Another successful Let’s Fish! year has flown by. In a year that has seen us hold over 500 events with almost 9500 coaching slots filled, choosing just a few notable memories has proved to be an even greater challenge than in 2021! Here are our top 12 highlights.
12. Probably the funniest moment of the year
This account from an anonymous Let's Fish! coach requires no more explanation. If nothing else, it shows there is still work to be done.
Yesterday, I was supervising one of our newest participants, who was making his National Celebration debut. I'd given them a few pointers about appropriate canal tackle and bait beforehand, even offering the use of my tackle for the day. I was assured, with great confidence, that everything was in order, and all would be fine.
As we prepared for the all-in, my protégé produced a tub of groundbait which had been over-wetted and resembled farm slurry, followed by a freezer bag containing maggots that really didn't look very well at all. Many had a distinctly ‘stretched' lifeless look about them. There was something of an unpleasant brown liquid sloshing about in the bottom of the bag.
Enquiring as to what had been done to the maggots, it turned out they had been microwaved with a view to making them a little more active after taking them out of the fridge! I glanced at mum and saw a look of sheer horror on her face, although possibly not for the same reason that a sense of horror had come over me too! I did think that the microwaved maggot situation might place us at something of a disadvantage and my fears were confirmed when the event began, and we discovered that all the loose-fed maggots floated. Not one would sink!
Luckily, the father of the kid on the next peg noticed we were struggling to get a bite, and very kindly came and brought some of the squatts, pinkies, and groundbait they were using. As you can imagine, this made all the difference in the world, and we had quite a successful day. All in all, we learnt a great deal, not just about the effects of microwaving maggots, but also about kindness, good sportsmanship and helping others. All important lessons in life, not just in angling'.
11. The two Simons win the canal pairs
One of the challenges of a programme like Let's Fish! can sometimes be convincing some of the more traditional coaches than they might not always have all the answers for very single situation, and that could use a few little coaching tricks that often make a significant difference to results. One of the coaches who delivers Let's fish! training on the bank and at winter classroom sessions is Simon Mottram.
It does no harm with credibility when the likes of Simon can walk the walk on the big occasions, not merely talk a good performance down the pub or recollect them from half a century or more ago. In 2019, Simon captained the Crewe Match team to the Division 2 national title. In 2021, he and Simon won the pairs on the Shropshire Union, repeating their 2014 victory. A few critics even suggested the two Simons were a one canal pony, but this year's equally narrow victory on the Leeds & Liverpool in a 140 strong field showed true versatility. Ralph Wilkinson also performed amazingly in that final with a mini section win and by pipping Boydan off the next peg contributed to the Motty/Preecie victory.
Motty certainly doesn't have all the answers to every canal fishing conundrum, but he's not too bad a place to start. He's also reasonable at retrieving dropped Reuben Heaton scales when needed, and he was almost called into watery action again to retrieve an anxious parent's lost keys at the recent Commonwealth Games Celebration.
10. Stoke verses Rammy
Led by the likes of Dave Marshall, Neil Wright, and Matt Stringer to name but three, Rammy was the 2021 Angling Times club of the year winners. I was delighted with their junior team win at the 2022 Angling Trust junior national. Stoke-on-Trent AS too are a great Let's Fish success story. With just seven junior members as recently as 2018, they now have around 150 swelling their ranks. They have achieved this by following the 12 Let's Fish philosophies and sticking to the basics. Both Rammy and the Potters focus on the National Celebration as one of the pivotal events of the year. But which club would provide the most participants in 2022?
In the lead up to the big day, the numbers swung one way and then another. As it turned out, Stoke narrowly took the honours by 36 participants to 33. Knowing Rammy, they will be out for revenge in 2023. So, will it be Rammy or Stoke or perhaps even another club who become the first to ever field 40 young people at the national celebration?
