Fishing for Schools Coach Richard Winser takes us through stages of the Angling Skills Activity Award and the ‘pilot’ concept delivered to Aylsham High School Students, in the Eastern Region this year (July and September).
A band of enthusiastic anglers were chosen from the first ever group to undertake the Angling Skills Activity Award - Foundation, whilst selected to attend a school setting during the first covid pandemic lockdown.
The challenge on this occasion, was slightly different...
Previously they had completed 17 core coarse fishing elements of the Foundation award criteria with each achieving a ‘Gold’ pass; extraordinary as for many this was their first time coarse fishing.
Now the experience was even more enticing; sea fishing from a charter boat off the Norfolk coast and then fly fishing at Narborough Trout Fisheries, Kings Lynn.
However, before any lines could be cast near water, there were 33 new elements to satisfy for the next award level – Intermediate; with a prerequisite that before embarking on the Intermediate/Independent stages, Foundation had to be completed to ‘Gold’ standard.
Like all levels of the Angling Skills Activity Award, the stages are based on the Angling Trust CAST awards, generic to all three angling disciplines and with an update and refreshers.
There is a distinct emphasis on fish welfare, invasive species and bio contamination, pollution, the life cycle of aquatic insects, how food chains might interrelate; also, migratory fish issues; all significantly topical issues.
We used fish anatomy at Foundation level; naming fins and discussed unique organs such as the lateral line and swim bladder, the next stage anatomy looked at how fish “smell”, their vision and comparisons with our own human sight. All of this, with an angling slant. Importantly, how biology and science increase our understanding and can shape our tactical angling decisions. Also, it provokes thoughts such as “what we can do as anglers to safeguard against pollution, contamination, and environmental harm?”
At the commencement of the course, each student was told how to maintain an evidence log and issued with their own fly box, flies were awarded along the way for correct classroom answers and quiz prizes, supplementing the three patterns they would tie under instruction. This then built into a fly box armoury for practical use on the bank at Narborough for the game angling section. Rewards!
The suggested timeframe for completion of the independent level is a minimum of 80 hours (depending on aptitude and ability) with two 4-hour assessment modules. The onus is on the actual participant to evidence their progress using a log - in a similar manner to that of the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme.
Classroom presentations include pollution and reduction, basic entomology and fly tying, fact files about mackerel, rainbow trout, brown trout, and case studies of Atlantic salmon and migratory fish, pollution and chalk streams.
The practical sea fishing and fly-fishing trip introduced areas such as topography in an angling context, appropriate clothing and equipment, different baits and how to present them, different rigs, assembly and use of equipment, food chains, cleaning and maintaining equipment, casting, watercraft and fish holding areas, knots, different techniques to achieve different presentations and depths, prevention of bio contamination/invasive species, the correct and sympathetic handling of fish and the recovery of fish.
Having had two days classroom input, spaced two months apart and with a day sea fishing in between, it would all culminate into a fly-fishing finale.
The idea was that the 33 new criteria elements are to be completed, along with the additional 17 elements previously attained at Foundation Level. Amassing to a total of 50 elements needed for the Angling Skills Activity Award - Intermediate level qualification.
To some this may appear to be an “exit point" but for others it might prove to the start of developing personal angling competencies that takes time to master but uniquely satisfying.
All the participants were encouraged to develop their angling skills independently, showing improvement, and evidencing it within their angling activity log.
The completed logs were then passed back for assessment and if the criteria have been fulfilled, the Independent Level is awarded.
All that is required between Intermediate and Independent levels is to journey on and be versed in the ways of angling and grow as individuals and become overall, more confident in their ability.
In conclusion: if one final paragraph can be ascribed to summarise the course in its entirety, it must be the words of the teacher that has actively championed every aspect of it:
“It is really difficult to put into words just how inspiring our journey with Richard and the team has been. The award made and continues to make a significant difference to some of our most vulnerable students at Aylsham High School.
They felt instantly enthused before we even got to the water edge.
The course is well thought out and incredibly engaging, promoting fishing, not just as a sport but as an opportunity to build resilience, confidence and self-esteem.
Some of our students have felt real success for the very first time as they conquered the theory and pulled their first fish out of the water. Away from the hustle, bustle and rigour of a school setting we have seen our student’s flourish.
The waterside creates a unique environment where students quickly build positive relationships with fishing coaches, interacting on a level that is rarely seen at school and for some, at home too. Their demeanour changes, the world is a happy place again.
The intermediate course brings a whole new level of excitement. An extraordinary pathway that will live long in the memory of our students, developing skills that will be passed on for generations. Always believe the impossible is possible.” – Mr Danny Sweatman - SENCo and Head of Nurture, Aylsham High School, Norwich, Norfolk.