Angling may be touted as Britain’s most popular sport, but what is the lure of fishing magazines? Alan Geere casts for clues on the newsstand.
What’s it about: ‘No 1 for fish of the week’ and ‘Original & best weekly’ – taglines on cover.
Vital statistics: May 30, 2017 issue: 56 pages of 266mm x 195mm. Gloss paper, self-cover, stitched. £1.99 cover price. Weekly. Combined ABC of 15,415, all from print. Published by Time Inc in Farnborough, Hampshire.
Cover: Busy, busy, busy. Five coverlines plus strapline cross-refs totalling 63 words. Pictures of three men holding fish, including boxing champ Anthony Joshua. Fish count = 3.
Content: Packed with pictures of men holding fish (women holding fish in short supply) and useful features on how you can be a better angler. ‘Ask & Win’ is a novel take on reader engagement, ‘Where to Fish’ is just that with handy info and graphics. New gear galore – from £3.99 to £1,599.99 – and an enjoyable column from ‘The Informant’.
Digital: Comprehensive website at anglersmail.co.uk (although obtrusive pop-up ads could easily have you clicking away) which is promoted on the magazine folio line and 20.8k followers on Twitter plus a whopping 126k likes on Facebook.
What they say: “Print's far from dead! We've just had our best sale of the year on @AnglersMail print magazine.” – editor Tim Knight on Twitter in June 2016.
Verdict: Feels uncomfortably small and thin against the other titles. And just three half page display ads inside and a page and a half of classified mean that editorial has to work very hard. But as a weekly fix, it doesn’t disappoint with plenty to admire about its tabloid approach with accessible writing and busy design.
What’s it about: ‘Your No1 fishing weekly since 1953’ – tagline on cover.
Vital statistics: May 30, 2017 issue: 72 pages of 297mm x 210mm. Gloss paper, self-cover, stitched. Weekly. £1.99 cover price. Combined ABC of 25,878, with 318 from digital. Published by Bauer in Peterborough.
Cover: Five coverlines plus a picture of a man at peace with his tench. Fish count = 6.
Content: Comes in poly bag containing ‘free tackle box’ (sic). A ‘Welcome’ spread including Editor’s Fine Words (see Spotlights passim) then straight into ‘This Week’ which is actually ‘Last Week’. 14 pages of ‘Where To Fish’ plus a voucher offer shows they know their market then another 14 pages of ‘Tips & Tactics’. News, letters, even a (quite difficult) crossword.
Digital: No promotion for anglingtimes.co.uk but it’s quite a delight when you get there. News, tips & tactics, equipment reviews, videos plus ‘Sign up for Newsletter’ (easy to do) and ‘Get a Free Taster of the Magazine’ (22 pages via Yumpu). Links to Twitter with 20.7k followers and Instagram (2,372) but curiously not to Facebook although 145,000 likers are signed up.
What they say: “Get on the pellet waggler this weekend with these three rigs!” – exhortation on Twitter feed, complete with obligatory exclamation mark!
Verdict: The biggest selling weekly and not difficult to see why. Tons to read and look at plus the lovely Kingfisher Club for young anglers. At £1.99, that’s just 28p a day to get your fishing fix without having to leave the armchair.
Fly Fishing & Fly Tying
What’s it about: ‘For the progressive game angler and fly tyer’ – tagline on cover.
Vital statistics: June 2017 issue: 100 pages of 297mm x 210mm. Gloss paper, heavyweight cover, perfect bound. Monthly. £3.60 cover price. The last ABC return in December 2015 shows a combined sale of 8,952 with 481 from digital. Published by Rolling River Publications in Aberfeldy, Perthshire.
Cover: Full bleed pic of a man fishing mid-stream (in the Dolomites we later learn), six neatly constructed coverlines and a rather obtrusive barcode. Fish count = 0.
Content: Refreshingly kicks off with three pages of letters and then a reader’s pic after a neatly constructed contents spread. Some natty hand-drawn graphics and lavish photography (check out the double-page spread of a nymph) make this a visually appealing mag as well as a detailed read. Tablet and mobile editions also available.
Digital: A front page promo leads to a perfectly presentable website at flyfishing-and-flytying.co.uk which has news and reviews plus links to Twitter (1,632 followers) and Facebook (10,845 likes), a surprisingly poor return for diligent activity.
What they say: “Sheila loves peat” and “Hell’s wels” (it’s a sort of catfish) – headlines to make you smile in this edition.
Verdict: Mark Bowler has been editor for the past 27 years since the magazine’s inception so he should know what he’s doing. Well produced, always interesting and with a wry sense of fun lurking in dark corners.
