County Angling Action Groups (CAAGs)- what role will they play in developing young people's opportunities?

One of the key features of the Angling Development Board’s development strategy is the introduction of County Angling Action Groups (CAAGs). But what is it that they do? And what impact are the likely to have on developing young people’s angling opportunities?

I decided to visit two CAAGs to find out what was involved.

CAAGs attempts to bring together County Sports Partnerships, angling clubs, fisheries, angling traders, and local councils to develop local angling provisions. They are open to everyone including schools, youth projects, and community groups. CAAGs provide a forum to get assistance with access to coaching courses, co-ordinate events, access funds, achieve clubmark, develop school-club links, and more generally increase angling’s profile. ADB Regional Officers act as facilitators, but it is up to the CAAG as a group to set priorities and work to achieve them. As a result the functioning of a CAAG can vary widely depending on who is involved.

CAAGs are still in their infancy, but already at the two groups I visited (Shropshire and Northumberland) there is evidence of real potential for developing young people’s angling engagement. Some key elements stand out as strengths of the CAAG system...

1. Face to face engagement:

Those new to working with young people can often be intimidated by the maze of requirements for providing angling activities. Faced by child protection, coaching qualifications and health and safety policies, it is little wonder that some stumble at this first hurdle. However, the CAAG system is well placed to address this by providing an arena to talk through some of the issues face to face. At both CAAGs I witnessed how frustration over difficulties navigating internet sites, trying to contact organisations by phone, and a perceived lack of information were diffused through direct discussion with the ADB Regional Officers. In addition clubs who already had policies in place or were working on clubmark were able to share their experiences and offer practical advice. This type of direct contact at ‘ground level’ works well to counter seemingly distant, overly bureaucratic systems and can make starting young people’s projects much more manageable.

2. Demystifying Funding:

Access to funding is an essential requirement for many clubs and organisations wishing to work with young people. Principal costs can include not only training coaches, developing suitable facilities (such as toilets, child friendly fishing pegs), and massing equipment, but also paying for additional staff, fishing waters, and transport. While there are numerous grants available many groups are not always aware of them and often have little experience of putting successful bids together. The CAAG can be an invaluable place to demystify the funding process and share expertise. The Shropshire CAAG is joined by Graham MacPherson , the business development manager for the Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin Community Sports Partnership (CSP). He is helping to produce a booklet outlining available funding options and their requirements. Graham was also able to offer invaluable advice on which funds are particularly suited to angling related activities and how to target bids. Pooling expertise in this way has the potential to increase efficiency, directing people to funds they are more likely to win. In addition CAAGs will have the opportunity to bid together for larger pots and distribute the money to where it is needed.

3. Strengthening links with the angling trade:

What is striking about the Northumberland CAAG is that it includes Ian Woods and Vick Bell of local business Game Fishing Supplies as both chairman and treasurer of the group. Across the country, organisations working with young people have said they would like to see the angling trade get more visibly involved in supporting young people’s activities. The CAAG can be a good place to start.

For Ian Woods, managing Director of Game Fishing Supplies, joining the CAAG was a must. He explained that while they won’t be able to make use of much of what CAAGs offer now, in the future they will benefit from having increased the numbers of young people fishing. He hopes that down the line young people will remember the local support they received and developed a sense of loyalty when it comes to buying their own equipment. Game Fishing Supplies sponsors the newly established junior fishing club at Higham Lakes Trout Fishery and Vicky is set to be their welfare officer, in addition they are supplying bait for the Northumberland CAAG’s National Fishing Month events, and Ian is a level 1 coach. For both Ian and Vicky, involvement in the CAAG is not just about being a business, it is also about being part of the local fishing community.

The tackle trade plays an important role in the angling community with local shops often being the first place parents and young anglers go for advice. Ensuring businesses are supporting developments and able to direct young anglers to local clubs and/or events will only help increase the sustainability of angling in the future.

4. Co-ordinating events and the development of young people’s angling provisions

One of the highlights of this year’s upcoming National Fishing Month is the event being held at Higham Lakes Trout Fishery. It brings together sea, game and coarse clubs and coaches, the tackle trade, and Nick Wood (Higham Fishery owner) - all of whom sit on the Northumberland CAAG. The event provides young people with the opportunity to participate in a round robin of coaching across all three angling disciplines. This type of co-ordinated event epitomises the potential of what can be achieved when angling groups work together, giving young people a taste of a range of angling practices and letting them find the one that suits them.

In the Shropshire CAAG, Richard Hadley (ADB Regional Officer) explains that a co-ordinated approach means being able to support projects doing engagement work with schools or socially marginalised young people, who in turn signpost young people to their nearest junior angling clubs. Coordinating the development of an interlinked network should increase young people’s angling opportunities without duplicating provisions.

Final Thoughts...

Only time will tell whether the CAAGs are able to meet the needs and expectations of those involved. Committee style groups can be frustratingly slow at times, and decisions over what to prioritise and how to distribute funding will inevitably cause tensions. Nonetheless, in light of the current economic squeeze, ‘joined up working’ has the potential to be more efficient by pooling resources, expertise, and enabling a more coordinated approach to the development of young people’s angling opportunities across the regions.

For more information about CAAGs contact your local ADB Regional Officer: