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Annual Report and Christmas Message from the Chairman

2023 has been another exceptionally busy year for the Federation and at times it has felt like we have struggled to juggle multiple high priority tasks due to the ongoing problem of getting volunteers to fill key appointments.  As we move into the Christmas holidays, I think it’s fair to say that I am really looking forward to a bit of a break.  So what are the issues that have been keeping us so busy this year, what have we achieved, and what is still to be completed before the end of the Business Year.

 

Hopefully you will have been keeping up to date with progress against our targets in our Annual Business Plan through our quarterly updates, but for those haven’t I will try to outline the key successes, and indeed some of the frustrations this year. 

 

One of the biggest challenges facing the SFCA ,and indeed Angling Scotland and all of the SGBs, is attracting volunteers with the right knowledge, skills and experience to fill key board level appointments and help us to protect, promote and grow our sport.  As I said last year, the lack of volunteers and inevitable double hatting of critical appointments has significantly impacted our ability to achieve all of our targets. While remaining Executive Committee members have been happy to step up and take on additional roles this isn’t sustainable and we desperately need more volunteers to spread the load.  In particular, we need urgently recruit the following appointments:

 

Honorary Treasurer

Child Protection Officer

Marketing and Media Officer

 

If you feel that you have the knowledge, skills and experience to fill any of these appointments, or know anyone who you think might be suitable and interested, we would love to hear from you.  There is also the potential for use to do a bit of an internal re-shuffle in order to fill appointments, so if you feel that you may be better suited to another role on the Executive Committee just drop me an email at chairman@sfca.co.uk.  Without sounding too dramatic, if we cannot fill our appointments we cannot deliver what you expect or deserve, and ultimately we cannot survive as a Governing Body.  If anyone would like an informal, non-committal, chat about what is involved please feel free to email, PM or call me

 

Policy and Environment Officer, Jon Paul Neafcy, has had a bit of a baptism of fire in the role with the hugely disappointing announcement from Marine Scotland that the Scottish Government have decided not to take the Pike Protection Measures forward.  The fact that we received written assurance prior to COVID that, as the measures didn’t require any changes to primary legislation, they were ready to go and just waiting parliamentary time made the announcement all the more frustrating.  Especially given that this spring we received far more reports of pike being killed than we have received for a number of years.  Clearly these measures are required urgently in order to protect pike populations across Scotland and the SFCA are currently working with PAAS and PAC through Angling Scotland to try to find a mechanism to get the subject back on the agenda.  We hope to be able to publish an update early in the New Year so please keep your eye on our website and social media channels.  Jon and I have also been involved in another issue of great importance and concern for our Pike Anglers in the North East, and that has been related to a follow up survey by the Spey Salmon Fishery Board on Loch Alvie and Loch Insh to try to establish the spread and impact of perch on the salmonid fish populations in those waters.  While the survey was a limited, one off repetition, of an earlier survey conducted in 2004, we have some concerns about its validity, given vastly different environmental conditions between the two surveys, and with regard to some of the facts contained in the report and the highly emotive and impassioned language used by the authors.  We are currently in the process of drafting a reply to the report in collaboration with PAAS and PAC.

 

