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Annual Report and Christmas Message from the Chairman

In recent years I have made a conscious effort to publish this Annual Report and Christmas message by the end of the first week in December, in order to allow those of you who what to find out what has been going on in the SFCA plenty of time to read it before the Christmas festivities become our priority.  Unfortunately, this year I have completely failed to meet my own deadline, and for that I apologise. 

Having read last years’ report some of you may well have picked up on the fact that I had announced that I would be standing down in March 2019 and thus be asking why I am still in post and indeed writing this at all?  Well, the truth is that a number of events conspired to see me remain in post as Chairman.  The first was the fact that we unfortunately had no nominations to replace me as Chairman, either at the AGM in March or following it, so we have been unable to find anyone to fill the post.   This is however my thirteenth Annual Report and Christmas Message as Chairman of the SFCA and this is far too long for one individual to lead and guide an organisation with such a wide and diverse membership and we are already actively looking for a suitable replacement.  I will talk more about Executive Committee Appointments later.


2019 has, I think it is fair to say, been an extremely busy, frustrating and in some ways disappointing year.  The decision by sportscotland to not invest in Scottish angling, at least for the short to medium term, has had a significant impact on all three SGBs.  While the lack of Effective Organisation investment (which pays for governance, staff and office costs etc) has not directly impacted on the SFCA, it has indirectly, as it has left Angling Scotland with no income to cover the shared office costs and seen all three SGBs having to contribute to cover this.  Where it has directly impacted on the SFCA is in relation to program delivery, coach licensing and CPD.  The lack of any development investment from sportscotland to assist with these costs has seen a significant reduction in the amount of program delivery in 2019, and thus on the number of new junior members entering the sport.  Attracting new anglers into coarse angling is a critical activity if we are to continue to grow the sport for the future and in 2020 we will again need to dip into our reserves to ensure this critical activity continues.


In 2019 I have also continued to find much of my effort diverted away from SFCA business and towards my role on the Board of Angling Scotland.  Progress with the establishment of Angling Scotland has continued with good progress in a number of areas.  We have now however reached a key decision point as Angling Scotland in its current format as an umbrella structure with no independent income stream is simply not financially sustainable as a Business.  Therefore, collectively as a sport, we need to decide on the future direction.  On Saturday 4th January 2020 the Angling Scotland Board will meet with additional invited representatives from SFCA, SANA and SFSA to look at options for the way ahead.  The output of this meeting will be a consultative document which published on all of our websites and shared through on our social media platforms for consultation with members, member clubs and the wider Scottish angling public.  The aim will be to consider and consolidate responses and to come up with clear proposals which can be put to the three independent SGB AGMs in February/March.  I would strongly urge anyone who cares about the future of our sport to look out for this consultation document and have your say.  I would hope that the document will be published by mid-January at the latest and I will post more information on the website and social media pages after the meeting on 4th January.  If anyone would like any more information before responding, or if any clubs would like me to come and speak to their members, them please don’t hesitate to email me at  With the final proposals for the future direction, which will undoubtedly have a huge impact on the SFCA and the future of our sport, being decided at the AGM, I would also urge all member clubs and any interest parties to attend.  The AGM will be held on Thursday 26th March so please put the date in your dairies.


While I am on the subject of the AGM, in 2020 there are a number of key appointments on the SFCA Executive Committee that need to be either re-elected or replaced.  These include the Vice Chairman Saul Gardiner and Secretary, Craig Postlethwaite who are both up for re-election.  Additionally, after more than 20 years in the post Policy Officer, Ron Woods has asked to step down.  Ron will be a huge loss to the SFCA and particularly in our efforts to engage with Scottish Government and other key stakeholders in the fight for the protection of our sport for future generations.  His immense and detailed corporate knowledge of the wider fisheries sector, the wealth of experience he has brought from a career working for ACAS, the huge number of personal contacts that he has developed over many years and the high regard in which he is universally held across all stakeholder groups will be impossible to replace.  Fortunately, Ron has kindly agreed to still remain in contact and also to provide the benefit of his counsel whenever required, but even so these will be huge shoes to fill at a critical time when there are a number of environmental and policy challenges facing our sport. There are also a number of other posts that need to be filled or rotated within the executive Committee.  While some of these posts can be covered by an internal reshuffle, we desperately need fresh blood on your Executive Committee.  To this end I will be advertising a number of appointments in January and would strongly encourage anyone who would like to get involved of who feels that they have something to offer the Executive Committee to get in touch.


