Now, when I spoke to the Angling Development Board (ADB) last year concerning the issue of how to get kids involved in pike fishing and interested in Essex PAC, I never for one second imagined I would be attempting to organise an event of this scale. The original idea was to get into schools around Essex and give a presentation on pike fishing. Whether that would be me on my day off or perhaps a retired PAC member who would give up a morning or three. I had spoke to Mark Brand (runs Essex chapter of the Lure Angling Society) and he had told me of many pitfalls involving taking kids fishing. With all the red tape involved, it seemed impossible to get a handful of kids together and pass on any expertise. So, I’d already decided that the way forward would be to get a presentation on pike fishing into as many classrooms in the county. I’d asked for volunteers in the region at a meeting one night and was greeted with just a lone, singular voice offering help and to be honest I thought this too was proving a bit of a non-starter. I felt a bit perplexed,I don’t like doing things unless they are done right, for starters. I wouldn’t be entertaining an idea unless it was an idea worth it’s salt, quite frankly and any efforts so far were looking lame.
So here we were, an RO feeling a bit miffed, halfway through a season. I’d already smashed my personal targets with regards to getting guest speakers along. We’d been entertained by Eddie Turner, Mick Brown and given Al Rawlings his first talk at a PAC meeting and flown over a true Euro legend in DietmarIsaiasch and we’d only just turned into the New Year. With John Watson still to turn up to Essex PAC and having held a couple of fairly successful fishmeets already, with a third still to come, I found my attention wavering back to the issue of presentation in schools. Always looking to give the carping fraternity a run for their money in Essex, I saw the talks in schools thing as a way of an introduction into piking. It was around this time, that I received a phone call out of the blue from Nick, my local rep from the ADB. I’d always liked Nick, he was a real do-er, in fact one of the ADB’s shining stars (or so he always told me!) though it’s no secret we probably clash.
Anyhow, this phone call went something like….”Sean, I’ve just got off the phone to Sport England and they’ve offered funding for eighty kids to go fishing. How would you like to take them all pike fishing? “
Well, knock me down with a feather, is this guy for real?...“I’d love to do that Nick” …I blurbed back at him, not really giving any thought at all about when?, how?, if it could be possible! Then he continued rabbiting on,“yeah, we need to provide two 3hr sessions, over two days, so the same 80 kids come back the day later and do it all again”…..my mind raced. Christ on a bike, how the hell are we going to do that I wondered.“Listen, Sean, the other phone is going, have a think buddy, speak soon”….HAVE A BLOODY THINK? We are into February 2012 now, we have no venue, or tackle, or baits or anyone to teach the kids! I’ll give him “have a think”! I needed coffee, quickly. And so it all started…..
Fri Dec 31st 2011 was a bad day. I’d just been made redundant for the first time in 20yrs. As you can imagine, New Yrs Eve didn’t exactly set the pulses racing, when normally I’d have been celebrating. I think I trudged upstairs with the wife at 11pm, just wanting to shut my eyes on the whole damn day. As luck would have it (and I do seem to walk headfirst into luck quite often) I was back in employment a week later and would you believe it, I was given a day off in the week too. As all you pike anglers are aware, that’s akin to winning the lottery!
Fast forward a month and a half and that phone call from Nick that left me sitting in my computer room, coffee in hand, I began thinking how we could crack an event like this. Firstly, the end of the season was nigh. Nick would need time to get 80 kids, we had just under two months left to complete our task. Knowing I’d need anglers desperately, I realised I’d struggle if pikers were trying their damndest to extract a lump right at the end of the season, so I had to come back a couple of weeks. So it HAD to be March 4/5th. And it had to be a weekend. I phoned Nick back and the wheels started turning as he cleared his diary. 3 and a half weeks away. His task was to get 80 kids along both days. Then I sat down and realised my tasks…we needed anglers to teach them, in the region of 40 per day !We needed prizes, well of course we needed prizes! We needed bait, so we needed a sponsor or three. But first, on my day off, Nick and I had to travel around and find a venue that was pretty stuffed with pike, have enough parking, ideally have catering on-site and if I’m dreaming, a pub and a hotel nearby!
Well, after spending most of the day racing around talking to various venues, we sat down and realised we had overlooked one venue in particular and it was right on our doorsteps. Within hours it was sorted.
By now the ball was certainly rolling and I decided to try our luck with prizes for the event, as donations from forums as our first point of call. The famous Pikers Pit saw the first thread come up and I wasn’t expecting too much to be honest. Well you don’t do you? But the response took me by surprise, I gotta say. I got thinking back to the PAC Convention and remembered Alan Dudhill from Pikemaster supplying all those kids with fantastic goody bags at the end of the teach-in at Kettering. Well he has to be worth a phone call eh, just in case he had some gear left over. Alan was fantastic, offering to get hold of 80 pairs of forceps sent to me (it turned out his supplier couldn’t cope with demand and I got 50 twin treble rigs, 20 coastlock snaps, 8 pairs headlamps and 45 forceps..awesome!)now we had an event sponsor alright! Still the donations came in from the forums, not least the PikersPit. I’d got invited to a day on Chew and received a great pm from“Dart Stew L;aws”offering to meet me on the bank with some prizes for the kids. That was nice of him. There were others. Many others sending me stuff to hand out. Nick at the last minute got Nash “onboard” and brought some great prizes along.Kev O’Keefe spent many hours making up 50 traces the day before the event. I had offers of cash sent to me, a knock on the door the Thursday before, saw a guy from my region turn up to apologise for not bringing any free tackle for the kids but would I take twenty quid off him? The mother-in-law was constantly at the Post Office picking up parcels!
