Morgan Dowman, 13, shares her fishing story - from complete novice at Let's Fish to taking part in the Junior National Angling Championships - and all within a year.
Fishing is something I had always wanted to try but my mum had never liked fishing, so we never got to go. One day that changed when just a few months ago, mum came across an advert on Facebook for a Let’s Fish!” taster sessions on the Llangollen Canal at Chirk and signed me and my two brothers onto it.
We caught lots of small perch and gudgeon on that first session, enjoying it so much that we decided we wanted to go to more “Let’s Fish!” sessions. At the next event the coaches and volunteers again made us feel just as welcome as at the first one. We had another good day we caught several fish, this time roach and perch.
I can remember my dad talking to one of the coaches about me. I was really enjoying the fishing. I think that my dad was surprised by that. Both the coaches and more so my dad couldn’t quite get over the number of fish that I had managed to catch. By the time I had been to the third or fourth Let’s Fish! session, I was nagging to go fishing all the time. Dad had bought little bits of tackle and we had been given some basic equipment. Soon we were going fishing most nights on the Montgomery Canal and at various times we caught eels, perch, dace, bream, gudgeon, roach and tench.
Every time we went to a Lets Fish! session, I was catching fish from the off. With the help of the coaches we also caught a few larger specimen fish which involved being a bit more patient waiting for the bite. I looked forward to attending and learning a little bit about fishing more each time. Every single one of the coaches took an interest and were happy to pass on information and fishing tips.
At the end of one session I can remember some of the coaches and Peter Henery asking to have a word with dad. I didn’t know what to expect. Dad came back to the car and got in smiling. He then proceeded to ‘interrogate’ me for 20 mins, asking if I really did like fishing and if I wanted to take it even more seriously.
Then he told me why – the coaches thought I would benefit from joining a club, (Hodnet & Wybunbury) to learn even more and to maybe enter an upcoming competition. I could tell the likes of Eric Brown and Andy Fairclough, to name just two, were serious about getting young members coming through and into the sport.
I noticed each time we went fishing to a Let’s Fish! event, coaches who I hadn’t fished with before, somehow knew my name. It seemed a little strange to me. At first, I blamed it on my brothers. They had been to all the sessions with me and it’s not unfair to say, they are, at least occasionally, quite boisterous young characters. With their cheeky grins they are very hard to forget. I thought maybe the coaches recognised me as their sister. During each session the coaches were letting me do more things and asking more questions about what should happen next when we were fishing or when we caught a fish.
I had asked to take part in the competition, so my cad got the details of that match and what I needed to do to secure my place. Mum went on to the Canal & River Trust website and booked me into the competition. It cost £5 to enter but everyone who turned up received an Angling Direct voucher of the same value so really it was free for us to enter. Andy Fairclough from the Wybunbury club, who once fished for Mohmar a famous canal fishing time from long ago, agreed to sit behind me for support on the big day and to help if I got into serious trouble.
In the days before the event I was excited, but equally nervous. A bit of me didn’t think I really should have entered because I was a girl. I had no idea how many girls have been getting into fishing recently. What I began to realise was at the Let’s Fish! sessions I was treated no differently to my brothers and the other boys there, so begin a girl who loved fishing was OK.
The day of the competition I felt nervous seeing so many people checking in and then lining up at the draw. It was nice to see the familiar faces of the various Let’s Fish! coaches, it helped me relax. I was relieved to see a few more girls competing too, there must have perhaps 25 of us out of the 91 who fished on the day and in the lead up I thought there might only be two or three of us. I also thought that most girls were squeamish and couldn’t stand the feeling of the slimy fish, wriggly maggots or worms. Seems I was wrong about that!
I drew peg number 75. Once the whistle went I soon got into my stride, catching quite a few small fish and missing a few bites as you do. A girl pegged not far away called Lauren landed a huge chub and ended up in bronze medal position. When the scales came along my fish weighed 600grams.
I wasn’t expecting to be placed in the top 50, never mind coming 18th out of the 69 people that took part in the junior part of the competition. (There were others in the cadet and youth sections). At the prize presentation it was an amazing feeling to hear my name being called at 18th place and soon a medal was being placed around my neck.
The match was fun and exciting. I think that taking part in this event is one thing every kid who goes fishing should do, for there is nothing like it in fishing for young people in the UK. I am so grateful for all the help, support and advice of the Let’s Fish! coaches that I have received in my first year of fishing and for them all believing in me.
I am determined to improve my skills and fingers crossed record a bigger weight and a higher finishing position in the championships than last. Even if I don’t, I will still enjoy it for fishing is fun. Just a few days ago one of the country’s top anglers, Graham Smith was giving away some fishing equipment and looking for a promising youngster who would benefit from it. I was the lucky and grateful recipient. I still can’t really believe what has happened in my first year in fishing.
Last date edited: 19 November 2019