Cost is a big issue but you can still have a great day for a fiver

John Bailey and 14 year old Jack Whyman celebrate a PB chub. Lads like Jack are the future of the sp

John Bailey and 14 year old Jack Whyman celebrate a PB chub. Lads like Jack are the future of the sport. - Credit: Archant

I was interested to read the Roy Webster column on last week's EDP angling pages.

Roy wisely devoted his entire piece to the turndown in sales of Environment Agency fishing licences. Of course, I think all of us in the 'trade' know about this worrying and comparatively long-term development but it's good to give the problem as much focus as possible. Perhaps with focus will come enlightenment?

Roy picked up some illuminating quotes along the way, most especially perhaps from Tony Gibbons, influential chairman of the Norwich and District Anglers and acting member of the Broads Angling Strategy Group and Broads Forum.

Tony wisely points out that cost is perhaps a root cause in the slowdown of fishing, perhaps especially amongst the young. This is sound thinking indeed.

Ever since my TV series 'Fishing in the Footsteps of Mr Crabtree,' I have become immersed in the problem of why more children are not going fishing. I think it's fair to say that it has taken over my life! And, as Tony and Roy have pointed out, cost has got a lot to do with it. Cash-strapped parents are going to look at every element in their budget and how to make savings there. A child's desire to go fishing can very easily become one of the sacrifices that have to be made.

If you go to the Crabtree website this month, you will see that we're trying to address the problem. The challenge for November is to come up with interesting, informative and successful ways to enjoy a fishing session for a fiver or for less. If you're my age, a fiver still sounds quite a lot of money and you'd think that you could fish for a fraction of that but the more you consider things, the harder the target becomes to fulfil.

I guess, above all, it's the question of transport costs. I drive a Volvo XC60 and if I'm going to get anywhere and back again for less than three quid, that restricts my range to around about twenty-five miles. I can do that, based close to Holt, but only just. If I manage things geographically, I've got £2 or thereabouts left over for bait and/or a ticket. We can forget the latter. I don't suppose there's a water in the land now where you can buy a fishing ticket for much less than four or five pounds or even more.

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Perhaps that's the hub of it. Perhaps for juniors at least, we really are making fishing either inaccessible or expensive. I'd suggest it should be accessible and inexpensive. We need youngsters coming into the sport for every conceivable reason. I'll list a few. Fishing does children a power of good. It presents real challenges in real situations and leads to a real understanding of the environment. It's well proved that fishing is a real answer, too, to anti-social behaviour amongst the young. Fishing is a tried and tested method of winning back alienated teenagers in particular.

Fishing is a force for the good in other ways, too. It's a great way for a family to bond. Fathers and sons and daughters on a fishing trip grow evermore close. It's a great way for kids, too, to relate to adults in a non-classroom situation. Fishing, as well, is a sport for life, not just while the legs still hold out.

Vitally, too, anglers are guardians of the stream as I am always quick to point out. There's an element of self-interest, I know, but the only people who really and truly care about the health and welfare of our river systems and stillwaters are fishermen.

In the spirit of the Crabtree Campaign, I worked out what bits of river I can get to within my £5 budget and, also, how to make the leftover cash go as far as possible when it comes to bait. Remember that fish eat everything that we do, bar, probably, Brussel sprouts.

I'm also looking with fresh eyes at the pits and ponds around me. It's a constant lament of mine that not nearly as many are available to kids in my area as they were when I was young. This is something that really should be looked into and rectified.

There are still waters, however, that have been under my radar and can spring surprises. So, please, have a look at the Crabtree website ( and help us come up with expense-busting ideas that can get kids back onto the riverbank. This really deserves to become a national campaign for the reasons I've given above.

Take angling out of the experience of childhood and childhood is much poorer indeed. Far poorer, in fact, than that £5 note.

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