Pic: Ali Donnelly and Phil Smith from Sport England with Jamie Cooke in background

 Sport England’s Director of Sport Phil Smith and Director of Communications Ali Donnelly joined the Angling Trust’s Jamie Cook and Martin Salter as guests of Godalming Angling Society at Marsh Farm for their first ever fishing trip.

Marsh Farm is home to specimen tench and crucians as well as being a thriving match and day ticket fishery. It was one of the first fisheries in the country to benefit from Sport England investment and its success is testament to the dedication and hard work of the club’s committee and volunteers.

Sport England work with the Angling Trust to maintain active lifestyles through sport and are acutely aware of the benefits to physical health and mental wellbeing angling delivers.

As skilled sporting enthusiasts in their own right, Ali and Phil hit the ground running and with the support of Godalming’s skilled Level 2 coaches they managed six different species and even encountered the crucian carp which have made the fishery famous. Not a bad start on a chilly day with falling water temperatures!

Jamie Cook, CEO of Angling Trust & Fish Legal, said:

“More than ever, it is important that we do more to promote the benefits of fishing to the wider community and encourage our friends and colleagues to give the sport a try. I know first hand just how hard Ali and Phil have worked over the past six months to help sports like ours to continue and it was fantastic to hear that they both felt a sense of relaxation and enjoyment from their first experience of fishing.

“I wasn’t surprised to see their competitive nature kicking in as the fish began to feed. However, I think it would be fair to call this first round a score draw and we look forward to welcoming back both Phil and Ali, as well as their colleagues and families, for another try at fishing. In these difficult times I urge all anglers to introduce someone new to our wonderful pastime.”

Mike Holcombe, Vice President of Godalming Angling Society, said:

“We were delighted to host the Angling Trust and Sport England at Marsh Farm and show what we have developed here over the last 15 years.

“Since the change in Covid restrictions in May allowing fishing to recommence, we have experienced a 20% surge in new member applications, with nearly 300 joining the Society from May to September this year.

“This together with so many not working, or furloughed, plus the school closures, has resulted in all of our fisheries being very popular with anglers fishing safely on our banks seven days every week.”

Phil Smith added:

“It was fantastic to see first-hand one of the outstanding angling locations in the country and a real treat to get to know the people behind the Godalming Angling Society, who are doing a great job in engaging people of all ages in their community.

“We know that getting outside and taking part in much loved pastimes is vitally important for mental wellbeing and it was uplifting to hear how much work the Angling Trust are putting in to make sure that in these challenges times that people are able to do just that.”