“Nobody should have to sell a kidney just to join a fishing club” – Dom Garnett

Is angling as welcoming as it could be?

“Nobody should have to sell a kidney just to join a fishing club” - Dom Garnett

by Angling Times |

Ever get the feeling that much of the best fishing was off limits to the likes of you and me? It’s a strange world we live in, where you might need to know the chairman personally or part with a silly sum of money to access the best bits.

This month I’ve had what might be described as a “frank exchange of views” with an angling organisation which suggested I might like to give them some free photography.

An improvement on last time, at least, when it simply nicked my work! All the same, why should I be charitable, when I can barely access any fishing in return?

I was tempted to donate a single picture with a “PRIVATE MEMBERS ONLY: KEEP OUT!” notice on a barbed wire fence.

A neat way to sum up why, even as a professional guide and angling writer, I can’t access the best river fishing just a short cast from where I live.

Game fishing is especially bad in this respect, of course, with syndicates that can demand four figures and a dead man’s shoes arrangement. You and I would have more luck getting into Hogwarts.

Coarse and carp fishing can’t plead complete innocence, however, as more waters become a luxury for a minority, as opposed to a shared resource. All of which begs a simple question – do we actually want other people to go fishing? Do we want the sport to flourish, or do we prefer to guard it like a bunch of spoiled kids who never share their toys?

When the old salmon anglers bemoan the fact that “young people just don’t want to go fishing” I don’t know whether to laugh or slap them in the face at this point. If you honestly wanted to make angling appealing to the new generation, why would you run it like the Freemasons?

Perhaps I should have rubbed up to a few more club chairmen and landed gentry in my time? Even when I get the odd ridiculously private invite, I feel disingenuous writing about it, to be quite honest. Having fished shared, accessible water for most of my angling life, I feel a loyalty to represent the sport 90 per cent of us can access. Nobody should have to sell a kidney or become a detective just to join a fishing club.

I don’t expect fishing to be free, either. Our sport has so many great clubs which are open to all, well organised and great value, not only allowing any responsible angler to join but doing so much for our rivers and lakes. I just wish some of the others would open up a little and stop trying to permanently fence off the best bits for a handful of exclusive members.

Because ultimately, it’s of benefit to us all if we make angling as welcoming and accessible as possible.

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