On a more positive note, at the AGM I reported that the Federation had been working on a joint grant funding bid with Scottish Canals to enable some additional work to be caried out on selected areas of the Forth and Clyde Canal to improve the fishing experience and establish a ‘Let’s Fish’ program similar to the one run by the Canal & Rivers Trust down in England.  I am delighted to announce that our bid was successful and that we managed to secure grant funding of £95k for a range of projects and workstrands on the Forth & Clyde canal including: enhanced weed cutting to improve fishing access, cutting of bankside vegetation, creation of some disabled access fishing pegs in selected areas, some limited restocking in targeted areas and the production on Let’s Fish delivery resources and coach CPD and the delivery of Let’s Fish Taster sessions to given more young Scots the opportunity to try fishing on the canals.  The project runs through until Summer 2024 and both Scottish Canals and the SFCA had to jointly contribute 10% towards the project as an upfront payment.  As you will have seen from our social media channels, over the summer and autumn School holidays the SFCA delivered 15 Let’s Fish Coaching Days with 241 individuals taking the opportunity to come and try fishing.  This is in addition to the normal session that we deliver to schools and community groups every year and providing coaches linked to the GAC Open Weekends.  Overall, this has been the SFCA’s busiest ever year when it comes to coaching programme delivery and our small pool of licenced coaches have been exceptionally busy.  As part of the project, we have also been working with Scottish Canals to identify locations for the installation of disabled fishing pegs and these will be installed in early 2024 once the locations have been approved by Historic Scotland.  Scottish Canals are working to get their fleet of weed cutting boats back into service and will be looking to utilise the funding provided in this grant to carry out additional weed cutting early next spring. The break in cutting during COVID has seen an explosion in weed growth and hopefully this project will enable them to get back on top of the situation. We are also in discussions with them about getting more bankside maintenance carried out to enable anglers to access the water easier.   Finally, we secured £20k to re-establish a self-sustaining fish biomass in the areas of the canal that were drained during the Monklands Pipeline blockage a couple of years ago.  The Introductions Application has been submitted to Marine Scotland, but they have come back with a request for further information and assurances about biosecurity.  We, through Scottish Canals, are pushing for an urgent resolution of this issue as we need to get the fish introduced before April 2024 or it will be too warm to move fish and we will lose the funding.  More information about individual elements of this project will be published on the website and social media channels as and when progress is made. 

 

As I mentioned in my last Christmas message, the SFCA have been heavily involved in the development of the new Scottish Coaching Certificate which has replaced the old UKCC Coaching qualifications.  I have personally spent much of the first half of 2024 designing and building the new Angling Support Coach Course, which replace the old Level 1 course, on the sportscotland Brightspace Virtual Learning Environment along with all of the supporting documentation, candidate and delivery resources.  This was a huge piece of work and culminated with the delivery of the first pilot course to candidates from the Tweed Commission between September and November.  I am pleased to say that the pilot was a success, and over the Christmas period I will be making a number of minor amendments to the structure and content ready for the second pilot course which starts in January 2024.  If you are interested in becoming a coach there are still a few space left on the next course so please contact us at info@sfca.co.uk.  Just put Angling Support Coach Course as the subject and we will get back to you.  The work doesn’t stop there though, as soon as this second pilot is under way I need to start work on the design and build of the Lead Coach Course which replaces the old Level 2 course.  Both of these qualifications sit on the Scottish Curriculum and Qualifications Framework (SQCF).  The Angling Support Coach Course is a SCQF Level 5 and the Lead Angling Coach Course is a SCQF Level 6.

 

There are still a number of targets still outstanding on the Annual Business Plan but we are still committed to trying to achieve as many of them as possible before the end of the year.  Any that we don’t achieve will be rolled forward to the 2024-25 plan.

 

The 2024 AGM will be held on Thursday 28th March and will be held at the King Robert Hotel in Stirling.  Please put the date in your dairies now as there will be some very important issues to discuss and agree around voting rights, election of officers and how decision are made on your behalf.  I would therefore urge all member clubs and any interest parties to attend. As previously mentioned, at this year’s AGM there are again a number of key appointments that need to be either re-elected or replaced. I will be publishing proposals for Constitutional change and advertising the posts that need to be filled on the website and social media platforms early in the New Year period so keep your eyes open and please come back to us with any comments or suggestions.  After all, we are your Governing Body and what you think is really important to us.

 

