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Time for a look back - 2022 season review

It is sometimes nice to look back over the long year that enjoyed together and see how the trees and people change. The beginning is traditionally an appropriate place to start and, seeing as we find ourselves there, let's dive in...

CASTING: 2022 started off where it should have with the first session, unlike the previous year that was still feeling the aftershocks of Covid. The spectre of Covid would still show its ugly face throughout the year however, I don’t think we have seen the back of it just yet. The year (unofficially) kicked off with a casting session on a new venue at Poundbury. Some brand-new faces showed up for the exciting chance to fire tennis balls at moving live targets on the windy Great Field. The signs were written in perfect English but that means nothing when they are put on the usual route of local dog walkers. At times it did remind me of a kind of Monty Python sketch where a regular guy is going about his everyday routine whilst being constantly bombarded by artillery. On reflection, tennis balls and dogs don’t make the best bed mates. Although I feel a chance was missed to simulate for the juniors what kind of bite they could expect from an angry Carp, as a dog tore off across the grass with a tethered tennis ball in its mouth…

COACHING: For 2022, I have decided that we would forgo a few matches in favour of some more coaching. As it turned out, not a completely inspired choice. What did work, overall, was a series of tutorials which revealed a variety of boredom thresholds amongst the juniors. From some very thoughtful questions that showed a high level of investment in the subject, to multiple yawns and even some parents nodding off. The biggest competitor for information is You Tube. Why would you want to listen to a coach when you have Des Shipp giving his sage advice online? My answer to that is simple. Of course, Des and all the other Pro’s are an inspiring group, and I am not worthy to sift their ground bait. But local knowledge is for local fisheries. The ones we visit for our sessions. Tips for Tunnel Barn fishery may not work at Revels… By all means absorb as much as you can from these guys because they know their stuff. But a little local knowledge can also be beneficial too. This was demonstrated vividly at one of the events where just one junior listened to the free advice and some others cottoned on to this and caught more than those that didn’t. I’m not saying that I take any enjoyment from situations like this but, it does make you a little warm and fuzzy knowing that you are still giving good advice. I am still undecided about the coaching program at the time of writing. I still think it could be better. This something the other coaches and I need to hammer out during the winter for next year.

MATCHES: With only five matches for the juniors to make their mark in the club’s history books the likelihood of a close championship was extremely high. The first of these was at Revels on the Main Lake. Now, it’s probably fair to say that Revels can be a little tricky for some of the juniors, particularly earlier in the year. It is what we term as an ‘angler’s venue’, one that can only truly be unlocked with experience. Seeing as some of the juniors had virtually none, it was going to be a tough day for some. With all weights under 20lbs and even one dry net, it was Faith Stone that opened her account with a win followed by reigning champ Ollie Smith and Carter Lynock. First blood to Faith.

The second match was at Todber Manors Whitepost Upper Lake and, with the weather starting to warm up, weights were anticipated to be much higher. The anticipation was rewarded with a new match record for Jack Copp who was a bit miffed at missing out on the big points at the previous round. Jack weighed 83 pounds to take the win from Faith in second and Josiah in third. Master Copp had waltzed away with this one, but the rest of the weights were decent too being in and around the 30lb mark. Faith’s second place meant that she held on to her championship lead. After the match, we held a small presentation in place of the delayed main event due to the ever-present Covid. Trophies were handed out as were some achievement certificates and badges.

The next match of the season was held at Harbourbridge Lakes for the Junior Pairs Match. I remember feeling a little disappointed with a turnout of only six juniors, but at least everyone that fished would get something for their efforts. Jack Copp continued his run form to take the win with his partner James Oram with a combined weight of just under 40lbs. A trophy for the new lad. Second was Ollie and Austin, and third was Faith and Jo.

Back to Luckfield for championship match number three and it was reigning champ Ollie Smith that rose to the top of the score sheet with a fine win with 44lbs total that included a 13lb Carp and 11lbs of silverfish. The silvers would go a long way to winning the silverfish championship for Ollie by the end of the year. Second was Jack Copp and third a maiden medal for Austin Scott-Kennedy.

