The legal position
The first essential step is to buy a rod license issued by the Environmental Agency as fishing without one is in fact breaking the law. You can face a fairly heavy fine if caught fishing without a rod license. These can be bought at Post Offices or on line through the Environment Agencies web site www.environment-agency.gov.uk/fish
The charges vary, my full coarse license that also covers me for none migratory game fish such as brown and rainbow trout costs me £20 a year (2001). The year runs from the 1st April to the 31st March the following year. There are concessionary tickets for juniors over 12 years, disabled and O.A.Ps. Anglers under 12 years old do not need a rod license.
There is a separate license for migratory game fish like salmon and sea trout but this also covers the species on my license. Sea anglers at present do not require a rod license.
The Environmental Agency license allows you to fish free waters but you will need additional permits to fish club or commercially owned fisheries. These are in addition to the E.A. license and are not a substitute. If possible I would advise you to start off on so called "free" fisheries.
You must also observe the close season on rivers. For coarse fish this means no fishing from the 15th March to the 15th June inclusive of these dates. In practical terms this means that the last day you can fish is the 14th March whilst the first day is the 16th June. There is not statuary closed season for coarse fish on still waters and canals. There is no closed season for sea fish.
Once you have got your rod license and checked out your local fishing, you are ready to start thinking about how you are going to start fishing.
I was very lucky as my father and grandfather were both keen anglers and used to take me fishing. My Grandfather was a very well known local angler. He was certainly the man you had to beat in matches if you were you to stand any chance of winning. He was a hard task master and very demanding. I had to learn to fish properly with a centre pin reel before graduating onto a fixed spool reel. However those skills that he taught me have been put to good use. I still have and use the Alcocks Ariel centre pin that he bought me for my sixteenth birthday.
Unfortunately, this route is available only to the fortunate few. The most common route is to go fishing with a friend, preferably one that has some fishing experience. Nearly all my fishing friends started fishing this way. It is interesting that many of these friendships have lasted over forty years.
One such friend is Adrian Ellis who is Assistant Manager at R.M.C. Angling. Adrian had been taken fly fishing by a friend from work in 1965 and was given some fly casting lessons. When I wanted to learn fly fishing, it was Adrian in April 1966 who gave me those first vital lessons. He actually took me fly fishing to Weirwood Reservoir in Sussex on the 22nd April 1966. Neither of us were the world's best casters but we made the effort to be their before first light. Yes, we did catch. In those days, they were mainly brown trout which are generally regarded as harder to catch than rainbows. We worked as a team and learnt together far more quickly than we would have individually. It was great discussing and talking over problems.
Tackle shops are a traditional source of good sound advice. Having helped out serving in a tackle shop I would strongly advise newcomers to the sport to avoid seeking advice on a very busy Saturday in Summer. We just did not have the time to give that really detailed advice that we would like to give.
T.V. and video
These modern aids are excellent. It appears that Discovery Home and Leisure has the best range of programmes at the time of writing. My friend Matt Hayes produces some excellent material that is exceptionally easy to follow. I also particularly enjoy watching the Scottish Angler, Paul Young, as I find his game fishing programmes first class. These programmes certainly give you a much broader perspective of the sport and the confidence to broaden your horizons.
There are very few Angling Clubs that cater for absolute beginners. Most clubs just have not got the resources to teach angling but can help improvers. As a generalisation, I would say that joining an angling club is a secondary step rather than a primary move.
R.M.C. Angling are, I believe, the largest commercial angling club in the country. They at times run beginners courses and advertise these on their web site.
Another way forward is to seek professional tuition. This has been a well established practice in golf and game fishing where there are recognised institutions providing tutors.
The National Federation of Anglers (N.F.A.) has run a system of qualified coaches for coarse fishing for many years. Recently the Professional Anglers Association (P.A.A.) has started to train coaches for coarse fishing.
I know of two P.A.A. instructors. Denis Wells who was a teacher and a good match angler (home phone number 0208 398 9664 Mobile 07939875598) and the other is ex police officer Martin Porter who is much more a big fish angler ( phone 07041380233 web site www.tryangling.com. Both these anglers offer an excellent coaching service.
I have used game angling instructors to polish up my fly fishing techniques and to teach my wife, Virginia to cast. The last time was at Raker Lakes in Yorkshire when I wanted to see about fly fishing with lighter tackle. Not only did the resident instructor have me casting accurately with a number 3 outfit at a good distance, he also gave me excellent advice on selecting my own lightweight outfits. It was certainly money well spent.
These are advertised from time to time in various angling publications. They are far more common in game fishing but there are courses in coarse fishing starting to appear.
There are more and more avenues to starting fishing opening every
year. The series that we have started on this web site are just a
beginning. We hope in the future to offer instructional digital video on this site.