Kayleigh Smith - My fishing journey
I started fishing back when I was around ten years old, which looking back was a good age to start although seven or eight might have been even better. I became interested in having a go when I used to walk my pet dog every day around a quarry pond, where I would speak to some of the guys who were fishing. From then on, I wanted to have a proper go at fishing myself.
Summer holiday joy
I used to spend the summer holidays fishing up there most evenings catching little roach and perch with my friends. I didn't know it back then, but it’s a brilliant way to learn the fishing basics by being content to catch small fish to begin with. Some people enjoy the idea of being competitive and others perhaps are not so keen on that idea. I'm not sure why but I fancied the idea of seeing whether I could be as good or maybe even better than some of the other people that I saw fishing.
I started getting more in to fun side of match fishing when I joined the local Leeds Junior club which ran from the local tackle shop where I use to go and invest my weekly pocket money. I was so fortunate that the club that ran junior matches every weekend. These were well attended and there was that lovely friendly buzz about those occasions. Many of the people I fished with then I still keep in touch with now.
Expanding my knowledge
We would travel locally and sometimes further afield fishing both canals and commercials along with the junior national championships every year. One important piece of advice that I would give to young anglers today is to gather experience on a wide range of different fishing venues.
If you want to represent your club in national championships or even your country at international level, then you will not do it by focusing your efforts entirely on one venue, one species or on one style of fishing. Even if you have no great desire to aim for the very top of the sport, participating in a national event is something that I would recommend every young person to do once, for the atmosphere is truly unique and will live forever in your memory.
Girl power and angling heroes
There was a handful of girls who used to fish the junior matches at the same time as me but not nearly as many as I see now, which is great to see. At least a quarter of the participant in the National Celebration of Young People and Fishing are girls which is fantastic news for the future of the sport that I love. I have always looked up to the top match anglers, at the time the likes of Tommy Pickering, Alan and Sandra Scotthorne, and in a way that helped drive me down my chosen route.
When age caught up with me, and I was finally too old for the juniors, I jumped straight in to fish open matches. This was throwing myself in the deep end. Fishing is almost unique because there isn’t many sports where you can compete against a world champions on equal terms.
The only other example I could think of would be in the London Marathon. Unfortunately, all the fast runners line up at the front and so it would be impossible for the fun runner at the back to ever have the chance to run alongside the serious contenders, for even a few seconds. In fishing, you can get a full four or five hours with a multiple world champion at the next peg. Don’t get me wrong, in the early years, I would usually be well beaten off the next peg.
More often than not, I didn’t even come close to landing as many fish as they did. By surrounding yourself with anglers who have more experience, knowledge and skill, you can’t fail not to learn, providing you have an open your mind to the reality of your own ability. It doesn’t take long to learn what you need to change to be able to compete at the highest level. I found fellow anglers were always approachable and most to this day will help you along the way if you ask politely.
An all rounder
I would like to think of myself these days as a bit of an allrounder. I fish a lot of natural venues as well as commercials. Living in the north east we have blessed to have loads of big deep canals search as the Aire & Calder which are absolutely full of fish. There are also a lot of brilliant commercial lakes, which also attract a lot of anglers and big matches in our area. I have been involved in lots of big matches over the years from Division 1 & 2 Nationals where I have won sections and team golds plus the Angling Trust Commercial National, again winning sections multiple times.
I have been lucky enough to be selected to fish for England all across the world in both the coarse and carp team. Most recently I picked up a team and individual bronze medal in South Africa in 2019. I am old fashioned enough to believe that there can be no higher accolade in any sport and being asked to represent your country on the world stage. Unfortunately, Covid-19 has put a stop to this for the past two years. Hopefully, with the help of Angling Trust, we can continue again in 2022 and beyond.
When we travel abroad, the world championships are always held on natural venues, so to have any chance of competing you have to practice on similar venues at home. For me, living where I do, fishing the deep canals and rivers gave me a perfect opportunity to practice the skills required on these matches.
If you do not have a deep ship canal near you, then narrow canals are almost an equally good option to learn on. Anglers like Kevin Ashurst, Stuart Conroy, Ian Heaps, Sean Ashby, Mark Downes, Vinny Smith, Mark Addy, Alan McAtee, Dave Roper, Dave Brogden, Dave Vincent, Dave Berrow, William Raison and Mark Pollard, are just a few England internationals that I can think of who spent significant amounts of time fishing the narrow canal network.
Who could seriously argue with their records? The need to gain experience on a wide range of natural venues is perhaps the most important single piece of advice that I could ever give to any young angler who is seriously aspiring to reach the very highest level in our sport.
Come on girls, give it a go
If I was to give any advice to any women or anyone for that matter wanting to go fishing, it would be just go and try it. There are loads of Let’s Fish events up and down the land, they are a brilliant way to take the first step. Over the past few years, I have seen more and more women going fishing whether that be on their own or with their partners/parents with quite a few are now participating in matches. It is great to see.
For anyone like me who has that competitive streak, I would encourage them to give team fishing/match fishing a go. There has never been so many matches going on around the country on a range of venues. I haven’t received any negative comments from people and have made some great friends over the years. God willing, fishing is something I will hopefully continue to be able to do throughout my life.
Last date edited: 4 October 2021
About this blog
Our team undertake a diverse range of work, looking after £40m worth of fish stocks, managing agreements with over 250 different angling clubs and helping more people take up angling on the canals. Follow this blog to keep updated with the thoughts and work of the team.See more blogs from this author