National Fishing Month (NFM) is a celebration of the sport of angling. All over the country qualified coaches give up their time to welcome newcomers into the sport. Fees are waived and tackle is often made available free of charge as events are organised around the UK to show people who have never fished before how to do it.
The event is designed to offer unique opportunities in angling for the protection and promotion of the sport. It helps to inform the general public about the economic, social and environmental benefits of angling and influences decisions about access, environmental policy and wild life management.
This year’s NFM ran from the 20th July to 27th August. Over 300 taster session events were held across all disciplines and reports coming in from various organisers is that the event has been very successful for the 1,500 participants, organisers, coaches and the event sponsor, GO Outdoors.
NFM is a great opportunity to try and encourage new blood onto the bank side. With over 1.5 million people participating in freshwater fishing each year, angling in the UK is possibly the largest participant sport. It is well recognised that as our angling population grow older, we will naturally need young blood to come into the sport to continually fill the ranks of anglers. If we do nothing, our sport will slowly start to stagnate which will hit every aspect of fishing, from the lake owners to the tackle shops as well as the tackle importers and manufacturers who work hard to support us anglers. This lack of new blood will kill our sport.
Another little known point is exactly how good English anglers actually are. Since 1954, the United Kingdom has won twenty four world freshwater championships and we have had twenty one individual world champion anglers. This is a huge achievement without taking into account all of the game and sea fishing medals and championships the UK has won.
Currently we are seeing more and more publicity about the importance of getting youngsters into sport. In recent times it has been tennis and before that it was cricket and now, after the most successful Olympics Team GB have ever had, all sports will be looking to recruit and develop sportsmen and women for the future. Angling is no different as we need to be getting more people onto the bank side.
Taster sessions, offering newcomers an introducing into the sport are great but they are just the first step of a long journey to get people proficient at fishing. Despite all of the positive attributes these taster sessions set out to achieve, they often leave the newcomer with nowhere to go because most angling clubs have no follow on strategy in place to take the new anglers to the next level after their taster session.
A club local to me has come up with a great solution; anglers can attend a starter / taster session and get a free one to one 20 minute personalised coaching session. They are shown how to fish with a simple whip to catch small Roach, Rudd and Perch and, after the session they are invited to join a small angling club at a nominal fee.
The membership entitles them to attend further regular coaching sessions aimed at bringing them onto the next level. As part of their joining fee they get a personalised log book which logs their progress through these coaching sessions. As they progress through the various sessions, they learn different fishing styles and techniques including the use of whips, waggler, feeder and long pole. Their personalised fishing log book gets ticked and signed when they have completed that stage. When a certain discipline is ticked, this enables them to hire that type of equipment from the club at a very low cost for use at the club lake.
This action plan has many benefits to both the students and parents alike. The students get shown how to correctly use the tackle and therefore become more proficient, gain better enjoyment and catch more fish. The parents can see their children get professional training and education and are not faced with a huge equipment bill at the outset of a new hobby. As the students work their way through the coaching sessions, their skills should dramatically improve and this has the effect of increasing their catch rate. They can also choose from any of the tackle types they have been trained on so they can fish which style they most enjoy.
A simple structured strategy like this one is what I believe needs to be quickly put into place at more club and day ticket venues to increase the opportunities for new anglers. This is especially true for the many people who have tried one of the taster sessions as part of National Fishing Month and enjoyed their coaching to help take them to the next step into the wonderful world of fishing.
Last year I got a call from a mum who had a twelve year old son and his Italian friend who were both mad keen to go fishing during their summer holidays. During the telephone conversation, I learnt that her son had been fishing only a few times but his Italian friend was a very accomplished angler and had fished many fishing matches in Italy, bagging Carp up to 14 kilos! She booked a coaching session with me for the boys and I decided to take them to a local day ticket match lake that had a good stocking of mirror and common Carp averaging 4lb and a huge stock of Roach. This was a great venue for a starter session.
The next week, I met both boys at the car park of Watmoor Fishery in Yateley. With the weather looking like it was going to rain at any moment, I got the health and safety briefing out of the way as soon as possible then, with the help of the boys, dragged all of the tackle and bait to our swims.
