How to get into fishing

There’s nothing like fishing to get outdoors, appreciate nature and learn new skills. For some, it’s all about the sporting challenge. For others, it’s the peace and quiet that fishing brings – a chance to get away from it all. 

An angler fishing on the rocks at sunset in Lochinver

Photo: RNLI/Nigel Millard

Fishing is popular with people from all walks of life, and it’s easy to see why. Whether it’s the mental and physical wellbeing that a day’s fishing brings, learning a new skill or rising to the challenge of landing your next catch, there’s plenty to enjoy.

It’s a great way to get up close and personal with nature. A good day’s fishing doesn’t necessarily involve catching fish!

Here we answer a few frequently asked questions about getting into fishing.

Can anybody do it?

Yes, you’re never too young to learn to fish, and never too old. 

What sort of fishing can I do?

The choice is much wider than perhaps you think. As well as freshwater rivers, canals, lakes and ponds, you can fish in the sea from the shore or a boat, and there’s a wide variety of species of fish to catch.

When can I fish?

Different species are in season at different times of the year, so it’s possible to fish all year round. 

Is it expensive?

Learning to fish doesn’t have to be expensive. And it’s even more affordable if you go fishing with a friend and use their kit. 

Do I need to be fit to fish?

You don’t have to be particularly fit, although you may face a long walk to some fishing spots! 

How do I get started?

A good place to start is your local tackle shop where you can talk to the experts. You’ll find knowledgeable staff with a wealth of experience who’ll be only too happy to recommend where to fish in your area and the best equipment for the job.

When you go out fishing for the first time it’s a good idea to go with a fishing friend. They’ll show you basic techniques like how to cast and make the best use of the equipment you’ve got.

Alternatively, find out about fishing taster events near you by contacting your local angling club or shop. Or search online, where you’ll find lots of instructional videos on all sorts of fishing topics.

An angler wearing a lifejacket while fishing on the rocks

What kit do I need?

This depends on the type of fishing you’re doing. Typical basic kit consists of a rod, reel, fishing line, bait or lures, weights and hooks, a bucket and a small knife for cutting the line. Ask at your local tackle shop, where you’ll get free, expert advice.

If you’re fishing from a boat or from the coast, a lifejacket is essential.

Many lakes and rivers are privately owned which means you may need permission to fish there. If you’re fishing in a river, canal, lake or reservoir you’ll need a rod licence, which you can purchase online. Children under 12 don’t need a licence.

Is fishing family-friendly?

Absolutely. Fishing is an ideal family activity that can be enjoyed by children and grown-ups alike. Given the right encouragement, children will acquire an interest and skills that can give them a lifetime of pleasure. Remember to check out our safety advice.

Is there a disabled option with fishing?

Equipment adaptations such as smart floats or rod holders have made fishing much more accessible. Managed lakes and ponds provide level access with disabled fishing spots (called swims) and wheelchair accessible parking. You can get further information from the British Disabled Angling Association.

Coastal areas and rivers are often remote, without a phone signal, so it’s important to have a means of calling for help.  Wearing a lifejacket is essential.

What’s the difference between fishing and angling?

The terms ‘fishing’ and ‘angling’ actually mean slightly different things. Angling is catching fish with a hook and line, from the Greek word ankos (for bend). Fishing is a more general term that includes angling but also fishing with nets. For the purpose of this guide, fishing refers to all recreational fishing – this includes freshwater fishing, sea angling and competitive fishing. 

Do I have to put back what I catch?

Depending on where you fish, you will be subject to certain limits and maximum catch sizes. Some fish like sea bass are very restricted –  one fish per day at certain times of the year, and sometimes with a minimum size. At other times, you have to release everything you catch. Visit IFCA (England and Wales), or Angling Ireland for more information.

Ready to go fishing?

Talked to your local tackle shop? Arranged to go fishing with a friend? Booked yourself onto a taster session? Read our safety advice? Then you’re almost there!

All that’s left to do is to check the weather at Met Office UK or Met Office Ireland. And if you’re fishing in tidal waters, understand the tides.