When I initially told my female friends that I was planning on taking up angling, the universal reaction was very much along the lines of, “What the hell for?” Many of my male friends were equally dismissive, citing a preference for some of my other passions, namely golf, football and music, as more enjoyable pursuits to while away the hours.
Luckily, thanks to the successes of a few anglers I already knew, I was more than revved up for the delights of the bankside. Amongst those mates, a quick straw poll asking why they took up angling would probably put, ‘Having time to think’ and, ‘To get away from it all’ as the two most popular answers. Certainly in these days where so much is technological, digital, pre-destined and manufactured, angling is the antidote to modern life, a nod to where we have come from and a reminder to ourselves that however humans have evolved, whatever we have created, we aren’t the sum of all we have changed about the world. We need to keep in touch with nature, creation, and the simple building blocks of our environment if we are ever to keep any grasp of reality amid this drive for everything to be bigger, better, faster and flashier.
If you have never tried it, you will struggle to appreciate just how addictive it is to leave behind all the trappings of twenty-first century living and go back to doing what our forebears did. Ok, so they did not have the equipment, bait and plethora of tactical advice we have now, but one thing the years do not change is the excitement when you get that bend in the rod that says you’ve got a fish on.
It is a moment that encapsulates fear, that you might lose your catch, curiosity about what exactly you have caught, and sheer elation that you, yes you, actually managed to outsmart a creature that spends every minute of its life living on its wits. In my case, on my first session, that moment also very nearly passed me by! So keen was I to absorb all the information I was being told, that when the alarm went off I momentarily assumed that it was the neighbouring swim! Thankfully I was in expert hands, as my first proper fishing session was also my first coaching session with Ian Gemson, Geys & Chub Academy member, expert angler and all round nice guy.
Our day at Thorpe Lea covered pretty much everything a novice angler would need to know, from the basics of watercraft and the plethora of different tackle choices, through to casting, marking, spodding, the best uses for PVA, splicing leadcore, understanding leads, making rigs and how to avoid getting rained on when the heavens opened! Most importantly of all, however, my first session also included three beautiful Carp, all reeled in by me and the last two in particular giving me a really good fight. Suffice to say by the end of the day I knew exactly what our alarms sounded like!
Those moments after you have caught a fish are very special. The fight to bring it to the bank is the arm-aching, legendary tussle between human and beast, but once it is near to you, the fish and its welfare are king, certainly in the world of Carp fishing anyway. On my first session I learnt how to ensure the Carp arrived on the bank safely, why you should treat the fish with utmost care and respect whilst out of the water, and how to release them back with equal diligence. What struck me most about the whole process, however, is that whilst so much is written about the fight to land a fish, for me the feeling of the Carp swimming away again when you reintroduce it into the water is even more special.
To say I was pretty chuffed to have landed a 22.5lb Carp on my first session is an understatement, but I have taken more than just nice photos away from that day. Ian’s advice and instruction, trying so many new techniques for the first time, and learning tips and tricks that are both effective for catching fish and cost effective for the angler, made the day an invaluable lesson and an amazing experience. It is also a huge satisfaction that, whilst other anglers around us were blanking, we had three chunks in our net and very big smiles on our faces.
Since that session I have found plenty of bemusement as to why you would even have coaching for angling; surely it is far too laid back and pleasurable to require training? Yet it really isn’t so very different from any other sport when it comes to the simple premise that if you learn the craft properly from the start, and put in the hours thereafter, you will get a lot more out of it.
As in many things, bad habits are easily learnt, but much more difficult to eradicate. For me, seeking the help of a professional coach before I even cast for the first time was an obvious decision. I didn’t have any family members who could help and the anglers that I knew were too busy catching their own fish, but more importantly than this, I wanted to avoid being a clueless female angler in a male-dominated sport, and those three Carp, combined with all the knowledge I have taken away, are testimony to the benefits of finding yourself a good coach at the beginning of your angling career.
Crucial aspects of angling are often overlooked by beginners; for example understanding what is going on beneath the surface of the water. On my first coaching session there were guys in a neighbouring swim, clearly far more experienced anglers than me, who were trying to get to grips with marking for the very first time, and doing it in a pretty haphazard way. Up until that point their strategy had been very much along the lines of cast out and hope for the best. They were somewhat bemused that we were catching when they had been there far longer and failed to haul any fish out!
Good coaching also gives you an important understanding of preparation, and actually how simplicity in angling is one of the most underrated concepts, whether you are looking at tackle, rigs or techniques. Like all sports, angling is awash with a multitude of innovations and the latest so-called ‘must haves’, alongside traditional tackle options that have stood the test of time. Professional tuition will teach you what equipment you will need and why you should go for certain tackle over other options; another great reason to have a coaching session at the very beginning of your angling career – it will save you a lot of expensive mistakes.
What coaching costs initially is easily recouped over the longer period in the savings you will make when you are in the tackle shop. Professional coaches generally have access to the best and worst the market has to offer, many are sponsored and road test thoroughly what is out there to give you the best advice possible. To steel a phrase from Ian, “There is a lot of tackle that catches anglers rather than fish.”
An even greater saving, however, comes from knowing that you will be maximising your chances of landing fish in every session. There is no greater satisfaction than catching whilst those around you are not. Having already experienced that feeling in my fledgling angling career, I can honestly say it gives you a massive buzz.
I do not put my success down to beginners luck; I would not have had the results I did without the expert help and advice I received. Of course you may be lucky, and be the most naturally talented angler in the world, but if you are like the rest of us, taking up the chance to tap into the minds of those with proven experience, credentials and qualifications will put you ahead of your peer group every time.
Personally I cannot wait to get back out on the bank, learn some more from Ian and most of all become a better and more experienced angler. If you have never tried angling, particularly if you are a woman and do not think it is for you, I would urge you to think again, not least because angling is a sport that is very accessible to just about everyone. Being a relatively low-cost start up, and with fisheries large and small across the country, not to mention all the natural habitats that are home to many different species, a voyage of discovery awaits both the novice and experienced angler alike.
Every generation can feel comfortable on the bank too; angling has as much appeal amongst children, teenagers and twenty-somethings as it does those who are retired, and in a society that is so often dismissive of the older generation, it is the experience of these anglers that can be invaluable to those coming into the sport. Crucially for women, we can also compete on a relatively level playing field to men, making angling an ideal sport for couples.
In the end, however, to appreciate this most majestic of sports you really do just have to try it. Angling is for all who want to open their minds to the best nature has to offer us, and I defy anyone not to be surprised and enchanted by its unpredictability, and revel in how unique and alluring it is to go toe to fin with our underwater friends. It really was love at first sight for me and the Carp.