While we are on the subject of policy and environment, another huge disappointment this year has been the total lack of movement within Scottish Government on the issue of legislative protection for pike in Scotland.  I know that a huge number of you have an interest in Pike fishing and will have been following Policy Officer, Ron Woods’ work and regular reports on this issue.  Sadly, and I know that everyone is sick of hearing it as an excuse for almost everything, but BREXIT has continued to consume the majority of parliamentary time and a significant proportion of Scottish Government effort, and work to provide better protection for Pike has simply been pushed further down the agenda.  I know that there are also continuing and growing concerns about predation issues, whether it be from avian predators such as Cormorants, Otters or indeed illegal netting, trapping and set lines, particularly along our canal network.  The SFCA Executive Committee is committed to working in partnership with the other two SGBs, clubs, members, commercial fisheries as well as the Angling Trust and Fish Legal south of the border, to continue to raise the profile of this issue and to engage with Scottish Government and key stakeholders to try to identify workable, effective and mutually acceptable control measures.  I will not pretend that this is going to be easy as addressing these issues put us up against large organisations with huge resources, public support and immense lobbying experience such as the RSPB, Otter Trust etc.  And, on the issues of illegal or unlawful netting, trapping and setting fixed lines, we continue to find ourselves battling against a backdrop of competing pressures and priorities on Police Scotland and its limited resources.  It therefore falls to us as anglers, particularly those who fish the canals or use the towpaths regularly, to try to fill the gap of raising awareness and reporting illegal fishing or fish removals.  If you do see or find anything, do not put yourself at risk or approach perpetrators yourself.  Instead, please report it to the local police on 101 and let us know by emailing details to  One the upside, Ron Woods, myself and Vice Chairman, Saul Gardiner, have an appointment with Marine Scotland on 15th January to meet the new team and try to get things back on track.  We will publish and update after that meeting


As I sit here this morning writing this Christmas message, we have 1008 individual members which includes 103 Juniors.  While it is very positive that this is an increase in members in a year when we have been unable to conduct as much program delivery as we would have liked, sadly there are again a huge number of individuals who joined in 2018 who have decided, for one reason or another, not to renew their membership.  As of today, there are 1123 individuals on the system who joined in 2017 or 2018 who have not re-joined in 2019.  As I have said in previous years, there are undoubtedly a large number of reasons for this.  A significant percentage will be juniors who attended our development programs in recent years and for one reason or another have simply drifted away from the sport.  Another significant percentage are Eastern European members. This may be due to the fact that many migrant workers move addresses as their work changes and, if their email addresses have changed we may simply have lost contact.  But even taking these cohorts out of the equation, we are left with a large number of anglers who have not seen the value in re-joining the SFCA and this continued to be a major concern.  If you are one of these individuals I would really encourage you to let us know if you feel that there is something that we are doing, not doing, or if there is something that we are not providing which has contributed to your decision not to re-join.  Only by knowing what is wrong can we hope to address it.  It is of course possible that other factors are behind this trend.  I am aware that the move to the Go Membership system, which should have made joining easier, has been a barrier for some and we are looking at ways to make not only joining, but management of membership easier for everyone involved.  Due to the constantly rising postage costs, we will also be looking at options for individuals to prove membership electronically to avoid the need to manually produce and post out physical membership cards to those individuals who do not need them.  This may be through the use of a downloadable membership card which could be saved to a wallet on your phone or mobile device or through the use of an iOS and Android App.  We will of course still retain the ability to send out physical cards to those who prefer or require them.  More information will be published on this in the coming months.  Please email us with feedback, good or bad, to  

I would also like to ask all members of the SFCA continue to help us to promote membership of the SFCA by encouraging all of the anglers they know to join the Federation.  A large, growing and dynamic membership is vital in ensuring that we are able to keep coarse angling and coarse angling interests high on the agenda of Angling Scotland, sportscotland and Scottish Government.  In addition to FREE fishing across the Lowland Canal network, all SFCA individual members again receive free ‘Public Liability’ insurance cover for all of their fishing activities whether engaged in SFCA events or fishing on their own anywhere in the world. 

