Life is all about learning. From an early age we are encouraged to acquire new skills and mindsets that will help to better ourselves further down the line. The saying goes that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but I really do beg to differ. By opening yourself up to change, embracing new ideas and occasionally questioning how you set about even the most basic of tasks, you are effectively opening yourself up to self improvement.
Angling is no different and I’ve always kept an open mind when it comes to it’s careful consideration, never disregarding an idea before I’ve at the very least given it some serious thought. As people, we rarely embrace change and often even fear stepping out of our comfort zone, but when it ultimately can benefit us, surely it’s worth entertaining.
When I began my Gambling Angler guiding service in 2016, I was unsure of exactly the type of client I might attract. I was fairly certain that raw beginners would figure heavily and that they did, but what did take me by surprise was the number of seasoned anglers who were looking for a different perspective, new ideas and a fresh way of thinking. As a young man and inexperienced angler, I experienced something that would now be looked upon as ageism, whereby a particular group of the older generation of anglers looked down on the young lads who were cutting their teeth on the local sea angling scene. It has to be said, that this was not the norm as the majority of adults were enthused to see new blood on the beach and did their upmost to help, but there certainly was an element of those around pension age that saw my school friends and myself as snotty nosed kids that knew nothing and were shown little encouragement.
The irony was that this band of grumpy old men themselves were suffering from a delusion of self belief that only over time I came to recognise as, quite frankly, false belief in their own abilities with rod and line. And that’s not a throw away comment born of disrespect; these guys showed zero interest in the younger generation and so failed to earn my respect. It was probably around about then that my faith in teaching old dog’s new tricks left my head and I resigned myself to the simple fact that they knew it all simply because they had more years under their belts. Or so they thought.
Many years later and my very first client was a chap I had come to know as a customer at Veals Mail Order. I see no reason to name the gent in question, but he is perhaps in his late fifties and has been fishing for most of his life. It was highly likely he had cast a line many more times than myself and certainly caught a few good fish over the years, yet, here he was coming to me for guidance which in itself I remember feeling quite humbled by. This opened my eyes a little and as time moved on, more anglers of wiser years came my way and I began to dispense with the theory I had developed as a teen. It appeared that there were those of greater years than myself who did think outside of the box or at least were open to the possibility of doing so and were willing to take advise from someone who was not even born when they had caught their first fish.
Established traits that are developed over the course of decades must be hard to break and I offer my complete respect to anyone who will open themselves up to furthering personal development.
Like any other angler, I tend to have a set of basic routines which have always held me in good stead. A set way of doing things is fine if it has been established over a long period of trial and error and many of my clients have benefited from a few pointers in the right direction. But what really started to intrigue me as I found myself further in to the Gambling Angler journey was how just the little things that I and those I fish with take for granted and presume to be of common knowledge, clearly are not.
Elasticated thread for securing baits firmly to hooks, links tied to the end of a shock leader to facilitate a quick connection of the chosen rig, leads with grip wires to hold true on the sea bed when the tide is running hard- all of these things and many more that I had come to be complacent of were evidently a whole new world to many clients. As I say, guys who were seasoned anglers and had been missing out on just these little things that can make all the difference were enjoying learning something new and I found that thrilling.
The preparation of a second baited rig as soon as you have cast out and the revelation that based on ten casts during an average session and the fact that preparing a good looking bait could take up to five minutes with cold wet hands… an additional fifty minutes of time that sees your rig in the water and not out of it. The look of revelation on the faces of some of my clients was priceless. And I don’t mean to sound flippant here; they were genuinely inspired by these little light bulb moments.
So long time anglers learning a different slant on things continues to inspire me. But it is the truly raw novice that gives me the the biggest buzz of all. Those who literally have zero experience and do not know one end of a fishing rod from the other. It’s extremely satisfying to work with such a blank canvas, one that has yet to see a fish and acquire any bad habits. Going through that routine of basic instruction from start to finish with the majority of those who would take it all in finding success in one shape or another, I found to be massively rewarding. And for those who didn’t experience a little luck on the day, they went away with some solid foundations to set out on their fishing experience that would hold them in good stead for years to come. They were of course encouraged to experiment with the basics and make a few adjustments here and there if they saw fit, as well as dedicating as much time as they could if what they were seeking may be a little harder to come by.
One such angler was especially keen to land a weighty smoothhound, but at the time of our guided session the season had been a poor one with even the experienced anglers working the local beat struggling to make a catch worthy of note. His session was a blank, other than a token bass, but I could tell he had some fire in his eyes for his target and so encouraged him to return when both weather and tides were favourable. He knew he was doing the right thing in regards to his approach and with some encouragement he began to feel confident in it.
Several solo trips later he found his prize in the form of a double figure smoothound and I could not have been happier for him. But I’ll be blowed if just a short time later he contacted me once again to report of an even bigger fish. Clearly, he had been inspired and had quietly returned with renewed confidence in both the approach he had learned and a familiarity of the venue in question.
This is one of numerous success stories but there have also been those that appear to have been just plain unlucky too. One such chap has joined me on three separate occasions now and it’s proving especially tricky to help him hit his target. Even when conditions have been excellent and the venue we have chosen to fish has produced fish in the days leading up to the session, it just never seems to be his day. I’m sure he will get there in the end and he is enjoying the challenge- at least I think.
What I have come to recognise is the diverse spectrum of anglers from all walks of life who for whatever reason decide that they want to sample angling. From brick layers to solicitors and plastic surgeons, data analysts to Typhoon fighter pilots (honestly), all with a passion for the sea and wanting to learn how to get the best out of their angling.
As a lone angler providing this service, it can be tricky planning a date to suit the would be client, especially when the weather is such a huge consideration for success. The weather can not be pre-booked and so if I do feel it will have a detrimental effect on the session, I will cancel. It’s only fair on the client and ultimately I want them to stand the best possible chance of having an enjoyable day. What I didn’t account for though was the number of last minute cancellations on the part of the client and although I don’t want to end here on a negative note, all I’ll ask is that if you intend to make a booking, please ensure you are fully committed. Life has a habit of throwing unexpected surprises our way and I’ll never shun a genuine reason for having to cancel, but simply ‘forgetting’ you have made a booking doesn’t really cut it.
The last three years have been one hell of a journey and I’ve personally learned so much in that time, both about anglers and people in general. And it still feels like I’ve really only just begun!