FORGIVE if you can a couple of little wanders away from the waterside, first to a nearby (Forest of Dean) village, then on to Tottenham (or Croydon, or Salford, or anywhere violence so recently broke out and shocked the nation).
To Bream, then – the village and not the fish – which my partner and I drove through on the way back from a hike along the Wye Valley Walk. Not a bad little community with a playing field, acres of lovely Forest to roam in and not a few nice fishing pools.
Why then was the youth we passed on the High Street looking so disconsolate, slouching along, face shrouded in the now-familiar grey hoodie top, feet dragging? The spectacle was depressing, and had we stopped to talk with him we would no doubt be treated to the standard response that there was “nothing to do round here”.
Now the Tottenham riots connection: isn’t the unhappy young man in Bream exhibiting the same malaise at work - a lack of being channelled in the right direction, oblivion to opportunities and objectives?
It’s all the more distressing here in the Forest because we have some superb initiatives to get young people interested in fishing, and since that’s not everyone’s bag there is a huge range of other worthwhile activities too, from brass-band playing to rambling, where new blood is welcome and encouraged to make contact. Inner cities might be a bit short of fishable water but nowhere in Britain is all that far from a place to wet a line (or have a good walk, or blow a trumpet).
Very often just a nudge is all that is needed, and it is just this nudge that local clubs like Yorkley AC and the Forest of Dean AC are giving with Angling Trust-inspired taster courses for young people on local waters. The local paper I work for, the Forest Review, helps by publicising these events, which are invariably well supported by fishermen keen to give some time to passing on their skills.
The conversion rate from taster session learners to keen anglers is high, and already some of the youngsters from sessions in past years are now beating their mentors in matches. With some inspirational models like local lad Sam Hughes, 16, winning the Fish O’Mania junior final recently, it’s a safe bet that some Forest kids would rather be fishing than rioting.
Just seeing the excitement and wonder on the faces of youngsters when they catch their first fish,. no matter how small, is proof enough that our local clubs are serving local youth very well indeed, as well as helping to shape a happier society.
Ted Lamb is author of The Penguin Book of Fishing, Kindle ebooks Brassribs and Fishing Magic; and verse One Last Cast - available from www.ted-lamb-books.co.uk or www.amazon.co.uk