Making it in Angling – how to become a star of the sport!
One of the most frequent comments I get posted about the site is that there are lots of aspiring Matt Hayes’ out there! Many of you, especiallyÂ the youngsters, want to make a career out of fishing, so here’s my heads up, warts and all…
Mums and dads of aspiring angling stars are often perplexed when their offspring declare theirÂ intention to be the next big star of fishing. Giving career advice to someone whom wants to make a career out of their hobby is pretty perplexing stuff. Equally, I know that there are lots of good fishermen out there whom watch people like myself and Mick Brown on the telly and think ‘I could do that!’
The first thing to look at is motivation. If your driving force for becoming a full-time fisherman isÂ the thought that you will be able to spend all of your time fishing – forget it! Like any career, to earn money you have to work and that means doingÂ a job professionally. Quite often you will be involved in attending meetings, writing scripts, taking photographs and contributing features to magazines. I reckon I get to spend two or three days a week on the bank but I rarely get to go pleasure fishing.
There is also the question of making a living. The typical consultancy fee for a so called ‘named’ angler is around two to three thousand pounds a year. A few get to make five to ten thousandÂ Â and there are probably no more than ten UK anglers whom earn more than ten thousand a year from the sport. The guys at the very top of the tree, of which there are probab ly no more than five or six, earn more than twenty grand. In a nutshell, making enough money to pay a mortagage and raise a family is tricky to say the least.
The angling industry is generally unprofessional and the going rateÂ for material is low. This is due, in the most part, to the fact that there are lots of anglers whom are willing to give away written material, photographs, make appearances or appear in low budget DVDÂ and tv shows for some sponsored tackle. In many ways, this ‘cottage industry’ mentality is one of angling’s endearing qualities but it makes a serious career a remote possibility…
The expectation on the part of company’s involved in angling is that publicity material is easy to get and largely free. Few people stop to think about what is really involved. A classic case in point came recently when a gentleman wrote to me asking for permission to use some of my photographs for a new angling website. The picture he was most interested in was an HDR (High Dynamic Range) shot of my Norwegian fly bench. When I wrote back to him suggesting that I would work out a price he seemed quite shocked. ‘I would not pay to use a picture!’ he said and it was obvious he fully expected me to let him use it for nothing. Now when you consider that the equipment I use to take my pictures would cost more than fiftyÂ thousand pounds if purchasedÂ new and the fact that I sepnt more than a whole day of my time setting up, lighting and post editing the shot, not to mention the ten year photographic apprenciceship I have served andÂ you will begin to understand the problem…
I am not trying to suggest that you cannot make a career out of angling but it is important that you understand the market that you are thinking of operating in.
The next big issue that you need to get to grips with is that nobody and I mean nobody, gets paid to go fishing. Rather, angling stars get paid to either promote, communicate or entertain. An angling feature might take place in a more pleasant environment than a day in an office but it is a job of work nonetheless.Â The angling industry exploits the fact that star anglers will work for next to nothing, especially the news and magazine media. TheyÂ stifle the rates paid to star anglers because they know that if they give publicity to their sponsors they can pay peanuts. It is the sponsors that pay for anglers to make features and shows and, of course, they want results because they run businesses. You must understand that these people do not give two hoots whehter you catch a carp of ten pounds or thirty – that is just a means to their real end of selling bait or tackle.
As aÂ consequenceÂ of the general malaise that is the angling media, the end result is a lack of quality and a great deal of ‘me too’ material. Companies rip each other’s products off, angling features are often the same regurgitated material with a commercial message and the fact is that if you won’t do it for nothing, someone else always will.
I am sure that this is not what many of you want to hear. Those whom are in it for the wrong reasons will not have readÂ this far but for those of you whom are still with it, let me give you the good news. The fact is that the angling world is so unprofessional that there are opportunties for people with talent to make a living, albeit limited opportunities. Being a good angler, though, is not enough. You can be the best carp catcher in the world but if you can’t entertain orÂ communicate you are dead in the water. I know a lot of very good anglers whom would never make it inÂ professional fishing simply because they don’t have the skills to be employable.
If you are really determined, it is important thatÂ you hone your professional skills. Learning photography and how to write will help you enormously. If you can learn to take pictures that help to tell a story you are half-way there to getting your first magazine article published: if you can write it, without causing the publisher to spend too much time editing the material, so much the better. YoungstersÂ whom wish to consider a career in the sport should learnÂ photography, movie camera work and should consider a journalism course. Dropping out of school and hoping that someone will spotÂ you on the bank is simply not going to work. And don’t think that catching a string of big fish will ever get you more thanÂ some free tackle andÂ bait: it won’t. Success will be short lived and you will spend more money trying to catch the fish than you will get back in reward.
