One of the undoubted successes of the Let’s Fish! programme has been the growth of Stoke-on-Trent Angling Society. Their junior membership has gone through the stratosphere ever since they got involved with Let’s Fish! in 2019. One SOTAS youngster who is starting to really shine is Cayden Grimes. This is Cayden’s story brought to you by grateful Mum, Ashleigh.
Stoke-on-Trent Angling Society
The club has had some notable successes, not least growing its membership from just seven in 2018 to over 150 today. Adult membership has grown too. Ryan Copeland won the most improved young angler award at the 2020 National Celebration.
The 2021 National Celebration saw the SOTAS cadet team famously triumph, some commentators describing it as the biggest sporting shock since Foinavon won the Grand National in 1967. They obviously had little idea of the work going on behind the scenes, for that team performance must rank amongst lead coach John Davey's finest ever moments in his very long career. With 36 participants in the 2022 National Celebration, being a SOTAS selector can't be easy.
Introduction to fishing
Cayden got into fishing when I spotted some Let's Fish! events advertised on Facebook and thought I would book him on to try it out. We are not a fishing family, so did not have any experience to pass on to him. The big day arrived, and we turned up to the Trent & Mersey Canal close to home in Middleport. He absolutely loved his first session, receiving a My First Fish certificate for good measure.
Cayden desperately wanted to go fishing again as soon as he possibly could. Thankfully, Let's Fish! is not a programme where you are allowed to attend only once. It's designed to allow people to return and develop their skills and confidence at their own pace, with strong links to supportive local clubs.
Before long, we were often attending weekly and sometimes on both a Saturday and a Sunday at the picturesque Middleport venue. We even ventured westwards to the wilds of South Cheshire to events on the Shropshire Union Canal around Nantwich hosted by Wybunbury Anglers. Andy Fairclough was our coach on one occasion.
Over time, Cayden has got steadily more confident holding the bait, whether that was maggots, punched bread, or worms and is able to hook his own bait without assistance. Being able to unhook his own fish and using a disgorger effectively has been a highlight, as fish welfare was a very important consideration for Cayden when deciding to carry on fishing.
National Celebration debut 2021
Team manager John Davey suggested that Cayden should sign up for the National Celebration. It was to be the first time he had fished alongside so many people all at once. His first ambition was to land a gudgeon. If you caught that species, you win a gudgeon mug.
Come the big day and the all-important gudgeon mug was duly secured after just a few minutes. What relief. We ended up having an amazing day at peg 8 at High Offley, not far way for where Simon Mottram dropped the scales into the canal at the start of the weigh in.
Luckily Motty was able to retrieve them and Cayden's fish weighed exactly 1kg. This put him in 19th slot overall. The atmosphere back in the hall where the presentation was held was amazing.
National Celebration 2022
Cayden attended Let's Fish! and Stoke club events regularly during 2022 and took part in a regional match on the Caldon Canal in the lead up to the celebration. Cayden was selected to represent the Potters B team on the big day, which saw nearly 90 cadets lining the banks of the Shropshire Union.
Deep down, I suspect that the SOTAS B team were quietly confident that they could give the SOTAS A team of Regan Grice, Oliver Flanagan, and Nathan Morris a decent run for their money.
On the morning of the event, which is often described as the London marathon of young peoples' fishing, Cayden, along with Nathan Morris was interviewed on film in the car park at Shebdon, en route to peg 70. It was another sunny Shropshire day and Cayden recorded 490g. He might have hoped for a little more, but that's fishing for you.
Eliza Brook was top team performer with over 1kg with her brother Vaughn a few grams behind Cayden. The team had hoped for a top ten finish and by coming ninth, they achieved that goal. The SOTAS A team also did brilliantly to finish in sixth spot.
Most satisfying angling achievements
Cayden's proudest fishing achievement to date was finishing 5th individually in the Commonwealth Communities event in October 2022. He weighed in 1.25kg with his Let's Fish! orange team coming 7th out of 17. Just to be selected in the top 50 in his age group in the whole country was an achievement in itself.
I hope Cayden has done enough to get the nod for the selectors in the 2023 Global Communities Celebration. Other notable highlights for Cayden have been catching a 3lb carp on North Road Pool and landing a large daddy ruffe on the canal at Middleport. By all accounts, this spiky species is quite a rare beast on the canal network these days.
The most important thing of all is that Cayden keeps enjoying himself. First and foremost, fishing should be about fun and enjoyment. He would like to get a top three finish in the National Celebration, either individually or part of the SOTAS team. He has one more year left in the cadets, but then many more years as a junior and youth. He is keen to continue to improve his fishing skills year-on-year.
Who knows where this hobby might lead in the future. Some kids in the club were even pondering putting their name forward for England U15 trials. Cayden is too young for that at the moment, but who knows what the future might hold; stranger things have happened.
Last Edited: 29 March 2023
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