Our Partnership Development Manager James Roche has been working to support Sarah Thomson at Barford Lakes, a forward-thinking fishery which makes a significant contribution to our Get Fishing campaign to introduce more newcomers to fishing and help people get back into angling. Here’s Sarah’s latest news and views about the free fishing sessions she organises and how Environment Agency funding has helped…
“Over the last few years our group of volunteers have grown, initially with the help of the Angling Trust’s Volunteer Champions scheme. We now have a group of volunteers that have progressed, so we have 2 x Level 2 Coaches and 2 Level 1’s and other trusted helpers.
This year we’ve held over 20 free 3 hour coaching sessions and have seen over 280 people get a taste of angling.
The free family coaching sessions have been part funded by the Angling Trust‘s let’s Go Family Fishing scheme, and some have gone under the Angling Trades Association’s National Fishing Month banner. Both brilliant initiatives and a great entry point to gain interest into our sport.
Young people have so many distractions nowadays that we’re finding you have to get youngsters involved before they get a phone in their hand!
We’re teaching juniors who are younger and so have found that getting the families on board is necessary. The next step is converting these families into regular anglers. Spare cash is sparse with families nowadays so we’ve tried to remove the cost barriers by offering the coaching and equipment free.
We also hold the angling final to the Sainsbury’s Norfolk School Games. Over 18,000 young people compete in various sports and we hold qualifiers here for School Sports Partnerships and hold the final which sees 16 teams of 3 come from the 8 school partnerships round the county.
This event is run by Active Norfolk who’ve been brilliant with coaching bursary’s.
We’ve had very positive feedback from teachers who have found that angling attracts young people into competition that they don’t normally engage with in other mainstream sports. In some competitors it also encourages a new found focus and attention span they’d not seen, which in turn spills over into their academic studies and behaviour.
We successfully bid for funding via the Angling Trust’s Coaching Bursary initiative, part of the Angling Improvement Fund that uses Environment Agency fishing licence income. This funding enabled us to run a Facebook campaign, print posters, buy more equipment, get coaches qualified and get display boards for promoting angling at local shows.
We were also lucky to be funded for improvements to access and our starter lake which is in progress. Our dedicated Starter Lake is popular in the summer and we charge a nominal fee to fish and we also hire out whole kits for those starting out along with offering onsite coaching.
We’ve found that some of families who’ve been on the free coaching sessions this year have returned this summer and fished independently. Over the winter we’ll canvass all the attendees to see what they need us to do in order to convert them into fully fledged anglers.
Next year we’ll run an angling club every fortnight through the summer and an after schools club for those who want to progress their skills further.
Anglers are a hugely kind hearted bunch and many want to put something back into the sport. Some have donated old tackle that they’re not using in order for us to pass it on to new anglers as they know we’re actively helping families to get fishing.
We’re launching a ‘Tackle Bank’ scheme and will invite those who’ve attended the free sessions to return and learn more skills. At the end of a group of further sessions we’ll supply them with some donated second hand tackle.
Over the years we’ve seen that if you teach youngsters to fish some will continue fishing for their life and some just won’t because ‘life’ happens, but a lot of those that enjoyed fishing as a child will bring their children back to share that enjoyment.
Our sport has some technical and fish care elements that doesn’t make it the easiest entry level sport. But if we can make opportunities to learn easier and cost effective along with providing equipment and opportunities for support I think we will be getting somewhere on retaining.
There are many trade run campaigns, initiatives and charities (…such as Family Fishing, Get Fishing, National Fishing Month, Take a Friend Fishing, Get Hooked on Fishing, Fishing4Schools) and there are some small pots of funding available to help with getting coaches qualified and towards costs of running events.
Volunteers are key. As a sport we have recruitment covered with these initiatives and schemes but we definitely need more research on successfully retaining and making customers.
At Barford Lakes we feel we should progress to an Angling Club type structure as it’s a great way to encourage regular attendance and skills development. In short as a sport, angling needs to be more accessible by making it easier, more inclusive and remove cost barriers as much as possible.
Big thanks to our team of volunteers who without their help all this would not be possible (Kevin, Ken, Tim, Phil, Karl and Zak) and the tackle trade for their continued support with donations of tackle, bait and prizes for events especially Drennan, Preston Innovations, Korda and Guru and Sonubaits who have all been awesome.
If anyone has any spare tackle gathering cobwebs in the shed that they’d like to be put to good use and donate to the ‘Tackle Bank’ please get in contact – thanks!”
Barford Lakes, Barford, Norwich, Norfolk NR9 4BJ
Tel: 01603 759 624
The “Get Fishing” campaign and its Get Back Into Angling initiative is run by the Angling Trust to increase the number of people being introduced or returning to angling across the country. Anyone interested in going fishing can find angling events at ‘Get Fishing Near You‘. The events listed are for all participants regardless of gender, age, fitness or previous angling experience.
Since its launch in February 2015, the Angling Improvement Fund has distributed almost £1million of Environment Agency fishing licence income to 240 projects, supporting angling improvements estimated to be worth an incredible £2.4million. this is a great give-back to angling! The Fund ensures that money received from your Environment Agency fishing licence goes straight back into the sport you love.