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Ashleigh’s Fishing Journey

Is it possible to progress from catching a single gudgeon in three hours to becoming ranked amongst the top 35 anglers in her age group four years later? This is the fantastic story of Ashleigh Dale’s fishing journey to date in her own words.

Ashleigh’s Fishing Journey

Angling beginnings

My fishing story started with my dad back in 2018 when I was aged 8 with a few trips to the Llangollen canal at Wrenbury during the summer holidays, mainly catching gudgeon and roach.

From this early age, I showed great patience and a willingness to learn. I continued to practice on the canal at Wrenbury and in the summer of 2019, attended my first Let's Fish event in Whitchurch Shropshire run by Hodnet Anglers.

With the help and support of Eric Brown my coach for the Let's Fish session, I caught my first ever carp and from this point I was hooked. This is also where I first found out about fishing as a cadet in the 2019 Junior Canal Championship match, now called the National Celebration of Young People and Fishing.

Match fishing debut

Leading up to the Junior Canal Championship, I continued to practice on my local canal to improve my skills using a fishing pole at three meters. On the day, the 16 cadets all started their three-hour match and no matter what I tried (even with the help of the coaching team) I couldn't get a bite. That is, until former England international and world number one ranked angler Stuart Conroy came to my rescue with a couple of minutes to go. He made a few changes to the depth I had been fishing and just as the “All Out” was called the float dipped, and I caught 20g gudgeon.

This gave me joint 15th place, but what made my first match even more special was that John Ellis and Stuart Conroy presented me with Stuart's special prize of the day, a Drennan hat and keepnet which I still use to this day.

Ashleigh with angling legend Stu

The journey continues

I continued to practice with my dad during the pandemic and I entered the 2020 National Celebration of Young People and Fishing match, where this time I finished mid-table in the cadets section.

I continued to fish on my local canal before entering the 2021 National Celebration of Young People and Fishing where I had moved up to the junior category. I also had the opportunity beforehand to attend a Simon Mottram coaching day with the Junior Ramsbottom Anglers. I learnt how to better manage the three-metre line including correct feeding and accurate groundbaiting, and caught lots of roach.

Afterwards, I got invited to fish for the Rammy Squirrels Team in the upcoming National Celebration of Young People and Fishing. In the competition I finished 35th out of 109 Junior Anglers with 1kg 250 grammes. Even better, Rammy Squirrels, also comprising Kyra Simister and Lucia Archard ended up in fifth position overall and a trophy each to take home.

At the start of 2022, I attended a Let's Fish! coaching event at Grindley Brook, Shropshire where I met Peter Henry the Junior Development Officer for the Prince Albert Angling Society (PAAS). Peter discussed with my dad about joining the PAAS as a junior to help improve my general fishing skills, confidence, and exposure to different types of fishing. With the PAAS juniors last year I was able to increase my match fishing skills by entering their Junior Competitions:

  • Canal Cup - Shropshire Union & Macclesfield Canals
  • Tattenhall Challenge - Tattenhall pool
  • Stuart Cliffe Memorial Shield -Warford Pools – caught a PB match weight of 15ib 8oz
  • End of year Rossmere Scramble
Prince Albert Angling Society (PAAS)

In September, I fished in the National Celebration of Young People and Fishing as a Junior and finished in 30th place out of 178 anglers. In the teams of three competition, the PAAS Juniors, also comprising Haden Saunders and Evan Hughes, ended up in third position overall.

In October, I was invited to fish in the National Commonwealth Communities Celebration a great event where my English Communities Blue all-girl team comprising Poppy Bishop and Lucy Fletcher finished in 5th place and another trophy for the collection.

Ashleigh with team members Haden Saunders and Evan Hughes

Learning opportunities

In February 2023, I was one of the lucky 35 Junior anglers to be selected to attend the Angling Trust Tackle Guru Talent Pathway. The pathway is fished over three development sessions followed by a grand final putting into place everything you have learned. After the final, five anglers would be picked to fish for the 2023 Angling Trust Guru England Under 15's team, and head to Portugal in August to fish the World Championships.

Session 1 at Makins fishery, my opportunity to meet the coaches, international anglers Matt Godfrey, James Dent and Frankie Gianoncelli before a demonstration of pole and waggler fishing. The rest of the day I spent pole fishing.

Session 2 at Barston Lakes, a waggler fishing practice match. During the match I fished at 20m successfully after a lot of mishaps managed to feed groundbait with a catapult.

Session 3 at Makins fishery, a pole fishing practice where I finished with 18lb 17oz my new PB match weight.

Session 4 Grand Final at Makins fishery, a pole fishing final match where I finished with a new match PB of 19lb, a mixture of roach, F1's and a couple of perch.

Unfortunately, I didn't get picked for the under 15s team this time but really enjoyed myself and learnt many new things that I will be taking into my fishing for the future. Hopefully I get the opportunity to have another chance on the pathway.

Ashleigh's catch

Plans for 2023

Having finished the Angling Trusts Guru Talent Pathway, I am now focusing on fishing at this year's Prince Albert Angling Society junior matches. I have entered the Daiwa Let's Fish! Regional Celebration (N.Wales & Cheshire.West) on the 22nd July and have my ticket booked for the 2023 National Celebration of Young People and Fishing in September. I'm hoping for another gudgeon mug to add to my collection.

I've come a long way since Stuart Conroy helped me catch that 20g gudgeon in 2019 to being selected for the talent pathway. It wouldn't have been possible without the help and support of John Ellis and the Let's Fish! Team as well as Peter Henry and everyone at the Junior Prince Albert Angling Society.

Last Edited: 17 May 2023

photo of a location on the canals
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