9. Cyrus under pressure
Sheffield Cyrus Solgy took the 2021 National Celebration award as the most promising junior alongside Marco Larsen. Could he step his fishing up a further level in 2022? An early coaching session with Fjuka's Tommy Pickering certainly did no harm, with Tommy struggling to keep pace with Cyrus when it came to hitting some seriously finicky roach on the drop. August saw Cryus win the Sheffield heat of the regional Commonwealth Communities Celebration. Come September, and drawn near bridge 49, not far away from where Simon Mottram had landed 46lbs of chub in an open in 2018 Cyrus was having an OK celebration, without setting the world alight.
With barely ten minutes on the clock, he hooked a big elastic stretching fish on a single squatt and size 22. The all out went and the stewards reminded him of the 15-minute rule. An anxious mum, head in hands and not daring to watch, dashed off to the nearest loo, but even that brought no relief from the tension as the clock ticked down. It was at 4:14PM, with just a minute to spare, that the young Worksop junior slipped the net under that 2lbs chub. It was enough to secure 13th position, but probably deserved more.
8. Andy Wood and other West Yorkshire stalwarts
I first met Andy in 2017 on Division 2 National Day on the Aire & Calder. It was one of those meetings I honestly thought was never going to lead to anything much. A nice fellow certainly, but Andy didn't strike me as having very much idea about fishing nor football as he predicted an imminent premiership return for an ailing Leeds United. His novel bait choice of prawns fished on the drop was best described as ‘somewhat interesting tactics' by the extremely flustered level two coach on Andy's Let's Fish coaching debut.
Five years later and Andy is part of a thriving West Yorkshire CAGG group, under the leadership of Clive Milsom, are now beginning to turn those with an interest in fishing into young anglers with the fishing habit. Andy's sidekick Zabir invited Let's Fish! to the Kumon'Yall Dewsbury festival back in July. We were welcomed with open arms. I would not have predicted that just a couple of months later we would have people we met that day participating at the national celebration and then going on to represent their communities at the Commonwealth celebration.
7. Research Money
‘Money's too tight to mention' sang Simply Red back when I was an undergraduate student. With austerity looming, I was anxious about whether Let's Fish! could secure the funds for an important doctoral thesis that could start to bring scientific peer reviewed proof that our work can make a difference. Entitled ‘Angling on Inland Waterways - The Effects for Young People with ADHD or Emotional Behavioural Difficulties' this pioneering research has the potential to be a game changer for Let's Fish. The good news is that the funding has become available, and work kicks off in April 2023!
6. Schools progress
Getting fishing into schools to produce teams like they do in other sports isn't easy, for if it were, everyone would have been doing it for years and rod licence sales would not be at the crisis level we see today. It would be wrong to say we have cracked the conundrum, but we did see an encouraging number of schools participating in the National Celebration (eight teams verses just three in 2021) and a couple more have expressed interest in becoming involved in 2023.
Wouldn't it be amazing if one day the work of Let's Fish! was integrated with the good work that the Angling Trust are also attempted to undertake with schools? You can find out more about the Let's Fish schools programme here.
5. The greatest sportsman in Yorkshire
Our involvement with the famous Ingle boxing gym based at Wincobank, Sheffield has been a revelation. We've had guest appearances at Let's Fish! from former world champions, Kell Brook, Junior Witter, Barry Kid Galahad and even Tyson's Fury's nutritionist.
As the day ended, we were doing a quick photo shoot with Kell, Junior and European heavyweight champion Kash Ali, with Tommy Pickering making up the numbers. As the camera's clicked an old boy emerged along the towpath excitedly shouting, ‘that's him, the best sportsman Yorkshire has ever produced, he's my hero'. Both Kell and Junior appeared convinced the gent was referring to them, and they both have a valid claim. But they were both dramatically wrong, for it was the bionic bleaker who was this Yorkshireman's sporting hero, and he made no secret of it. The look on everyone's face was priceless.