What’s it about: ‘Britain's favourite and best sea angling monthly’ – from pinned tweet.
Vital statistics: June 2017 issue: 132 pages of 297mm x 210mm. Gloss paper, heavyweight cover, stitched. 13 issues a year. £3.60 cover price. Combined ABC of 20,334, all from print. Published by Bauer in Peterborough.
Cover: Big picture of man and big brill, six coverlines and three small pictures. Fish count = 4.
Content: Comes in poly bag containing an 80-page tackle catalogue. Comprehensive (over-long?) contents spread then straight into the well-illustrated ‘Great Venues’. On through ‘Tactics’ and ‘Sea School’ to the cover story kicking off 30 pages for the boat angler. ‘Your Fishing’ runs to 17 pages near the back.
Digital: A rather prosaic offering at seaangler.co.uk that never seems to get going with any confidence. Links to a paltry 2,138 Twitter followers, but with only 481 tweets in more than five years, it’s easy to see why, and Facebook (16k likes) boosted by regular video posts.
What they say: “You can only catch and kill any fish once.” – Philosophy from poster on Facebook.
Verdict: Bold design not afraid to use pictures well and a good spread of equipment ads help make this a complete read. Dedicated and diligent approach from knowledgeable staff and contributors will keep the sea angling fraternity happy.
Total Sea Fishing
What’s it about: ‘The UK’s best sea fishing…’ – tagline on cover with ‘play the missing word game’ hidden under a big yellow waterproof. (Exhaustive research reveals the missing word is… magazine.)
Vital statistics: June 2017 issue: 100 pages of 297mm x 210mm. Gloss paper, heavyweight cover, perfect bound. Monthly. £3.40 cover price. Circulation of ‘over 10,000 per month’ according to media pack. Published by David Hall Publishing in Daventry, Northants.
Cover: A cover-mounted packet of five hooks hides the big caps headline ‘MONSTER COD’, complete with picture of said beast. Five other coverlines and a strapline cross-ref to the 84-page catalogue that is inserted inside. Fish count = 1.
Content: Well illustrated contents spread and into news and well-researched features, including a report from a cod fishing trip 400 miles inside the arctic circle. ‘Total tackle’ puts rods to the test and there’s a phone-in competition to win £380 of equipment. Five pages on what to do with leftover bait – how could you resist? Unusual use of hashtag device on the straplines (#specieshunt, #monsterturbot etc) which could confuse digital devotees.
Digital: Welcome page puff to Facebook (24k likes) and Twitter (2,348 followers) and directions to the website totalseamagazine.com which has news, reviews and some decent videos. The publisher also says the magazine apps have had “over 17,000 downloads and have over 2,000 regular monthly readers”.
What they say: “Good understanding of angling across its different disciplines is an advantage” – from an ad for ‘Web Content Specialist’ at the publisher.
Verdict: Design tries to veer towards the edgy, although some of the typefaces are difficult to read, as if it feels ‘Punk Fishing’ could be the way to go. Specialist publisher has no trouble playing with the big boys producing a confident publication that clearly has its fans.
Trout & Salmon
What’s it about: ‘The voice of game-fishing since 1955’ – tagline on cover.
Vital statistics: July 2017 issue: 124 pages of 297mm x 210mm. Gloss paper, heavier cover, perfect bound. £3.70 cover price. Monthly. Combined ABC of 20,736, all from print. Published by Bauer in Peterborough.
Cover: Stylish big serif caps masthead over a rather confusing picture montage of a river, a lake and that rare species in a fishing magazine – a woman. Fish count = half (front end of a trout).
Content: Two pages of contents and Editor’s (very long) Letter lead into sumptuously designed features with quality pictures. Superb photography throughout with lovely close-ups of beautifully tied flies. Enthusiastic destination pieces are enhanced by ‘Plan Your Trip’ info box. The ‘Know-How’ advice pages and fishing reports will both have their fans.
Digital: No promos from the magazine to the website but it is there lurking in the shallows at troutandsalmon.com. Has some videos and subscription info but not much else. Link to a Facebook page with 7,700 likes. No Twitter.
What they say: “Would you like to see your name in print? Have you had a memorable day or made a new discovery? Then write to us to have your letter considered for publication in the next issue. (Please, no more politics.)” – politics free zone plea on Facebook page.
Verdict: Strange to see a disappointing digital offer from a publishing titan such as Bauer. But plenty to like about this lavish production that will have devotees of the riverbank itching to get out there.