Whips, Elastic, and Angry Sheep...
I looked at the clock. 13:45… I looked at my phone 13:46… I looked at my watch and realised I don’t have a watch…
I always have a high level of anticipation and excitement for any Junior event, but this being our first Knockout competition, it was more elevated than usual. It was probably because the fishing was going to be more simple, and with it being such a short match (2 hrs), it was going to be a ‘take your brain out and put it in a jar’ kind of night.
The Shrimps were advised that they would need the following. Something to sit on. A whip. A rig. Some hooks. Some maggots. A keepnet. Maybe a landing net.
The other reason for looking forward to it myself was that I wasn’t going to have to hump so much gear there either…
For those unfamiliar with our knockout competition, this is how it works. Three evening qualifying rounds, each two hours long, on Revels Stock Pond. Two hours to catch as many fish as you can. The Junior with the highest weight of fish will be declared the winner and he/she will progress to the final in September. The Junior with the highest weight second position will also go through to the final to join the other three for a winner takes all fish off. The winner of the final will be our first Junior Knockout Champion.
As it turns out, the Stock Pond is a wonderful venue. Jason Fricker (Lord Fricker of Revels Hill) has been bending my ear to take the juniors there for quite a while now and, I’m not too proud to admit that he was spot on with how well suited it would be to the Shrimps. As an organiser, it is easy to get hung up on taking the kids to venues where senior events can produce large bags of fish. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the Juniors are going to be able to do the same. Only last week end the main lake fished hard for the juniors with some underwhelming weights on some pegs. Only for some colossal bags of fish (in comparison) to be caught in a match the very next day. The Stock Pond offers start to finish action with some amazing fish species like Goldfish that make a very colour filled catch for photographs at the end. I can see us using it far more often in the future.
I asked M’Lady to do the draw earlier in the week to save more time on the day. Her delicate mitts drew out the following.
Jack It is often a bonus to be end peg Charlie. You get more water to draw from and no one poaches your fish from at least one side. Dave and Twiglet were the ones arriving on fire because Dave was still ‘Tile Tossing’ at 5pm. With so little gear to put together it didn’t really matter though, and Jack was in the blocks at the start. As expected, the water was foaming with activity right from the start and Jack seemed to be landing some better small fish than other small fish that the rest were catching. Jack did find a few snags throughout the evening which may have affected the fish when Dave’s handsome face loomed over the water trying to get the rig free. It has to be noted that, throughout the evening Jack was remarkably stationary. I am so used to seeing Jack and his many cloned twins around the lakes we are fishing during Junior sessions that I checked him for a pulse twice before the end. We all know that Jack has angling talent and Dave is a devoted dad. But I would like to see Jack feeding for himself far more often during matches. More about parental and coaching help at the end. No win tonight for Twiglet, but he did manage to double his weight from last Saturday in half the time. Jack weighed in a very respectable 5lbs 4ozs 12drms*
*The Drams are back seeing as some idiot printed the wrong results sheet from his computer last time that didn’t have a column for ‘micro ounces’ on it. DOH! You just can’t get the staff….
Ollie I am very slightly creeped out by Aquaboy’s latest choice of footwear. It just looks like he has rammed each foot up a fish’s bottom and called them slippers… Footwear aside, Ollie was raring to go and, like me, had been clock watching all day. Annamama was looking radiant in the sunshine, and I got a pat on the head for the nice weather conditions. I get brownie points for good weather and writing nice things about her, but I would never tell any about that here… After a bit of rig trouble (Ollies ‘Houdini float’ kept disappearing) he was poised like a tiger at the start. Being the fish catching machine that he is seemingly becoming, you’d be hard pushed to bet against him tonight. But would reputation be enough? Surprise of the evening was that Annamama had allowed her pet husband out for the evening, and it was lovely to see Stu again, this time far more house trained. Clutching a can of fizzy drink that was not from his personal sponsor, Thatchers Haze, it was nice to chat to the old boy again. Ollie fished a steady match weighing in a good weight of 6lbs 10ozs 8drms, he looked to be the one to beat.
Jo I do not think I have seen so much determination for redemption in smiling eyes than that which I witnessed burning in the eyes of young Josiah. I could tell his clean sheet last weekend had hurt him a little and this was his chance to turn it around. I had told him personally that, if he blanked tonight, it would be I that would give up fishing and take up Golf instead! I thought at one point I saw James emptying maggots into the bushes with an evil grin, but it was maggot rubbish from an old bait pot. He did have me worried though. Jo’s handling of fishing equipment is coming on nicely and he is starting to shape into an angler. A little more control when landing fish needs working on, but that will come with practice. A few times James was there with the net in the water as the fish took off over the top of it. James then had to swat/rescue the dangling fish in mid-air. With fish of all colours in his net at the end, you could feel the wash of relief emanating from young Jo. Happy to have caught anything at all, Jo weighed in 3lbs 4ozs. Good work mate!
