Following on from his success as winner of the Junior Canal Angling Championships 2018 (Youth category) Kieran Woodward, aged 17, shares his story with us.
Throughout England and Wales, no fewer than 8 million people live within 1,000 yards or so of their local canal. For young Kieran Woodward, recently crowned the Angling Direct National Youth canal angling champion, living in the Black Country meant there were several canal fisheries right on his doorstep where he has gradually honed his fishing skills.
First canal fishing visit
I was perhaps nine or ten years old when my grandad suggested we went fishing together. I will never forget the excitement of that first outing on the Staffordshire & Worcester Canal at Hinksford. Back then, I thought grandad was a brilliant angler but looking back now he only ever had two or three poles rigs tied up. Unlike me, he was content to be an occasional pleasure angler rather than wanting to get involved in the competitive side of things. I only caught perhaps half a dozen roach and a couple of perch on that very first outing, but it was enough: I loved the buzz of seeing that float tip disappear; I was hooked.
Fishing is a great activity for parents and kids to share together and before long, my dad and I joined the Stewponey Angling club, which, best I know, is no longer active. Some of the lads then formed a team called Sensas Strike and more recently they became Mosella Match Group. I feel sure that mum and dad were happier seeing me take a serious interest in angling rather than hanging around the streets either causing or getting involved in ‘mischief'. Aged 13 and 14, I took part in quite a few matches on commercial fishing lakes, winning precisely nothing. I was, unfortunately, ‘pools fodder' and quickly concluded that the commercial stillwater fishing scene just wasn't my cup of tea.
Not long after quitting commercial ponds, I started to travel with a guy called Micky Howell who was part of the Sensas Black Country match team. Sensas are a well-known fishing tackle company noted for excellent groundbait amongst other things. Not yet being quite good enough to earn a place in the actual team, my role was to act as bank-runner.
I learnt an awful lot from some wise old heads in the run up to the 2016 Division Two National on the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal. In what I reckon must be one of the closest ever national finishes, the Sensas Black Country team won the event by just a couple of points. Hopefully we will get a mention in John Essex's book on the history of the national angling championships. Fingers crossed that mum or dad will buy me that book for Xmas or as a birthday present sometime soon.
Sensas Black Country
Since being involved with the Sensas Black country team my fishing knowledge has improved in leaps and bounds. The team is packed with class anglers such as Mark Hardman, Paul Murrin, Martin Owen not forgetting veterans Simon Nickless and Steve Dudley who together won the prestigious Canal Pairs final back in 2016. I eventually made my team debut in the Stafford autumn league run by another veteran, Alan Round. I shall try my best to make our Division Two national team in 2019. I've heard rumours on the towpath that over 40 teams are booking on to this Shropshire Union Canal match, so the contest will take some winning.
Importance of doing a job for the team
For me, being part of a team is the most stimulating kind of fishing because it makes you give it your all, never giving in, trying 100% until the final whistle sounds, doing you upmost to avoid disappointing your fellow team colleagues. When you fish just for yourself and it ain't going great, the easy option is to quit mentally and just go through the motions or even pack up early. That feeling of togetherness when the team wins an event is something very special.
Fosters of Birmingham
I was lucky that I managed to get a placement in this big fishing tackle shop as part of school work experience. They later took me on as a Saturday lad and while at college I also worked there on one of two days during the week. Not long ago the shop got bought out by Angling Direct who now sponsor the junior, youth and cadet national canal championships.
In 2018 things really changed, it was a match that every kid, experienced and newcomers alike seemed to want to be at. The atmosphere on the morning was just brilliant. There were 50 odd kids excitedly mulling around at the Church Eaton Royal Oak pub headquarters along with their anxious parents and the event branding stood out. It was if people really wanted the event to be a success.
Ever reliable squatts and pinkies
I didn't draw the most noted of pegs (I think most match anglers claim that as a matter of course) and after a chat with senior steward and top Let's Fish coach, Simon Mottram, who seems to know each peg on the Shroppie like the back of his hand, I got my head down and fished a squatt and pinkie match rather than sitting it out for bonus fish. The tactics paid off handsomely as I caught steadily throughout the match, feeding between half a pint and a pint of squatts and ending up well over 100 fish for a weight of 2kgs 300g, not far short of 5lbs, mostly roach with a smattering of gudgeon for good measure.
My catch was good enough to take first prize in the youth (16 to 18year old category) championship, a major ambition fulfilled. The crowd cheered as I received my prizes from Stuart Conroy and Canal & River Trust's Richard Parry. I should perhaps keep stum that it took well over 3 kgs to win the junior (10 to 15) match though. The goody bags provided by Angling Direct to every single kid were spot on with useful stuff in them that you could actually use on a canal. I have never seen that before.
What also amazed me is how well most of the young kids did that day, even just fishing three or four metre poles on the near shelf, I reckon maybe two thirds of them weighed in over a kilo, which is never a bad canal weight even for an adult fishing a whole five hours. The lowest weight I think was 300 grams and I have caught less than that more times than I wish to remember.
One of my next jobs is to book on to next years event; the details are here and for any kid who has never fished a match before, I reckon you should give it a go. You would enjoy the experience and your mum and dad would appreciate the peace and tranquility of the Staffordshire countryside.
Future fishing ambitions
Apart from keeping on enjoying the sport and continuing to learn new things, I have three ambitions. Like many kids, I've always dreamed of representing my country in my chosen sport although I know it's something of a longshot as only five anglers can get chosen each year. I took part in the Angling Trust Talent Pathway and had trials for the under 18s (now under 20s) so I will keep plugging away.
Experienced anglers tell me that winning a national championship gold medal, team or individual, is one of the pinnacles of anyone's fishing career so one day I hope to pick up one of those. Qualifying for the Dynamite Baits Canal pairs final is something I am aiming to do in the next couple of years too. Who knows, with a slice of luck at the drawbag, maybe I can get my hands on that elusive trophy or at least finish in the main prize money.
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