“Inspiring others is the best thing you’ll ever do”

As passionate as ever about angling, ‘coach of coaches’ Sally Pizii has encouraged countless others to share their love of fishing. Former student Dom Garnett caught up with her...


by Angling Times |

In angling’s digital age, the term ‘influencer’ is bandied about a lot, but I can’t think of many better examples than Sally Pizii. Creating hundreds of coaches, and indeed formulating the very pathway for so many, she’s transformed the way angling is taught.

It’s a feat that can’t have been easy in the male-dominated world of angling, but then, Sally has always been a big character. Despite battling cancer for the third time, she retains angling’s most infectious laugh.

“I was told that on average, someone in my condition has three years. But who wants average? I’ve got so much life still to live!” she says.

More than ever, angling is a vital source of wellbeing. Born just yards from Wroxham Broad in Norfolk, her childhood was spent chasing newts, butterflies and perch, and she’s always felt a deep affinity with water. With three-week current cycles of treatment and recovery, she says: “You crave normality and simple pleasures. Fishing gives me that.”

A fresh perspective

Talking to Sally about her journey in angling and coaching, it’s clear both how far the sport has come and how far it still needs to go. With a background in teaching and training, she was the perfect person to create the Angling Trust’s current coaching pathways. Key to this success, however, was being well outside fishing’s usual dogma, and defeating attitudes that ranged from patronising to outright intimidation.

“On my first casting tuition day, I was made to feel like a worm!” she admits. “As a woman, it was interesting to see how men would spread out to avoid you at fisheries!”

Undeterred, Sally became a fully qualified Salmon and Trout Association coach, a demanding award that only three women had ever attained. From there, she shared her love of fishing far and wide, including to those traditionally excluded. Sometimes all too literally, in the case of young offenders!

“We were teaching fly tying one day, when this lad turned to me and said: ‘If you think I’m going to tie a b***** fly with those f****** pubes, you’ve got another think coming!’” she laughs. “I just carried on demonstrating and once the lad settled, he had a great day.”

In other settings she was the Heineken of angling educators, getting to those who others couldn’t reach. This included using sign language for the deaf, writing children’s book The Brown Trout, and being an integral part of South West Fishing For Life, a group that continues to use angling to help those recovering from cancer.

The coaching road ahead

I’m curious, though, to see what she makes of today’s angling world and another big summer of coaching ahead. “A long way but not far enough,” probably sums it up. Even with over 1,300 coaches having taken Angling Trust pathways, she admits, “there’s still a shortage of coaches.”

Her key message to any would-be coach or volunteer is not to be put off – and of course, that anyone can take family or friends fishing! “Inspiring others is the best thing you can do as an angler and I’ve loved every minute of it,” she says. This can, however, involve breaking preconceptions. “There are many great anglers out there,” she says, “but it’s about getting what’s in your head and making it accessible to others.

“Some coaches want to show off, which is off-putting. Others are intimidated by the paperwork or get aggressive when they have to accept that coaching isn’t just telling someone what to do!”

The next adventure

On a sunny day in Somerset, it’s great to be back on the bank with the coach who once put me through my paces. Since then, guiding and volunteering are among the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.

Today’s private fishery is a little slice of heaven, and you can see how much Sally still relishes her sport. She casts as elegantly as ever, and is into a feisty trout before I’ve had my first pluck! Rather like her, these spirited characters simply don’t give up. She’s had a varied angling life to say the least, from taming salmon to catching coarse fish and trout with her kids and grandkids. Not done yet, she’s planning an epic trip to
New Zealand.

“I’m apprehensive, but excited!” she says. “It could be testing, but I’m going in the best of company.” This includes her son, Ben, her neighbour, Lou, and Frome river keeper Peter, who’s a regular angling companion.

“Everyone in the party will have their own dreams,” she says.

“Peter will want a big wild fish. Lou just wants an adventure, while Ben loves sussing out any river. As for me, I’ll be more than happy with just a fish… as long as it’s bigger than Peter’s!”

The ‘Get Involved’ section at anglingtrust.net has more info on becoming a coach, while you can find out more about the life-changing work of South West Fishing for Life at www.southwestfishingforlife.org.uk

SALLY’S WISDOM ON SHARING YOUR LOVE OF FISHING

Make it fun!

“If you can make fishing fun, that’s a great start. If people enjoy themselves, they’ll learn.”

On mistakes

“You mustn’t do everything for a beginner! Mistakes are all part of learning – and you should never grab the rod off someone.”

Teaching and learning

“Becoming a coach gives you a better all-round understanding of angling and yourself. “

Find out what makes them tick

“For some, it’s competitiveness. For others, the sociable aspect. Good teaching starts not with the coach, but the learner.”

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