After surviving one ‘summit’ of the hill to the lake, Martin was not keen to repeat it twice. All became apparent when they told me that they had bought a small tackle shop with them. Josh’s ‘Oil Rig’ was dragged to the waters edge by an army of sherpas that were paid off with handfuls of Bic pens once the task was complete. Most of it was left in the car and Josh settled into peg four ready for the off. Under close guidance from Martin, who was driving the lad forward through the match like a racehorse at Chepstow. Careful feeding of alternative baits gave Josh the chance to connect with some larger fish, particularly towards the end. But one fish bought all their arduous work crashing down with just 10 minutes left on the clock. Jason had popped up during the match to see how it was all going. Ears were pricked up around the lake when Jason mentioned, out loud, that there was a Catfish of around 30lbs lurking in the Pond somewhere and that, if the swim went quiet, the juniors should ‘hold on with both hands!’. I watched Josh strike into a fast moving fish that pulled all the elastic out of his whip quite literally. That horrible ’Thwump’ sound that a failing elastic makes echoed round the lake as the fish and the rig was lost forever. I grabbed a spare float rod, and we attached a whip rig to it so Josh fish the dying moments of the evening, but he only managed few smaller fish afterwards. It was a what might have been match for Josh who weighed in 5lbs 14ozs 12drms. But it could and maybe should have been so much more. Josh could be one to watch at the next round.
Faith Watching the ‘Stone entourage’ climbing the hill, I could not help but imagine the pomp and ceremony of trumpets and medieval banners preceding the arrival of the fair maid, Jibber Jabber. As Mike collapsed in the first peg, he mumbled thanks for drawing the closest peg from beneath a mountain of tackle. I jest of course because they have whittled Faith’s gear down to make her more efficient whilst fishing, at least logistically anyway. Once we had sorted her casting out with a whip, she settled into a game of ‘show the boys how it’s done’ and started to deposit fish after fish into her keepnet. Lydia looked a little lost without ‘Café Stone’ and no bacon to cook. But she was ever present to help out when needed, even if Mike sees this as ‘getting in the way’… I have observed that Faith thrives with a little positive reinforcement, and she knuckles down to the task in hand very quickly. She, like a few of the others, will need to start to step up her own individual input as she creeps closer to level four in the coaching program. More on that in a moment. I had been watching her all evening and it became clear to me that she was going to finish there, or there abouts at the end. I was right (for once) and she maintained her 100% record of match wins in 2022 by beating everyone else and securing her place in the K/O final with a magnificent 7lbs 1ozs.
To sum the evening up I would have to call it a resounding success. I would go further and say that it could quite possibly be one of the most enjoyable junior sessions to date. I am very much looking forward to the next round now.
During the event I tried to get some atmospheric shots of the gang from the opposite side of the lake. I hopped over a low fence like a rotund, three legged mountain goat and made my way to an advantageous position. Then the heckling started. I thought I would be hidden in plain sight but, no. This escalated went I found a particularly soft patch of mud. Tongues were poked out. Stu showed me his bottom (With his jeans on of course. He's not an animal!), even the occasional hand signal. The trouble is, movement on or around the fence along with the heckling had draw the attention of some rather angry sounding sheep. Those who know Revels well, the ram will be well known to you. A particularly mean son of a person with no known father. With my back to them, I felt increasingly vulnerable. So much so that none of the pictures I took were anywhere near being in focus... No googly eyes for Stu rear end. I beat a hasty retreat to the sounds of disappointment to those that wanted to see me take on the sheep/ram in some kind warped gladiatorial event in which I was to be the sacrificial lamb (pardon the pun)... I whispered 'Mince sauce' as I walked away which drew a stern look from old rammy. I wonder if they have good memories?
Level Four As our Juniors progress through the various levels of the coaching program they should be able to fish more and more independently with each session. If the program is working properly and we coaches are doing our jobs in the right way, then we should be able to stand back and watch our protégés going from strength to strength with out us. We all feel the need to help out and the Shrimps will let us too! But, sometimes that is to the detriment of their development and tends to upset the balance of fairness to those who have less experience and ability.
So, to ensure that we have a good balance during the matches, juniors who reach and go beyond level four in the coaching program, will be required to adhere firmly to the club match rules. That means that they will only be allowed help with the playing, landing, and unhooking of the fish that they catch once the match begins and until its end. ALL other activities MUST be carried out by the participants themselves. If they have a problem like equipment failure or get hooked up on a snag, then of course they may get help from a coach, a helper, or from a parent. But tasks like feeding, baiting hooks, and setting up new tackle items, must be carried out by the participants themselves unaided. Level four is not a cut off point. All the help for the above should be being phased out during level three. Level four will now be the point where the excuses run out for everyone.
Another trend that I need to see stopped is fishing by an adult whilst the junior is eating or answering the call of nature. If the junior cannot, for whatever reason, be fishing themselves, then the rod is to be reeled in until the junior is able to return to their seat. No more adults fishing with junior equipment during matches.
For coaching events, none of the above necessarily applies, but it would good practice if it did.
This is not a moan, and I am not dictating. I am simply reiterating the rules of the club at a particular skill level. The matches are designed to be an indication of the individual ability of the juniors. If they are being unfairly helped, then this indication is diluted.
Our thanks to Jason Fricker and all the staff at Revels for allowing us to use the Stock Pond. We will certainly be making better use of this venue in the future.
Special thanks to Andy Hawkins who, because of work commitments, is unable to help as often as he would like to.
Lastly, big thanks to the parents and juniors with whom I shared this most enjoyable evening.
There are still plenty of spaces left if any juniors wish to fish the remaining two rounds of the Knockout matches.
Our next event is next Saturday (21st) at Harbourbridge for a coaching session.