Two legs left of popular Edinburgh New Year shore angling league

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It was a series of sea fishing events designed to heighten the awareness of angling in the Lothians and beyond and to encourage competition - and the Edinburgh Shore Angling winter and spring leagues have done just that according to organiser, Ian Campbell.

Now the final two events of the New Year League are scheduled to take place at Newhaven on Friday (March 8) and again at Newhaven on March 22.

Back in February, I caught up with Ian Campbell at an event in Portobello. There is not a breath of wind and the sea is flat calm on an ebb tide as we drive into the busy Tumbles car park.

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Excited youngsters flood out of the adjacent leisure centre chattering in high pitch tones about their exploits on the various activities.

Anglers prepare for the New Year League match at PortobelloAnglers prepare for the New Year League match at Portobello
Anglers prepare for the New Year League match at Portobello

Cyclists unload their bikes from their cars. The spacious and pedestrianised promenade at Portobello is ideal for cycling, particularly for parents with children, even in the dark, as it is lit for the entire length.

Dog walkers come and go along with shoppers who use the car park as for easy access to the nearby main street and parents drop off their kids decked in various colours of football shirts for the five-a-side pitches nearby.

It is 5.30pm on a chilly February night. Then I spot a face behind the wheel. Ian Campbell, organiser of the popular Edinburgh New Year Shore Angling League arrives. Within minutes, the Falkirk-based angler has donned his waders and waterproofs and he walks the short distance to the beach with the tide rapidly disappearing towards Fife.

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There, much to the surprise of many dog walkers, he places pegs into the sand. Sadly, Campbell wonders how many will remain until the start of fishing at 7pm. They can, he said, go "missing" even in a short time and he can't understand why. The pegs are certainly not washed away with the tide.

Scottish international Nuno Santos selects his rig at PortobelloScottish international Nuno Santos selects his rig at Portobello
Scottish international Nuno Santos selects his rig at Portobello

Campbell returns from the expansive, sandy beach to be met by Stewart Falconer, a great help during the Winter and New Year series which has become popular, not just with anglers in Edinburgh and the Lothians, but fishermen from much further afield.

Neil Cutler, a well-known name in North-East of England angling circles, and a regular competitor in events in Northern England and Scotland, has been a regular this winter, so have his Tyneside colleagues, Steve Potts and Gavin Owen.

Of course, it helps that Penn Sea League points are available from the Edinburgh events, but they did not compete at Portobello as they had a competition in Cumbria.

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Nuno Santos, who fished for Scotland in the recent world shore championship in Sicily, drove in after travelling from the South Side of Glasgow, a trip which can take some time, depending on the Friday afternoon traffic.

Scottish international Nuno Santos picks his rig for the match at PortobelloScottish international Nuno Santos picks his rig for the match at Portobello
Scottish international Nuno Santos picks his rig for the match at Portobello

Barry McEwan, another member of the Tartan Team which competed Sicily, is another regular in the event along with another Lothians-based angler, Chris Empson. That shows the quality of the competition.

Anglers joined in the pre-match banter as darkness fell over the car park which began to thin out as the shoppers and youngsters headed home for tea.

More anglers arrived and they queued to hand over their £10 entry fee and for the draw, orchestrated by Falconer, a regular competition angler who regularly travels from Arbroath, a journey which can take well over two hours depending on the traffic at the Queensferry Crossing over the Forth.

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Campbell, the organiser, does not live locally, he comes from Falkirk. Gus Brindle, who is chairman of the Scottish Federation for Coarse Angling, is a recent convert and he travels with his friend, Dave McKervail, from Fife.

There are, admittedly, a number of anglers from the Edinburgh area. Gordon Lyall, who landed a staggering 51 fish during the winter league at Newhaven, next to Leith Docks, is one. Newhaven, is, despite the treacherous nature of the sea wall - always wear studs - has proved the most productive venue so far.

David Cooper who won the winter league, is another regular and his brother, Chris, is a recent convert to competitive se fishing.

Mike Kyle, a Scottish international from Easthouses in Midlothian, has also had a cast and is one of the leaders of the current series.

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Promising local youngsters like Eryk Janik also take part and Campbell explained that the winter and New Year series is designed to heighten the profile of angling as well as encouraging the competitive side of the sport.

He is the manager of The Edinburgh Angling Centre which is just along the coast at Granton, and the firm are sponsors of the event along with The Fishing Megastore and tackle firm, Cox and Rawle.

And, despite being the organiser, he has figured among the prize winners. Campbell was second at Portobello and had the longest fish, a 27cm flounder.

Campbell also recorded the longest fish, a 31cm cod, in the previous match at Newhaven, his home-made rigs with bling and the meticulous bait presentation, obviously working.

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Around 20 fished at Portobello, their headlights flickering in the gloom as they chased the tide. Locals walking their dogs, and cyclists, inquired what was happening as we walked off the beach back to the car after taking photographs.

Questions included: "What do they catch?" Statements included: "I've never seen so many people fishing on the beach before."

The anglers fished on in the three-hour match which ended at 10pm and the popularity of the event indicates that this series will continue next winter.

Campbell's major cause for concern between now and the end of the New Year event is the cost of his disappearing pegs. Possibly, it's amateur gardeners picking them up to indicate which vegetables are in their allotments.

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Whatever, this event and the winter series have certainly brought a focus to competitive sea angling in the Edinburgh area and the final two events of the New Year League are at Newhaven on March 8 and also at Newhaven on March 22.