Ever considered turning your favourite pastime into a job? Fishing author and guide Dom Garnett presents a realistic rough guide to making your living from angling.
The good news is, there have never been more opportunities to make money from fishing, just don’t expect it to be easy because the sector has never been more competitive.
Here’s some advice to get you started.
What can you offer?
Forget the myth of the “sponsored angler”, the guy who gets paid just to go fishing. If only it was that simple. You’re only going to make money from fishing by providing something that others want.
Professional angling isn’t just about catching big fish. A much better starting point is to ask: “What can I give to angling as a sport?”
Perhaps you take a great picture or can tell a great story. Do you have design or creative skills? Are you a dab hand with social media or digital marketing? Or maybe you have a deep understanding of the environment.
Guiding & Coaching
The most realistic and achievable way of making an income from angling is to take others fishing, by which I mean becoming a guide, gillie, skipper or coach.
Folks who teach others to cast a fly, who can charter a boat or who can provide some other direct service can all generate an income of some kind. But remember, guiding is not about going fishing yourself, but putting others first.
Get qualified. Schemes run by bodies like the Angling Trust are excellent, and fishing clubs also offer events and pathways to training. Gaining a recognised qualification puts you above board with first aid and insurance, and learning to be a better teacher means you’ll be able to give your guests a great experience.
Most guides specialise. Perhaps you live near some top class barbel fishing, or live in an area with lots of fly fishing. Or maybe you have a specialist skill and can share it with others. Many professionals attach themselves to a venue like a fishery or hotel, while others, from pike specialists to sea fishing experts, are more mobile. Work out what your strengths are and play to them.
I also know a few angling pros who make their living from coaching kids, a task that takes patience and paperwork, but what a wonderful calling.
Articles and books have been my mainstay for ten years. Writing about fishing is not brilliantly paid, but there remains a decent market for it. The magazines and weeklies thrive on content provided by anglers like you.
The key to success as a writer is to compose good quality articles and get them to the right people. Print titles tend to be the way to go to get paid. Many websites don’t pay at all or offer a pittance, although they can still be very useful for getting your work out there.
You must always think of your target audience, remembering to adapt and tailor your work to different styles and formats. Editors want to hear from you, but they’ll be off-put by dodgy English or material that’s a headache to work with.
If you’re new to the game, be prepared to be rejected. The vast majority of us have the ability to write, but it’s a craft that must be honed. Organise your articles so that each is clear, logical and free of glaring errors. Come up with a strong title and a punchy opening sentence, pay attention to word count and always check your work.
Getting friends to read and critique your output is always helpful. Choose those who’ll highlight your mistakes and provide honest feedback. Give your work a fair chance by taking pride in it, or an editor might simply reject it without saying why.
Finally, do also pay close attention to your photography. Even the best-written piece won’t be accepted if it doesn’t have decent pictures. A really arresting main image can sell your work every bit as well as a great headline.
Blogging is huge and though it’s difficult to make money directly from blog posts, I can’t stress how important this skill is. Tweets and Facebook posts become ancient history incredibly quickly, whereas popular blog posts can remain popular for years and show up on search results far better than do social media pages.
In today’s digital world, we’re invisible without an online presence. A blog puts you out there and gives you the freedom to talk about whatever you like, enabling you to build a relationship with readers and customers. Whether you’re a guide, a writer, a bait company or a photographer, your blog tells your story and engages with the people who use your services.
And don’t forget professional blogging. There are a huge number of companies and organisations now hiring bloggers, and the fishing world is quickly following suit. Well, you’re reading this aren’t you?
Fishing Books & E-Books
If words are truly your thing, the biggest single chunk of income you can make from writing about fishing is to produce a book; a daunting task and a subject in its own right. Suffice to say, you need a strong idea and a lot of willpower to make this happen.
