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  • Writer's pictureFishing for Schools

Everyone needs a guardian angel

Director of Fishing for Schools, Charles Jardine, said: "Everyone needs a guardian angel and here at Fishing for Schools, ours just happens to be a lady from Norfolk. And what a lady Sally Acloque is.

Sally is, first a foremost, a friend and from day one when we launched the initiative in the Eastern region, Sally has driven the Fishing for Schools initiative with passion, verve, wisdom and downright tenacity.

Try as I might to get her to spread her expertise in galvanising and fundraising into Lincolnshire, Suffolk or Cambridge, it just isn't going to happen. Norfolk funding stays in Norfolk but my goodness, what a success story she has made of the county. Sally and I have had to endure a few choppy waters to get where the initiative is today, but her wit, forbearance and guile have steed us through those waters. The enthusiasm and kindness that Sally has offered our little programme and everyone who “touches it” is truly humbling."

1. What should we also know about you, apart from Fishing for Schools, Sally?

I am the Eastern Region Coordinator for Fishing for Schools, a pensioner volunteer, working cocker spaniel owner, and Norfolk born and bred. My role with Fishing for Schools consists of fundraising and general co-ordination. It helps that I have local connections and live next to a large lake which is very useful for fishing days for the school children.

I have fished for most of my life and enjoy going to remote rivers with beautiful scenery, away from habitation and people, and apart from the fishing I really enjoy animal and birdlife.

2. When did you start fishing?

I come from a fishing family so as a small child I caught sticklebacks in streams, enjoyed shrimping on Cromer beach, and went trout fishing with my Father. My parents used to go annually to Scotland, and finally I was considered old enough to join them – there was nothing else to do but fish, so it was a steep learning curve, with many knots and tangles and lines caught up in the bushes, but I persevered.

3. What inspired you to start fishing?

My Mother inspired me to fish, she was an experienced fly fisherman and very patient with all my muddles. She would have a go at any form of fishing and was an expert with the garden fly. On my first fishing trip in Cumberland, I foul hooked a salmon and it took us nearly a mile down river before we landed it, it was so exciting that I never looked back.

4. What inspired you to continue fishing?

I have always enjoyed fishing, being by water is quiet and peaceful, you become part of nature and your problems resolve themselves. Fishing is also a very good family holiday as everyone can have a go. Among our family there is an underlying competitive element, which adds an edge to your day, and the more you learn about fishing, the more you realise how much there is to discover.

I have been lucky to meet wonderful people in the fishing world and on riverbanks, who have generously shared their knowledge and helped me on my way. In particular, Tom Lothian, ghillie on the River Stinchar, who told me I would never be any good at fishing until I learnt to think like a fish, and taught me how to do so.

5. What notable achievement have you made in fishing?

I don’t think I have made any notable achievements, apart from helping several children learn to fish. I ran a junior branch of the Salmon and Trout Association when our children were younger and was part of the start-up of the Norfolk branch for Fishing for Schools. My personal fishing achievement was catching a salmon over 20lbs, I finally achieved a 24lb cock salmon just before I was 70. Now my ambition is to catch a bigger one!

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

Charles Jardine came to Norfolk to speak at a fishing dinner and stayed at our house afterwards, and we discussed the rewards of teaching children to fish until the early hours. Charles had been given the church collection from the funeral of John Humphries, Sporting Gun for the Shooting Times, to hold a Fishing for Schools event in East Anglia which took place at the lake behind our house, and the first Norfolk Open Day took place. This involved about 60 children from local schools and as many staff and volunteers and was so inspirational that I raised the money to hold another event, and from this, the Fishing for Schools Eastern Region began.

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

Fundraising is not always easy, but I have met some wonderful people who have given encouragement and shown great kindness and generosity. It gives you faith to carry on.

We are lucky to have a wonderful team in Norfolk, the Fishing for Schools tutors, and the Lenwade Pike Club volunteers who gladly give up their time to help. I think we all get an enormous amount of pleasure in seeing the smiles of the faces of the children when they catch their first fish. They arrive, hoodies up, hands in pockets, no eye contact and leave as a laughing, smiling team, having caught fish, achieved an Award, and gained in self-confidence. It is not always the smartest or most active child that succeeds, everyone has an equal chance, particularly when they are patient.

The Countryside Alliance Foundation also runs days for those with cancer. At the recent Norfolk Castaway event it was rewarding to watch the participants making new friends who could relate to their problems, while gaining the grounding of a new sport, and having a good day learning to fish. Like with Fishing for Schools, we had very good feedback, which is what makes the hard work all worthwhile.

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

One particular occasion was a Schools Open Day with about 60 pupils due. We had all gone to bed far too late as we had much to catch up on and woke at 6 am to find an enormous gale had blown down and damaged two tents, and bits of tree and branches were everywhere. Being too early to contact the schools, we set too, worked very hard, called on friends to help, the wind died down, and by the time the pupils arrived, no-one ever knew anything was wrong and what a drama it had been.

Seriously, the most difficult thing is when the logistics change, or when people let you down at the last minute.

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

There has been so much fun and many funny moments, but one I will always remember is the look on the face of a boy who had caught several rudd and roach under 1lb and suddenly found he had an 6lb pike on the line!

10. Why do you believe in Fishing for Schools?

Fishing for Schools reaches out to children of all kinds and capabilities, including those in Nurture groups, with special needs and at Short Stay Schools. It helps children who have got out of learning to rekindle their interest in school by using fishing as a medium to attract their interest.

Fishing lessons include weights and angles, nutrition, geography (fish migration), fish identification, insect life, how to handle and return a fish to the water - the list is endless. Children are calmed by being near water, yet it can be very exciting when they catch a fish. So many children have no experience of the countryside, and it is very inspiring to help them try something different, to watch them learn, and to discover a wider world.

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

It is always difficult to predict the future. Charles Jardine, the Director of Fishing for Schools has just celebrated his 70th birthday and in due course, if and when he should choose to step down, he will be a hard act to follow. I hope the TCAF Trustees will have the wisdom and foresight to appoint his replacement with someone who has the same inspiration, drive and ability to give pleasure and confidence to the children of the future.

Fishing for Schools has so much to offer, but like so many charities it comes down to funding. More and more schools are applying for our courses and it would be wonderful to help more children if funds were available.

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

Every child should have an opportunity, if you can help a child to shine and to succeed you do not have a troubled adult. Even if you do not fish, you can contribute, either with your time or by fundraising. Every penny helps us to help a child to grow in confidence and self-esteem.

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

Personally, I would like to see a more clearly defined ladder for children to progress from the basic awards to a career in fishing or fishery management.

The Angling Skills Activity Award has been successfully piloted for three years in Norfolk, fitting into the School Curriculum, and bringing consistency. It is hoped this will be adopted by the Angling Trust as a recognised qualification and widely utilised.

I hope that Castaway will also be developed and expanded and continue to give help to those who are going through such a difficult time.

Fishing for Schools may not stay the same, nothing ever does, but it must and will go on and I have great confidence in its future.

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