This article is brought to you by Lauren Stevens, aged 13. She first came to our attention in 2019 when as luck would have it, cameraman Tom Scholey just happened to be in the right place at the right time as young Lauren hooked and landed a decent chub with just a few minutes remaining. The video that Tom subsequently went viral (despite a cameo appearance from Peter Henery). This is Lauren’s fishing journey in her own words.
In the beginning
I started going fishing at the age of six in 2017 on a small local pool catching crucians and roach. My dad reckoned I was pretty good at it for my age and enquired if I was interested in joining a local junior fishing club. The following year I started attending the coaching evenings that Jon Portman was running, with a group now known as Telford and District AA juniors and I was soon enjoying participating in the club's friendly fishing matches.
Six years later and I am still part of the club. I would definitely encourage anyone living within traveling distance of Telford who is interested in starting fishing to get in touch. In the Telford club, all abilities are catered for, and the qualified licensed coaching team run indoor sessions before moving to outdoor coaching followed by the opportunity to take part in matches throughout the summer period. Most kids I know have enjoyed the camaraderie of these club gatherings, and it's easy to make friends with people you have something in common with.
National Celebration of Young People and Fishing
I fished my first canal championships (as it was then called) back in 2019 which was my very first-time fishing on any canal. I didn't really know what to expect and looking back was nothing like as well-prepared then as I would be now. I had caught about seven gudgeon up until the last half hour where I hooked and landed a big chub which took me from close to last position in the whole event to finishing third with a weight 1.620kg.
Catch More Media's Tom Scholey was walking up the towpath and recorded me playing the fish which has been viewed around 12 million times on the Canal & River Trust Angling Facebook page. This fish also won me the Catch of the Month prize. The experience taught me that you need to concentrate and work hard for the full length of the match as there is always a chance of a bonus fish coming along to boost you up the rankings, especially on a canal where you really can move from near the bottom of the leader board to near the top of it in minutes.
I have fished a total of four National Celebrations in the junior age group with a 3rd, (2019) 7th out of around 180, (2022) 11th (2021) and 21st place (2020) finishes, so I feel I have been very consistent in this event. John Ellis concurs and commented ‘Lauren certainly has been consistent, very consistent indeed, and I am not sure if there is anyone else, other than England international Billy Kirk, with such an impressive record at the celebration over a four-year period'.
The National Celebration is an event I would really love to win as it has the most competitors of all the junior events in the UK and everyone who participates is in with a chance of winning it. There was much excitement in 2020 when Charlie Beetham Grainger won the cadets' event, fishing with nothing more than a top kit on the three-metre line throughout the day. The online draw, watching the cadets the day before on the live feeds all build up the excitement for the big day to come. I really enjoy the prize presentation, where I get to meet up with people I have made friends with through fishing from across the country.
Last year, I probably had my best chance of individual glory so far. I drew peg 178 on the Palethorpes stretch and was probably leading at the halfway point, catching around 2.5kg on the short line in the first 90 minutes. Unfortunately, my peg fizzled out and didn't catch the bonus bream I needed to boost my weight. I only caught a few more fish to weigh in 3.08kg for 7th place out of 180 anglers in a very close match. I still occasionally ponder if there was anything I could have done differently to have caught even more, that's what fishing does to you, it gets you thinking deeply.
I was proud to be selected to be an England flag bearer in the Commonwealth Communities Celebration match this year along with my club teammate Alfie Portman and one of my team mate for the day, Wellingborough's Ella Preston. This is an event that I have fished twice now and in 2022 represented the English girls team in the full junior section. I earned my place as of right by achieving some good result in the Commonwealth Communities Let's Fish! qualifiers including trips to the deep Aire & Calder and the urban Dudley Canal at Bumble Hole.
Unfortunately, our team of Lucia Archard, Ella and I didn't get into the top medal places this year but it highlighted how good team fishing is and how much I enjoy it. A different approach is often needed to try and earn a decent points total for your team rather than risk it all for individual glory. After performing consistently throughout the year on canal matches, I have now been asked to start taking part with a local adult canal team to improve my canal fishing further and hopefully I will be able to take part in some of the big adult team events soon.
I have fished a total of four junior nationals with my club which included being part of the first ever all female junior team held at Makin's fishery. It's awesome to have been a history maker, just like the all ladies Let's Fish! coaches team were in the Angling Trust 2022 division two national. I fish for my local junior club, all the big junior events but have also started fishing matches against adults including the Northwest Girls Gone Fishing league run by Emma Jenks. I managed to finish in second place in the points league over the 8-match series. This event is something that I have enjoyed fishing as I have been to many different venues and it's great to see so many females taking part in the sport, all of whom made me feel very welcome.
I was lucky to be selected for every junior academy program last year, namely the Angling Trust Guru Talent Pathway, the Guru Match Academy, the Preston/Matrix Academy, and the Middy Academy. What would I do without the taxi of Dad? He continues to be super supportive. I learned so much from receiving various fishing tips from some of the country's most successful anglers including Matt Godfrey, Lee Kerry, and Andy Bennett. I look forward to putting what I have gleaned into my own fishing and hopefully I have the chance to attend some of these events again this year.
With the growth in the number of young people fishing competition for places is going to get tougher though so I must avoid complacency at all costs. I would encourage young people coming into the sport to attend the National Celebration of Young People and Fishing if they able to. I was nervous about participating the first time but so glad I decided to go for it. Not only has it helped me improve my fishing skills, it's also helped build a circle of fishing friends. There is more information here.
My goal is to keep working hard and hopefully improving in all aspects of my fishing on a variety of different venues. I aspire to be an all-rounder, not just a one venue or one method specialist. Hopefully this will help me get to a level where I can start trialling for the England ladies' team when I am old enough. Representing your country on the international stage is considered by most good judges to be the highest achievement in any sport. With focused practice and a little good fortune, I believe I can eventually get there.
Last Edited: 21 February 2023
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