending in each section. Would I be able to re-rig five rods in the time it takes for the groups to rotate? No is the simple answer to that… My helper, (I think his name was John? Sorry I’m rubbish with names) had done a fantastic job with the wrecked equipment and I thank him for that. I got two rods ready before Si appeared with my next group. I got them started and tried to assemble the other rods, but the same thing was happening again. No, surely not! Deep breath and try to stay in control.

The other problem was space. I usually conduct casting lessons for four juniors on half a football field. Not with six down a corridor of grass. Balls were crossing over each other, going in the lake, and down holes. It was an amusing chaos. New anglers try too hard. Everything is sped up and far too urgent. Slowing them down worked. I placed some cones at about 20 meters away which gave them something to aim at instead of trying to cast over the hill on the horizon. This took a lot of strain from the rods and my nerves… It was better, but there were still lots of tangles and snags to deal with.

I forgot to set a forty-five-minute timer for the second group…and the third…and the fourth! So, there was a lot of guessing going on. I need to work on that. Mercifully lunch time came. Time for food. The itinerary said lunch at 12. But, with the late start, it was 12:30 and the BBQ was still cold. Step up one Glenn Taylor… He dropped in from the sky with a tablecloth around his neck and Y-fronts on the outside of his shorts. You know the scene? Hands on hips, wind toying with the cape, etc… Glenn and the lovely Linda set about doing what none of us had time to do and got the Barby going. It wasn’t long before Glenn was being blinded by smoke and wiping away tears from sore eyes just to get the masses fed. No one asked them to do it, they just did it. In all seriousness, I cannot express fully enough my gratitude to both Linda and Glenn. This is the stuff that DDAS Juniors is built on. The willingness of volunteers. Nothing would happen otherwise… Thank you seems to fall short but, thank you both all the same.

One volunteer sadly did not leave intact. The BBQ was placed on a table in haste and not much thought was given to it's location. (There's a lot to do at these events!) It was lit, used, and left to cool down afterwards. It was only then that it became apparent that camping tables do not like to be cooked on. The table was toast, quite literally! It was lead around the back and humanely dispatched. RIP camping table...

Burgers and sausages were being devoured at an alarming rate. One lad even asked me how many he was allowed? When I asked him how many he had eaten so far, he replied that he hadn’t had any yet… Now that’s planning in action, right there! Lunchtime gave me the chance to check on the sanity of my coaches, and to get a measure of how the event was panning out. Very well so it seemed. For a bright sunny midday at Revels, the fish were being very obliging. It was apparent so far that everyone had caught something. Susan, a grandparent of one of the participants, commented that she had never seen a day like it and that we were doing a fantastic job. It’s what you want to hear when you are preparing for another two sessions of fighting the wind and tangles. It really does give a boost to know that everything you had planned so hard for was, in some shape or form, working out. The coaches seemed happy enough although one commented that the fishing was a bit tricky. I keep saying it but, these guys are amazing. They adapt so well to situations that all the planning in the world cannot take into consideration. I’ve come to refer to it as ‘Spinning the plates’. Just keep those plates spinning!

There were times when my plates had all broken, the poles had split, I had run out of superglue, and I had some serious splinters! There was nothing I could do about the wind. Nothing I could do about the lack of space. Time to suck it all up and put on the big boy pants!

The afternoon session was a little better. Fewer tangles and more attentive participants. The last group was helped by the fact that it contained the quiet Cryers, Harry and Jack. Two match junior winners showed that they had improved no end since joining us and that the practice, both in and outside of the junior events, was paying off. I’m just glad that the numbers were down because you would have found me curled up in the foetal position by the end of the day.

I’m going to give special mention to Ebonie Nicholls, one of our newest juniors, who was the only one hit one of the target cones with a direct hit. Call it luck if you want but, even I didn’t get to show off by taking out one of the cones! Kudos where it is due young lady!

All too soon 3pm arrived and it was time to call an end to proceedings. It was exhausting but I think we were all kept going by the excitement and enthusiasm of those taking part. Onlookers said that all the coaches did not stop, and that the day had been a resounding success. I heard stories of techo-nerds that are usually glued to phones that did not seek the solace of technology for hours on end. Something that was, until now, unheard of. Conditions like AHDH and Autism were calmed by catching fish as the activity focussed the mind.

It is often easy to imagine that you could nurture a new breed on ground-breaking match anglers, or a record catching Carp angler. But sometimes it is enough just to show a child a sport that can produce enough focus to calm an overly active mind and gave a little relief to parents who are living constantly on guard for their child’s safety and that of everyone around them.

I closed out the day and gave out nearly all the application forms that I had brought with me. Those that didn’t get one said that they would look online when they got home.

When everyone had left and the coaches and I were packing away, we all agreed that despite the fatigue it had been a good day. Yes, there were moments when teeth were ground and fists were clenched, but that is what coaching is. You must have an almost bottomless well of patience, dedication, and drive to keep doing it. At the very least we gave some of the participants a great day out and at best we have created a thriving junior section for our club that could ensure its future for years to come.

That is part of the whole point of doing it…

At the risk of repeating myself, I want to thank from the heart the following, Jerry Bracey Si Wagner Chris Ward Tim Broughton David Tattersall and Steve Crowford. Special thanks to Linda and Glenn Taylor for their help today, and to those that mucked in where they could.

Big thanks to Jason Fricker and Dean Hodder at Revels Fishery for their continuing help and support and for allowing us to Host the event at Revels.

Help and support is only valid if there are people to need help and support with. A huge thank you to all those who came along to play with the fishes with us today.

Fishing is a wonderful sport.

It can help conditions that other sports do not.

It is inclusive and sees no colour, gender, persuasion, or disability.

Events like today can help boost the profile of the sport.

I frequently get asked about the ethics of angling. There is no hiding from the fact that ethics play a big roll in fishing. Proper guidance is essential to ensure the welfare and safety of the fish that are being caught, and to create a new generation of caring anglers. If we do not support this great sport of ours, it may well die along with so many other countryside or outdoor pursuits. Children are a key to its future and today I hope that we made a small step towards securing that future. Parents too can play their part by dedicating their time to allow their children to become hooked on fishing and help make many memories that their children will remember for a long time to come. Thankfully, and I say this with the deepest sincerity, fishing is an obsession for which there is no known cure.

I hope that we will all meet again very soon. Until then, thank you, take care, and tight lines…

Juniors Sec…

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