I strongly believe the old saying that we all have a book in us. But the key to the success of any fishing book is how many readers it will appeal to. Whether it’s a great page-turning read or an insight into a special area of expertise, you need a solid theme and something compelling to capture the reader’s attention.
The most obvious route for the would-be-author is to try and get a publisher interested. Afterall, writing the text is only half the battle with any book. Design, layout, proofreading and marketing are just some of the other tasks you would otherwise have to take care of yourself.
Self-publishing is another option, but a major book project can be a nightmare without specialist knowledge and support. That said, if you do have an audience, along with the right skills and connections, you then have the advantage that you retain editorial control and keep more of the profits.
Last but by no means least, I should also mention ebooks. Kindle edition fishing books are still not vast in range, but times are changing and they do sell. You won’t get as many illustrations in a download and the writing has to really stand up to scrutiny, but ebooks can be great little earners. Once you’ve uploaded your book there are no printing costs, storage or overheads to consider either.
Both of my own ebooks, Crooked Lines and Tangles with Pike sell at a nice steady trickle all year round and interestingly, those who enjoy the Kindle edition quite often buy the “real” hard copy after reading the digital version. Above all though, ebooks are an exciting and underexploited area. Why not be one of the pioneers and give it a try?
Sponsorships and Angling Companies
Many anglers seem to believe that being sponsored is the easiest route to a career in fishing. Sadly, this is seldom true. There are, admittedly, a heck of a lot of sponsored anglers out there, but most get free kit and bait rather than a salary. But seeing as most landlords don’t accept boilies or lures in lieu of rent, how might you go about getting a proper paid role?
If you have specialist knowledge or business skills, a job with a tackle company is the obvious route to take. Do bear in mind though that these days, companies are looking for all-rounders and not just those who can catch big fish or make a sale.
There is also the possibility to endorse or design products for a commission. Again, not easy but possible if you have an idea with sales potential and a company willing to listen.
Digital marketing is hugely important now, and lots of companies are looking for people who can provide films, blogs and other digital media. The trick, as always, is to identify a need, then tailor your products and services to meet it. Be warned though, the tackle world can bite, so be careful, pick wisely, and if you have useful skills don’t give them away for nothing.
Film, TV Work & Talks
Television is a very tough world to break into, but it never hurts to make contacts and ask questions. From the outside looking in, professional TV anglers appear lucky but most faced years of trial, error and rejection before getting any kind of break.
I shudder to think how many of my ideas and emails were ignored or rejected, but eventually I made progress. Not to stardom, but to appearances on Sky Sports and National Geographic, experiences that were lots of fun, paid money and helped my career.
Just like selling features and articles, you need something fresh to offer film and TV people. You also need to be able to handle rejection and keep going. Any practise you can get will serve you well, like making your own videos or giving talks and presentations. And if your videos get stacks of views on YouTube you might even make a small amount of advertising revenue.
Fisheries, Fishing Shops and the “Front Line”
There are a heck of a lot of jobs in the wider world that might not be “living the dream” but do mean getting closer to it! Those who run fisheries and tackle shops or who work in conservation or protecting the environment are all linked to the angling sector.
Realistically, the “superstar” angling celebrity is one in a hundred thousand, and the guy simply paid to go fishing is a myth. However, if you have passion and are prepared to work hard and give something to the sport there are many roles that might work out. I wish you the very best of luck.
Some Further Tips:
- Identify your strengths. Ask yourself what you can contribute into the sport.
- Get qualified.
- Get insured.
- Be licensed and above board at all times.
- Never work for nothing. If you have a skill, don’t give it away for free.
- Specialise. If you go down the big fish and PB route, you’ll be one of many. Do something original.
- Be versatile. For most of us, the only way to make a reliable income is to juggle different roles and jobs.
- Stay positive. Help others, serve the sport well and you will be helped in return.
You can read more on the highs and lows of a professional angler in Dom Garnett’s books and regular blog at www.dgfishing.co.uk
All images © Dominic Garnett.