Learning to fish can mean more than knowing what bait to use to catch the right fish, as pupils from Brynllywarch School, near Newtown, found out after completing a course run by Environment Agency Wales.
Brynllywarch School is a school for disadvantaged young people who have behavioural problems and learning difficulties. Eleven pupils from the school spent 5 months learning about the life of fish and how to catch them in an Open College Network (OCN) Introduction to Angling Course earlier this year.
The course included classroom based theory sessions and practical fishing days with Agency staff. The pupils also had to undergo a written and practical examination to gain the OCN qualification. Portfolios compiled by the pupils have been sent away, assessed and returned with the pupils receiving a certificate for their achievements. All are now rod licence holders with a new interest that will stay with them throughout their lives.
15 year old Scott had this to say about the course: "We had a fishing test at Blue Bell Park. There were about 10 of us, Mr Hobbs, Mr Bowen and Dick the fishing tutor were there. I caught 50 fish! We all got a certificate for passing the Environment Agency test. And we all passed the course. Some got better marks than others but the important thing was that we all passed. I enjoyed the course and I loved taking part in all the sessions. Dick the fishing tutor was funny, but a really good teacher. He taught us loads. He taught me how to use a disgorger properly and unhook the fish. It was good and I recommend it to all keen young fishermen."
The course began with the pupils looking after their very own salmon eggs. They were responsible for their care and well being as they hatched into young salmon fry that were eventually released by the pupils into the River Severn. The classroom theory sessions gave the pupils lessons in biology, chemistry and maths as they gained knowledge about the fish, their environment and how to catch them. Several practical lessons at Sawmill Pools and Bluebell Park fisheries in Powys gave the young people a chance to put theory into practice as they took their first steps as novice anglers.
Dave Hobbs, the Head of Behavioural Support at the school had set up an angling club for the young people at the school. The pupils were responsible for running the club and managing its accounts. Dave Hobbs said: “To see our pupils sitting quietly at the waterside concentrating on the float for hours is remarkable considering some of their previous behaviour records - no bickering or falling out - if only we could replicate this in classrooms throughout the country!”
“Responsible behaviour is expected by the fishing group and we certainly get it whether it be respect for the countryside code, correctly handling the fish and the tackle. Most of the equipment has been bought by the club members and so it is jointly owned. To pay for it and the outings they collect subs, manage the accounts and run a proper credit union for the benefit of everyone in the group. So thanks to fishing we reckon that this is what schools should be about - real skills for real lives."
This is only the ninth OCN Introduction to Angling course that has been delivered across the UK. It is already proving a massive hit with the young people and Agency staff involved. The course has been funded from the Welsh Assembly Government’s Sustainable Fisheries Project. Resources were also provided using funds from Rod Licence fees.
Clare Quigley, who organised the course for Environment Agency Wales, said: “This course has been so rewarding for everyone involved. Helping these young people to become young anglers has been such an experience for me and the rest of our staff. Paying for a rod licence can mean so much more than giving you the right to go fishing. The fees are invested back into the sport, either to improve facilities for established anglers or to get more people interested in fishing as we have done here. For me, seeing these young people, who may have had difficulties in the past, get so much from the course has been fantastic. The idea to set up the angling club for the school is one we had to support. “The benefits of angling can be so much more rewarding than just landing a big fish.”