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Kayleigh Smith's angling journey

I started fishing back when I was around ten years old, which looking back was a good age to start. I became interested in having a go at fishing when I used to walk my dog every day around a quarry pond, where I would speak to some of the guys who were fishing. From then on, I wanted to have a proper go at fishing myself.

Kayleigh's angling journey

Summer holiday joy

I used to spend the summer holidays fishing most evenings, catching little roach and perch with my friends. I didn't know it back then, but it's a brilliant way to learn the fishing basics by being content to catch small fish to begin with. Some people enjoy the idea of being competitive, and others perhaps are not so keen on that idea. Even back then, we used to have little competitions between my friends to see who could catch the most fish.

Young Kayleigh Smith

Found love through fishing

I started getting more into the fun side of match fishing when I joined the local Leeds Junior club, which ran from the local tackle shop where I used to go and invest my weekly pocket money. I was so fortunate looking back that the club that ran junior matches every weekend.

These were well attended and there was that lovely friendly buzz about those occasions. Many of the people I fished with then I still keep in touch with now, I even ended up marrying one of them.

Kayleigh match fishing

Expanding my knowledge

We would travel locally and sometimes further afield fishing both canals and commercials along with the junior National Championships every year. One important piece of advice that I would give to young anglers today is to gather experience on a wide range of different fishing venues. There are loads of different things you can pick up from fishing different styles of venues, which help you get the experience of fishing different techniques.

If you want to represent your club in National Championships or even your country at international level, then the chances are probably not going to do it by focusing your efforts entirely on one venue, one species, or on one style of fishing. Even if you have no great desire to aim for the very top of the sport, participating in a national event is something that I would recommend every young person to do once. The atmosphere is truly unique and a gives you a great buzz when you win with friends.

Kayleigh with the team

Girl power and angling heroes

There was a handful of girls who used to fish the junior matches at the same time as me but not nearly as many as I see now, which is fantastic to see.

At least a quarter of the participants in the National Celebration of Young People and Fishing are girls, which is fantastic news for the future of the sport; and on the most recent England trial it was attended with the largest number of attendees I have seen, which bodes well for the future.

I have always looked up to the top match anglers. Tommy Pickering, Alan and Sandra Scotthorne in a way helped drive me down my chosen route.

Teenage leap

When age caught up with me, and I was finally too old for the juniors, I jumped straight into fish open matches. This was throwing myself in the deep end. Fishing is almost unique because there aren't many sports where you can compete against a world champion on equal terms.

The only other example I could think of would be in the London Marathon. Unfortunately, all the fast runners line up at the front and so it would be impossible for the fun runner at the back to ever have the chance to run alongside the serious contenders, for even a few seconds.

In fishing, you can get a full four or five hours with a multiple world champion at the next peg. Don't get me wrong, in the early years, I would usually be well beaten off the next peg. It was more of a free coaching day, I didn't even come close to landing as many fish as they did.

But by surrounding yourself with anglers who have more experience, knowledge and skill, you can't help but learn, providing you have an open your mind to the reality of your own ability. It doesn't take long to learn what you need to change to be able to compete at the highest level. I found fellow anglers were always approachable, and most to this day will help you along the way if you ask politely.

An all-rounder

I would like to think of myself these days as a bit of an all-rounder. I fish a lot of natural venues as well as commercials. Living in the north-east we are blessed to have loads of big deep canals such as the Aire & Calder/New Junction Canal which is absolutely full of fish.

There are also a lot of brilliant commercial lakes, which also attract a lot of anglers and big matches in our area. I have been involved in lots of big matches over the years from Division 1 & 2 Nationals where I have won sections and team golds plus the Angling Trust Commercial National, again winning my sections multiple times.

Kayleigh with Angling Trust

International honours

I have been lucky enough to be selected to fish for England all across the world in both the coarse and carp team. Most recently, I picked up a team and individual bronze medal in South Africa in 2019. I believe that there can be no higher accolade in any sport and being asked to represent your country on the world stage.

Unfortunately, Covid-19 put a stop to the last few years, but we are back this year with the coarse world championships in France in August and the first carp fishing world championships taking place at Linear Fisheries in Oxford in September. So hopefully we can bring back a few medals.

Ladies international

Naturally naturals

When we travel abroad, the world championships are always held on natural venues, so to have any chance of competing you have to practice on similar venues at home. For me, living where I do, fishing the deep canals and rivers gave me a perfect opportunity to practice the skills required on these matches, and I will often go down after work and practice certain styles of fishing prior to the world championships, which we don't often get a chance to do, for example slider and whip fishing.

If you do not have a deep ship canal near you, then narrow canals are almost an equally good option to learn on. Anglers like Kevin Ashurst, Stuart Conroy, Ian Heaps, Sean Ashby, Mark Downes, Vinny Smith, Mark Addy, Alan McAtee, Dave Roper, Dave Brogden, Dave Vincent, Dave Berrow, William Raison and Mark Pollard, are just a few England internationals that I can think of who spent significant amounts of time fishing the narrow canal network.

Who could seriously argue with their records? The need to gain experience on a wide range of natural venues is perhaps the most important single piece of advice that I could ever give to any young angler who is seriously aspiring to reach the very highest level in our sport.

Come on girls, give it a go

If I was to give any advice to any women or anyone for that matter wanting to go fishing, it would be just go and try it. There are loads of Let's Fish! events up and down the land, they are a brilliant way to take the first step. Over the past few years, I have seen more and more women going fishing, whether that be on their own or with their partners/parents with quite a few are now participating in matches. It is great to see.

Kayleigh's catch

For anyone like me who has that competitive streak, I would encourage them to give team fishing/match fishing a go. There has never been so many matches going on around the country on a range of venues. I haven't received any negative comments from people and have made some great friends over the years.

Likewise, it doesn't matter how old you are or if you are male or female, I would encourage anyone to have a go and see if you enjoy it. Fishing is no doubt something I will continue to do all throughout my life, and I would encourage anyone to give it a go and most importantly enjoy your fishing.

Last Edited: 17 August 2022

photo of a location on the canals
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