John Bailey: Heidi Gallant is at the tench again and this time there's a prize at stake
Well, the Robert Shanks Award has just about completed its first month and Daniel Brydon and I at Wensum Valley Angling have put our money where our mutual mouths are.
It's time to give out the first month's prizes. The right choice is a colossally difficult one to make and I think both Dan and I are eternally grateful in Rob's memory that so many of our region's anglers have taken this concept on board. It is easy to forget. The passage of time erases emotions both good and bad but there was so much about Rob that deserves to be remembered.
Which of the many entries would Rob have chosen for himself, Dan and I wondered? In many ways, that was the light to guide our judgement.
Let's look at the kids first. There were some super applicants. Rob loved seeing kids fishing, kids being mentored, kids getting on in the sport. But, for me at least, there is one child that really stands out this springtime and that has to be Heidi Gallant. She is just so brilliantly committed. She is massively talented, not just for her age, believe me. Above all, it is her joy in fishing that blows me away. That's the key.
You should always be fishing with a smile on your face. But what is Heidi's prize? Well, if she and Dad Matt pop into Wensum Valley Angling at their convenience Dan does have some bait for her. There is a little bit more, however.
I am looking forward to fishing with both of them in just a few weeks' time. Heidi's main prize is this. IF she can break her tench personal best when she is with me, then she will be awarded one of my favourite, historic tench rods. It's a tool that has seen me land scores, if not hundreds of tincas over my lifetime. I've got a pretty strong suspicion that Heidi will pull this one off and I will be more than delighted to hand the rod over. I hope you will read how she gets on in this column.
In the adult category there are some really strong contenders again.
I think both Dan and I were very tempted to give the prize to dear Richard Heines.
Richard is one of the region's best known carp anglers. And even though he's got a super family and a hectic business he still manages to put in the hours.
Very recently, on Kingfisher Lake, Richard took a quite stunning thirty-eight pound common.
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I think that this is the biggest from the lake so far this year but what made the capture so special, apart from Richard's skills, was the fact that no-one on the water recognised it as a previous capture. That's the glamour of this fish. It has existed its long life completely undetected, uncaught by any of the very skilled anglers that fish there. It highlights the drama and the mystery that still exists in fishing today.
But the first adult prize of the competition has to go to dear Mick Munns.
It's about time we evergreens got the recognition we deserve. As I wrote recently, Mick deserves the reward simply because he has been in fishing all his life and he loves it with the same amount of passion that he has always had for it. It's great to catch big fish but, as I've already said, it's even better if there is a smile on your face while you're doing it. Also, and this is important, Mick has always been there to help any anglers who are struggling, who need just a little bit of guidance and advice. That, too, would warm Rob's heart.
Mick's prize, once again, awaits him on the bait shelves of Wensum Valley Angling. If he pops in, Daniel will oblige. And that's a good job, I think. If there's one person a bit stingy with his bait, then it's Mick Munns!
But, as with Heidi, there is something a bit extra. Mick and I will arrange a day when I'll take him to one of my special, exclusive tench waters. I suspect we will enjoy a fine time on a beautiful venue, chewing the fat and hopefully catching a seriously fine tench or two.
Finally, blimey, what a week just gone. Last Thursday, I was out guiding and it didn't seem to matter where my clients cast, a tench would oblige and a float would dip. I went home with the feeling I was the best tench guide the world had ever seen. But then, of course, the barometer began to fall and Friday and Saturday were different beasts altogether. It was as though the fish had been vacuumed from the lakes.
On the Friday we struggled till the late afternoon when the sheer weight of bait I introduced convinced them to open their mouths for a short feeding spell.
The day was saved. However, Saturday brought me right back down to earth again. The cold winds. The dropping temperatures. Everything combined to make the day all but fishless.
That's fishing for you. You're up sky-high one minute and deep down in the depths the next. I hope that isn't going to be the story of our glorious football club, Norwich City.