TOP CLUB PROVIDES BLUEPRINT TO KEEP NEWCOMERS HOOKED

Hull and District AA has been a real success story in terms of bringing youngsters into the sport

by Angling Times |

THERE has been a huge influx of newcomers to angling since lockdown restrictions were lifted back in mid-May.

Rod licence sales surged as a mix of youngsters, first-timers and people coming back to the sport chose angling as the perfect way to engage with nature and enjoy being outdoors. The question now on the lips of many within the industry is, how can we continue to attract new faces, and then keep them interested for life?

One club to the forefront of fostering this new generation of anglers is Yorkshire’s Hull and District AA, which has gone from strength to strength in recent years.

Back in 2011 the club was in decline, with fewer than 1,000 members. Fast-forward nine years and memberships have doubled and are continuing on an upward curve, with many joining in the past few months.

Hull DAA’s fishery officer Derek Pye revealed how, first and foremost, the remarkable turnaround has come from putting fishing at the very heart of the local community, which has arguably never been so important as it is in these troubled times.

“It all started 10 years ago when, after reading that the average age of anglers was 47, we decided we had to do something to encourage new faces into the sport.

“We started organising a few pike fishing days with the Pike Anglers Club, and from these taster sessions things have snowballed to the point where last year it taught 935 kids across 70 sessions on HDAA waters.”

It all started with a few pike days. Hull and District AA now hold events every week all year
It all started with a few pike days. Hull and District AA now hold events every week all year

CREATING LOCAL FACILITIES

Derek believes giving its members access to good quality, local fishing venues has been another key element of the club’s success.

He said:

“We are seen to be very proactive by the people of Hull. Back in 2014 we refurbished Oakroad Pond in the centre of Hull and still run coaching sessions there today. This led to us restoring another pond, and with help from the local social club and the Angling Trust we transformed it into a beautiful fishery and now sometimes have close to 100 kids there learning how to fish.

“We run three sessions a week across the city, which makes fishing accessible to everyone. I contact local youth projects and get them to send kids over for our sessions, and we now have an established youth network in Hull, funded by the council.

“The only entry fee, so to speak, is good behaviour – young people often miss out if they have to pay.

“The sessions are hugely popular. The kids go home, tell their friends and the message spreads. But it’s not just the youngsters – our taster sessions are a family experience too.

“Everyone is welcome. We get people who haven’t fished for years turn up for a refresher course and what’s been really encouraging is the growth we’ve seen in young female anglers. We had 199 girls attend our coaching sessions last year, a 60 per cent increase on the year before.”

Hull and District AA have seen a 60% increase in female anglers at sessions this year
Hull and District AA have seen a 60% increase in female anglers at sessions this year

VARIETY IS KEY

Offering a variety of different fishing styles and tactics is another important element of attracting newcomers and maintaining their interest long-term.

Derek said:

“As well as our normal taster sessions, we also run a carp school, where students can camp out overnight on our waters. The families come along too, and we have barbecues. It’s just another totally different experience for many people, and they seem to love it.

“This year we’ve also set up a women’s carp group, and they get together and organise their own sessions on our lakes.

“And because our taster sessions are geared around the whole calendar year, in the winter we run predator days where they try lure fishing and deadbaiting. Occasionally we even catch one!”

The club has set up a women’s carp group so female anglers can organise night fishing sessions
The club has set up a women’s carp group so female anglers can organise night fishing sessions

HELP FROM WITHIN

Having a willing band of coaches is central to the club’s success, and recruitment in this respect has not been an issue, Derek said.

“What started as just four blokes coaching has now turned into a team of 30 qualified coaches ranging in age from 16 to 75, each with a Level 1 or Level 2 coaching certification.”

“Each year we take some of the keenest older kids and put them through the courses. We now have 12 young coaches, four of who are female.”

Having qualified angling coaches has been key to the club’s success
Having qualified angling coaches has been key to the club’s success

FUNDING AND PARTNERSHIPS

All the good work Hull DAA has done obviously comes at a cost, but Derek revealed that funding is available for organisations keen to follow in the club’s footsteps.

“I would urge any club wanting to follow our model to be active in chasing funding. Our sessions last year cost around £25,000 to run and we received most of that in grants,” he said.

“We work with everyone, from the local council to the Angling Trust and Sport England, and we’ve even received funding from mental health charity Headstart. If we can show fishing as a vehicle for positive change in the community, then people are more than happy to contribute. We also regularly receive donated kit from local anglers or club members. We store this and when we have youngsters showing promise, we pass it on. After all, they are the next generation of anglers.”

The kit used at coaching sessions is either donated by local anglers or purchased through grants
The kit used at coaching sessions is either donated by local anglers or purchased through grants

THE KEV GREEN AWARD

Each year Hull DAA gives The Kev Green Award to the youngster who shows the most promise. This is something close to the hearts of us all here at Angling Times, as Kevin worked for the title for many years before passing away in 2013.

Last week the award was presented to the latest winner, Eloise Beetham, by Hull DAA’s Brian Skoyles.

Brian said:

“Eloise is a deserved winner and is now one of our coaches too. Kev was a good friend of mine and supported junior angling tremendously, so it was very appropriate when the club decided to name the trophy after him.”

Eloise Beetham, the winner of this year’s Kev Green Award - massive well done from all at AT

Eloise Beetham, the winner of this year’s Kev Green Award - massive well done from all at AT

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