A Reel Good Time
England Ladies Carp Team Manager Bev Clifford on her love of the sport and why more women than ever are learning to fish
Bev Clifford from East Yorkshire was born into a fishing family, so from a young age she was always destined to become a keen angler. She currently works for a digital transformation company that is bringing something very exciting to the angling world, as well as running the Ladies Carp Academy and managing the England Ladies Carp Team. Bev is devoted to welcoming more women to the sport, which has seen a significant increase in female participation over recent years, so why should we be casting a rod?
Glorious: Why and when did you start fishing?
Bev Clifford: I started fishing in my mid-twenties. I’d lived the young party life and then as I was getting older I knew I needed to calm down and take up a proper hobby. I’d worked in the angling industry since I was 14 at the family magazine publishing company, so angling was already around me and I just thought why not give it a whirl. I was lucky enough to have some great friends that were anglers who I’d met through work so I roped them in to take me fishing and teach me the basics.
Glorious: Have you always been an outdoorswoman? What other activities do you enjoy?
Bev Clifford: I absolutely love the outdoors. As a child I was always outdoors. Playing in the garden, out on my bike, riding horses. I was lucky enough to be brought up in a house with a decent size garden so I had plenty of room to play. As well as angling I now also enjoy running, especially long distances in the mountains. I also have a very active young husky who likes to exercise twice a day and also loves nothing more than adventures in the outdoors.
Glorious: Does it ever get boring when you are waiting for a fish to bite? What do you do to occupy yourself?
Bev Clifford: You never get bored, but it can get frustrating at times. There is always plenty to do to pass the time and it can often be the only time you actually get to properly relax without the distractions of a busy life. There isn’t much that can beat sitting by the water on a lovely evening, cooking some nice food and watching the sun go down.
Glorious: What attracted you to carp fishing rather than angling on rivers for salmon and trout, or other types of fishing?
Bev Clifford: The main magazine that we published was based around carp fishing and my dad had been an avid carp angler in his younger years, so I guess you could say it was in my blood. I’d grown up with carp in the pond at home and always loved watching them. The style of carp fishing is quite different to other types of angling and I gravitate more towards that. There is also a massive social element to carp fishing with a great community behind it that is very welcoming and a pleasure to be part of.
Glorious: You launched a Ladies’ Carp Academy six years ago. How has this developed in numbers since it was established?
Bev Clifford: The first Ladies Carp Academy included 12 ladies. Now six years later, seven events will be held over the course of this year and over 200 ladies have attended events over the last few years, so I think it’s safe to say it’s grown pretty well!
Glorious: Describe a typical day at the academy for beginners and experienced anglers?
Bev Clifford: One of the full academy weekends will start with a group breakfast, a morning of skills work looking at all aspects of angling, including everything from fish care to baiting techniques. In the afternoon the group starts fishing and they fish all the way through the night until the next day.
Glorious: When it comes to learning to fish, through your academy, what do women find most difficult/frustrating – when is it time for an early glass of wine?
Bev Clifford: The thing that most people struggle with when they start fishing is casting the fishing rod. They are usually 12ft long and getting the technique right can be a difficult thing to master so at our events we spend a lot of time teaching this.
Glorious: It is common for many people to say that they haven’t got the patience for fishing. What would you say to them to encourage them to think otherwise?
Bev Clifford: I think a lot of people think that they haven’t got the patience and to be honest, anybody that knows me, knows that my life is always full speed and rushing around. But fishing makes me slow down and switch off and it’s the only thing that can. I struggle to sit still long enough to watch a film, but there is something about being near water and the pursuit of fishing that calms me. I’d just say to anybody, give it a go! What have you got to lose?
Glorious: Is there a physical aspect to fishing?
Bev Clifford: Fishing can be tailored to suit.. There’s match style fishing where you can be fishing a 72-hour endurance match with little to no sleep, constantly working to try and catch fish. Or you can go to a luxury venue with log cabins, pop a couple of rods out and chill out with some wine and a BBQ while you hope to get a bite.
Glorious: Fishing is still a male-dominated sport, but what changes have you seen over the last few years within the industry to make it more appealing to women including fishing fashion?
Bev Clifford: It is still a male-dominated sport but the past five years has seen a huge increase in female participation. Social media, especially Instagram, has helped make women in fishing more visible and women in sport in general. It’s made it a lot easier for people to discover other females enjoying their chosen hobby and get to understand more about it by following them on social platforms. Also, platforms like Glorious that highlight women in sport are all helping. I’m hoping in the next few years we’ll start seeing some cool fishing apparel just for females!
Glorious: After a two-year break due to Covid, the Women’s Carp Fishing World Championships takes place in the UK in September. What is the selection process, how many women are in a team and how is the competition judged?
Bev Clifford: The selection process for the Ladies Carp Team is based on a trials process to initially train as one of the squad and then throughout the year we monitor each individual, their progress and performance. Three months before the event we pick the team based on who we think the best individuals are suited to that match. The World Champs is decided by a complicated scoring system based on the weight of fish and the number caught. It’s also broken down into sections which make it even more complex, but this keeps the event fresh and exciting right until the final whistle.
Glorious: How do you support sustainable fishing?
Bev Clifford: I practice catch and release angling, which means all the fish I catch get returned to the water. We don’t believe in taking fish for the table in carp fishing. In fact the total opposite. When we have carp on the bank we treat them extremely well and always ensure they are returned to the water safely. We are also very conscious of the environment; we look after the places we fish, leaving no litter and often clearing up litter that other people may have left. A lot of angling companies are now working to improve their impact on the environment with regards to single use plastics and making sure that we are recycling as much as we can.
Glorious: What advice would you give to women and girls who would like to try fishing?
Bev Clifford: Just give it a go! There’s often local Get Into Fishing events taking place through the summer and these are a great way to try fishing for a couple of hours. If you fancy a full weekend, you could try one of the Ladies Carp Academy events, or you could see if there is someone in your family that fishes who you could join to share the experience.
Glorious: When you’re not fishing, do you play/have an interest in other sports?
Bev Clifford: Yes I enjoy the gym, especially weight training, running and enjoy taking part in Ultra marathons and spending time in the mountains.
Glorious: Who are your female icons, name four that you would like to invite for dinner and why?
Bev Clifford: Nikki Spinks – a female ultra runner who has survived breast cancer and set some amazing records. Gemma Atkinson, who is a great female role model. Coco Chanel – goes without saying as to why, and Tamara Mellon, an inspirational businesswoman.