At the time of writing this Christmas message, we have 1504 individual members which includes 402 Juniors. This is only slightly up in adult and concessionary members but shows a significant increase in the number of juniors which bodes well for the future. The move to the new Digital Membership Cards on the JustGo Membership system have been very well received and a great success.  This year we have sent digital cards to everyone who has joined, including those who have paid the additional £2.00 for a physical card, and we hope that some of you who have opted for a physical card in 2023 will now consider switching to a digital card in 2024.  The digital cards not only significantly reduce administration, but help to reduce our carbon footprint.  As I say every year, if you are one of the individuals who have decided not to renew your membership in 2023 we would love to know the reasons behind your decision. Please let us know if 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 so please email us with feedback, good or bad, to info@sfca.co.uk. As usual, I would also like to call on all members of the SFCA continue to help us to promote membership of the SFCA by encouraging all the anglers they know to join the Federation. Remember, your SFCA membership not only provides you with FREE fishing across the Lowland Canal network and free ‘Public Liability’ insurance cover for all your fishing activities, but also allows us to evidence a large, active, and engaged membership when raising issues with sportscotland, Scottish Government and other key stakeholders.  This year I have an additional request and that for you all to consider joining ‘Angling Scotland’ in addition to the SFCA.  The cost of Angling Scotland membership is just £5.00 per year and helps the three discipline SGBs to work together and bring the weight of all anglers in Scotland to bear in a single representative voice for the sport. Angling Scotland:

 

  • Advocate for Anglers: Represent the interests of anglers in Scotland at local, national, and international levels, ensuring their voices are heard in policy-making, regulatory discussions, and decision-making processes.
  • Conservation and Protection: Promote responsible angling practices, habitat conservation, and sustainable fisheries management to safeguard Scotland’s aquatic ecosystems, fish populations, and their habitats.
  • Education and Outreach: Support educational programs, workshops, and resources to anglers of all ages, encouraging ethical angling practices, conservation awareness, and responsible stewardship of Scotland’s rivers, lochs, and coastlines.
  • Access and Inclusivity: Work towards improving access to angling opportunities for all individuals, regardless of age, gender, ability, or background, by collaborating with angling clubs, local communities, and government bodies to remove barriers and enhance inclusivity.
  • Angling Development: Promote the growth and development of angling in Scotland, by supporting initiatives that introduce new anglers to the sport, enhance angling infrastructure, and encourage angling tourism, thereby benefiting local economies.
  • Research and Monitoring: Support scientific research, data collection, and monitoring programs to gain a better understanding of fish populations, their habitats, and the impacts of angling activities, leading to evidence-based management decisions.
  • Collaboration and Partnerships: Foster collaborative relationships with angling clubs, government agencies, environmental organizations, and other stakeholders to maximize the impact of our work and create a united front in addressing common challenges and opportunities.
  • Communication and Engagement: Be a hub for information and news for anglers through various channels, including website, social media, and events, ensuring effective communication and engagement with the angling community.
  • Heritage and Tradition: Preserve and celebrate the rich heritage and traditions of angling in Scotland, recognizing its cultural significance and the role it plays in connecting people with nature and their local communities.
  • Enforcement and Compliance: Collaborate with relevant authorities to ensure effective enforcement of angling regulations, discourage illegal practices, and promote a culture of best practice thereby contributing to the sustainability and integrity of the sport.
  • Sport and Competition: Through the three discipline SGBs (SANA, SFCA and SFSA), provide a clear and structure performance pathway; from grass roots, through club and national competition, to the selection and fielding of teams to represent Scotland on the international stage.

 

While on the surface it looks like we are asking you to pay an additional £5.00 to join Angling Scotland, there is now a JustGo Rewards Scheme that you can also join which can provide discounts on your routine household spending from a huge range of Supermarkets and retail outlets that will more than pay for all of your memberships.  For more information see 

 

To join the SFCA, Angling Scotland or the JustGo Rewards scheme, or to renew your membership, simply Scan the QR Code below or visit: https://adbos.justgo.com/Account.mvc/Login?ReturnUrl=%2f

 

 

As in previous years, in a bid to encourage some of individuals who did not join this year to renew their membership, anyone who joins between 1st January 2024 and 31st March 2024 will receive a membership running right through to 31st March 2024. We are also continuing with our annual membership prize draw on 31st January 2024. Full details will be published early in the New Year. The draw will be open to all paid up Individual Members on 31st January 2024. The name of the lucky winner will be published on 1st February 2024. Remember, you must 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 membership system, please either email chairman@sfca.co.uk or call me on 07812 241816 and I will guide you through it. 