In a bid to encourage some of the 1123 individuals who didn’t join this year to renew their membership, anyone who joins between now and 31st March 2020 will receive a membership running right through to 31st March 2021. We are also going to run another membership prize draw on 31st January 2020.  Full details will be published early in the New Year.  The draw will be open to all individuals who are paid up Individual Members on 31st January 2020. The name of the lucky winner will be published on 1st February 2020.  Remember, you have to be an Individual Member to be included in the draw so if you have not yet joined get your application done today. 

Again, if you are experiencing any problems with the new membership system, please either email or call me on 07812 241816 and I will guide you through it. 

On the competitive side, 2019 has again seen an extremely packed and competitive match calendar.  I would at this point like to thank the outgoing Match Secretary, Brian Docherty, for all of his hard work in trying to de-conflict the national matches with as many of the other fishery leagues and fixtures to afford as many anglers as possible the opportunity to participate.  Brian, and everyone who contributed to the match committee or helped to run the various matches again deserve a massive vote of thanks for all of their hard work.  Special thanks also go to James Jones for maintaining the Match Angler of the Year table.   For 2020, Barry Young will be stepping into the breach as Match Secretary to pull things together but, being based in Dumfries, he will be looking for individuals to assist with running the matches in the Central Belt.  If you are willing to step forward an run any of the SFCA Matches on the calendar please contact Barry direct or email me at and I will put you in touch with him.  Barry has recently published the match Calendar for 2020 on the SFCA Match Fishing Facebook page and, over the Christmas period I will try to get this published on the SFCA website.  At this point, as is traditional, I would also like to take this opportunity to again congratulate all those who enjoyed success in 2019 and in particular:

  • Pete Armstrong for winning the Broom Open.
  • Barry Young for winning the Federation Cup
  • Billy Elliott for winning the All of Scotland Rab Crossan Memorial
  • Jim Mitchell and Ian Anderson for becoming Scottish Pairs Champions
  • Laura Armstrong for becoming Scottish Ladies Champion
  • Alfie Stewart for becoming Scottish Junior Champion
  • Chris Scott for defending his title and winning the Harvey Maule Memorial
  • Craig Whisky Walker becoming Scottish Veteran’s Champion
  • Simon Heyes for becoming Scottish National Champion
  • Colin McKerrell for winning the Del’s Fresh Produce Scottish Canal Championship
  • Nigel Spencer for becoming the Scottish Feeder Champion
  • Nigel Foulds for winning the League of Champions final.
  • And finally, Ian Whitson for becoming Scottish Match Angler of the Year.

On the International front, 2019 was another very mixed year.  For our Match Squad the season started with the Sensas Challenge on the Gloucester Canal.  This was as usual used as a development opportunity with Mark Lyons, Derek Brady and Scott McGhee joining myself and Colin Hart for the trip south.  The match was again dominated by the French but this year it was nice to see Saints push Sensas 28 very close with Starlets in third.  As a team we finished mid table in 17th the highlight for me was picking up a section win on day two to pip Mark Downes into 2nd.  The European Championships was an event to forget for many teams.  The River Bann, which had been so good when with visited in Oct 18 for a Home International, fished absolutely terribly with some of the best anglers in the World blanking.  The highlight for the squad was James Dornom winning his section and the overall match on Day 1 to give himself an outstanding chance of getting a medal.  Unfortunately, his second day draw, while putting him in the same sections again, put him at completely the wrong end and his dream disappeared.  Perhaps 2020 will be his year.  Sadly, the Home International planned for Loch Ken in October had to be cancelled when the Irish were unable to field a team, resulting in a disappointing end to a very frustrating year

