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  • Writer's pictureFishing for Schools

"I like to encourage an appreciation of the natural environment" - Coach Q&A with David Evans

"Each and every member of the Fishing for Schools coaching team is an individual. And all these amazing fishers bring a very special nuance and deep sense of personal understanding to their respective roles. This is never more apparent than with David Evans. David, whose softly-gentle approach hides not only a wealth of impressive angling credentials and experience, but also a deep care for the people he coaches.

Looks can be so deceptive... Did you know, I have always been a massive fan of the rock band, The Cult? David looks as though he could have walked off stage from one of their gigs(!) and just gently coached a whole string of eager young people, having bewitched them into angling and education in the process.

But the man is a gem and we are all not only deeply fond of this quiet man, but so fortunate to have his consummate skills aimed at the young, and not so young, anglers of the future in the Kent area.

David, thank you."

- Charles Jardine, Director of Fishing for Schools

1. What do you do now, apart from Fishing for Schools, and what should we also know about you?

I work full-time coaching fishing skills with a special needs group during term time throughout the year, taking time out where the opportunity arises to work with other schools through Fishing for Schools. I run practical coaching sessions every weekday incorporating BTEC, AQA, Aim and CAST Award courses as part of the outcomes. I work with primary, transition, secondary, ACP groups.

In my thirties I decided to attend university to study countryside management in order to allow me to pursue a career that would give me more fulfilment in life. My background since then is in community engagement/development and environmental education. I have worked in many different roles and for me, it is important to work at something that makes a positive difference in life. Fishing for Schools has definitely helped me to achieve this.

2. When did you start fishing?

At around 13 years old.

3. What inspired you to start fishing?

I went with friends at school who invited me come fishing with them. I also recall how much I used to like watching the fishing elements in Jack Hargreaves TV series ‘Out of Town”.

Fishers Green 6lb 14oz barbel 1987

4. What made, or rather “inspired”, you to continue fishing?

The first time I ever went I caught a few bleak, had lots of tangles and didn’t have a clue what I was doing, but something about it appealed to me and inspired me to keep on going. I used to travel by bus and walk miles with all my gear. I became obsessed with fishing and gradually improved my skills by watching and talking to more experienced anglers (no internet or YouTube in those days!) I learned to think carefully about what I was doing and responded to conditions to increase my catches. As a result I became quite confident and proficient. I also secured a Saturday job at a tackle shop.

When I joined a fishing club which was competition based, I did very well competing with other anglers and clubs. I like the match style fishing and catching fish of any size and species. This was in the times before commercial fisheries and the obsession with carp, so light lines and small hooks were the order of the day. Going fishing has also enabled me to visit places I never would have and developed an appreciation and understanding of wildlife and the natural environment.

5. What notable achievement have you made in fishing?

Essex AT trophies, 1980

Being able to share my knowledge and enjoyment of fishing with so many children and adults with learning disabilities or mental health issues over the years has given me great satisfaction. More recently, being able to make a living doing something I really enjoy and know gives enormous pleasure to those I am able to work with.

Previously running a Kent based fishing project for The Environment Agency for several years from 2007. This involved establishing a steering group, securing funding, agreeing targets, developing a coaching network and delivering coaching sessions.

In my younger days in 1980, I gained a lot of confidence when I joined the Essex Angling Society and surpassed my expectations by doing extremely well in their competitions and LAA matches.

6. What made you want to become a coach?

In 2006 an opportunity arose to set up an angling promotion project on behalf of The Environment Agency through my community development role with Groundwork.

7. When did you become a coach?

I began coaching in 2006 and took my level 2 1st4Sport coaching course in 2007.

8. When did you join Fishing for Schools and why?

I joined Fishing for Schools in 2017 when my existing work commitments gave me more free time and flexibility, coupled with an opportunity that arose to work more closely with local Kent coaches at Fishing for Schools events.

9. What has given you the most pleasure working with Fishing for Schools?

The many opportunities it has given me to work closely with different schools, their pupils and adults with various mental health charities. Facilitating events and seeing the obvious excitement and pleasure that taking part in fishing gives to all participants. I also enjoy the mutual support and company of the other coaches I have been able to work with.

