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Coaching #4 - Harbourbridge - 21/05/22

Watercraft, Bagging, and Lightning Pheasants

After yet another turbulent week I was looking forward to the measured chaos of a DDAS Junior coaching session…

Before I go on, we had a situation that I wanted to address but, I think I have spoken enough about it and, since speaking to those that I needed to, I feel enough has been said. I am going to leave it there…

As usual I was up and wake enough to smash the alarm to pieces, cackling wildly that I had beaten it to the wire. As I rose from the Tempur mattress that still held the silhouette of a fat bloke trying to get out of bed, Matilda the cat arrived at speed on the duvet. Too late I thought, I am up. No starfish today missy! She cast me a sideways glance as she plunged her head into the mug of cold tea from the night before.

I got myself sorted and soon it was time to leave for the misty shores of Harbourbridge Lakes. If you are quiet, you can often hear pixies and elves giggling in the dew-soaked shrubberies, laden with flowers from all corners of Chickerell. Rabbits gamble freely amongst fluttering butterflies, and honeybees flit busily from flower to flower. Ok, so I may have embellished the scenario a little but, if you squint with a good imagination, you may see a wood pigeon occasionally. There is a fair bit of brick rubble laying around, but if you look in the right direction it does look really pretty, and the fishing has always been quite kind to the juniors in the past. But would it be kind today?

When I got to the lake my heart sank a bit because three people were fishing at the far end of the lake already. I slipped on my diplomatic hat and marched down to ask them to move on. There was a bit of push back, but things were sorted quickly once Jim arrived. Even more so when Mike (Mr Pants) arrived. He was pulling at the leash to go and ‘sort them out’. He looked almost disappointed when I told him I had sorted it out already. The banditos moved on and I prepared to resume a long-fought feud with an old foe. It was time for man against Bog tent…

Newcomers to The Mud-Slinger may not know the endless grief this ruddy tent gives me, and today was going to be no different. The tents biggest ally is the wind. It harnesses the wind as a countermeasure for any move that I may try on the tent. This thing has pushed me, slapped me, enveloped me, and spat me out. I have even thought of putting a large pair of googley eyes on it just so that I do not feel that I am swearing at, and strongly disliking an inanimate object. I removed the tent from its zipped bag, laid it on the ground, gave it a stern look and wagged my finger at it in a threatening manner. It responded by immediately leaping up and wrapping itself around my legs like a rabid squid. Ok, so that’s how we’re playing it are we? I got it in a kind of headlock and started to insert the poles. Despite the protests and struggles from my nemesis, the poles slipped into their pockets quite easily, but something was wrong. I had not gone 180 degrees but instead had gone 90 degrees meaning that I would to ‘de-pole’ the blasted thing and start again. I swear I heard it laughing at me as the wind tagged in and the poles pulled apart each time I tried to remove them. With the poles now in the correct orientation, I entered the most dangerous phase. Standing it up. For once, I attacked it at the correct moment. The wind dropped as I stood it up and it was swiftly pegged to the ground. He who laughs last, laughs laughs last laugh. Or something like that…

Operation Thunderbox was complete, and I mumbled an oath, flipped it off, and walked away…

Now, there is making an entrance, and there is arriving in style… Today’s most stylish arrival award goes to Annamama. I have seen cars screech to a halt in a cloud of tyre smoke and cars come in backwards. But I have never seen anyone escorted into a fishery by a live Pheasant. But there it was, as large as life. The only thing that would have made it better would have been if the Pheasant were in a harness of some kind. One other suggestion for this amazing spectacle was that Anna had ‘driven’ some Pheasants from Puddletown to Chickerell, and this was the only one left from the original ‘Bouquet of Pheasants*’ that she started out with. *A Bouquet of Pheasants is the correct collective noun for Pheasants. Seriously, look it up! Annamama will tell you herself that she not the most confident of drivers. She may not have been able to find a person to walk before the car with a red flag. She had clearly employed the services of ‘Speedy Bird’, the well-known company that provides services of fast birds to warn other traffic of nervous drivers. The Pheasant, now with quite blistered claws/feet, has clearly had enough because it was quick to exit stage left as it grew closer to the assembled group.

Once everyone had arrived, I got all the moaning out of the way and give a brief chat about how to throw a bucket of wee at stinging nettles. (How to use the loo tent) I warned of how frowned upon would be the finding of an orphaned ‘Code Brown’ and the consequences of leaving a Big Henry for someone else to tame. It is like a kind of grotesque lottery when you lift the lid of the poop seat, preferably with a long stick, a chair, and a mining helmet to see what lurks within.

Today’s entertainment was going to begin with a talk from the man that stay-at-home spouses/stay-at-home parents/Housewives have voted as having the most desirable knees, Mr Thomas Foyle of Broadmayne. I have to say the lad did good. You can tell he is teacher. He held the attention of all present and delivered an interesting and informative talk about watercraft. He even hit them with ‘Mr Soil.’ A self-created acronym for the following.

