After another hugely successful summer of Let’s Fish! over 11,000 people will give angling a try this year. At over 520 free events we’re welcoming youngsters catching their first ever fish and older anglers alike. While some like spending time outdoors in solitude, others enjoy the fun and companionship of matches. That’s why we’re now putting on our very own Commonwealth competition, giving our most promising youngsters the chance to develop their angling skills and celebrate their heritage.
With young people representing all four counties of the UK plus New Zealand, Jamaica, Kenya, Trinidad and Tobago, Pakistan, Mauritius and Montserrat there's a chance to fly the flag for the country of your birth or celebrate your ancestry, as teams of three battle it out to be crowned Commonwealth champions.
Throughout July and August youngsters will be trying to land the biggest weight of fish in regional competitions right across England & Wales. The highest point scorers from each region will then be invited to join us for a National Commonwealth Communities Competition in October. Over 160 young anglers will take part in teams of three, each representing a country or geographical area of the Commonwealth.
Among them will be promising young talents like Marco, Freya and Cyrus, all of whom have been spotted, encouraged and coached to keep improving their skills ever since they first joined the Let's Fish! programme as complete beginners.
Cyrus tells us: “I was born in Sheffield, but my family are from Yemen, which was once under British rule, so I hope to represent either England North-East or the Asian team in the Commonwealth competition. I've always loved spending time by the water with my net and bucket catching newts, tadpoles and frogs, so I decided to take up fishing as a new hobby when I was ten.
I didn't have any fishing gear and didn't really know where to start but my mum found out about free Let's Fish! coaching sessions. The coaches provided me with all I needed to go fishing, so all I needed to do was bring myself along. With help from my coach Kevin, I attended the National Celebration of Young People and fishing last year and to my amazement, my name was called out as the winner of the trophy for the most promising newcomer. I like being outdoors by the water. I especially like the fact that you never know what you're going to catch next. Most importantly, I feel passionate about learning more and fishing at every opportunity.
Freya is one of an ever-increasing number of girls aiming to compete this autumn. In fact, over one-third of all participants in Let's Fish! are female. With another year of fishing under her belt and no signs of her enthusiasm for the sport waning Freya is now in a great position to improve on her top-half finish at last year's National Celebration.
Marco, meanwhile, will be representing Jamaica at the Commonwealth event. His mum introduced us to his Let's Fish! journey: “From the age of two, he loved looking at the fish in the supermarket! When he was three we went on holiday and Marco rapidly spotted men fishing on the local dock. A Greek man called Boullant let Marco have a go at fishing and from that moment he was hooked. At the end of the holiday, Boullant gave Marco his fishing rod to bring home and he has fished regularly ever since.
The rod Marco used at the National Celebration day was given to him by my friend's dad. That rod is more than 50 years old! Marco treasures it as he thinks it must hold so many memories of fish caught using it over the years.”
It all goes to show that you're never too young, or indeed never too old to catch a fish. We're delighted to say that 92 year old Albert Swift joined our Let's Fish! sessions in Stoke-on-Trent recently. When he was jokingly told that the age limit to join in was 90, the look of disappointment on his face was priceless.
Far from revisiting his youth, Albert wanted to try the sport for the very first time and once he finally got hold of a rod he wasn't going to let go.