With all this going on, I needed anglers quickly. Nick said the budget was gonna be real tight if we had to buy bait, pay for the venue, get hold of tackle etc. Don’t worry, I told him, I’ll sort it. What was I saying? Around this time I wondered if I had bitten off more than I could chew. I got on the blower and on the Pikers Pit again. One of the first to throw his hat in the ring was Dave Horton. Well that can’t be bad, the great man himself! Then I went through my little phone book (as an RO you end up with all sorts of mobile numbers) and before long we had Eddie Turner and Nick Peat, Steve Rowley and John Goble, the list was becoming like a who-who of pikers! John Currie, Norfolk RO offered to come down with some boys, a fantastic gesture and a big welcome I can tell you. Wow. Bill Palmer and his lad threw their hat in the ring along with many others inc lure aficionados Tony Myhilland Mark Brand and Ron Lagdon and Ray Pemberton. Then I pulled in half a dozen or so local PAC lads. And not one angler even questioned the fact that they had to use their own tackle, how lucky were we! Oh and Steve Davidson travelled all the way from the North-East, Ade Kisbey joined in the fun, it really was going to be exciting just seeing all these guys around the same water teaching kids! Still more names pledged a session or two, including HanningfieldFly-fisher’s very own Nigel Angus offering free demos. I managed to drive up to Baits Direct and persuade them to sponsor us with bait, now I really was riding my luck! We also had the full backing of the PAC committee right behind us, willing us on with a visit from Tim Kelly and John Synnuk. As I told Graham Slater (PAC Gen Sec), I intended printing off his best wishes and hanging it in my study!
And so the day came.
The first 3hr session on the Sat morning took us all by surprise. We had about 65 kids booked into the whole weekend, but that first session saw nearly 40 kids queueing up, crikey we had our work cut out as we marched half and half around both sides of the two lakes, trying to place them all with anglers. Then the wait.It was in the first half-hour that the first fish came out to a lad taught by (would you believe it?) Bill Palmer !
As the day wore on it emerged that Steve Rowley was in a hot swim indeed, but fish were being caught all over the lakes and many a young lad were seeing what it was like to catch a pike. Even though the biggest fish were scraper doubles, they are still impressive out of the water with all those teeth on view. Everyone was having so much fun, the sun shone intermittingly and the smiles on boy’s faces were matched with the hesitation with seeing pike on the mat!
Saturday drew to a close, the poor lad with the job of photographer looked shattered having been chasing around the lakes all day as fish met the arms of anglers.
Sunday arrived with a promise of a stinking forecast, we were expecting rain by the bucketload all day. A few fresh faces pepped the angler line-up and we saw dark skies and precipitation often in the air that morning. Now, the fish seemed definetlymore reluctant to snaffle a bait of any kind. This was going to be a tough day and so it proved. We soldiered on never the less, the morning session was actually very well attended again and the pm session too. It seemed there were too many kids who wanted to throw lures though, we needed more lure anglers all of a sudden! I’d got a couple of lads to change rigs and away we went. Luckliy the catch returns were slowing down, as by mid-day we were nearly out of bait. Then with an two hours or so left, it absolutely hammered, leaving the organisers holding on to our gazebos for dear life. Everything and everyone got a royal soaking and we evacuated the kids to the café for prize-giving a little earlier than planned. Top rod was a teenager called Luke with the biggest catch of the weekend and he was presented with a lure rod and reel, which was quite apt, seeing as he continued to lure through the driving rain as though his life depended on catching pike!
We’d had a few dads thank us the day before, we’d given the anglers hot baguettes both days and we felt as though we’d looked after everyone. And indeed, we felt we cracked it. I mean, yes, we’d actually taken 65 kids pike fishing, for two days! They’d been taught pike welfare, handling, bite indication, how to work a lure, how to rig a lively, how to present a deadbait, what gear to use, Nick Peat had let on how to stay in stealth mode at a water, Ray Pemberton had a bloody hand while showing a couple of kids how not to unhook. We’d had a blast.
I totally recommend it, I’ve had a couple of cracking emails back from dads, saying how passionate the coaches were about their angling and how their kids were gonna get kitted out with the right gear for next season. Little did he know that those coaches are probably some of the most determined, finest pike anglers in the country ! A collection of pikers all fishing together for a cause and of the likes that will probably never be seen again in pike fishing memory with a rod in their hand, side by side.
So, get involved with your local Pike Anglers Club, it can be great fun, It’s been emotional, Essex and out.
Sean Ellis, Essex PAC RO
Essex Region PACGB RA 102