Meet our coaches…Q&A with East of England Coach, Richard Winser
Updated: Jun 22
What do you do now - apart from Fishing for Schools, of course and what should we also know about you?
Having retired from a career in the Military and Police Service, my wife (Phillipa) and I formed our limited company providing consultancy and arranging fly fishing excursions. Together we run the Fly Fishing Academy, our own fishery, a charity in the Philippines for impoverished children and gold and silver expeditions for the Duke of Edinburgh Award. In addition, we undertake a lot of fly fishing related voluntary work for various charities, and I project manage the restoration and renovation of a local church.
When did you start fishing?
I started fishing from the age of six and grew up in the Hertfordshire countryside near to the River Mimram. Our family holidays were on the River Great Ouse in Cambridgeshire; whilst my parents put up the caravan awning, my brother and I would be assembling our rods and then promptly disappearing on the river (for the week). If my mother wanted to feed us, first she had to find us and secondly, she had to bring sandwiches!
What inspired you to start fishing?
The proximity growing up near a river, being allowed to spend endless hours outside entertaining yourself, a vivid imagination, affinity with nature and a primeval instinct to turn any activity into an adventure.
What made, or rather “inspired” you to continue fishing?
Phillipa is also a fishing coach, and our daughter is an accomplished fly fishing angler, it is almost a prerequisite to living in our household. The translation of this amounts to sharing quality time together as a family and getting to visit and fish in some phenomenal places, both in the UK and overseas.
What notable achievement have you made in fishing, do you think Richard?
There are two really; the first is sometimes difficult to quantify but I have worked as a guide and instructor with disabled, special needs and terminally ill children for fourteen years. It is a rewarding role, working with a variety of charities and hosting our own events. It is apparent just from feedback and reactions, that you are having a profound effect on the self-esteem and confidence of those participating but sometimes difficult to measure. We were quite honoured recently, to have been nominated for the [Her Majesty the Queen’s Jubilee] Platinum Champions Award, for service relating to our fishing endeavours with charities. The second is a fly pattern and most closely guarded secret… The Killer shrimp, (Dikerogammarus villosus), is a highly invasive non-native, voracious predator species found for the first time in the UK at Grafham Water, Cambridgeshire, back in September 2010. Whilst the discovery of it is not something to be celebrated, any Grafham fisherman will tell you – they are right at the top of the resident trout menu! Shortly after their discovery I set about creating an artificial fly to imitate them, aptly named the Genocide Shrimp. It was marginally successful, but a second iteration saw the addition of lead wire making it heavier, this allowed the pattern to drop quickly through the water at cruising trout in Hampshire’s clear waters. The Mass (due to it being weighted) Genocide Shrimp is my unrivalled ‘stalking’ pattern and fishing legacy!
What made you want to become a coach?
To some extent becoming an angling coach was a natural progression, as my capacity allowed, I took on more and more guiding responsibilities incrementally over a twelve year period. The coaching course provided me with a formal qualification and licensed accreditation through the Angling Trust.
When did you become a coach?
Back in 2005, I was a shooting coach and taught safe shotgun handling and clay shooting. I applied to become a Sport England L2CCA Game Angling Coach in 2018, as soon as I applied to join the Fishing for Schools programme. It was a requirement of the post.
When did you join F4S and why?
A local landowner and farming friend, aware of some of the fishing charity work we were doing contacted me, having seen an advert for coaching vacancies on the Countryside Alliance news page and suggested that I should apply. I joined the Fishing for Schools team for the Eastern Region in 2019.
What has given you the most pleasure working with F4S?
In the Eastern Region we have a phenomenal team, I don’t have to say that because I am married to one of them! Not only do Sally Acloque, Phillipa and I work well together, there is also an underlying friendship. Our dog also gets to come to work with us and of course (probably foremost), the sense of personal fulfilment felt, as you witness the achievements of others.
What is the most difficult part of F4S?
Funding is pivotal to everything; against a backdrop of the global pandemic, crisis management in the NHS and most recently Ukraine, there is ever increasing demand for limited funds available. People are also feeling the increase in cost of living, rendering them less likely to donate. Imagine what would be possible if we didn’t have to worry about where the money was coming from?
What is your main aim for a F4S session?
People learn when they are enjoying themselves and having fun. Without doubt, my main aim when delivering a lesson, is to create and ensure a conducive, safe and fun environment, using a variety of delivery styles and inspiring others to realise their own potential.
How do you personally measure a successful session?
Albert Einstein famously said; “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough”. I follow that simple statement, check for understanding and reinforce the learning, often employing app’s like Kahoot, to make things competitive, interactive and a laugh. It is amazing how a few small tackle prizes can hold the most distracted or wandering attention!
What is your funniest moment with F4S?
During lockdown we delivered a series of tutorials for the Angling Trust CAST Award remotely. This culminated in a bankside assessment when relaxation of Covid measures allowed. Session eight was an interactive knowledge check quiz and twice the Director of Fishing for Schools was invited to go ‘head2head’ live, with a nominated pupil… the only difference being, the student had been provided with all the correct answers in advance!!!! Perfectly fair (of course), laughter could be heard across the region - taking part is more important than winning!
Why do you believe in F4S?
I believe in the opportunities that Fishing for Schools provides; using angling to convey educational objectives is engaging and fishing is one of the largest participation sports in the UK. You must only look at the increase in rod licence sales since 2020 to get an appreciation of fishing popularity and its growth.
What is the future for F4S, do you think?
I would like to see Fishing for Schools expand beyond the educational setting remit, there are so many areas outside of those criteria that would find it beneficial. The further we are able to reach, the more young people will inevitably derive the benefit.
Why should people who are both Anglers & non anglers get behind F4S?
We need our constituent angling community to promote the Fishing for Schools initiative, they are parents and grandparents that have children in their local schools. Teaching staff may not have any angling background, we need to promote it from within. Non anglers can then witness the benefits of using fishing as a medium to teach wider educational objectives. It is not just about catching fish (although it is always good when you do!), fishing is the engaging mechanism we employ in a wider sense.
Where do you see F4S in five years’ time?
I envisage the further ‘in house’ development and adoption of recognised qualification frameworks. There is a welter of experience within the Fishing for Schools Coaching Team and this needs to be channelled and exploited. Sustainable future funding is also a challenge for the immediate and medium term. Engaging Headteacher forums and extending invitations to community grant awarding bodies to observe sessions first hand, could be very beneficial to ensure critical financial support for the next five years and beyond.
Richard and his lovely wife Pippa, who is also one of our Fishing for Schools coaches.