 

On the domestic competitive front, 2023 saw the Federation return to a more normal match calendar although it was again disappointing that we were unable to run the Scottish Veterans, Ladies or Junior Championships.  We are determined to bring thes back in some form in 2024 and intend to publish the full match calendar by 1st March 2024.  To this end we are aiming to run a match committee meeting in January, and I will be pushing out the date and timings on the SFCA Match Fishing Facebook page over the Christmas period.

I would personally like to congratulate the following individuals on their success in 2023:

  • David MacGregor for becoming the Scottish National Champion
  • Scott Laird for becoming the Scottish Commercial National Champion
  • Derek Brady and Colin Hart for becoming Scottish Pairs Champions
  • Paul Clibburn for becoming the Scottish Feeder Champion
  • Andrew Potts for becoming the Scottish Canal Champion
  • And finally, Ian Whitson, Jerry Blythe and Barry Young who were tied on points as joint winners of a very competitive Scottish Match Angler of the Year series..

 

Overall our International Teams had a bit of a disappointing year, although the highlight was seeing the first ever Scottish Ladies Team representing us at the Ladies World Carp Championships in France in September.

Match:

The first event for the Match Team was the Sensas Challenge on the Gloucester Canal at the end of March where we again managed to field two teams of 5.  Sadly a poor draw on the second day meant there was no repeat of the Team Bronze that we won in 2022, but this event is still one of the best opportunities to have a look at anglers fishing to CIPS rules against the best teams from across the UK as well representative teams from Wales, Ireland and the Channel Islands and of course from Sensas France.  The team then ventured to Szeged, in Hungary again for the Walterland Masters.  The weather this year was atrocious and the fishing much harder than it was in 2022 but we learned loads and ended up mid table in this topflight annual event which attracts the very best teams and individuals from across Europe.  Disappointingly, this year we decided not to field a team in either the Europeans or World Championship due to having insufficient bankside support to be competitive.  Instead, we decided to use 2023 as a consolidation and development year and in October we took two development teams to the Newry Canal in Northern Ireland to participate in the Celtic Cup.  This event was a huge success for all of the celtic nations with lots of anglers making their first senior international debut or coming back into the squad after a period away.  The intention for 2024 is to build on this development year and field teams in the following events:

Match:

Sensas Challenge, Gloucester Canal in March 2024

Walterland Masters, Szeged, Hungary, TBC

And either:

European Championships, Holland in Juner 2024

Or

World Championship, France in September 2024

Finally, we will host the Celtic Cup in Scotland in October 2024

Carp – Men’s:

2023 saw the men’s carp team competing on the world stage on Lac de Panneciere in France at the World Carp Championships. From March through to August the team utilised Castle Loch as a training venue to be ready for this event. They also got match practice through the arrangement of fixtures against the army and ex mil teams with whom they have long lasting friendships and support. Special thanks go to the 2 serving soldiers, Ryan Muirhead and James Arnall for travelling out to the Work Championships and supporting the team on the bank, ensuring the anglers were looked after throughout the 72 hr event.

 

This year also saw the squad develop two new partnerships with RG baits and Katran who both provided great support for the world championships by supplying bait, clothing and essential tackle for the team.

 

The training and development for this year focused on long-range casting (including over depth zigs), and baiting strategies at distance to be ready for the World Championships and what can only be said as the most difficult lake any of the team had ever fished. With depths over 70ft and obstacles such as under water forests it was a real challenge and every single peg was completely different. Unfortunately, despite all of the hard work we managed to finish a lowly 30th out of 33 nations. Although we were disappointed with the result, we learned so much from this one event that we can only get better going forward.

 

2024 will see the team travel to Croatia for the world championships which will take place over the period 4-7 September.  Training and development will again focus on what will be required for the specific venue.

 

No training and development dates have been set for 2024 as yet, but we have held discussions for practice events which will involve a 72hr match with both the army and ex mil teams to give them a better understanding of the different rules at world level. We will also be arranging a friendly development match with England.  This will allow us to develop our less inexperienced anglers and strengthen the squad for future events.

 

It is our intention to hold trials again by March 2024 following up on interest shown from keen anglers who would like to be involved.  If anyone feels this is something they would be interested in they should keep an eye out on the Carp Team Scotland facebook page for details in the new year.