Once at the bankside, I set about demonstrating how to mix up the ground bait we were going to use for the method feeder technique that I was going to show them. I poured some Bag’em ‘Supreme Meaty Method’ ground bait into a couple of large ground bait buckets. I then started adding water little and often and started to use my fingers like manic electric whisks to get the mix to the consistency I wanted. The boys were really enthusiastic to try this and soon had ground bait all over the place in their effort to copy my finger-whisking technique to mix the ground bait as I had shown them. Once they had settled down, they soon had their bait to the right consistency. We then moved on to setting up a couple of 10′ method feeder rods with small reels loaded with eight pound line. With the rods set up, I put a small 1oz lead on one of the rods, demonstrated how to cast it to the range we were going to fish to. I then passed the rods over to the boys to let them have a go. This enabled me to see exactly how good they were at casting. Both of the boys were excellent which really took the pressure off and enabled me to get onto setting up all the bank sticks, boxes, bait and landing nets at the water’s edge.
With both sets of tackle fully set up, ground bait tweaked, hook baits ready and landing nets set, the boys baited up with Bag’em 6mm pineapple boilies and loaded up their method feeders. They then cast out 25 metres into the lake. After five minutes, and with no bite or any indications of fish interest on the rod tip, I told both boys to reel in, re-bait and cast out again to the same spot. Like clockwork, both boys followed my instructions to the letter and both method feeders hit exactly the same spot yet again. At this point, Thomas asked “what are the bites like on this lake?” This was a great question and I answered with, “you cannot miss the bites! Just promise me not to let go of the rods!”
Literally within minutes one of the boys shouted out excitedly “I’m in!” As I looked up I could see his 10′ rod was bent double with the first fish of the session. A hard fight then ensued and, all too soon, the small common Carp was in the net. It was only 3lb but the smile on the boy’s faces said it all and, despite the wet weather, both boys were now buzzing. At this point a little bit of competition crept into the event with one boy desperate to keep up with his Italian friend. With the fish back in the lake and both boys settled into their respective swims, the method feeders were reloaded and cast back out into the swims. Almost immediately, one boy shrieked for help as his rod was nearly dragged from his hands as another Watmoor Carp made the mistake of picking up the baited hook. A great battle ended as he slid his landing net under a slightly larger mirror Carp. With the score now 1-1, we was now really happy with his first Carp and, what made it better, was that it was bigger than his friend’s common Carp. The battle was now well and truly on as both boys bagged Carp after Carp one after another all morning. By lunch time both boys had banked about 30 Carp and were really ready for a lunch break plus a little rest from their hectic bagging action. The weather had started to change and, as we lost the stormy showers, the sun had come out and started to warm up both us and the lake.
Lunch eaten, the boys were really keen to start the afternoon session. Because of the warmer weather, I now planned to try fishing the pellet waggler up in the water and tempt the Carp to start feeding higher in the water by continually firing pellets with a catapult out around our waggler at about 20 yards range. With 2 new pellet waggler rods set up, the method rods were carefully put to one side and I instructed the boys to start spraying pellets into their swims. It only took a short while before the Carp were seen starting to swirl just under the lake surface as they competed to get to our pellets. The boys now cast out their pellet wagglers to the waiting Carp and, as the ripples from the wagglers splashing down into the lake started to fade away, they fired out 4 pellets from their catapults right on top of the wagglers where we were feeding. Almost immediately, one rod was dragged from the boy’s lap as a hooked Carp screamed off across the lake trying to escape. He was quickly sprung into action, holding the rod high and playing the Carp like a veteran angler. His friend watched the action and did not concentrate on his own swim but he was taken unaware as he also, at that moment, got a bite and he had to then play that fish as well. The afternoon session started in exactly the same manic fish catching action as the morning session had finished with both boys using well balanced tackle and perfect feeding techniques bagging Carp after Carp.
All too quickly, the day came to an end with both boys having caught more or less the same amount of fish. I decided to call the competition between them a draw. However, the Italian friend did try to claim the win as his as he had landed the biggest Carp of the day which was a great looking 6lb common Carp.
The boys had improved on their basic skills during the session and were really good learners. Although the fish caught weren’t of a great weight, they had shown great enthusiasm and terrific skills throughout the day with battling and landing many very hard fighting carp. Both boys would certainly become very great anglers in the future with a lot of practice and some well placed coaching!
Through encouraging and promoting more people in angling, National Fishing Month is a lifeline to the future of our sport – look out fish, the boys are after you!
Find out more information on National Fishing Month