Award-winning Let's Fish! coach Andy Fairclough shares his fishing journey, from being a nine-year-old catching his first fish to becoming one of our lead Level 2 coaches. He explains why he's passionate about inspiring the next generation of anglers.
My involvement with Let's Fish! began in the spring of 2018 when Wybunbury Anglers held their first Let's Fish! event. I was asked if I would be one of the volunteer coaches, which I gladly agreed to, having been a member of the club for almost 42 years.
I had no idea at the time what it would lead to. We held four events in 2018 as a club and I really enjoyed the experience. With encouragement from Peter Henery and others I decided to do my Level 1 coaching course. This was quickly followed by my Level Two, as by that point I had become very passionate about becoming a coach and passing on my experience and hopefully inspiring the next generation of anglers.
My first fish
When I was about nine years old, I caught my very first fish. It was a gudgeon and it came out of the Shropshire Union Canal near Audlem. I guess I have that wonderful half-ounce gudgeon to thank for getting me started in fishing. I will never know if I would have kept going fishing if that obliging Gobio gobio had not taken a fancy to my bait.Eel memories
My father was not a keen angler and so fishing trips occurred occasionally in the summer. However, a few more trips to the canal followed that first catch, but again, only gudgeon graced the banks. I have a vivid memory of two old men fishing for eels in the next lock pound down from us and them catching what to me was a huge eel. That was common back then, for eels were abundant. As I got older, I began to fish the local farm ponds, which used to be full of crucian carp.My first club
Joining Wybunbury Anglers Association at the age of 13 was a huge stepping stone in my angling life. It meant more waters to fish, bigger fish and different species of fish, the likes of which I had only seen in the Angling Times. My catches were not quite the size of the ones from those inspiring pages, but they allowed me to tick new species off my list.Uncle Cyril
I was lucky enough to have two uncles and a friend's dad who would take me fishing. My friend's uncle was the legendary, at least locally, Cyril ‘Squibber' Welch, a former River Wye champion. Squibber remained a great friend to me until his untimely passing. We enjoyed many fishing trips together, particularly to his beloved River Severn. My first trip to the River Severn was in the summer of 1975 with Squibber's brother Reg. That day is still very vivid in my mind and sparked a lifelong passion for fishing the Severn.Match fishing career
South Cheshire has long been a hotbed for competitive angling. Wyche Anglers finished runners up in one of the Division 1 Nationals in the 1970s. My own interest in match fishing developed in my mid to late teens and over some 30 years I fished several Division 1 Nationals, NFA West Midland Championships, Winter Leagues and local leagues, mostly with Crewe Pioneer Anglers and Mohmar. During this period, I had many successes, including match wins on the Rivers Severn, Trent, Dee and Derwent. The Shropshire Union Canal also became a happy hunting ground and numerous match wins were recorded there, particularly around the Nantwich area.Reversing the decline
With an increase in the types of extra-curricular activities available for children and the demands of modern life, fishing has seen a decline in numbers. If there are fewer people fishing, then young people are less likely to know someone who would introduce them to the sport. This is where the Let's Fish! programme comes in.
At its heart, it's a programme designed as an opportunity for children to try their hand at fishing in a safe environment with qualified angling coaches, to see if they like it. Family groups make up most of the attendees. On top of that, Let's Fish! events are an opportunity for lapsed anglers to re-acquaint themselves with the sport. These are typically recently retired folk finding themselves with spare time once again, or looking for a way to stay active into older age.Wonderful time
I have spent much of my time coaching at Let's Fish! events and helping to set up junior coaching sessions for Wybunbury Anglers. I can honestly say I have enjoyed every minute that I have spent coaching. All the coaches that I have met have been friendly and generous with their advice and experience, which has improved my own coaching (I hope). This has built on the knowledge previously shared with me as a young angler, which I then passed on to my own children. I'm proud to say that my eldest daughter was a junior champion at the age of 10, beating boys who were much older than her.
It is a great pleasure to meet all the different people, young or old, who come along to experience Let's Fish! To see the sheer joy and excitement on peoples' faces when they catch their first fish is simply priceless.
It is even better when they keep returning, as many of my pupils have, and now have their own fishing tales to tell.