"There's something about fishing that is very calming" - how coaches are getting Sheffield hooked on angling
Anglers have helped to teach Sheffield families how to learn to fish over the summer holidays in a series of free events, with all equipment provided, so what’s the catch?
Lots of fish, hopefully! The angling coaches at the latest Sheffield’s Let’s Fish event last week said that they don’t give up until every child has caught their first fish.
Roughly 300 free fishing events have been run across the country by the Canal and River Trust, and they have taken place in Sheffield every week of the summer holidays.
There, families who couldn’t be further from the coast in a landlocked urban city get to discover the joy of fishing as an outdoor pursuit.
Kevin Jessop lives near Derby, and has been coaching novice anglers for about six years.
He said: “I have been fishing all my life.
"I grew up in a deprived part of the country in Hartlepool and all the big lads used to go to the coast and fish on the pier to catch mackerel, and I fell in love with the idea.
"I used to take my son when he was very small and he caught his first fish under my supervision. He is an angling coach now.
"We are here coaching children and adults trying to get them involved in outdoor activities.
"We give each child fifty minutes to an hour of supervised fishing. We coach them to catch what in most cases is their first fish. It is a privilege.”
Sheffielder Joanne Chapman brought her son, Reuben, her niece Kitty, and nephews Elliott and Spencer to the event held at the Sheffield & Tinsley Canal at Attercliffe following a successful visit in 2020.
Although Spencer was too young to participate last year, this time he was able to grab a rod and get stuck in with the rest of his family.
After a long wait, watching fish bob close to the line without taking the bait, Spencer’s patience was finally rewarded and he caught his first ever fish.
Like buses, two more fish followed in quick succession and the coaches were rushed off their feet.
Spencer said: “I was really excited to catch my first fish. It was quite a big one.”
Watching all of the young fisher-boys and girls, and the more senior fisher-coaches, the appeal of the sport was easily seen.
"There is something about sitting by a stretch of water with nothing to focus on except the ripples in the water, that is very calming.
"Even when you are surrounded on all sides by tubs of wriggling maggots.”
The coaches, many of whom are retired, are all volunteers, and only their expenses are covered.
Kevin said that some days they are out for 12 hours.
On top of this, some of the coaches travelled more than 3,000 miles during August moving between cities to reach different groups of people.
Clearly, they do this for the love of fishing, and this comes across in their coaching style – Kevin was just as excited when Kitty or Spencer caught a fish as they were themselves.
When speaking to the Sheffield Telegraph, he would dart off mid conversation because he saw a nibble on one of the lines.
Whenever someone catches a fish, the coaches hold it for them to get a closer look and take photographs, before unhooking it and throwing it safely back into the water.
However, if a crayfish is caught it will be removed from the canal because they are considered a pest.
Joanne, from Grenoside, said: “It’s definitely important that it is a free event because a lot of families couldn’t afford it.
"It’s a nice thing for families to do outdoors. It also teaches young people about water safety, looking after the environment and keeping canals clean.
“Everyone always catches something – last year I took Reuben and his friends and they all caught a fish.
"It was good to have something to do with the kids last year, because most of the camps weren’t running.
"Reuben’s granddad used to go fishing and Reuben might start going with his dad who hasn’t fished in years. The coaches are really passionate too."
This was certainly true that the coaches were enjoying themselves, and it was heartening to see that they made it their duty to ensure no-one went home without first reeling in a fish.
It was important to them than nobody left feeling disappointed because they wanted these events to spark a love of fishing that they had enjoyed for decades.
Due to the success of the Let’s Fish events, there are plans for coaches to move into schools next year and reach more potential avid anglers that way.
In 2019, over 800 young people were introduced to the sport through these events, and it is hoped that this number will increase now that life is starting to return to normal.
The coaches plan to use events like these to grow interest in Sheffield so that in the future angling clubs may start to develop in the city.
Over the day, many lines were cast, a great variety of fish including roach and carp were caught and released, and every child who attended left happy and proud of their catches.
The smiles on their faces were matched only by those of their coaches who were glad to have shared their passion and helped to foster a new generation of anglers.
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