The name TJ Stevenson meant nothing in the fishing world, until we saw him in action, that is. This is the story of his fishing journey, brought to us by his proud Mum.
The start of the journey
TJ has been fishing occasionally for the last few years, fishing on lakes and the local River Trent for fun with his dad and grandad. We saw the advert for a Let's Fish! session on our local Beeston canal in the city centre. We decided to give it a go as it was free and something to do in half term and thinking we might just learn some new things from the experienced Nottingham Federation of Anglers coaches. This is where TJ's fishing journey really begins.
Let's Fish! Introductory events
TJ attended the first Let's Fish! session with his friend Ethan. We had no idea what was in store. TJ had never held a pole, let alone fished with one. When he got there, he was assigned with coaches called Phil and Mick who ran the session. TJ thoroughly enjoyed himself and was eager to learn a new skill. TJ asked to attend the next session.
One year on and TJ is still regularly attending the sessions. Phil helped him in that year to develop his skills, guiding and supporting him, and building his confidence. In some ways, TJ does not really need to go to the sessions any more, but he loves it so much and there are always things to learn and tweaks to be made depending on the fishing conditions on the day.
In the summer holidays 2022, TJ and his friend were asked if they would be interested in attending a big participation event, run by the Canal & River Trust. We said yes, not knowing anything about it. We did not have any equipment. The coaches gave us a list of things we would need and off we went. Good old google helped a lot. For the things we could not find, TJ's dad took us to the local tackle shop where I (mum) did not last two minutes because of the smell! I've learnt there is a unique odour at your everyday fishing tackle shop.
At the next Let's Fish! session, TJ and his friend were kindly gifted an elasticated 3m whip each by Mick, to start them on their competitive journey. I must say, what the coaches do at the Let's Fish! sessions are amazing, giving both adults and children the chance to learn a new sport, build confidence, and more importantly have fun whilst doing so.
TJ set up and was ready for the all-in shout, to let him know he could start fishing. Everybody has to fish at no more than three metres out from the bank for the first part of the event, which evens things up. TJ thoroughly enjoyed his first competitive experience. He caught lots of little fish, and it seemed his basic equipment did the job. It was soon time for the weigh in and TJ had amassed 460g of fish. For TJ's first match, it was lovely to see the smile on his face.
After the competition, there was the prize presentation. TJ was totally shocked when they called his name out and was awarded a Let's Fish! cap for landing a roach, a medal, and the all-important Fjuka gudgeon mug. TJ was now hooked and asking about the next competition.
TJ decided to enter the Grand Union Junior Championship, which was a smaller event with maybe 25 participants, held on the canal near Leighton Buzzard. Again, TJ really enjoyed himself, but still the bonus fish eluded him. TJ weighed in with 450g, almost the same as last time. We went to the car park to watch the presentation and to support the winners. John Ellis announced the man of the match award for the most promising junior of the day. It was to be awarded to a young angler who the holding of the pole correctly, re-presenting his rig frequently rather than just leaving it there and for consistent regular feeding. TJ was totally shocked when they called his name out, and he received his first ever fishing trophy.
Commonwealth call up
A few days later, whilst on holiday, we received an email from John. After being impressed by TJ at the last match, he asked if TJ would like to represent one of the Midlands team at the Commonwealth Community Celebration. This time he would be stepping up into the youth section instead of participating in the juniors. Without hesitation, TJ said he would love too.
TJ drew peg one, and I got excited as I thought that the peg would be nearest to the car park. How wrong was I! It was in fact the furthest away, but it was an end peg and I've now learnt that an end peg is no bad thing. At the weigh in, TJ totalled 1.44kg , a massive personal best and overall 10th place for the youth group. I didn't really give it any thought at the time but there were several Talent Pathway triallists, some England ladies hopefuls such as Jodie Deacon, Lottie Wootton and Izzy Gibbins and at least five full England U15 or U20 internationals, Billy Kirk, James Geddes, Josh Derry, Josh Duffy and Alfie Nicholls in the line-up. My boy had done himself proud amongst some of the very best in the whole country.
What a fantastic few month of fishing, and to top the year off, in Dec 2022 TJ was awarded the Canal & River Trust Catch of the Month winners award and received an Angling Direct voucher.
Angling allstars academy
Not long after the last match we spoke to Ian, the club captain of the academy, soon after TJ joined the club. TJ prepped himself for his first club match at Janson Fishery. When we arrived, TJ dipped his nets and set up ready for the start.
We quickly realised we needed more equipment than what we had, we noticed everybody had multiple keepnets and we only had two. The rules were different, and you had to separate the fish into different nets. Each net also had a weight limit, something we had not got a clue about. Weigh in came and TJ had never caught so many fish, unfortunately the net did not count as it was over the weight limit. This match was a learning curve.
Ian and the club very kindly gifted TJ all the equipment TJ would need to progress and develop with the club, we cannot thank the club enough. TJ is learning so much from the club and the support he is getting is gratefully received. TJ is watching videos on how to improve, and he is making his own rigs and floats. At the end of the season, we attended the club's presentation evening just to meet other members of the team. TJ was shocked to get his second trophy for the up-and-coming star award.
TJ would like to thank everybody who has been involved in his fishing journey. All of these people have given TJ the guidance and support to develop his skills, knowledge, and confidence and to let him grow and progress.
Wherever TJ fishes, canals, rivers and lakes, you can see the passion in his eyes and the pleasure he gets from it, it does not matter if he does not win anything he just likes participating.
Who knows what 2023 holds, but TJ is excited to find out.
Last Edited: 21 February 2023
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