Why we must keep trying to get youngsters into angling

Getting young people interested in angling is vital for the future of the sport
Getting young people interested in angling is vital for the future of the sport

If you stuck a mobile phone or computer screen at the end of a fishing rod, would it encourage youngsters to go fishing? (writes Roger Poole)

A mad idea, I know, but in today’s world, angling is one of many pastimes that struggle to get young people to engage in something active and realistic rather than rely on the digital and virtual world.

The children loved it, wanted to come back, wanted to go fishing, wanted to join our club, took away photos, got dirty hands and muddy boots – but most of all took away a fun day and fond memories.

Roger Poole

I’m not against progress and like everyone else I rely on computers, and the very thought of being unable to phone or text is unthinkable.

Technology means so much and we very often forget the world around us. That’s a shame, especially for young people and children, and it means we anglers are really up against it in trying to get young people into the sport.

TV programmes on the countryside, our love of animals, our wonderful South Downs and cyclists on the roads would suggest we love the countryside and country sports – certainly the South of England Show and numerous horse shows and gymkhanas are well attended.

Nearly all these events are family days out and I would certainly class angling as a family pastime – any dad, mum or grandparent who went fishing as a child is the ideal person to get things started.

To see a child catch a fish, or just the pleasure they get from trying, is priceless and you don’t have to take them every time. You will never be forgotten if you introduce them to a pastime that stays with them forever. Like cycling, once you learn you never forget.

A couple of years ago my club, Petworth & Bognor Angling Club, held a Saturday-morning teach-in for children. We had a dozen or so boys and girls aged from six to 12 turn up with mum and dad at one of our ponds that holds lots of small roach, dace and as well as much larger fish.

It was a great success. Rods, reels and bait were provided and everyone caught some fish. The children loved it, wanted to come back, wanted to go fishing, wanted to join our club, took away photos, got dirty hands and muddy boots – but most of all took away a fun day and fond memories.

Some of the parents asked if we held these fishing days every Saturday. It turned out we were to be childminders while mum and dad did their shopping.

What a missed opportunity – they could have taken out a family membership for what they spent in the supermarket that day. By doing so the whole family could have enjoyed the fun of fishing. Equipment these days is not expensive and how sad to think those happy kids missed out.

In fact they don’t have to – children under the age of 13 go free and all clubs have very reasonable membership levels so joining a fishing club must represent one of the best value-for-money pastimes in a crowded market.

The Angling Trust, Rivers Trust, South Downs National Park and angling clubs encourage people of all ages – but youngsters in particular – to take up fishing.

We have two fantastic rivers on our doorstep and there are ponds and lakes all waiting to be fished so as December 25 is not that far away, if you want to give a present that’s very different why not indulge in a family membership of a fishing club?

I’ve said this before and make no apologies for repeating it, for my club it did attract some very welcome new members – and from what I hear, they all now love to go fishing.

Find out more at www.sussexangling.co.uk

by Roger Poole

Chairman, Petworth & Bognor Angling Club

Read Roger’s What’s the Catch column every month in the Observer and on this website