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Lottie's fishing journey

10 year old Lottie started her fishing journey in the summer of 2021 attending a free Let’s Fish introductory event. This is her story, brought to us by her grateful Mum whose role also includes acting as Lottie’s fishing chauffeur.

Lottie Clarke

Canal interest

Lottie has grown up walking the family dogs along the Northampton Arm of the Grand Union Canal & volunteers with the Inland Waterways Association, Northampton group when she's not at school. One day, I saw a Facebook post advertising a Let's Fish session and asked if Lottie would like to go along. Her love of the canal setting and having always wanted to give fishing a try, this was another ‘great excuse' to spend some time at canal side, enjoying the nature around us.

Blankety blank

On her first Let's Fish session she blanked, (caught nothing). Even so, she was absolutely hooked and wanted to try again. On her second session the same thing happened but Lottie was still determined to carry on. On her third session, she sat patiently until she finally caught her first fish. The look on her face said it all and she confidently held it for all to see. Coach Sue Galloway from the Northampton Nene Angling Club could breathe a sigh of relief that her coaching and encouragement had paid off. If you are wondering as to the lack of fish at this specific venue, the most likely reason is the presence of zander as discussed by Dr Phil Smith here.

Confidence booster

After that first fish, Lottie couldn't stop talking about fishing and the boost to her self-confidence was noticed by us, her parents. We were now fully on board with her new found hobby. There was no issue with us not being a traditional fishing family as we were warmly welcomed into the fishing community. Lottie next started working through the Let's Fish gudgeon and perch awards having joined the Northampton Nene Angling Club where she received all the coaching and advice needed.

I have to say that the Northampton Nene Angling Club & Heyford Fishery shop have been extremely generous with their time The donated fishing kit from the club that Lottie now fishes with has been much appreciated.

Lotties Grand Union Luton catch

Lottie usually chooses to fish with her lucky 3m pole which has pictures of fish on. A stink bag is on the top of the present list, absolutely ideal for the car journeys home following a good days catch.

National Celebration debut

Having spent her summer holidays practicing her fishing along the local canal, Lottie was excited to be attending the national celebration of young people and fishing along with over 200 other young people, including around 50 other girls.

Mum's taxi service was duly booked in for the trip to the Staffordshire-Shropshire border. After arriving at her peg, number 56 at Shedbon, Lottie confidently set up all her own kit ready for three hours of fishing. All I could do was sit back and listen to Lottie tell me all she really wanted was a win a gudgeon mug and not to blank.

The Gudgeon mug prize

An early fish steadied the nerves. Watching all these fish being caught by all the young cadets along the canal bank brought a huge smile to my face, it really was a great days fishing. Lottie was smiling all day. Jason Cunningham & Darren Lewis, two enthusiastic Canal & River Trust Let's Fish coaching volunteers, spent time talking to Lottie giving her helpful tips and encouragement.

She was delighted to weigh in 690g and most importantly of all, to receive her voucher that she could exchange for that all-important gudgeon mug back at the event headquarters. As an additional bonus, the all-girls team of three, made up of Lottie, plus sisters Honor and Tulisa Marchant took 8th position out of 27. The national celebration of young people and fishing video gives you a feel of the event.

Luton AC Friendly match

In October, on what turned out to be a gorgeous autumn day, Lottie was asked along to fish her first friendly match on the Grand Union at Slapton near Leighton Buzzard.

The match was 2 and a half hours long with Lottie again using her lucky 3m pole. Baiting and loose feeding mostly pinkies, and a little groundbait. Lottie caught a mixture of skimmers, perch, roach & hybrids. The match was filled with fun and all the cadets had bites continuously.

They all took it very seriously, in a cadet sort of way. Each one of them definitely lost enough fish or missed enough bites to have comfortably taken first spot. The good news was that Lottie ending up winning the match with a weight of exactly 1kg, a hundred or so grams clear of the runner-up.

As a parent new to the sport, it is so nice to see so many young people enjoying themselves and getting the support from all the older more experienced anglers. Another young angler in his first year who also performed brilliantly that day was James Oakes.

Lottie enjoyed meeting the other cadets and juniors and watching the weigh-in with them. I think the social side of fishing and the opportunity to make friends is something not to be overlooked.

Let's Fish England girls cadet call up

Receiving the unexpected call up for the English Girls Silver Team was such a proud moment and Lottie was extremely grateful to be invited. She was somewhat nervous, as her fishing is a pleasurable hobby that is now making her feel quite competitive at times. This time it was Dad's taxi service booked ready for the journey north to Shropshire.

She fished at peg 22 in conditions completely different to the national celebration of young people. It was quite wintry, and the forecast somewhat indifferent, (luckily we missed the worst of the storms and we more or less stayed dry) this really was late autumn fishing, a new challenge entirely.

Lottie again set up all her own kit and plumbed up her 3 & 4 metre pole rigs. Like many others, Lottie struggled in the windy conditions with lots of leaves to contend with. She didn't let it knock her confidence and stayed determined to fish on her own to the very best of her ability to support the team.

She was perhaps a trifle disappointed to only catch 200g but it was certainly not the lowest weight recorded. Lottie said she learnt an important lesson to just keep going for her team, no matter how the fishing goes and realised that there is a lot more for her to learn. The whole experience was greatly appreciated and she thoroughly enjoyed telling her school friends all about it in assembly the following week.

Stepping up

The thought of going from the cadets up to the junior section is a little daunting for Lottie but it will be another great adventure on her fishing journey. Super coach Sue, the first BAME female to fish a national is organising some winter fishing sessions to help gain some more fishing skills and to build on what they have learnt over the 2021 summer.

Without doubt, experiencing fishing at the age of 10 has really boosted Lottie's mental health and confidence. Lottie is looking forward to making new fishing friends & continuing her fishing journey along the Northampton Arm plus attending next year's regional and national celebrations.

Invitation for the Commonwealth Communities end of year celebration event is perhaps a dream too far, but you never know if the fish might choose to play ball. For in fishing, a beginner could end up fishing next to a world champion or at least catch more weight per hour on a canal than a 5 times world champion. In what other sport could that possibly happen?

Last Edited: 14 February 2022

photo of a location on the canals
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