Regular readers will already know our blogger Dom Garnett is as passionate about conservation and inspiring the next generation as he is about his own fishing. In his new role at the Angling Trust, he’ll be travelling the country to cover the stories and issues that matter. Here’s a flavour of what to expect, in his own words…
Are we living in the best or worst of times for fishing? I guess you could say it’s a bit of both at the moment. We’ve never had better value tackle or more choice of places to fish. Then again, the sport is faced with more hurdles than ever, from environmental threats to a lack of young recruits.
Fishing is so much more than just a hobby for me. When a new role in blogging and digital media came up with the Angling Trust, I had to go for it. Little did I know the huge amount of stories to cover and good work going on behind the scenes – and that’s just after the first couple of months!
Is angling in a good place in 2018?
Catch a typical pub or Facebook conversation and you might think fishing is going to hell in an illegal keepnet. All the big fish have been eaten. The rivers and canals are empty. By 2050, there will only be crayfish and cormorants left. I could go on, but you’ve probably heard it before and, I hope, realised that much of it is way over the top or pure nonsense.
Of course, there are still serious challenges, but these won’t be solved by keyboard warfare. In fact, the biggest problem angling faces is not otters or immigrants but good old-fashioned apathy. That’s why it can feel that, in spite of being a sport with a giant following, we punch like a toddler. So, if I can highlight some of the positive things going on and rally more anglers to do their bit, that in itself would be a result. So where do we start?
Rewriting the story of fishing
A lot of the good work in fishing is not very visible. In spite of claims to the contrary, there are more volunteers, projects and campaigns than most of us are aware of. Sadly, the real heroes of fishing tend to get on quietly and determinedly, while those who contribute little more than spleen feel the need to make an awful lot of noise.
My first aim is to show anglers what really goes on behind the scenes – whether it’s the many ways their EA fishing licence money is spent, or the great projects and people out there making a difference.
Sometimes this needs a fresh angle, and so I’ve aimed to make my blog posts for the Angling Trust’s “Lines on the Water” unashamedly entertaining. It can be hard to catch readers in this digital age, so I’m keen to uncover the eye-opening truths and human interest stories behind the serious stuff. Here are just a few recent examples:
Police, thieves and fishy goings on…
One of the greatest positive changes in fishing for decades has been the vast improvement in the way fisheries crime is tackled. The Angling Trust’s enforcement team has been instrumental in making this happen – from closer working with police and the EA, to creating a nationwide army of 500 Voluntary Bailiffs. This is a massive step in the right direction!
Of course, we can all help by reporting crimes and incidents. You never know what you might uncover and would not believe some of the cases that have come up in recent years! Actually, take a look for yourself in my recent post about Amazing Fisheries Enforcement Wins. Did you hear the one about the wanted murderer, or the bathtub of stolen barbel? I kid you not!
Random rubbish and bizarre finds
The media have been going nuts about litter and plastic pollution lately. About blinking time, too, because it is atrocious and so unnecessary! The moment you start to lecture people about tidying up, they tend to switch off.
So, instead of dishing out a sermon, I decided to do some homework and ask all my angling pals about their most bizarre catches. The results were strange to say the least, from body parts to erotic toys! You can see the worst and weirdest of them here. Better still – do your bit and join our “Take 5” campaign.
Turning the “problem” of immigration into a positive
You only need to mention the word Brexit these days to conjure up fierce debate on immigration. But could our neighbours from the continent be a positive for fishing in the longer term? Granted, there are still a few bad apples; but thanks to efforts from the Angling Trust and others, the tide is now turning.
Not only is the Daily Mail style “immigrants have nicked all the fish” line getting pretty tired, the statistics no longer back it up. Non-British anglers carry out only a small proportion of fisheries crimes; and I don’t hear many calls to have middle aged Englishmen hung, drawn and quartered.
Part of this is down to much better education, from multi-lingual signs to special events and wider enforcement. The Angling Trust’s Building Bridges project has been crucial here, too. In fact, there’s growing evidence that immigration can be hugely positive.
I recently attended a fantastic event with Wellingborough Nene and District Angling Club where dozens of Polish kids and their families came together with local coaches to learn fishing skills and laws. It was one of the most uplifting experiences of my fishing year. The result of more events like this could be huge. Migrant anglers now provide a substantial boost to the tackle trade, while the fishing clubs get much needed junior members. Make no mistake; if we can work together, we can create long term, positive change here.
How you can help
In a sport that has a huge number of participants, it’s a crying shame that such a small percentage play their part and join the Angling Trust. As you might have seen from my previous Fishtec blog post on why it’s so important to get involved, there are simply too many positive reasons not to do just that!
There are far too many great things going on for one blog post, it’s fair to say. We haven’t even touched on Fish Legal, and its huge wins against polluters. Not to mention the Angling Improvement Fund, injecting many thousands of pounds of rod licence money into helping angling clubs and freshwater fisheries. Nor have we mentioned the huge number of coaches and free fishing events every summer with the “Get Fishing” organisation.
I’m well aware that doing your bit is not as sexy as talking about huge fish or the latest tackle; but the future of angling depends on all of us to show that we care. I’ll say it again: apathy is by far the biggest threat to angling. We won’t win the longer battle overnight, but joining the Angling Trust is a bloody good start! Signing up today costs less than £30 and brings a whole host of discounts and other benefits too.
In the meantime, do follow your regional Angling Trust Facebook page and keep an eye on the “Lines on the Water” blog for current goings on and inspirational stories. It’s only together that we can beat apathy and build a better future for fishing. What do you say?
For more of our blogger Dominic Garnett’s stories and articles, his website has books, blog posts and more to enjoy. Crooked Lines (£9.99), his collection of fishing tales, makes especially enjoyable summer reading. Or, discover the flies and innovative tactics used to catch a wide range of freshwater fish in his highly acclaimed Amazon Bestseller Flyfishing for Coarse Fish.