Via a friend of mine who has a daughter at the school, I was asked to come along to Bishop Cornish school over in Saltash to come and talk to a couple of classes about fishing - I went along on Tuesday morning and it was just huge fun. All the ten and eleven year old children (is that years 5 and 6 ?) at the school are involved in a big school project where they are learning all about their local waters, and this means the fish, the fishing methods (commercial and recreational), fish cookery, you name it, these kids are just into fish in a big way. All credit to the school and to their fantastic teachers - thanks so much for having me along for the morning. I feel deeply honoured to have come and spoken to a bunch of such fantastic children.
We started off in their classroom where they went through a bunch of photos of them at the fish market, at the aquarium, and in their classroom with various kinds of fish, and they took me through what they have been doing for the last few weeks. I never remember doing anything half as interesting as this when I was at school. Fantastic stuff. You could feel the whole buzzed up atmosphere in the classroom - these guys really seem to be benefitting hugely from their experiences.
I was then asked to stand up and talk to them all about fishing - I have only ever done this a couple of times, but I so love doing it, indeed if I can go some tiny way towards making the sport of fishing seem relevant and exciting to children like these then I reckon that is about the best thing I can do. We spoke about all kinds of fish and all kinds of fishing, and also I made sure to really get them involved and ask them loads of questions about their own experiences - the last thing I want to do is to stand there and send them all to sleep by just talking and talking all about me and my own fishing. A morning like this is simply not about me, it's about the kids in the classroom. What a bright bunch of children to spend time with. It makes one hugely humble to see youngsters on a learning curve like this, and without a doubt it rams home how kids like these are our future. The more we enthuse them, the better everything might just be....
But I think that the real highlight for us all was when we got to go out on to their playing fields and start casting - yes, you heard right, we took them out, split them up into three groups, and set about having a kind of mini casting tournament. Bearing in mind that virtually all the kids have never even picked up a fishing rod, they were just awesome. It has always been my theory that basic casting is so easy, and these guys proved it again and again. The girls were easily as good as the boys, indeed there was one particular girl who was just a complete natural from her first ever cast - I placed her hands on the spinning rod, clipped the line into her forefinger, pulled the bale arm back, told her very quickly how to do it, and then stood back. Straight away she got herself into exactly the right position, turned around, looked up, and let fly with the rod. Poetry in motion. Seriously, when you suddenly see a complete beginner who picks it up so quickly it kind of takes the breath away a bit. But in truth, they were all just fantastic, and the time went by far too fast.
If we listened too much to the reams of experts out there, most of us would have always believed that the "dark art" of picking up a rod and casting was something that takes years to master. Basic casting is easy, and don't ever let anybody ever tell you it isn't. Left hand down, right hand by the reel, clip the line into your forefinger, snap the bale arm back, turn around and look at the sky - think about throwing a javelin. Bring the rod through, let go of the line, and watch it fly. Easy. Lots of the children were soon telling me that they were going to be asking for a fishing rod and reel for their Christmas present. How cool is that ? Made my week to be honest.
Look up and just whack it !! What a fantastic school, and my thanks to Helen Jonas for asking me along, and for allowing me to use these photos on the blog. I am pretty sure none of the children fell asleep on me, and I came away feeling really proud to have spent the morning with them all. Thanks so much to all of you.
As I said, the girls were just as good at casting as the boys. How they took to a great big bloke like me talking rapid-fire at them I will never know, but unless youngsters are encouraged to come into fishing (and into any kind of fishing), then there is no future to the sport. There generally is no more welcoming sport than fishing, we all know that, but at times fishing can be portrayed as something that is pretty difficult to do. And it just is not. Of course all these kids are not suddenly going to become lifelong anglers just because I went and spent the morning with them, but it seems to me that this project that are involved in is really giving them an understanding of the waters around their part of the world. The more they can learn about the outdoors and how invaluable it is, the better equipped they will be for life.
Anyway, what's the most important thing this weekend ? England v Australia of course, and return of Jonny Wilkinson. I remember laughing a couple of years ago when virtually everybody said Jonny was finished and that he had no future in English rugby. Let's remember one thing here - class is permanent. He's fit, he's playing awesome down in France, and he might just be the catalyst for England to start the lengthy climb back to where they belong - as the number one rugby team in the world. November 2003 was a hell of a long time ago now........it's going to be a hell of a Saturday afternoon.