Skip to main content

The charity making life better by water

Zabir’s coaching journey

Fishing has not traditionally been high on the agenda of activities in the Asian community, but could that be about to change? We caught up with recently qualified level one coach Zabir to explore the prospects, among other things. This is Zabir’s story.

Zabir Ismail Let's Fish coach

As the Trust's award winning Let's Fish programme goes from strength to strength, a steady number of new coaches are coming on board, keen to pass on their knowledge and passion to the next generation.

Getting into fishing

It all started when I saw my work colleague Edward reading a salmon Angling magazine. I questioned him about it which led to a very interesting conversation about how he used to fish as a boy with his father. Now in his twenties, he has taken up salmon fishing as his main discipline. I mentioned how I was intrigued by the anglers I had seen fishing at the Calder & Hebble Canal close to where I lived as a young boy and always wanted to try it out.

Fathoming it all out

Ed generously donated all his coarse fishing tackle to me that he'd owned since his youth. It wasn't easy from there, as trying to work out how to use the rods, reels, etc took many hours. Lots of time was spent on the canal trying to work out and experiment how things would work. I asked passer- by whether they could help me, some had a little idea but most like me didn't have a clue. If only there had been a Let's Fish programme back then.

Trip to the library

Eventually I decided to visit the library for books on fishing. However, these books gave me a vague understanding, rather than the depth I wanted. I noticed the angling magazines at the local newsagents and bought them regularly for up to date information and guidance. I still have them in my loft to this day, I wonder if any are collectors' items yet?

Bryan to the rescue

I was trying to fish on the canal one day when an older man called Bryan who was fishing near me called out. He helped me and told me all about Thornhill Angling Club, the rod licenses and other basics which I was unaware of at that time. From this chance meeting, I went on and joined the club. This opened the doors of knowledge from the older, seasoned match anglers. I went to Argos and bought myself a whip kit then came my first serious canal session where I understood what I was doing. I caught 52 fish, it was a mix of roach and perch. Fishing to hand, feeding little and often just as the match-men had suggested. I was hooked.

Gearing up

I started off with the whip and then went onto the take apart pole which I purchased from the famous Roger at the used tackle store in Nottingham, along with other necessary bits and pieces of tackle. I did this for many years, exclusively on canals. In 2007, I met Lee who worked near to me and he was a rod and line angler since childhood.

Rivers and commercials

Lee and I started river fishing, feeder and classic long trotting with a centre-pin. We also fished commercials, which were a new concept to us back then. My favourite technique would be centre-pin trotting for grayling, chub or barbel on rivers such as the Nidd, Wharfe and Swale. My favourite fish species would be roach and rudd of a quality stamp because of their rarity and the skill needed to target and catch them, in any numbers at least.

Zabir ismail, a life in fishing

Health and wellbeing

Fishing clears my mind and takes me to a zone where I forget the pressures of life and can connect to the natural world. It's something you can only understand fully if you experience it yourself and it makes me sad that there are few people out here who would like to see fishing stopped. They have no clue as to the health benefits it brings to so many people. My fishing heroes include Chris Yates, Bob Nudd, John Wilson, Mick Brown, Martin Bowler and of course the 90s classic TV show, ‘A passion for angling', which remains inspirational to this day.

Getting into coaching

Zabir coaching at Let's Fish

I always had people ask me to take them fishing, and being confident around people, I noticed a post on Facebook about coaching and contacted John Ellis, the Canal & River Trust's veteran national fisheries and angling manager. John invited me to a Let's Fish CPD day in Warwickshire which gave me a good insight into the vision of this organisation and how angling coaching is continuously being developed to attract the youth. From there, I got the opportunity to complete my level one coaching in angling.

Angling potential in the Asian community

In the future, I would like to complete my level two coaching qualification so that I can manage my own sessions organised through the Canal & River Trust Let's Fish campaign with other coaches on my local waters. My big dream is to manage my own water that is run as an angling school for the youth.

The youth of the Asian community are mostly second generation and being born here are exposed to British tradition and hobbies. Due to the lack of elders fishing in these communities they aren't shown or inspired by anyone to take up angling. There is a huge opportunity to introduce them to the joys of angling and I think I am in a good position to help with this.

Best coaching team in West Yorkshire

A great thing about coaching is that it's both an individual activity but also you get to work in teams. The biggest fear we all have is a budding youngster suffering a blank, for one fish equals success but zero equals coaching failure. Retired teacher Clive Milsom is a bit of a coaching legend in these parts as was Harry Lodge, not forgetting Bryan Kellett, Peter Dawson, Andrew Wood and Trevor Facer. Perhaps next year there will be enough of us proud West Yorkshire coaches to enter a team of ten in the Division Two national. The other Trust coaching teams better watch out then!

Angling coach, Zabir, teaching his nephew, Yahya, to fish

Last Edited: 08 August 2019

photo of a location on the canals
newsletter logo

Stay connected

Sign up to our monthly newsletter and be the first to hear about campaigns, upcoming events and fundraising inspiration