In early September, the final of our first junior evening knock out series took place a Revels on their very prolific stock pond. Use of the stock pond had been suggested to me for quite some time by Jason Fricker at Revels and this year I got my finger out and arranged a short series of evening matches. Three rounds of two-hour matches gave competitors ample chance to try to qualify for the final with the highest weight runner up also going through. Oliver Smith was the runaway winner that took the title, the interim trophy, and a voucher to spend at Revels tackle shop. The series was a great success and I’m not too proud to admit that Jason was right all along. The series may get a tweak for next year though because it will be a float only match. Meaning that fishing skills will have to come to the fore, rather than staring at a quiver tip waiting for a fish to hang itself on the method feeder…

The next event is actually one of my favourite events because I actually get a chance to fish with the shrimps in the Senior/Junior Pairs Match. Like a fool, I had managed to let myself get talked into making it a default points match rather than a conventional weight match. Something that would bite my partner and I on the tushie later on. The forecast was for overcast conditions, a welcome change to the blistering summer that had seen temperatures soar to 40 degrees and beyond. The forecast was wrong, and the sun was frighteningly hot. Despite that it was a great day with Faith being the first Junior to break the 100lb barrier with 108lbs, closely followed by Ollie Smith on 140lbs and then Jack Copp with 150lbs. I added 185lbs to faiths score for the highest team weight of the day, But Dave and Jack had nipped in at the post with three points to our four. So, Jack and Dave were our new S/J Pairs champs… we would have beaten them by two pounds otherwise.

Back to the Championship then and we were back at Luckfield again for a ‘what could have been’ match for two of the juniors. Master J. Copp was not present for this match, but boy did he get a get out of jail free card by the end. I’m not going to labour the point anymore than I already have but, with Faith and Ollie drawing a blank and Jack not attending, a chance for championship contention beckoned for the others. It was Josiah that took the spoils by catching the only Carp of the day, with Carter and Austin coming second and third respectively. This meant that, mathematically at least, the title could go to any one of SEVEN juniors at the last round at Whitemoor.

The final round then, the Martin Vine Memorial trophy match on the Canal Lake at Whitemoor and all to play (or fish) for… Sometimes you must take a deep breath and just go for it in sport, and fishing is no different. The heat of the summer had now been replaced with cold autumnal rain and lots of it too. Josiah had drawn well, Ollie was close to him, and Jack ‘had a plan’… Sadly Jake and Faith’s chances to win dissolved because they could not make it to Whitemoor. I was sad for Faith because she had led the championship from the first round. But, if you’re sick, there’s nothing you can do about it… The fishing was difficult I suspect because of all the rain being dumped everywhere. Difficult unless your name is Jack Copp… Jack’s plan worked, and he took the win and the title in impressive style with 24lbs from Ollie and Jo respectively… Jack is a worthy Champion and deserves the wheelbarrow load of trophies coming his way next year…

With the championships decided, the last event of the season would take place on a new venue for the juniors on Homeground Lake at Todber Manor. The cold had really set in, and the rain was accompanying it too. But the juniors didn’t care because the Homeground fish were still hungry. Everywhere you looked Carp were being decanted to keep nets. Even former champ Theo Cox had blown the cobwebs from his fishing tackle for his last match as a junior. Some of the matches had been tricky for the Shrimps, but the season was going out with a bang! 2022 newcomer, Jack Cryer, managed to snare some bigger Mud Pigs than the others and took his first ever win after less than half a dozen fishing sessions with 80lbs. Theo signed off with a good second place, and third place went to Oliver Smith…

There have been some impressive performances this year, particularly from Oliver, Jack, and Faith. But there have been significant improvements further down the field too. It’s our job to make sure that all the juniors improve of course, but the one that has shown the most improvement and enthusiasm for the sport was Austin. He collects the Revels award for the Most improved newer for 2022. An award that is picked solely by the lead coach.

All the juniors have shown compassion, respect, and all are invested in the welfare of the fish that they catch. James Oram showed that he has a conscientious mind by asking me about the ethics of fishing, and we had a deep conversation at Luckfield one day.

Juniors have had to deal with nets limits for the first time and they handled it with ease. Something that seniors fail to do on occasions.

MOSAIC: The brightest highlight outside of the juniors was by far and away the charity event with Mosaic. This charity has been around for quite a few years now, offering help and support to bereaved children. I knew this was going strike a personal note with me because I had lost five key members of my own family before I was fourteen. Seeing the joy spread across faces that had been given few causes to smile, sometimes for months or years, was a feeling that you can never buy. Even event organiser Louise Grady was surprised at the impact that fishing can have on troubled minds and broken hearts. The day was a resounding success and one that has given me great pride to be a part of. I am looking forward to repeating soon.