M - Margins R- Reeds S - Shows or Surface O – Overhangs I – Islands L- Lilies

The Shrimps certainly were engaged in the tutorial, and it was very well delivery. Even Jake did not yawn…

Back to the lake and Tom quizzed each child in turn until they offered him the answers that he was looking for from the demo he had just given. I assume that most had shown understanding because no one ended up in the lake…

Your coaches for today were Der Fuhrer – Graham Howard Number 2/The Crumpet – Tom Foyle Security/Secret Police – Jerry Bracey Explosives/Demolition – Jon Bass Marine Command – Si Wagner Master of the Skies – Chris Ward

Your Shrimps on duty today were Faith (100%) Stone Josh (My feet are roasting in thermal boots in 18°heat) Roe Carter (I can tie knots now) Lynock Austin (The Navigator) Scott-Kennedy Jake (Disappointed it’s not muddier) Taylor Ollie (End peg Charlie) Smith

Early casualties were, Noah who I did not even know was coming! (Not booked in), Jack Grassby because granddad, David’s arm shaking hand had suffered from an RSI injury from knowing so many people. (He had a virus, but not the bad one), and Thomas Millard who apparently was not on top form today. We wish them all a speedy recovery and hope to see you next time.

Faith. I have to say that her reputation and profile are on the rise. Not only does she have her own regular staff at every session, but she now has fans too. Faith’s grandparents had turned up to offer moral support. It is nice to see family showing interest in their relatives’ activities. What is not so nice to see is when the moral support positions itself directly in the line of fire when faith is casting. I can only liken it to setting out a picnic in the flight path of a wrecking ball… Clearly Faith does not mind telling me to shift my butt when I purposely stand in the way when she’s casting, but not her grandparents… Faith was demonstrating some extremely accurate casting skills and, on more than one occasion, showed a certain Mr Foyle how casting should land in the wet bit and not in the green wavy bits. Do not worry mate, I won’t mention flying leads…. I am pleased to say that Faith has passed her Level 3 certificate today and will receive her certificate and badge at the next Junior event. Well done!

Josh. I felt a bit bad. Martin and Josh had started setting up in the first peg available only for Tom to quietly tell me he wanted to use that for his other demo later in the day. Wringing my cap in my hands, I had to ask the Roes to move to another peg. The sigh that Martin let out made the reeds sway on the far bank, and I do not blame him either. Tom is a pain! I protected my fellow coaches honour by not excepting any of the blame myself and planting it squarely on the shoulders of ‘Mr Soil’. Josh is coming on nicely and is another Shrimp that has gained a certificate and badge today. Excellent job Josh…

Austin. Master Camouflage and mum Amy had a different start to the day. A phone call with a despairing voice on the other end told me ‘We are lost!’ I thought that I was going to have to report another family ‘MIA’ to the authorities, but I managed to work out where they were. I walked down to the gate meeting James and Josiah on the way. I held out a chequered flag as Amy screamed past for the ninth time, much to her relief. You cannot blame her though. Some of these fisheries are quite tucked away. Amy and Austin both bring light to our session with their endless smiles and are a joy to be around. Austin impressed everyone by executing a cast of at least eighty metres. Impressive at Chard reservoir, not quite so much at Jim’s match lake which is only 30 metres across. So far did the feeder fly that I got a phone call from M’Lady in Dorchester saying that she thought that a bird had just hit the lounge window. I think it was Austin’s feeder… I’ll check for evidence of groundbait when I get home. Something else worth noting is the fact that Austin is super keen. You cannot buy passion for the sport anywhere and he has it in abundance. He had been watching ALL the you tube videos on fishing and had listened to the one that told him he needed at least THREE KILOS of groundbait. That may be so, but you still have to get it to the waters edge somehow. Amy had already given Austin the ’Yeah right’ look when he asked her to carry it, and my back gave out just looking at it. But drag it he did and fair play to him. Jon’s eye widened when saw the skinny lad struggling with the heavy burden and, like me, Jon’s back played up suddenly too… Yet another printing job for me next time as Austin has progressed to L2. Ace job!

Carter. Carter is a lovely lad who I am keen to see progress. I spent some time with Carter today and I think, between us, we invented some new ways to tie loop knots. Indeed, Carter seemed to have invented some new knots entirely! Captain Chris was looking after Carter for the most part today, with dad Julian. I thought of Carter’s old nickname of ‘Bugboy’ when I saw him ferreting around in the mudbank towards the end. Coaches’ confessional: Father I have sinned. It has been…. Well, I have never been to confession before. My sins are, because of all the other issues surrounding the day today, I totally forgot about Carters’ medal sitting in my rucksack. It was not until I had returned home when M’Lady asked me if Carter liked his medal, that I realised that I did not know the answer to that question because I had not given it to him. I am SO SORRY! I have said 30,000 hail Mary’s and thrashed myself stupid with a pipe cleaner as penance. I will get it to you pronto, I promise. Jerry is going to be merciless for this one…

Josh. Once we had relocated Josh’s oil rig to a new swim, and Martin had had a lie down for a minute or two, he settled down to the task in hand. Josh had already ticked off his fish species before we started and had only to listen to me drone on about disgorgers and maggots to pass his level one certificate. Like the others he will get his reward next time. Josh has a unique quality about him. His superpower is the ability to un-nerve the sturdiest of adults by simply screwing up his eyes and staring at them. May be ‘the stare’ could work on the fish? Josh is really progressing well, dispensing with level one quickly and moving on to L2, Method feeders. Well done Josh, nice work.

