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  • Writer's pictureFishing for Schools

Fishing for Awards: Duke of Edinburgh and Angling

Fishing for School’s Ambassador, Henry Cullen, shares his experience of the Duke of Edinburgh award and taking on fly fishing for the skills challenge.

On the Royal family’s website, the stated aim of the Duke of Edinburgh award is “to encourage personal discovery, self-reliance and responsibility in an environment of social interaction and teamwork has remained unchanged through the course of over 60 years.” It recognises learning beyond the school setting and academia. In so doing, the Duke of Edinburgh award seeks to empower young people to have more belief in themselves and to develop leaderships skills and in the long run, improve the community in which they live.

I am fortunate enough to attend a school that offers the chance to complete all levels of the Duke of Edinburgh (DofE) award.  It isn’t only schools that run the DofE, other groups such as scouts, youth groups and cadets also run it. 

Last year (2023) I decided to complete the first (bronze) level of the DofE which meant that I had to engage in several areas of undertaking over an initial three months - volunteering, physical, skills and in addition, I had to complete an expedition. For skills, I thought it made absolute sense to take part in something that I love doing anyway… fly fishing. Motivation to complete each section can be an issue, but not in this case. I will take any opportunity I can to go fishing. 

Each section requires that an appropriate adult must sign off the activity under-taken, and I was lucky enough to have Charles Jardine available to coach me and sign off my activity. I am grateful to Charles for helping me through this over many months and writing a final report for me. DofE expects at least one hour per week to be carried out in the skills section. I am not able to go fishing every week, as much as I would like to, but when I do go fishing, usually it is for many hours so in reality, I far exceeded the number of hours required. 

In completing the skills section, I visited numerous fisheries: Rockbourne, Manningford, Dever Springs, Blagdon Water and Chew Valley – all of which are fantastic places to go. I always find that wherever I go, experienced fishermen come up to me to offer advice and many have even given me equipment. I think they are very keen to encourage younger people to fly fish. I had to keep a log of how long I was fishing, what skills I was concentrating on and what progress I was making. 

One of the main goals I had was to learn to fish from a boat and so I spent a brilliant day on Blagdon with Paul Sweatman who was very generous with his time, taught me extremely well and he was really good company. At Chew Valley while volunteering for Fishing for Schools, I had a casting lesson with one of the instructors and I was able to add this to my skills log. At every location, I continued to try to perfect my double hauling. 

After the three months is completed, one of the sections has to be chosen to be carried on for a further three months… another easy choice, I carried on fly fishing, going to many more fisheries and continuing to learn and develop my skills. 

To anyone reading this who is thinking of completing the DofE, choose your sections carefully and most importantly, choose things you enjoy doing and it will never feel like a chore. I am lucky to have had lots of support in my time fishing and I also have many opportunities that others may not get but anyone can set a goal and aim for it no matter their skills levels and experience. Everyone starts somewhere. 

Having been awarded the bronze award (and now looking to complete the silver) I have something that I am proud to put on my CV. For my silver award, I must consider which fly fishing skill I wish to develop… getting even better at fishing from a boat is high up on my list, but then so is catching massive fish!

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