 

Carp – Ladies:

 

2023 was a historic year for the Scottish Ladies Carp team and the Federation as, after a lot of years of hard work, it saw them able to field a team at International level.  It was a particularly high point for me when I was able to travel down to Wyreside Fisheries in Lancashire to cap the girls at the start of their first Home International, and even mor so when they managed to get a Silver medal.  The ultimate aim for the Ladies this year was to be able to field a team at their first every World Championships as well and, through a huge amount of hard work and both personal time and financial commitment, in September they made history by being the first ever Scottish Ladies Team to represent the Federation overseas.  While a World Championships in France seemed the ideal introduction to World level competition, the Ladies event this year was on the same venue as the Men’s, directly after it.  As you have read from the report on the men’s carp team above, Lac de Panneciere, proved to be one of the most technically and tactically challenging waters any of the Scottish anglers had ever fished.  A real baptism of fire. Added to the challenge for the ladies was the fact that there were only 8 teams competing, as only the most experienced and best supported teams have decided to make the step up and field teams in what is a relatively new event, and they were therefore up against the cream of the cream.  You can read more about how they got on the ‘Carp Team Scotland Ladies’ Facebook page, and of course about what they have planned for 2024 and beyond.  I would personally like to extend a huge vote of thanks to Joanne Barlow, who stepped up to take on the role as Team Manager and played a pivotal role in getting the Team to where they are.  Joanne has sadly decided to step down from the role for personal family reasons and has handed to reigns to Eleanor Mitchell and I know you will join me in welcoming her to the role and wish her and the squad every success for 2024.  More details of what the Ladies have planned for 2024 and how to get involved will be published on our website and social media channels early in the New Year.

 

 

Towards the end of January 2024, we will again be holding a Coach CPD/Planning event which will include the International Team Managers and a selection of Internationalists to try to put together a forecast of coaching activities at various fisheries through the spring and summer to attract new youngsters into the sport and provide development opportunities for those who are already participating.  Our focus will continue to be to provide opportunity and encourage more juniors to get into competitive angling and re-establish the junior teams and this means finding new and innovative ways to provide a simple and sustainable pathway from recreational angling into competition.

 

In January I will be meeting with Lanarkshire Council and Strathclyde Country Park to discuss our aspirations to host the Celtic Cup on the venue in October 2024 and, off the back of that, to run a series of grass roots coaching events on the venue during the summer and autumn.  These will include a combination of drop in, and pre-booked, coach led taster sessions for the general public similar to the Let’s Fish events on the canals, as well as Club Angling Program deliveries targeted at Schools, clubs and community groups.  As always, we desperately need more coaches to support our programs and provide opportunities for the next generation of anglers.  As I have already mentioned we will be delivering the next Angling Support Coach Course from January to March, so 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 chairman@sfca.co.uk or call me on 07812 241816 and I will be happy to speak to you. 

 

The Executive Committee and I are now beginning to work on the draft SFCA Business Plan and Risk Register for 2024/25.  The aim, as always, is to have it published on the website in early February to ensure that clubs and individual members have at least 4 weeks to respond to the consultation prior to the AGM at the end of March. I urge you all to try to find time to read it once it is published.  I know that it is a large and fairly dry document, but this is your annual opportunity to tell us what you want and voice any concerns. If there are things that you feel we have missed, or things that you feel should be given more weight or priority, then we would love to hear from you. 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 if we are to develop a Plan that delivers what the sport needs. You can provide feedback and comments through your clubs or direct to me at chairman@sfca.co.uk.

 

As we look forward to 2024 and the undoubted challenges and opportunities that it will bring, as always I would like to take this opportunity to thank the members of the Executive Committee, our coaches, and the other volunteers, for the huge amount they have put in to support Scottish coarse angling over the past 12 months. Without their commitment, determination, and willingness volunteer their time and expertise we could not hope to protect, promote, and grow the sport of coarse angling in Scotland for future generations.  There is always, more work that we could do and more that we could achieve if we had more volunteers.  So, 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 would like to wish all our members, and indeed all coarse anglers in Scotland, a very Merry Christmas and Tight Lines for 2024!

 

Gus Brindle

Chairman



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