In February 2019 the Scottish Carp Squad finally managed to get to their first World Championships in South Africa.  The Championships was part of the World Fishing Games which saw 14 different events taking place across South Africa. The was the first time Scotland has entered a Carp World Championships and it was a fantastic experience for all involved.  The team had an amazing start to the event but unfortunately were caught out slightly by the huge thunder storms and high winds on the exposed venue which made it all but impossible to cook the quantities of bait required to keep the carp in the swims.  Other more experienced teams, who had clearly seen these types of conditions previously, had huge heavy-duty storm sides to deflect the wind and did not experience the same problems.  Lesson learned for the future.  Logistically, fielding a team in this event was a huge challenge for the management team as well as requiring a huge financial contribution from individual members of the squad.  The team’s entry was totally self-funded and, while sponsors help to fund some clothing, tackle and bait, there was still a total of £13,632.00 to find.  Divided by the 7 anglers saw each man pay £1,947.42 plus spending money for the 10 days (approximately £300) equalling an eye watering £2,247.42 each.  In July the team participated in a friendly against Wales and the Armed Forces at Barston Lakes, Solihull.  The format was a 5 biggest fish per pair match. Unfortunately, the team caught a large team weight overall but couldn’t get into the larger stamp of fish to win their individual sections and the event.


Finally, Scotland hosted the Home Nations at Clearwater Fisheries, Carnforth on the 25th to the 27th of October with BT Sports covering the event.  Sadly, weather conditions were not favourable with the first frost hitting in the days leading up to the events and with clear, moonlit nights the fish simple refused to be tempted by anything resulting in no fish caught at all during the 48 hours of the match and honours being shared.  The event also saw Steve Warwick step down as Team Manager with Kevin McConnell assuming the role, Steve will be still part of the squad.  I know that everyone involved would like to join me in thanking Steve for all his efforts over the past few years and for having the drive and commitment to get the squad out to South Africa.  The team are now looking forward to the World Championships in the Ukraine in 2020 and I know you will join me in wishing them, and their new management team every success.


Having received numerous requests to consider forming a Scottish Lure Fishing Team, both from aspiring Scottish Anglers and members of the England and Ireland Lure Teams, on Saturday 1st February 2020 I will be holding an Open meeting to look at the level of interest in forming a Scottish Lure Squad.  Full details will be published in early January along with the venue and timings.  If there is sufficient interest we will also look to run a series of selection events, a Scottish Lure Championships and to field our first ever Scottish Lure Team in a Home International in 2020.  If you are interested, or know anyone who might be, please make sure you keep an eye on the website and SFCA Facebook page.


As a Federation, we need to support the aspirations of all of our members who have a goal of representing Scotland on the International stage and ensure that we are delivering opportunity for all.  In 2020 I will again be looking to get the International Team Managers, key Senior Internationalist and a selection of coaches together to review our coaching and performance pathways and to make better use of some of the performance coaching opportunities through sportscotland.  The aim will be to ensure that our structures are fit for purpose and ensure that our coaches are trained to provide future generations with the opportunities to develop the technical, tactical and psychological skills required to perform at the highest level.

Our main focus for 2019 will continue to be identifying ways to provide opportunity and encourage more juniors to get into competitive angling and re-establish the junior teams.  At the risk of sounding like an old record, to do this we need more coaches and again we need to turn to you, our clubs and members, to ask you to identify and encourage suitable individuals to step forward to be trained as UKCC L1 and L2 coaches.  There are Bursaries available from sportscotland to offset the training costs and courses are run by ADBoS several times of the year.  In the next few weeks we will be publishing dates for UKCC L1 courses that will run in March and October 2020. If you are interested in becoming trained as a coach, or know someone who might be, and would like more information please email me at or call me on 07812 241816 and I will be happy to speak to you.

