It’s all my wife’s fault.
It's all my wife's fault. I had never picked up a rod in my life when she despatched me with our five year old daughter to a Junior Fishing competition in Eastbourne two and half years ago. Much to my significant other’s chagrin, our daughter came second and neither of us have ever looked back.
This weekend finds me sitting on the beach, with the temperature hovering around zero, bathed in sunshine, trying to avoid catching whiting.
And I am not alone.
To my left is my lovely, warm and robust beach shelter. Usually, as now, it is occupied by two small children. As I write this they are engaged in their second favourite beach pastime – eating whilst consuming their body weight in hot chocolate.
Their father is left to freeze.
My daughter, now eight, still with a mouthful of crisps, proceeds to bait up her two hook flapper with a couple of juicy lugworm whilst my son, four, also with a mouthful of food and bundled up in several layers of clothing, looks on.
Over the last couple of years we have all become quite proficient (or at least less embarrassing) at this sea angling lark. Kit has been bought, upgraded and modified, fish have been caught. Whiting, bass, flatties and eels and more whiting have all fallen prey to the kids' rods.
I have become an obsessive sea angler but am a newbie compared to most – every available moment is spent thinking about fishing or actually fishing. With four kids and a busy job, my time is limited but the fact that I can include my two youngest in doing this has allowed me justify the hours of shingle time. My two teenagers wouldn’t be seen dead with me in waders.
My daughter clips on her trace and walks to the water’s edge, shuffling her feet and holding the rod high. She carefully positions herself and looking at the horizon, casts out, the line arcing through the air. Not bad – 25 yards out the lead hits the water. She walks slowly up the beach and places the rod on her bank stick. I help her adjust things and she returns to spend some quality time with the contents of her lunch box.
My son is small for his age and I find it easier to assist him casting by holding him and the rod and then thump it out as hard as I can without sending him after it.
The kit I have bought for them has changed as we have learnt together what works for the junior angler.
The kit I have bought for them has changed as we have learnt together what works for the junior angler. An eight foot carp stalking rod is perfect for my daughter and has caught sizeable plaice and flounder whilst allowing her to cast and retrieve easily. My son has a telescopic six footer, light and easy to hold. He retrieves confidently by himself and it was on one such occasion he had his red letter day earlier this year.
He went to reel in by himself whilst I watched from a few yards away. He started to retrieve the line, manfully pulling the rod tip high and then frantically turning the handle. Although there had been no indication of a bite, it quickly became apparent he was having a tussle with something. So amidst much screaming and jumping up and down (not by me, you understand) the line was, inch by inch, pulled in. I was torn between wanting him to do this himself and being terrified of losing whatever was on the other end. The rod itself was so thin and sensitive that it was bent along its whole length. As the lead broke the surface, my fishing buddies whooped as an eel, writhing in fury, emerged from the surf. I quickly grabbed the trace and stepped back.
Now an eel is an eel.
Unless you are a four year old boy who has just caught his first fish (mostly) unaided. Then it is a serpent. 25cm of writhing, deadly sea snake, three feet long and growing longer before your very eyes. Photos taken, the eel is returned, still rather cross it seems.
One happy boy.
Fishing gives them new skills and knowledge and a growing insight into our responsibilities
I love fishing alone or with the wonderful people I have met on the beach but fishing with my two children allows them experiences that, as a North London boy growing up in the 70s and 80s, I didn’t have.
Living on the south coast and on top of the Downs has given us all an opportunity to enjoy the very best of the British countryside and weather. We keep our kids outdoors and fit and getting rid of the TV a year ago has meant we need to be inventive with them. Fishing gives them new skills and knowledge and a growing insight into our responsibilities to and our relationship with nature, animals and the food on our plate.
Long may this continue…