4. Girls cadet glory
For some years there have been prediction of girls taking top spot at the national celebration. Lauren Stevens came mighty close in 2019 as did Lilly Mae Kirk in the cadets the following year, until Charlie Beetham Grainger intervened. Izzy Gibbins, Poppy Bishop, and Lucia Archard have all put in truly memorable performances without picking up a top three trophy. Maybe my annual prediction was acting as a jinx in the same manner as my predicting a pairs final win for Jason Cunningham and Ben Sharratt, which at this rate I won't live to see. They say two buses come at once, with the girls' cadets it was an amazing six in the top ten. Congratulations to:
1st Lilly Mae Kirk
2nd Chloe Ballan
3rd Paignton Doodson
5th equal. Eden Burke and Jessica Webb
9th Eliza Brook
One of you will inevitably go on to represent England at international level when you are older. I'm just not sure which one of you that it will be, though.
3. Bread of Heaven
Picking the Welsh cadet's team for the October Commonwealth Games wasn't an especially tough ask. This unfancied Welsh side was a very select team. If you were Welsh, aged 7 to 10 and were available, you were duly selected. Thus, it came to pass that the triumvirate of Travis Couch, Dylan Dowman and the diminutive Jacob Sayer pulled on the famous Welsh jersey on that sunny October morning.
Ignoring predictions by John Ellis that the team would be lucky to finish last, they set to work to prove him wrong, all three of them catching small fish steadily throughout. When the result was in, computer malfunction was feared, for Team Wales were top of the leader board. This was the fishing equivalent of Llanelli trouncing the All Blacks. Last I heard, they are still singing in the valleys and in Builth Wells too. Best of all, I was there.
2. Lottie Clarke
There is something intriguing about Lottie Clarke. The rule book should say she should never have become an angler in the first place, for it was only on her third Let's Fish! that she eventually landed her first ever fish. Those two initial blanks would have put off someone with less determination and tenacity. Signing up for the National Celebration in 2021 to represent the Northants Mermaids represented a huge leap of faith. 690g later, she had done enough to earn a surprise autumn call up to the end of year teams of four events.
Success at club level followed over the preceding months, and eventually Lottie was selected to captain the English Communities Red young junior teams at the Commonwealth Games. Commentating live on Facebook, I only reached Lottie's peg well into the match. That happy smiley face was nowhere to be seen; I didn't need to be Einstein to work out things must not quite have been going exactly to the young lady's plan.
This was not the Lottie that I'd ever seen before. Here was an agitated, somewhat frustrated young lady who must have profoundly felt she was somehow letting her team down (she wasn't regardless of whatever the eventual result had turned out to be). Moreover, you could tell that she was going to strive to do something about her predicament, for she had that look of intensity of an Alan Scotthorne or Matt Godfrey in full flow.
A decent perch of perhaps 750g landed late in the day, almost doubled her weight. Oh, the relief, what pure relief it must have been to see that handsome stripey fish safely in the landing net. With teammates Kacie Chadwick and the ever-consistent Penny Prinold also doing brilliantly, the team gold medal was theirs by a single point, yet another great achievement by the ever-improving girls.
1. Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony
It's one thing, attracting decent numbers of participants from diverse communities to Let's Fish! introductory event, another entirely to develop their skills, so they can essentially fish unaided at an event like the national Commonwealth Communities celebration. Hearts inevitably sank when John Ellis announced that he was setting a target of having no fewer than 15 different communities represented on the day.
To cut a long story short and thanks to brilliant efforts from the likes of Sue Galloway, SOTAS, Ramsbottom and the West Yorkshire CAAG, we had participants with ancestry from Australia, Canada, Dominica, England, Fiji, Ghana, Grenada, India, Jamaica, Kenya, Malaysia, Montserrat, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland & Wales lining up. Let's try and make it 20 national communities represented next year. You can watch the complete event video below!
Last Edited: 29 November 2022
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