I began fishing when I was six years old after months of persuading my Dad, an angler of over forty years, to take me out with him and I'll never forget my first catch!
It was on my first ever what I call 'proper' day out fishing, as previous to that dad would take my sister and I river fishing with our nets for minnows. We headed up high into the Scottish Borders to visit a newly opened fishery where we were fishing for rainbow and brown trout. We had a chat with the owner who told us about the fishery and the fish in it. He told us about the largest fish - an 8lb rainbow trout and he also told me that I was the first female to fish on the lake. In hindsight it seems almost fate that I was destined to catch the largest fish in the lake, especially because I was the first female angler and when I look back now it seems almost as though my path has been mapped out.
Following the catch my face appeared in all the local newspapers and fishing magazines, advertising both myself and the fishery, it was unbelievable, although as I don't eat fish I sold it in our local fishmonger! However, now fourteen years later I am still fishing and I am now devoting my time to encouraging more people to get into angling, especially more women, children and disabled people. After all, fishing is something anyone can be involved in, no matter what your age, race, gender or ability - anyone can fish!
I have been trying to encourage more people into angling through my website at - www.fishingforeveryone.com. As a child growing up with her favourite sport being angling it used to annoy me how few female anglers there were on the bank side and how, more often than not, when dad and I arrived at a fishery ten out of ten times the anglers present were all male. So, aged sixteen years old I decided it was time to do something about this, to change this aspect and show people that you do not have to be that stereotypical old man, sitting on the bank side, rod in hand and smoking a pipe that everyone sees in their minds eye to be a fisherman. Instead I suppose I offered myself as a role model, someone breaking this moulded stereotype and, perhaps, added what some people might call 'glamour'. However, there was a strong and meaningful purpose behind all I did and that was to get a more diverse range of people into angling. In April 2005 I headed over to Ireland to help at the Jack Charlton disabled angling competition in Bantry. The event was fantastic and a real life changer. Not only did these people not worry about what they wore to go angling or what they looked like and they did not care whether they caught fish or not. They were enjoying a day out together in the fresh air, and in my mind this is what fishing is all about - a chance to get outside in the fresh air and to be at one with nature, a sort of therapy.
When I was fifteen I became ill with a virus called M.E. The virus can completely debilitate a person and, in my case, it prevented me from going to school on some days as well as playing sport and going out with friends. During this dark period fishing was very important and I guess now I could say it was my lifeline. Angling allowed me to get out and enjoy myself. I was able to do something without getting tired or feeling fatigued.
So I set up fishingforeveryone.com in 2004, dedicated to encouraging more people into angling. In March 2005 I attended a conference - 'how do we get more women and children into angling?' and I appeared as a guest speaker for The Salmon and Trout Association. There were around fifty attendees at the conference and towards the end we split off into groups of five or six to discuss ways in which to get more women and children into angling. It was interesting that many of us came up with similar issues dividing women and children and angling. Issues raised included more role models, such as in sports like running and swimming, more parental encouragement from a young age and, perhaps more importantly from a female point of view, clothing that fits, is practical and comfortable yet stylish too.
This fired my enthusiasm so much that this year I decided to re-launch fishingforeveryone.com as a business, including a range of equipment and clothing suitable for women, children and disabled people. Currently the site has a range of rods called Beulah Rods which are absolutely fantastic. These rods are so lightweight it's like holding a feather, and casting with the rod is fantastic as the line just shoots out! What is also great about these rods is that they are suitable for people with disabilities. For example one lady who bought a Beulah from me had a neurological condition which consequently meant she suffered quite severe pains and had casting difficulties. However, having used the Beulah, the lady couldn't believe it, her casting was made a lot easier and her fishing technique became much improved.
We also sell fishing equipment on the web site, including Silver Creek U.K. products, all at very reasonable prices including selections of ten fishing flies for less than £5! In the coming few months we were also be introducing footwear including ladies Hunter wellies, perfect for the winter weather, as well as fishing clothing including vests and waistcoats!
Now I look back on all I have achieved through my involvement in fishing and with the launch of fishingforeveryone.com and I cannot believe it all! To think that I am one eighteen year old girl living in a small town in the north of England and I receive hundreds of emails from all over the world every day directed to my website is scary! To know that I have appeared many times on international television, in international newspapers, magazines and radio shows and have met some top fishing people doesn't bear thinking about - I mean, this is what dreams are made of! Like one guy said - I am living the dream! However, I enjoy what I do, I have a great family back up behind me and a solid base keeping my feet flat on the floor. I honestly think fishing is one of the best sports there is out there, nothing else can compete with it and I think that everyone should at least give it a go, you never know - you may just enjoy it! At the end of the day more and more people are developing fishing products for ladies and I think this can only encourage more women to take up fishing, and in turn their families will try it which will follow into generations to come. I am just proud that I can help encourage more people into angling.
Today fishingforeveryone.com is going well and I am enjoying it. Last October I went over to New York City to meet with members of the Juliana Anglers and the International Women's Fly Fishing Association and went fly-fishing on Long Island. Then in February I spent some time in New Zealand for a holiday and of course some fishing too!