When Roger Poole suggested that I take over this long-standing column and his role as press secretary, he did so in his usual diplomatic manner by saying someone from the younger and more media-savvy generation was required.
Given that later this year I will be 65, that filled me with a temporary joy that I’m still regarded as young – but also worried me that, at 65, I’m seen as a young member of the club. And herein lies the problem.
Petworth and Bognor Angling Club currently have 315 or so members, of which 140 are senior citizens and only 105 are full paying adult members. The worrying trend is that we have only four junior members and ten juvenile members.
Worryingly, it’s a picture that’s reflected in almost every other club in the south – and no-one seems to have a clear solution.
For most of the older members, myself included, fishing was a natural pastime when we were young. In fact, virtually every activity or sport took place outside; there was no lingering in front of the television or computer screen in those days.
Sadly, we have to recognise that today’s young people are faced with a multitude of options, many of which are based around staying warm and dry indoors.
TV duo do so much for angling
Our sport is not alone in this dilemma. Our local cricket club struggles for junior members. It seems that activities that can take all day and lack instant gratification are losing popularity. Patience is rarely a trait of the young.
We older folk have learnt to take solace in enjoying mother nature’s charms and the calming peace of quiet introspection. We have also learnt to understand that sometimes nothing happens.
Without junior or young adult members all clubs will suffer in the long term. Fishing is a cheap sport for juniors, and most older anglers will always help out, especially with tackle and advice.
There are now plenty of day-ticket fisheries in the area and under-12s usually go free when with an adult. So, go on have some fun.
The kids can watch fishing videos on their phones and tablets and then put the whole thing into practice. Once they catch their first fish, they will be eager for more – one could say they will be hooked.
What’s more, fishing is one of those rare activities or sports that has no age limit. For anyone from eight to 80 and beyond, fishing is a lifetime pleasure.
Just ask Roger.
Petworth & Bognor Angling Club