• Water sports

Beginner’s guide to fishing

By Environment Agency

Published on 6 min read


A family activity you must try

Try fishing once and you’re sure to be hooked. It’s about so much more than catching a fish. Unwinding in the great outdoors is a big part of the attraction. This beginner’s guide to fishing will help you give it ago and enjoy time by the water with family and friends.

Father and son fishing

Why try fishing?

Fishing gives you a sense of freedom, an escape from the 9 to 5 and a chance for everyone, friends and families alike, to enjoy all that nature offers.

Let’s not forget, that catching a fish is simply great fun – you’ll always remember landing your first fish, whether it’s a tiddler or a whopper. A big plus for parents is that fishing is a healthy activity their kids can really enjoy that for once doesn’t involve a screen. And a hit with kids who will discover a whole world of fun outside their console.

Also, it won’t cost the earth – getting set up is very affordable. And it doesn’t require a massive time commitment either. Going fishing is a great way of spending a few hours together outdoors.

father and daughter finishing

How to start fishing?

Before we begin, a quick note on the different types of fishing. The most widespread type of angling in England is coarse fishing, where you try to catch fish in freshwater, rather than sea, and they are returned to the water after catching. You’ll find anglers have a natural respect for the environment and the waterways they fish on.

Like any new activity you’re trying for the first time, it’s always best to do it with people who really know what they’re doing, that way you’ll have more fun and get to grips with everything quickly. Attending a taster session through the Angling Trust’s Get Fishing campaign is just the ticket.

Beginners of all ages and angling abilities are welcome, from those who have never picked up a rod, to others who want to try it again after a break. The best bit? Most of these sessions are free, or come at a small price, and include the use of tackle and bait. There is also no need to purchase a fishing licence for the taster events either .

couple guide to fishing

Joining a fishing club or an event

Events run throughout the summer, but in August hundreds of taster events are scheduled as part of National Fishing Month, so you won’t have to go far to net one that suits you. Absolutely anyone can turn up and enjoy the full calendar of events that are family friendly and wheelchair accessible. There are wonderful waterways across the length and breadth of the country waiting to be enjoyed – the invitation is there, so don’t miss out.

Find an event near you

After that, all you need is your fishing kit (more on that later), a fishing licence and access to a fishing venue. In England and Wales, if you’re 13 or older, you must have a fishing licence to fish for salmon, trout, freshwater fish, smelt or eel with a rod and line and you can buy a licence through gov.uk. Children aged between 13 and 16 need a junior licence, but they are free.

Remember you can now get your licence digitally as an email or text message. Going digital is better for the environment, and savings made on paper and postage can be spent on improving fisheries.

kids fishing

Joining a club is a good idea for beginners as your club membership will not only give you access to water when you want to fish but you’ll receive loads of help and advice from other experienced anglers. Fishing folk love nothing more than sharing tips on casting, bait preference, weights and of course tales of their best catches! If finding your own spots to fish, it is worth checking what permits are required at that location on top of having your fishing licence. Either way, you’ll be out in the fresh air and experiencing for yourself all the benefits fishing has to offer.

Find a fishing friend

Another way to get started is to go along with someone you know who is already fishing. Trying angling for the first time with a friend, or family member, is a rewarding way of launching your new hobby. The Take a Friend Fishing initiative is ideal for this and runs at different points in the year. Through the initiative, licenced anglers can share their love of fishing with a friend, or family member, by registering for a free one-day licence – a great day’s fishing for all.

woman fishing guide

Credit: Tom Gibson

What gear do I need to go fishing?

When it comes to buying your first fishing kit you really don’t have to spend hundreds of pounds on rods, reels and bite alarms – leave that to the expert anglers. A basic fishing set-up will do just fine and come in for about £25. Keep it simple and ask a friend, if you can, to advise you. Also, your local tackle shop will gladly give you tips on what you’ll need (and won’t need!) There are outdoor retailers who also have a good selection of starter fishing kit to get you going. Tackle shops, clubs, recommended fishing venues and more can all be found on the Angling Trust website.

Keep everyone happy by packing enough food and drink for the day, plus something to sit on like camping chair or a picnic mat. You’ll want to feel comfortable for an enjoyable day by the water.

friends fishing 

Where can I fish?

Believe it or not, you’re closer to a fish than you may think. In fact, 8 million people live within 5 minutes’ walk of somewhere to go fishing – so there is very likely an opportunity to fish just around the corner. Once you’ve caught the bug, you’ll want to explore more waterways to fish on. Here are three useful websites that can help you discover some excellent fishing spots.

father and son fishing

Try fishing and discover not just the thrill of the catch, but the great outdoors, a few hours of tranquillity and a fun easy way to connect with your family and friends. And don’t forget, having a fishing licence is your licence to chill.

Happy fishing!

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