Catching 'em early proves right policy in fishing for souls
TO SAY that the future of fishing lies in the hands of our children is stating the obvious, but it is a home truth well worth dwelling upon.
To safeguard the future of angling, and to give kids and people of all ages an opportunity for enjoyment, the Tweedstart angling initiative was set up by Eoin Fairgrieve. One of Scotland's finest spey casters, who confirms that he has been well served by angling, Fairgrieve is on a mission to put back into the sport as much as he has gained - and more.
I first spoke to him last summer when Tweedstart was gathering momentum as a non-profit-making organisation, and his passion for the cause was obvious; a year on, and the fruits of the efforts of all involved are evident.
The goal this year is to stage 50 educational days: 17 have been held, 13 involving visits to schools in the Borders.
"So far this year it's been phenomenally successful," says Fairgrieve, "and a major development has been the introduction of roadshows into the schools. We spend the first session laying the foundations of what we're doing, before taking pupils out to a fishery and teaching them all about safety, entomology and all the environmental aspects involved before getting down to the actual fishing.
"The feedback from the pupils has just been incredible. We've had letters from every school saying how much they've loved the experience. It's geared towards primary 4 upwards, but after visiting Innerleithen, we've had 20 letters from younger kids who are desperate to get involved. We obviously have to fit in with the school terms, but after the success so far, we're already in a position to hit the ground running in September again."
Apart from the popularity of Tweedstart with youngsters, teachers are enthusiastic, and Fairgrieve believes that this is because they can appreciate the benefits of learning in a fun environment, and because of the range of topics covered. Indeed, they seem to be enjoying Tweedstart almost as much as the kids, but they can benefit professionally through a career and personal development programme.
A group of two teachers and nine pupils from Kelso High School have been taken out to try their hands at salmon fishing on the idyllic Tweedswood beat of the middle Tweed; a course in managing environmental resources is being developed at the school. A trip is also on the agenda for Cornhill Primary School - and dinner ladies are apparently as keen to take part as the pupils.
Fairgrieve is being aided and abetted by Ronnie Glass, a noted Borders angler and artist, and Kenny Galt, a biologist with the Tweed Foundation.
Last Sunday, Tweedstart pitched up at Kailzie Fishery, near Cardrona, for a fly-fishing have-a-go day sponsored by the Peeblesshire Trout Fishing Association. My better half took along our daughters, aged nine and 13, to learn all about bugs and beasties from pond and river, aspects of safety and how to cast. All three raved about the experience, and were determined to practise the casting technique of "one o'clock to 10 o' clock and flicking mud over the hill."
My younger daughter is usually keen to join me on the water whenever she can, but now the whole family appear to be hooked, and there can be no better gauge of the effectiveness of this grass-roots initiative.
Plans are in place to expand the programme around Scotland under a generic banner, including such as Speystart and Highlandstart. Spreading the word about the life-affirming pleasures of spending time with people of all ages and backgrounds, in an activity which provides sustenance for the soul, would appear to have been cast into the right hands.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Tuesday 18 June 2013
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