Shipston Angling Club members glad to be back in action after difficult year due to Covid-19 restrictions
POSITIVITY surrounds Shipston Angling Club as members get back into action and start looking ahead to a bright future post-lockdown.
The pandemic has hit all sports clubs hard over the past year and everyone has had to adapt to the ever-changing restrictions to survive.
Clubs on the Herald patch have been pushed to the absolute limit, but with the Covid-19 rules being relaxed slowly, Shipston AC are now glad to be back in competitive action.
Vice-chairman Stuart Fleming told the Herald: “Fishing plays a very important part in some people’s lives.
"We have a very strong match group that meet up every week and many of them prefer to compete against each other rather than fish on their own.
“Angling, for some, can be a solitary sport, but others prefer the chance to chat to their friends and partake in the friendly banter.
"At the end of the day, though, we all fish to try and win. To be back match fishing and back out there with the rest of the guys is fantastic.”
Although it’s been a long wait to start match fishing again, Fleming was grateful that pleasure fishing was still allowed to continue because of the benefits it has on mental wellbeing.
“It has been impossible to plan fixtures as we have several leagues,” he said.
“Away matches that have to be planned at least a year in advance were cancelled and virtually each match has a cup, so many weren’t fished at all.
“We were fortunate that pleasure anglers could fish before match fishing was allowed, and this shows the value of angling and its advantages.
"Some people need escapism and pleasure angling showed its usefulness towards mental awareness to the wider community.
“It was hard making sure we were Covid-safe when we finally got the OK to start matches and abiding by the rules meant doing draws online, keeping to the two-metre distance at all times, special weighing-in areas and much more to make it safe for anglers and event organisers.”
Reflecting on what has been a difficult year, Fleming believes angling in the area will be stronger than ever before having survived the pandemic.
“The club has been going a long time and over the years it has built up a strong following," he said.
"We have a good committee that works together and we tackle things as they happen.
“The upside of the pandemic was the introduction of Zoom meetings, which enabled us to keep the club going.
"Membership was extended by three months to all anglers as a gesture of goodwill for lost months fishing.
"We may have lost out on a lot, but we have got through it all and I believe the sport of angling in this area will be stronger now for it.
"The club is as popular now as it was back when we were founded and will always stick by its roots on the River Stour.”
The club, formed in 1953, are now looking forward to the future.
One of the highlights of the year will be Fish 'n’ Frolics, with an estimated 72 anglers expected to take part in three days of fishing.
The event starts on 18th July with the annual duck race on the River Stour to raise funds for Shipston First Responders and Fish 'n’ Frolics.
Anglers then compete in the Ultimate Angler competition from 23rd to 25th July.