What’s The Catch? column: Never too young to be an angler

Ollie Kitchener with his prize carp
Ollie Kitchener with his prize carp

It just goes to show what youngsters can do, writes Roger Poole.

Nine-year-old Ollie Kitchener is the son of Petworth & Bognor Angling Club’s fishery manager, so who better to lead by example – and who better to beat. Ollie has been proudly showing the results of following and learning from his dad and is already a keen angler – perhaps he can spur on a few more children to take up fishing.

Petworth & Bognor Angling Club held their second teach-in at one of the ponds at Walberton. Mums and dads turned up with eight children ranging in age from six to ten for a morning’s fun session to learn the basic art of fishing.

The club’s qualified teacher Richard Burbidge explained the need to treat all fish with great care and return them safely to the water. Various items of tackle were there for them to try, and eventually the time arrived to make their first cast, having put a small ball of ground bait in their swim to attract the fish.

Baiting the hooks with squirming maggots for the boys was a highlight not to be missed. Not quite as enthusiastic were their sisters, but not to be outdone, they soon overcame their obvious distaste of picking up maggots and, of course, the first small roach was caught by a girl.

The boys then set to the task of landing as many fish as possible and those children not only learned the basic skills of fishing but had a great day out. Let’s hope one day they take it up as a hobby.

Back in the present day, the rain has been and gone, the rivers and ponds are looking fresher and reports from most venues show good catches all round.

I always believe that if you fish as a youngster, it stays with you for the rest of your life. It’s a bit like riding a bike: you never forget how to do it.

With so many hobbies, sports and pastimes available, I really hope fishing is never forgotten, but it’s nearly always those early childhood memories that draw us to the waterside. Look down and dream of catching a fish. I started when I was ten and the dream lives on.

In the 1930s and then after the end of the second world war, angling was in its heyday, car ownership was limited so anglers from London and across the south travelled by train, many of them to Pulborough. From there they caught a bus to the nearest place close to the Arun – in those days many more stretches were available to fish.

Later on many angling clubs, rather than rely on the trains, rented a coach for the day. I remember going on one for a day’s fishing on the Thames. Nearly everyone smoked in those days – the coach, full of pipe and cigarette smoke finally arrived, and coughing anglers emerged.

Having weighed up and agreed a winner late in the day, we all set off back home – but not without several stops at well-known pubs where the arms stretched longer as the pints went down.

Back in the present day, the rain has been and gone, the rivers and ponds are looking fresher and reports from most venues show good catches all round.

The Rother has good chub and at last the roach appear to be coming back. They are not very big but they’re there in larger numbers this year.

Dace and bream, together with larger roach shoals, have kept anglers busy on the Arun and another double-figure barbel from the club’s stretch at Watersfield just shows why so many anglers love the Arun.

See www.sussexangling.co.uk for more about local activities. Good fishing.


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