Angling Projects founder Les Webber, the man who has single-handedly introduced more kids to fishing than anyone else, has been awarded an MBE in this summer’s honours list.
Over the past 32 years 70-year-old Les has provided 41,000 places to help bring children into the sport of angling through his Angling Projects/Junior Coarse Angling UK organisation based in Wraysbury.
That truly stunning achievement, made through his own hard work supported by other volunteers and funded by himself and various generous benefactors, has led to Les being made a Member of the Order of the British Empire for his services to angling and young people.
He managed to set up, in 1970, Angling Projects and in 2000 the JCAUK with no help whatsoever from any of angling’s governing bodies.
“I’m delighted that all our hard work at Angling Projects has been recognised but I’m choked that one of most significant patrons, Fred J Taylor MBE is no longer around to see me receive this award,” Les told Angling Times.
“So many generous people have helped us over the years get where we are now and I’d particularly like to thank all those at RMC Aggregates, now called CEMEX, for their much needed support over the years,” he added.
Les, who as a keen angler has banked carp to 40lb, pike to 35lb and perch to 4lb 10oz in the past, helped set up Leisure Sport Angling’s Special Projects Group in the 1970s which carried out maintenance work on all Leisure Sport’s fisheries up and down the country.
It led to Les being offered a small lake on the Kingsmead site in Wraysbury by Terry Catliffe of Leisure Sports (which later became CEMEX) in the late ‘80s and Les decided to use it to run beginners courses for young anglers.
“When I was a kid I always used to pester grown up anglers for help and eventually I had children approaching me. Some of them didn’t have a clue and were fishing with totally inappropriate tackle but they were all really keen,” said Les.
“That is probably what set me on my course. Now we have children from all over the country regularly visiting us to learn about fishing and over the years they have helped develop the Wraysury site, doing things like landscaping and other maintenance.
“We use angling to encourage them to attend school, be respectful to their teachers and write letters, essays and reports. Basically, we help them learn by using fishing as something they can relate to positively,” explained Les.
In 2003 JCAUK started its fishing in schools programme and was approached by teacher Pat Mansfield from the Lord Williams School in Thame, Oxfordshire at Go Fishing 2002.
“I took eight ‘challenging’ pupils to Go Fishing and approached a lot of people and organisations seeking help in introducing them to fishing and Les was the only one who would help. And, furthermore, he was willing to do it for free,” explained Pat.
“Les is always great with the children and they responded brilliantly. He’s introduced thousands to fishing. He’s absolutely fantastic, what else can you say about someone who’s so generous? Les has put the rest of the angling community to shame,” she added.
This year two of Pat’s pupils have applied to study fisheries management at Sparsholt College in Hampshire. There can be no greater tribute to Les’ success than the possibility that his efforts might have helped to create the next generation of fisheries scientists.
“It has been a long road, and at times it has been hard, but it is definitely worth it when I see all these kids developing a lasting love and enthusiasm for the sport. I’d like to thank all those, including the staff of Angling Times, for their continued support that has made it all possible,” said Les.
Les Webber’s Achievements
1970s – Founded Angling Projects to help introduce children to fishing; Helped create Leisure Sport Angling’s Special Projects Group
1980s – Banked a 4lb 10oz perch; secured Kingsmead site
1990s – After a fire he re-built the AP building with only £240 in the bank; started introducing youngsters to fishing; began securing sponsorship from generous patrons like Fred J Taylor and Chris Tarrant; ran Metropolitan Police final for young anglers from all London boroughs
2000s – Set up Junior Coarse Angling UK; became instrumental to getting angling on schools’ curriculums; fits numerous schools out with full fishing tackle set-ups; wins another Investor In Education award and an MBE