Hooked on fishing… in just a week!

To celebrate National Fishing Month, four former footballers were set a challenge to become top anglers in seven days. Could they do it?

Hooked on fishing… in just a week!

by Angling Times |

We often hear that angling’s too complicated to get into, but is that really true?

In an exciting new six-part TV series which has just completed filming, four angling novices will pick up a rod for the first time and then face a week-long series of challenges ending in a big match finale.

Billed as ‘Angling Outlaws’ the series is due to air on BT Sport early next year and takes the quartet through learning the basics of angling, including how to cast, feeding techniques, and handle fish safely with the goal to be able to compete in a match.

The programmes also aim to showcase the health benefits of fishing, and highlight just how easy it is to pick up the sport from scratch. But the stars of the show are no strangers to competitive sport, each having won titles with some of the nation’s biggest football clubs, boasting over 50 international caps between them.

But for Celtic and Scotland legend Frank McAvennie, Man United’s Paul Parker, Liverpool’s Paul Walsh, and West Ham stalwart Tony Gale, fishing took them well out of their comfort zones, as the show’s co-creator and presenter Rob Hughes told Angling Times.

“These guys have been professional sportsmen at the highest level for club and country, so it was interesting to see how they adapted to a new, different sport,” he said.

“What became clear is that they haven’t lost their competitive streak!”

The famous footballing four soon got the hang of it
The famous footballing four soon got the hang of it

Supporting new anglers

Before the series, none of the former players had experienced the thrills of angling, despite some of them being urged to try it by former clubmates.

It’s a story familiar to many, where prospective anglers are unable to take the next step without coaching from another angler who knows the ropes. This is something that the famous National Fishing Month and Take a Friend Fishing schemes aim to put right each summer.

The concept of the series was the brainchild of BT Sport’s Rob Hughes and Stewart Lawson, of tackle company Outlaw Pro. Both are supporters of NFM and TAFF.

To help the lads along the way, Rob and Stewart called in the services of some of the UK’s top anglers to act as coaches. Fish O’ Mania champ Kayleigh Smith, commercial expert Nick Speed, England carp fishing ace Mark Bartlett, and specimen angler Julian Chidgey were there to teach the foursome the skills they’d need to be anglers.

Co-presenter Hassan Khan added:

“Unlike many other sports, angling does require a bit of tuition. However, this series will show just how easy it is to get into fishing and enjoy its benefits.”

Ex England footballer Paul Walsh getting some wise words of advice from Drennan Cup winner Julian Chidgey
Ex England footballer Paul Walsh getting some wise words of advice from Drennan Cup winner Julian Chidgey

Tough challenges

The four rookies started with one of the simplest forms of fishing you can try – the whip – and added to their skills with different elements and styles of fishing over the week.

Rob Hughes explained:

“The first fish they all caught was priceless to witness, and they then moved through the disciplines of floatfishing, feeder and bomb fishing, eventually spending a night under canvas in a bivvy while carp fishing.

“In addition to the fishing element the four were set some fun challenges and tests. These included target casting and the use of a catapult… and the consequences were hilarious.”

Mark Bartlett and Paul Parker hit it off straight away
Mark Bartlett and Paul Parker hit it off straight away

How did they get on?

The overall winner remains a secret until the show hits the screens in 2022, but there’s no doubt all four became decent anglers.

“Having gone through their training they competed in a match at Colemans Cottage, catching more than 600lb between them,” added Rob.

“The standard of angling was impressive. Bearing in mind none of the guys had touched a fishing rod in their lives, they picked it up quickly. They all loved it too. In fact, two of them are already arranging trips to go again and the other two will definitely pick up a rod in the future.”

Nick Speed showing Tony Gale the importance of fish care
Nick Speed showing Tony Gale the importance of fish care

What the footballers thought about fishing…

Paul Walsh – Liverpool, Spurs & England

“I didn’t realise how much thought went into fishing, and the skill and experience that the pro anglers had was impressive. I’m already lining up a trip.”

Tony Gale – Fulham & West Ham United

“I didn’t stop laughing from start to finish. What a brilliant social sport, and all the fishing guys were fantastic with us. I think a holiday mixing fishing with a bit of a social would be great.”

Paul Parker – Fulham, QPR, Manchester United & England

“Fishing isn’t something I ever thought I’d do but I really enjoyed it. There’s a lot to it and it’s great fun. I’ll go again if I get the chance.”

Former England International Paul Parker is a picture of concentration
Former England International Paul Parker is a picture of concentration

Frank McAvennie – Celtic & Scotland

“Ali McCoist is always going on about how brilliant fishing is, but I’ve never seen the attraction. I get it now and will be going with him in the future. I’ve already been on the phone to him.”

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