Despite the lack of any external Development investment, this year our Coaches, under Coaching and Development Officer John Rae, have continued to deliver a programme of activity including taster sessions at commercial fisheries and Club Angling Programmes with community groups and schools. In January 2020 I am due to meet with staff from SRUC to look at ways to increase uptake of the National Progression Award in High Schools across Scotland.  We will also be looking at new and innovative ways to deliver more targeted program delivery, focussing on getting more youngsters and females involved in our sport and how to fund this delivery going forward.  Through the delivery of this work we will continue to provide sufficient opportunity for our coaches to work, to develop their skills, gain experience and complete CPD activity. We will of course continue to focus on our core goals of increasing participation, increasing memberships and particularly attracting more youngsters into the competitive side of our sport.  With no investment from sportscotland to support this activity, there will undoubtedly be a requirement for the SFCA to invest some of it reserves to drive this piece of work forward but this is essential if we are to building the foundations for the future.  If you would like to see some coaching activity delivered in your area, at your fishery, or in support of your club please contact us.  Similarly, if you think that a local High School might be interested in discussing options for offering the NPA then please let us know.

As a Federation, we continue to engage with key stakeholders at all levels and in every forum where we can have an influence and to drive the agenda, shape the future direction of the wider sport of angling in Scotland and protect and promote our sport.  I do not intend to go through all of our Targets and achievements for 2019 here, but would urge anyone who wants to know what we are doing on your behalf to visit the website and review the Annual Business Plan which can be found at


Regular readers of this Christmas message and our Annual Business Plan will be well aware of my commitment to always set ambitious targets in order to challenge myself and the Executive Committee to deliver more on your behalf.  The Executive Committee are now beginning to work on the draft SFCA Business Plan and Risk Register for 2020/21.  This will hopefully be published on the website by mid-February for consultation, with the final plan will being ratified and issued at the AGM in March.  We will, as always, ensure that clubs and individual members have at least 4 weeks to respond to the consultation on the SFCA Annual Business Plan prior to the AGM.  As usual, I encourage you all to read it once it is published and provide feedback and comments through your clubs or direct to me at  While the Executive Committee are your representatives, we do not have the monopoly on good ideas.  It is your sport and we are your governing body, you need to tell us what is important to you. Every year I and other members of the Executive Committee hear rumblings about what we should or shouldn’t be doing, but rarely if ever does anyone actually bring these concerns to our attention or afford us to opportunity to explain why we have chosen a specific course of action.  This is your Annual opportunity to tell us what you want and voice any concerns – use it, and help us to develop a Plan that delivers what the sport needs.


I have no doubt that there will be many new challenges to overcome in 2020, and that the new Chairman and the Executive Committee will continue to be busier than ever.  Going forward we need to find solutions to the problems around attracting and retaining youngsters in our sport.  The aging demographic in match angling is a particular concern, as is the lack of clubs willing and able to take and develop junior anglers.  To overcome this, we must create a simple structure and encourage and assist clubs, and fisheries, to play their part in supporting and developing youngsters through the participant pathway.  We also need to identify and find ways to remove barriers to participation, both real and perceived, and identify and address those issues the adversely impact on our ability to retain them. 

I would, as always, like to take this opportunity to thank the members of the Executive Committee, our coaches and the other volunteers, on your behalf for the huge amount they have put in to support Scottish coarse angling over the past 12 months.  Without their commitment, determination and willingness to go that extra mile, at their own personal cost, we could not hope to protect, promote and grow the sport of coarse angling in Scotland. 

When our draft Annual Business Plan is published for consultation in February, we will again be setting ourselves some challenging and aspirational targets.  As I say every year, if you feel that you have a skill set that could benefit the SFCA and can spare some time, however little, we would love to hear from you.  In the meantime, I would urge you all to continue to play your part by simply promoting coarse angling as a totally accessible and ideal sport to engage and capture the imagination of young Scots, and by encouraging everyone you meet to join the SFCA. 

In closing, I know that you will all join me in wishing all of our teams every success on the international stage in 2020.  I would like to wish all of our members, and indeed all coarse anglers in Scotland, a very Merry Christmas and Tight Lines for 2020!


Gus Brindle



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