Josiah. It took Jo a while to catch a fish today, probably for reasons that we will talk about later in this blog. Another thing that took a while was the recovery of dad James’s wallet. We gave it an unhooking mat to lie on and wafted it with towels to help it to recover. The smoking card inside was dipped in water to cool it off, and all was soon back to normal. The reason for this trauma? James had thrown his wallet into the doorway of Alan’s Angling like a hand grenade, and the resulting explosion had spewed forth a bag full of a variety of feeders and moulds. James and Jo both peeled round the doorway to retrieve the now traumatised wallet because we don’t leave a wallet behind, especially in Alan’s shop… Jo fished well, and his casting was mostly on point for someone with comparatively little angling experience. Jo too dispensed with Level one of the coaching program and will begin level 2 at the next coaching session. Nice work Jo, well done.

Jake. The triple torment was a man down today because Jack Copp had decided to kick a bag of wind around a field instead. He got a trophy, so it was not a complete waste of time, I guess. Jake positioned himself next to his friend Ollie under the steely stare of Sgt Bracey. I tried to push Jake to have a go at the fish internals that he needs to learn to pass his level 3 certificate, but his confidence was not strong today, so we will get that done another time. Jake’s swim did not seem to be yielding many fish for him (more about that later), so he took his rod up to be with Ollie and managed to land the biggest fish of the day at 7lbs 1oz. The fish was so full of spawn so, we quickly weighed it and returned it to the water so as not to stress it too much. Jake’s Carp was an indicator of why the lake was not fishing as well as I hoped it would. As the weather warms, so the fishes’ minds turn to spawning. From February through to June, different species will spawn their eggs into the reeds and lilies starting with predator species and finishing with Carp. There is so much natural food on top of the regular food chain, plus whatever anglers throw in, that the fish will often just stop eating. The spawn in the water offers such a high nutritive value that the cardboard filled pellets and water filled maggots that anglers try to tempt the fish with do not get a second look. This may explain the spawn filled Carp that Jake caught, compared to the much thinner looking fish that Faith caught at the other end of the lake. It is just ‘that time of year’ and the fishing suffers for it.

Ollie. Ollie and Annamama were in the sunshine at the far end of the lake. Sunshine that I was under strict orders to supply on pain of death for Anna, and for which I received my ‘Attaboy pat on the head’ which always makes me feel warm and fuzzy. Ollie, like Faith, has passed level 3 and onto L4 simply by standing and watching Tom’s mouth open and close during the Watercraft tutorial. Ollie is definitely the leading Junior in the group. He has some rough edges, some of which we knocked off today. He is better for it, and it will only serve to make him a better, more rounded angler. (Skill-wise, not in silhouette). I did not actually notice if Ollie had dead fish on his feet today. Because, as I mentioned before, they creep me out. Ollie has found a worthy challenger to his crown in the shape of Faith this year. I am interested to see how it pans out.


The only complaint I have about the day was the breeze. It made the sun feel cooler than it was and, because my hair is extremely short, sunburnt my neck in a manner that I have a red mark where the ‘hole’ in the cap where the strap sits, is now temporarily etched on to the back on my head. This caused M’Lady much tittering.

Extra special thanks to Jim Roper for the kind use of his lakes and for his ongoing support of the Juniors.

Thank you to ‘The Band of Brothers’ aka, my team of coaches for helping me to deliver another great session.

Thank you to all the Juniors and their support staff for making the day complete.

The next session is one that you do not want to miss. We are at the venue that won the countries best fishery award for 2021, Todber Manor. Which Lake we will use is, as yet, unknown.

(Above: Glenn Taylor, The Mayor of Charminster, Owner of JURASSIC EMBROIDERY, and the man with the sharpest thumbs in England) There is a chance that we may be filmed by the cameras from Match Fishing Magazine too. So put your best socks on, and strike a pose! It would be nice to get everyone kitted out in DDAS Juniors gear, even if it is just a cap. If you wish to look the part, let me or Glenn Taylor at JURASSIC EMBROIDERY (on Facebook) know as soon as possible please. Do not leave until the last minute, Glenn needs time to actually make the items you want.

Not only do we get to fish one of the country’s premier fisheries but we will be handing out the certificates from today’s coaching achievements as well as the Junior awards from last year. The day when champions are crowned.

If you haven't done so already, please can I ask you to leave a review of DDAS Junior on Facebook... Juniors Sec…

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