Some images from Fishing for Schools sessions delivered by David in 2022

10. What is the most difficult part of Fishing for Schools?

The delivery and coaching at the events is by far the easiest part. Planning, organising, preparation, liaising with schools, coaches, venues etc. is the most time consuming and challenging aspect.

11. What is your main aim for a Fishing for Schools session?

To provide a safe and enjoyable activity that gives participants a rewarding experience and increased self-confidence. This includes teaching basic knowledge and skills to allow participants to continue with fishing as a hobby, or simply to enjoy the experience and appreciate the pleasure and therapeutic effect of being outdoors and enjoying an absorbing pastime in the natural environment.

12. How do you personally measure a successful session?

By the reaction and feedback of the participants and accompanying staff. A discernible difference shown in participants knowledge, practical skills resulting in improved confidence as the sessions progress. Importantly this includes smiling faces and lots of laughs along the way. It is also a nice surprise when you occasionally bump into people later in life and they thank you, recalling how much they enjoyed and valued the times we spent fishing together.

13. What is your funniest moment with Fishing for Schools?

I find it hard to single out one particular moment if I’m honest, as there have been many special times. One occasion that perhaps sticks out from this year was working with a young woman from ‘Choice Support’. She was excellent at fishing and loved every minute. She remained very calm when playing some big carp on the pole, whip and pellet waggler but most of all we seemed to spend most of the day laughing and joking, so it was great fun and very rewarding. I know her and the others from her group would love to come out again next year if they get the opportunity. Later on they made a lovely video recording their thoughts on how they enjoyed the fishing sessions with Fishing for Schools.

14. Why do you believe in Fishing for Schools?

I have only ever received positive feedback in all the years I have been coaching. I have seen first-hand how great the benefits are for those given the opportunity to take part. It gives children the opportunity to try something outside of their normal sphere of experience. Very often those that attend are identified as having special needs or find it difficult to cope in school. Being in an outdoor environment certainly seems to suit them and this definitely has a positive, calming effect. I do like to encourage an appreciation of other wildlife and the natural environment.

We try to provide a safe and encouraging atmosphere that enables children to develop their skills and self-confidence in a non-competitive environment. In addition to the practical skills taught, pupils are able to demonstrate great levels of concentration. It is often pleasing to see the mutual support and peer mentoring that takes place. Teachers are always telling us how keen their pupils are to share their experiences when they get back to school and how much they look forward to coming each time. The Fishing for Schools sessions also encourage an improvement in behaviour within school, as being able to come fishing with us is a great incentive.

15. What is the future for Fishing for Schools, do you think?

There is certainly a very healthy demand for places. Every year the number of schools applying to Fishing for Schools increases and previously successful schools are always reapplying as they have seen the fantastic benefits for their pupils. I appreciate that the challenges and competition involved in accessing ongoing funding and grants for all charitable organisations are increasingly difficult, and I can only hope that Fishing for Schools continues to be successful in finding the resources needed to continue its good valuable work into the future.

16. Why should people who are both anglers & non anglers get behind Fishing for Schools?

The excitement and pleasure children get from taking part in the fishing sessions that Fishing for Schools provides is clear to see, both on their faces and in their written feedback. The benefits can be profound in terms of impacts on individuals moving forward. There are also huge benefits in terms of improved self-confidence and helping to alleviate mental health issues. Whether an angler or non-angler, the benefits of taking part in Fishing for Schools are very apparent and meaningful as the feedback from non-angler accompanying staff verifies.

17. Where do you see Fishing for Schools in five years’ time?

Charles Jardine and his small team have worked tirelessly and very successfully over the years to secure the necessary funding that has given the opportunity for countless school children to take part in the Fishing for Schools programme. The support given to mental health organisations in Kent has also been immense and enabled us to run many invaluable and greatly appreciated sessions over the years. The Fishing for Schools programme is very rewarding to be a part of. I sincerely hope when Charles finally has to step aside and pass on the mantle that a sustainable legacy is achievable.

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