New plans to get more women on the bank

Initiative launched to increase angling’s diversity, spearheaded by a focus on boosting female participation

New plans to get more women on the bank

by Angling Times |

A CAMPAIGN to increase diversity in fishing has been launched this week after research revealed that women find angling more appealing since the pandemic.

We Fish as One is an Angling Trust initiative aimed at opening the arms of fishing to a wider audience. For years, our sport has been male-dominated, but following the pandemic, where word of angling’s mental health and environmental benefits spread, a wider demographic is now keen to give it a go.

The Trust has had ideas of such a campaign for a while, but it wasn’t until Warrington-based match angler Emma Harrison got in touch and shared her experiences that the drive was launched.

After deciding to give fishing a go, Emma was met with grief on the bank and decided something had to be done.

“I’d go fishing and receive misogynistic comments, such as being told to go home and do the ironing,” she told us.

“Some would say sexual stuff, even touch me, while others would totally ignore me and act like I didn’t exist. Don’t get me wrong, lots of anglers are lovely and totally supportive, but something had to be done about the problem-causing individuals.”

Emma spoke to other female anglers who said they just got on with it, but for her, that wasn’t good enough.

“I’m incredibly passionate about increasing the diversity in fishing,” she revealed.

“Anyone can fish, and I want to promote how beneficial it can be for your mental health, so I wrote to Sport England and told them of my experiences.”

They put Emma in touch with the Angling Trust, and from there, We Fish as One was born. It corresponds with a newfound interest in the outdoors among the public, after research revealed that 51 per cent of people are spending more time trying outdoor activities than before the pandemic in a desire to reconnect with nature.

Although it’s early days, the team behind the initiative are already making steps to broaden fishing’s horizon by doing extensive research, as Will Smith, Angling Participation Manager for the Trust, told us.

“We knew that this was going to be an uphill struggle,” he said.

“Even getting people to recognise that fishing can do a bit more to broaden its appeal would be tricky without having some hard facts about why people do or don’t want to try fishing. When you’re up against the challenge of women and girls being told they are “imagining” bias and negativity it’s important to approach the problem with some evidence.”

Helen Coyle gets to grips with a barbel. It’s hoped that events aimed specifically at women will draw more anglers like Helen into our sport
Helen Coyle gets to grips with a barbel. It’s hoped that events aimed specifically at women will draw more anglers like Helen into our sport

The Trust commissioned a survey to find out why people do, or don’t, want to fish. In just 24-hours, 4,000 people responded, revealing some interesting results.

“After an early look, we can already see that 40 per cent of women questioned believe that fishing gives them the opportunity to reconnect with nature, 31 per cent want to learn how to catch a fish as a new skill, whilst 38 per cent said they’d go fishing for relaxation, meditation, or mindfulness,” he added.

The results paint a positive picture for fishing and it’s clear that the wider benefits of angling are attracting people to our sport. The Trust’s first step of the campaign has been embarking on a media push with the Environment Agency to promote the best things about fishing, with the aim of attracting people of all backgrounds.

“Our message about angling’s benefits has had some great publicity and we’ve hired an ace PR team to get the message out,” Will told us.

“We’ve had appearances on numerous radio stations, with Heidi Stone, Fisheries Partnerships Manager at the Environment Agency, singing fishing’s praises on BBC stations.”

Heidi told us:

“We want people to see a fishing licence as more than just your right to fish – it’s a licence to have fun, de-stress and spend time with family and friends. With every licence sold, we can reinvest in protecting our fisheries and environment.”

But the media coverage is just the start of things. The successful Take a Friend Fishing scheme and National Fishing Month are set to return this summer, with the support of the Trust, EA, and Angling Trades Association. Here, there will be a continued focus on raising awareness of fishing’s positivity, as well as events aimed at women.

Knowing that work is being done to make fishing more inclusive is of great value to Emma Harrison. She says:

“I love fishing and I now know that a change is developing in the background to make the sport more inclusive. It means a lot to me, and I’m sure many others.”

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