AIGFA Young Anglers Camp
Steve Lockett - a passionate angler, environmentalist, writer and coach of Malaysian National Feeder Fishing Team, participated in the All India Game Fishing Association’s Young Anglers Camp – Second Edition and here is his thought about the experience he had, interacting and teaching the future Anglers of India.
Young Anglers Camp-Second Edition
It was a pleasure to work alongside Ali H. Husainii and Derek D’Souza on the kids’ angling camps at WASI Lake. Over the course of three days, close to thirty kids got the chance to experience life in the great outdoors as well as catching lots of fish. Barbequing marshmallows after seeing how to light a fire with no matches or lighter was the perfect end to each day.
The days began with an introduction to the team. This consisted of Ali and Derek for AIGFA, Vinay Badola for Otter Reserves, Sujan Bernard from Woods and Trails, and I represented the Mahseer Trust. After Derek laid down the rules, I sat on the wall by the channel to catch an early fish to show the kids what they could expect to catch. Luckily, I managed to bank a mahseer pretty quickly each day. Ali timed my first day bite as coming within 30 seconds.
After the fish was hooked, I ran through how to play a fish correctly with the rod down to one side. Once banked, I gave a quick demonstration of the scientific sampling we used on the recent Assessments and Workshops in Karnataka and Uttarakhand. I took two scale samples and a fin clip and explained how these will grow back and be replaced by the fish.
The kids needed to see a fish, so this meant the first one always spent too long out of the water. Taking the fish into the flowing water allowed me to revive them under the keen eye of the parents. They were amazed to see these fish swim away strongly after being held facing into the flow for some time. While we did this, Derek took the kids away to tackle up.
Method feeder tactics were employed, with a rod for each kid cast by one of the coaches. Usually one of the rods was away with a shout of ‘fish on’ before all the rods could be cast. The kids were helped, at first, to pump the fish in to a waiting net. Quick measurements were taken and a snapshot of the kid holding the fish followed by them being allowed to release the fish.
Mahseer were plentiful. All blue-finned (species still to be determined, but what used to be called Tor khudree) and mostly in the 1-2kgs size range. A couple of mrigal and rohu also came to the net. Tilapia were easily caught on worms, and these were destined for the barbeque. AIGFA had produced a logbook for each kid. This had details of the types of fish they could catch, birds they were likely to see and snakes they could encounter. There was also a page for invasive species, so they knew tilapia had to be removed.
As each day wore on, bites were plentiful. This is essential for keeping the attention from wandering. Of course, it isn’t possible to ensure a fish for each kid and there was, inevitably, one who found a bite hard to come by. Despite the best efforts of all of us, Aditi, the youngest participant on the first day, was finding it hard to keep smiling. After all had caught and moved on to learning to cast by themselves, little Adi sat behind a motionless rod. Suddenly, the tip lurched down and we all cried ‘fish, fish’ for her. She took the rod and, guided by Ali, battled her monster to the waiting net. It was the biggest fish of the day, a beast for her at 3kgs and the pride showed in her eyes as she held it for a catch shot.
Seeing the joy in the faces of all of them, not just Aditi, made the whole few days heartening for all of us coaches. I hope Derek and Ali can continue to roll out the camps across the country. I have prepared a document to help streamline the process and ensure the learning is consistent and accessible to all.
By engaging the kids and giving them a nature-based adventure, I hope we have brought a fresh new crop of anglers along. For the sake of Indian rivers and fish, the more anglers we can make, the better are the chances of conservation working. My job with the Mahseer Trust is not just about saving the rivers directly, but also about ensuring future battles can be won. With new anglers around the corner, we can keep the pressure on those who would neglect, or even destroy our right to enjoy clean rivers and forests. The battle cry should be: ‘let’s get more people fishing’.