Back in 2018, the junior section of the Stoke on Trent Angling Society (SOTAS) was at a low ebb. There were just seven juniors left in membership and precious little hope of being able to do anything about the dramatic decline from former glories. Back then, young Brandon Sumner dreamed of going fishing but had never had the chance to go. He wouldn’t know it, but his fishing ambitions were to be very much linked to the decision by SOTAS to get involved with the Let’s Fish! programme.
Let's Fish! doubts
Initially SOTAS were not convinced that the Let's Fish! programme could alter their fortunes. After all, there had been other local and national initiatives which all seemed to have all petered out without it achieving anything substantial to increase the number of anglers with the fishing habit. Since those bleak days, by following the 12 Let's Fish! principles and delivering to the Let's Fish! model, the society's fortunes has transformed. Junior membership now stands at well over 150.
An added bonus has been the number of parents and other family members joining the society, bringing in useful income both for the society and for the Environment Agency through new rod licence sales. One of many promising anglers the club have developed is Brandon Sumner, one of an incredible 36 youngsters from SOTAS who participated in the 2022 National Celebration of Young People and Fishing. What follows is Brandon's story.
I was interested in going fishing, so my dad decided to buy me a rod and reel as a surprise for my birthday. My dad and I then went on a fishing trip at a local pool. This can only be described as a disaster, as we did not have a clue what we were doing. I bet there are thousands of other families who have had the same sort of experience too and have been lost to the sport before.
Mum then booked me in for a Let's Fish! event that advertised on Facebook. This was the start of my fishing journey. I was 11 years old at the time. The first Let's Fish! session was one hour long, held on the Trent & Mersey Canal at Middleport.
Meeting Mr Davey
The whole day was awesome, as not only did I thoroughly enjoy it, but I learned quite a lot about fish and fishing. You can return to Let's Fish! many times and I could not wait for the next session to arrive. The coach who taught me that day was Mr Davey. I liked to fish with the grey haired Mr Davey who showed me how to use maggots and pinkies and how to mix and introduce groundbait.
I enjoyed the Let's Fish! event that much that I attended almost every session going. Mr Davey and I became on first name terms straight away. He also introduced me to worm fishing and I started to catch more of my favourite fish, the bold stripey perch. Some of the perch I landed were really decent specimens.
Developing my skills
I was keen to develop my favourite hobby further, and I signed up to the Stoke-on-Trent Angling Academy. In 2021, I was delighted to be selected part of one of the SOTAS junior teams in their first serious foray into the national celebration. Maybe it was just nerves, but that year I managed to fall off my box and knock all my bait onto the bank. Luckily, I was able to salvage most of it and carry on. It's certainly something I would not advise other kids to do!
The following year, I was much more confident. I can now set up my own pole and put bait on and feed accurately, and have now gained the tools to go fishing with my mum. My mum is very good to me and takes me to all the events. I could not do this without her support. I have enjoyed what I have learned from the coaches, and their knowledge has given me confidence to keep improving and develop new skills.
Potteries Regional Celebration
I was awarded “Man of the Match” at the 2022 Regional Celebration event and with that came a second-hand 11-metre pole that had kindly been donated by a member of the public who could no longer go fishing due to health reasons.
I would encourage anything who would like to try out fishing in a competition to start off with these friendly regional events. There are Let's Fish! coaches there to help you on the day if you need it. I am now doing well in SOTAS club matches and other events. I finished third at Noel's pool, placed at North Road pool and caught a couple large perch on the Caldon canal.
What does the future hold?
My parents have bought me a new Daiwa seat box with adjustable legs on it. This will be much more stable than my “starter” plastic box. It also has drawers and compartments to keep my tackle and floats in. I cannot wait to use it. I have enjoyed meeting lots of new people with similar interests, and making new friends have been an added bonus of Let's Fish!
I am looking forward to more fishing with Let's Fish! and Stoke-on-Trent Angling Academy, developing further and new skills, also fishing with family and friends. When I am older, I would like to look into the possibility of becoming a Let's Fish! coach and teaching other people what I have learned.
If you would like to join Brandon at the 2023 Potteries Regional Celebration, it's free to participate in and you can book here.
Is fishing something that you would like to try out?
If you live anywhere near the Potteries and know someone who would like to get involved with fishing, then get in touch with us at [email protected] and we will pass on your details to SOTAS and send you links to getting booked on to one of our Let's Fish! introductory events.
Last Edited: 07 June 2023
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