The relaxing sport of fishing has been cresting a wave of interest post lockdown.
Anglers have been clambering to get back on the riverbank since May 13 when fishing was one of the first pastimes to be allowed back after restrictions were eased.
And a joint initiative called Take a Friend Fishing (TAFF), where licensed anglers take a mate fishing for free for a day, is hoping to reel in even more people.
The fishing introduction scheme run by the Angling Trust, the Environment Agency and Angling Trades Association is in its second phase this year. The first instalment, over two-weeks in July, was very successful with hundreds of applications for complimentary day licences being received.
This has led to the scheme being extended until October 4, which is a good time for coarse and fly fishing.
Clive Copeland, head of participation at the Angling Trust, said his organisation was working hard to dispel some preconceptions about the sport.
He added: “We have taken some real effort to try and break down some of those stereotypical barriers of fishing being boring and people dressing in green, tweed or camouflage. When a family group go fishing they can have a day’s fun in the sun.”
He added: “We know from insight that a lot of people get into our sport through a family member or a friend. Take a Friend Fishing is an ideal opportunity, particularly for lapsed adult anglers or adults new to fishing to get back or into the sport just by going with a mate.”
The Angling Trust is also trying to build participation through its own annual ‘Get Fishing campaign’. For the last two years it has successfully engaged over 30,000 people per year. And around 62 per cent of those were young anglers, which bodes well for the future of the sport.
Clive also said the fishing was trying to make itself more diverse. He added: “We know our sport is currently 80 per cent white, British male. We are making real steps and efforts to encourage more females, more women, more Black and ethnic minorities to take up the sport because it doesn’t discriminate. Anyone can do it. Any age, ability. Lots of disabled people can do it.”
Another attraction of fishing is the solitude it offers in these socially-distanced and stressing times. There is plenty of space on the river bank, which also helps people connect with nature.
Clive said a body of evidence about the mental health and well being benefits of fishing had been built up over the last decade. He cited the iCarp programme in Essex which helps ex servicemen suffering from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) improve their wellbeing by fishing for carp.
The angling official added: “Fishing gives you the opportunity to take time out, generally speaking, in beautiful places, outdoors. And the opportunity to focus your mind if you want relaxation from work or the strains and challenges of life. It gives you the peace and quiet and environment to do that.
“You can collect your thoughts. It’s incredibly therapeutic. It teaches you to prepare, to plan, to focus and concentrate.”
“I can sit and concentrate on various techniques to try and catch a fish and lose all the peripheral worries or concerns I have from everyday life. My whole focus is on how I can outwit a fish.”
That prompts the question, ‘What can you expect to catch at this time of year?’. Clive answered: “The world is your oyster in freshwater at the moment. Particularly September and October are often acknowledged as very successful periods for fishing.
“Take A Friend Fishing covers all fresh water, so it does cover non migratory trout, course fish and salmon for this year. They are also great months for fly fishing.”
In terms of coarse fishing people can expect to land species like chub, barbel and carp. Clive said he was thrilled TAFF had been extended through to October as “nearly every freshwater fish responds well in these months.”
He urged people to seize the opportunity to claim a free day pass, worth £6.
Clive stressed that fishing was an inclusive and inexpensive sport. He added: “Anyone can do it and it’s very easy to do.”
To take part in TAFF, existing fishing licence holders need to register on the TAFF website.
They will be asked for contact details, their fishing licence number and the date of the proposed angling trip.
This will then notify their friend who, after checking their details are correct, will be able to use their free day licence to go fishing with their more experienced pal.
For more details of how to take part go to www.takeafriendfishing.co.uk.
MAIN IMAGE CREDIT: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images