As a boy, my life was very different in many ways to today’s youngsters, writes Petworth & Bognor Angling Club’s Roger Poole.
I lived near Ewell, Surrey and in those days you could cycle to school and go fishing, using main roads to get just about everywhere – and provided you had your wits about you, it was comparatively safe.
It was quite easy to tie a fishing rod to the crossbar, while reel, floats and bait went in the sturdy leather bag attached behind the saddle. Whether drop or upright handlebars, fixed or gears, the whole outfit was just the job to take me to the river at Kingston-on-Thames or the Mole that wandered west to east across Surrey.
It’s easy to blame computers as the main reason kids are unable to enjoy so many outdoor activities, but in today’s world they are denied to some extent the chance to use our highways and byways in the same way my generation found so easy.
Going off to the river or ponds now entails parents driving them, with all the restraints of when to be picked up and whether it is convenient.
Provided my homework was finished I could even go fishing of an evening during the summer, but we can’t bring back the past, so what exactly can be done to encourage young people to go fishing, a pleasure that stays with us for the rest of our lives?
The best and obvious way is if dad is already an angler and has children who share his passion. A son or daughter sitting next to dad (or mum) and learning how to fish, and in many cases catching more, is ideal and children being competitive could be encouraged to take up some match fishing where the learning curve really takes off.
Dad will probably already be a member of a fishing club and clubs have family memberships with children going free. They nearly all have matches to suit all abilities and joint transport is possible to the venues where these matches are held, mostly on a Sunday throughout the coarse fishing season.
Television has programmes devoted to angling, although not as many as once, and it saddens me a little when I see most of them devoted mainly to catching carp.
I have nothing against carp fishing or those who devote their lives to catching them and commercial fisheries lean towards stocking these large fish – and the opportunity to land one is very attractive especially to youngsters.
Matt Hayes and John Wilson, together with other well-known anglers, had programmes where they caught all the other varieties of fish that are really the backbone of angling. The rivers, lakes and ponds are home to roach, perch, bream, chub, dace, pike and numerous others, including trout and the mighty salmon. Fortunately videos are widely available to capture the imagination and are a great birthday gift.
The Petworth and Bognor club are running an angling ‘taster day’ for children aged eight to 12 this Saturday, July 23 at a club pond at Walberton which is about eight miles from Chichester and seven from Bognor.
Children will be taught the basic skills from a qualified teacher plus members of the club. The session is from 10am to 2.30pm and rods and equipment, including bait, is provided with a light lunch and drinks. There is a limit of ten places and details are on the website, www.sussexangling.co.uk
Let’s hope we can spark some enthusiasm to tempt young people to go fishing. Mr Crabtree goes Fishing was the book that lit that spark not only for me but others of my generation, who read this illustrated book by Bernard Venables in the 1950s.
From that moment on I was hooked on fishing for life.
We are so lucky in this part of the world to have two good fishing rivers, the Arun and Rother, with numerous ponds and lakes and it would be sad if the familiar angler often were not to be seen enjoying themselves.
We need to ensure future generations keep this wonderful pastime going. Come on parents and grandparents – give our children a nudge towards fishing. Once they start catching fish they will be out of your hair forever.
Chairman, Petworth & Bognor Angling Club
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