SCHOOLS: For the juniors, the global epidemic had stunted any progress that we had made from the previous year. I worked hard to create a profile amongst schools in the local area. Not only to increase the membership and therefore the future of the club, but to give students to opportunity to share with me the joy of coarse angling. Covid had stamped all over our plans to the extent that only one school was willing to organise a session with us in 2022. Atlantic Academy brought their usual bus load of students to Harbourbridge Lakes to enjoy an evening session on Charolottes Lake. As usual, Duncan McConnells students were impeccably behaved. Even if one of them decided to join the fishes and go in for a dip! **No students were harmed during this event**…

THE HIGHS AND THE LOWS: There isn’t really too much more I can say about the highs of being the Junior Secretary. All of the above fills me with a great deal of pride and satisfaction, and so it should. It’s a great thing that we do. But there are lows too. For me personally it has been a tough year. This has been caused by long term issues outside of fishing, and some from within. Sharing the details of either of these in the blog would be inappropriate. But it’s been enough to question my continuation of occupying the position of Junior Secretary.

My family have expressed concern about my health and how events of this year have taken their toll on me. Initially I said that I would take the winter to decide what I wanted to do but, I have had some very nice, even heartfelt comments said to me in the run in to the last event. The period that I found the most difficult. Added to that the faces of the juniors at the Christmas match and all the comments after, I would have found it more difficult to stop. At the end of the day, I feel it would be a shame to let something that I, with help, have worked so hard to create for the club and fishing in the local area, just go to the wall. So much so that I found myself standing in front of everyone at the end of the year saying that I would continue for at least on more season. If something feels right, then it probably is. Therefore, I will start to plan next season after Christmas…

SUMMARY: Looking back during the writing of this review, I feel that the juniors have almost got back to where we were when Covid struck. That is to say that we are on the front foot again and in a strong position to start planning bigger and better things for 2023. There will be some changes because I feel that you never be complacent with trying to better what we have. The new SPOND app will make booking junior events much easier once the free app is downloaded to your phone and/or pc. This app is designed for junior events like ours and gives far better data protection than we used this year. It's easy to use too. I tested it on Jerry, and if he can use it, anyone can!

I am going to be having talks soon with Craig Whelan at Blandford Angling Club to see if we can arrange some river coaching sessions and matches. A new experience for most of our juniors.

At some point next year, I hope that we can arrange some events on the much-anticipated Silverlake venue. These brand-new lakes will be the start of something special for our club and the juniors will be right in there at the pointy end.

I mentioned changes to the knockout series already which will make the event more skill based.

I hope that we will be able to return to Mangerton next year because it is such an amazing lake to fish on.

There are other ideas in the pipeline too. Some Carp style events that will test some different skills, particularly that of patience! I want to get our juniors to a big water like Chard Reservoir for some serious long-distance fishing for Carp and Bream. As well as many other ideas…

THANKS: As usual there is a list of people that I must thank for their help and support this year.

They will always be first on any list of thanks that I have for their help in a season.

Our coaches. I’m quite good with words but I find it difficult to express the level of appreciation that I hold for these guys. Their seemingly endless generosity with time, equipment, and even their own money is staggering, and the juniors would be much the poorer without them. So, on behalf of the juniors I would like to give praise and thanks to, Jerry Bracey Si Wagner Tim Broughton Tom Foyle Chris Ward Jon Bass Andy Hawkins

Thanks as always to the committee for their help and support.

Thank you to our ever-supportive local tackle shops who help our juniors and parents by guiding them on their purchases and helping them with costs. Alan’s Angling Weymouth Angling Centre Revels Fishery and Tackle Shop

Thank you to the venues that we used this year and allowing our juniors special fees for the events held at, Whitemoor Fishery Todber Manor Harbourbridge Lakes Ash Ponds (although we never got there! Maybe next year) Revels Fishery Special thanks need to go to Jason Fricker at Revels for his help and support of our juniors throughout the year. For all the coaching sessions, charity events and matches we held there. The evening series was a huge success and Mosaic said it was one of the best events they had ever done. Thank you.

Thank you to Neil and Miranda from the Dorset Echo and the West Dorset Magazine respectively for raising our profile in the local community.

Thanks also to the Angling Trust and UK Coaching for their support this year.

Thank you to all those that donated equipment to our Re-Gen program. The list is far too long and numerous to write but know that your donations have been gratefully received by the juniors.

I want to say a person thank you to the parents of our juniors. Thank you for donating your time to allow your mini anglers to pursue and nurture their enthusiasm for fishing. I hope all the hours of watching the joy the sport can bring has been worth it. Thank you for lending us your offspring so that us coaches have something to do on Saturdays…

Thank you to our juniors who are valuable ambassadors for our club and for the sport in general. Even if they do err from time to time, learn quickly from the lessons gained. Thank you for teaching me on a weekly basis that I am valued too. As an adult, you are expected to know your place in the world and be confident of what you do. That isn’t always the case, but you teach me that there is more to life than just living...

You may be pleased to know that there is very little left for me to say. Time for a rest now before I take a deep breath and do it all again next year…

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy new year…

(Still) Juniors Sec…

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