Stoke on Trent Angling Society. Our Let’s Fish Coaching Year

The Society was founded in 1899 by a group of dedicated anglers. This reservoir supplies water to the Caldon Canal which in turn joins the Trent & Mersey in the city.

Stoke on Trent angling society

Today, we’ve a good selection of still waters, two productive river stretches plus several miles of canal fishing on the doorstep of many. We aim to cater for all types of angling.

Junior section pessimism

Many years ago, the society had a large active junior section. As with so many clubs, numbers of junior anglers joining fell dramatically. By 2017, we reached an all-time low with our junior section down to only nine members. Some pessimists declared that nothing could be done. Nothing anyone could possibly try would have any hope of working. Let’s Fish was just a waste of everyone’s time and the sport of angling was dead.

Turning things around

In 2018, Let’s Fish ran a series of introductory events in Middleport working with local community group, Middleport Matters. John Davey recall's "I was pleasantly surprised to see the enthusiasm of the participants at the first Let’s Fish session I visited, not to mention their parents.

"I was even more surprised that most of the kids caught multiple fish. Something just clicked that day, the potential of the programme started to become apparent."

Utilising our qualified licensed coaches, working closely with the Canal & River Trust, and following some useful mottification upskilling, we delivered a successful programme of Let’s Fish events. Our society fully recognised the importance to its long term future of increasing the participation of youngsters in angling.

We decided to offer a junior membership for £1 per year. In our view, a small charge is better than giving away free membership. More often than not, giving things away free doesn’t have the same value to the recipient as acquiring something you’ve had to pay for.

Our coaching team

We have an enthusiastic team, all committed to helping others to enjoy the sport of angling and to assist them to improve their basic fishing skills and develop their natural talent.

Level 2 coaches

John Davey (Stoke on Trent angling society chairman)

Tony Burt (secretary)

Geoff Beckett (assistant secretary)

Ray Lightfoot (committee member)

Level 1 coaches 

Roy Bailey (Stoke on Trent angling society website manager)

Mick Hann (treasurer)

Sam Johnson

Andy Bickley

Gareth Picking will also be joining our team in 2022.

Volunteers

Kev Grocott (Stoke on Trent angling society fishery manager)

Jordon Riley (match secretary)

Andrew Riley (project manager)

Let’s Fish events 2021

In 2021, our coaching team delivered 42 Let’s Fish events. During the school summer holiday period we delivered six SPACE events with the youth offending team at a commercial fishery, Blake Hall, near Cheadle. Over this period, we had 29 attendees who enjoyed catching silver fish such as roachbream, and carp using a number of different tactics, including margin pole fishing method feeder and pellet waggler.

Our main coaching venue was the Trent & Mersey Canal at Middleport. From 12 April to 31 August, we delivered 36 events here with a total of 675 attendees. Many of these participants had never fished before and were delighted to catch their first fish and receive a My First Fish certificate marking their achievement. Let’s Fish Gudgeon certificates were awarded to 14 participants who went on to take part in the national celebration of young people and fishing.

Our attendees also included a local school group and a group of autistic children. When asked what they had learned after their coaching session, the responses ranged from 'not a lot' to 'everything'. Some really took to fishing, some didn’t, but that’s true of any sport.

Adult mental health work

We also worked with a group of adults from the mental health NHS unit. The adults thoroughly enjoyed their sessions and we have been approached by one of the occupational therapist technical instructors to say that the participants wish to purchase a 2022 canal only permit so that they can continue to fish together on the Trent & Mersey Canal in and around Middleport. This is what we refer to as instilling the fishing habit, an important objective of the National Angling Strategy.

Development work outside of Let’s Fish

In 2021, following a successful bid from the Angling Improvement Fund, the Stoke-on-Trent Angling Academy was formed. The additional funding enabled a series of eight structured training events and four junior competitions held at a number of society waters (Middleport Canal, Noels Pool, North Road and Stanley Reservoir)

The Let’s Fish introductory events allow participants to undertake one hour sessions on the Middleport canal. Having caught their first fish many of the youngsters are keen to continue their fishing experience with their parents/grandparents also becoming involved.

One of the basic principles behind the formation of the academy is to provide a means whereby youngsters are given the opportunity to continue their angling journey.

The academy helps them to retain their initial enthusiasm and our coaches are able to help them improve their basic fishing skills and develop their natural talent at their own pace.

The work of the academy has inspired one of our fishery owners to donate tackle vouchers and a memorial shield to be awarded at future annual junior matches at Noels Pool.

National celebration of young people and fishing

This rapidly growing event is probably the highlight of the junior angling year with representation from over 200 participants, not forgetting club coaches and parents all anticipating that big occasion. In 2021, fifteen Stoke on Trent angling society members attended, compared with just three in 2020. Incredibly, our Potters B team, Nathan Morris, Angelina Bengry and Regan Grice went and scooped the cadet national crown.

The following day, one of our junior teams comprising Poppy Bishop, Brandon Sumner and Ryan Copeland finished a very respectable 9th position out of 40 junior teams. Individually, Nathan finished 5th individual in the cadets category and not to be outdone, Poppy also took 5th spot out of the 109 juniors. In October, six cadets and one of our junior members were selected to compete in the friendly Let’s Fish international teams of four match.

Positive feedback

Our society has received loads of positive feedback about the national celebration making the effort coaches put into planning for the day thoroughly worthwhile. A couple of the comments are shared:

"Regan was so excited he took his medal and trophy into school and gave a talk about his experience and achievement and got so much praise from all the teachers and his friends and its down to the expertise and patience of all the coaches. Thank you." - Stuart Grice

"My prizes from taking part in the 2021 junior national are awesome. I was very nervous but once I’d caught my first fish, it got much better. Thanks to all the coaches for all the help but most importantly of all to coach Dad." - Louis Glen

How Let’s Fish has helped our club grow

Our society like so many others, had witnessed a sharp decline in our Junior membership. In 2017 the number of Stoke on Trent angling society junior members had fallen to just 9. In 2018 it had increased by only 6 to 15. However, the introduction of the £1 junior membership combined with the success of the Let’s Fish events in recruiting members has completely transformed our junior section.

To help support the youngsters we’re finding parents and grandparents now wanting to become actively involved. Adult membership (and income to the club) has increased as a result. We now offer adult canal only permits and guest non fishing permits. There’s been an increase in sales of these permits from 58 in 2020 to 77 in 2021.

Last date edited: 10 January 2022

About this blog

The fisheries & angling team

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.

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