A good way to start is to get a decent compact digital camera and try to tell the story of your day’s fishing in pictures. Photograph the water, the rig, one of your mates playing a fish, a landscape or some of the wildlife as well, of course, as the fish that you catch. When you feel competent, sart to think about writing about your experiences and send the material, along with theÂ pictures, to a magazine publisher. Alternatively, you can post the material on the web and invite publishers to view it. Everyone has to start somewhere and this is a good way to do it.Â Â
An alternative is to use some of the HD movie cameras around at the moment and make short fishing films. Some of the latest Digital SLR cameras have got HD movie facilities built into them and make no bones about it, making high quality short films is going to be within everyone’s reach and soon.Try to take the viewer on an adventure, explaining everything that is happening along the way. Publish the stuff on the web and invite people to view it and give constructive comments.
Perhaps the best piece of advice I can give you isÂ never toÂ try to ‘bluff.’ Being honest about your experience or lack of it in fishing is important. Other anglers love to read material that shows that the personÂ doing the writing is open-minded and, likeÂ them, human. Fishing isÂ a continuous learning processÂ - every angler blanks so don’t try to pretend that you dont. A touch of realism will add weightÂ and credibility to your writing. Rememeber that your job is to inspire, entertain or inform. You might have come up with a new wonder rig orÂ bait – that makes great reading. So too does the story of an up and down campaign to catch your dream fish, a nightmare fishing trip, a visit to an inspiring place etc.,Â Some of the most inspirational material I have seen and read involves a struggle against the elements or the gradual piecing together of all the clues that lead to the eventual capture of a dream fish.
Perhaps the biggest tool available to newcomers is the internet. Building profiles on sites such as Facebook allows you to publish material, build communities and get feedback. It also gives you a platform to showcase your work. Try to be creative in the way that you display your material and don’t just sling it together. Ab ove all, be yourself. Your personality is the biggest asset you have got. I come from an era that started with magazines, video and tvÂ but the whole way in which people communicate and inspire each other is chaging. Building networks and communities is becoming oh, so important and you should harness modern technology to help youÂ build your profile.Â Â Â Â Â Â
Some Basic Questions Answered
Do you Spend all of your time Fishing?
No, far from it. Probably two to three days a week on the bank, virtually all taken up with magazine features and filming. In addition I have a family, a fishing tackle business to run, magazine material to write, web sites, shows and exhibitions and a summer fishing lodge in Norway to run.
Will Catching a big Fish me me aÂ Star?
No. It might give you bragging rights with your mates for a while but don’t pretend that anyone is really interested. Big fish come and go – fame is short-lived. Â Â
What Should I do to make it?
Learn to take good pictures, write and, above all, be professional. Some public speaking courses can be very useful as can training as aÂ journalist.
Will I earn Much money?
I doubt it. Very few Do.
Will I be Happy?
Probably, butÂ broke!
What is involved in making a tv programme?
Most viewers think that when I make tv shows I just go fishing and that somehow the crew manages to follow me around and capture everything realitme. This is far from the case.Â A day spent filming will often leave you frustratedÂ and wishing that you could have gone fishing! When I made ‘Mainstream’ for instance, I reckon that for every three day shoopt we spent maybe sixÂ or seven hours fishing. Time has to be taken to do introductions, film casting and setting up from several angles, rigs in close-ups, links to help tell the story etc.,Â Â I enjoy making TV shows but it is hard work.
How Do I get Sponsored?
Writing magazine features is the best way to get started with proper sponsorship from bait and tackle companies. The day when you get your first free consignment of tackle or bait through the post is pretty exciting but the thrill eventually wears off and it is then down to you to reward your sponsor by publishing material that helps them sell more stuff. Never promise more than you can deliver – your career will be short-lived!
How Do I get to the very Top?
I think that this is the million dollar question. Great anglers are born. You can get to a certain level by hard work and professionalism and scratch a career but to be the best you have to have something extra. It’s a an ability to inspire and entertain – so few wannabe anglers have it. Also, you have to be exceptional and to be the very best you must understand and master many, many forms of fishing. This takes time and a flair and thirts for knowledge. There are very few whom have the gift. Catching carp will get you soÂ far – but to topple myself or John Wilson you are going to have to learn to fish for anyhting that swims with a full reportoire of techniques from trotting a float, working lures, casting flies with both single and double-hand rods etc., It’s a tall order.
Is it WorthÂ it?
Of course! I would not change my life for anything! I haveÂ enjoyed so many wonderful days in inspiring places that if it all stopped tomorrow I would not regret a moment. But I also have a wife and three children to look after too and beingÂ able to provide for them and take my part in their livesÂ is equally important.
I have been very lucky to get where I am. I got the breaks at the right times and the chance to do stuff. Of course, I made a lot of my own luck but nonetheless there is a lot of ‘right guy, right place’ syndrome.
Who Is Next?
You can never be sure but I don’t think that there are any outstanding talents right nowÂ that you can be sure will be the next big stars of the sport. There are those whom have some of the elements but I don’t think that they have the full package. All of which means that the field is wide open for someone new. When it happens, I will take a graceful bow. Who knows? It might be you!