Guidance for Leaders

Where fishing takes place from small boats (craft under 6 metres in length with or without an engine) on open inland water, the leader should have particular expertise in boat handling. In most cases it is advisable to obtain the services of a professional boatman.

  • Planning
  • Limitations
  • Equipment
  • Clothing
  • Group Supervision
  • Hazards
  • Safety Procedure
  • Water Hazards
  • Training
  • Sea Angling and Fishing Expeditions

Careful planning and preparation contribute greatly to the safe and enjoyable outcome of any activity. The council's generic risk assessment for your chosen activity is designed to help you plan that activity safely, and must be referred to in the early planning stages. If the site or nature of the planned activity poses additional risks which are not covered by the generic risk assessment then these must be considered in an additional site specific risk assessment:

  • Prior Knowledge of the location to be used, this should preferably be first hand, but if not, then it should be from a reliable source
  • Flexibility should be incorporated into planned programmes to allow for last minute modification or curtailment, to take account of changing conditions and the unforeseen
  • Knowledge of the Group, in particular, their experience and their physical capabilities, including any relevant medical problems or behavioural issues
  • Weather forecasts should be obtained before setting out
  • Other Constraints such as changing conditions, like daylight hours, rate of flow of water, group well being
  • Leaders must brief participants on good practice in the particular environment to be visited
  • Participants should not be allowed to fish alone and should ideally remain in sight of the leader at all times
  • Where this is impractical each person must remain in sight of at least two participants, and the party must all be within hailing distance of the leader
  • Seasonal as well as other limitations placed on certain fishing and angling activities must be observed
  • Solo fishing from boats should not be permitted
  • A CEN approved buoyancy aid or other flotation aid should be worn when fishing from rocks, wading and when fishing from a rowing boat
  • A rescue or throwing lines should be available for all fishing activities and the leader trained in its use
  • Young people should not be permitted to carry knives, nail clippers or a pair of small scissors are more than adequate

Personal clothing appropriate for the environment should be worn. Clothing must be warm, wind and waterproof.

Spare clothing, if not carried by each participant, should be readily available within the group.

For bank and shore fishing, a ratio of 1 leader: 5 participants is recommended as a maximum but circumstances may demand smaller ratios if students are spread over a wider area.

When fishing from a rowing boat, ratios will be determined by the size of craft and should not normally exceed 1 leader: 3 participants, with no more than 2 individuals fishing at any one time.

Participants should be made aware of any potential hazard in the area where they are fishing such as:

  • Crumbling or steep-sided banks
  • Overhead power cables
  • Tides, currents, rate of flow, larger waves and potential for rapidly rising water
  • Shingle, mudflats and soft sand
  • Slippery terrain and weed strewn rocks

Local information should be sought regarding any hazards likely to be encountered in a particular area.

Consideration should be given to water borne infections.


The leader must ensure that a thorough and detailed briefing is given before activities commence.

The leader must make regular close contact with each member of the group throughout the session.


With young people, wading should be treated with considerable caution and should only be permitted under the following conditions:

  • The leader is satisfied that the participant is competent, and that the waters to be fished are suitable
  • Only thigh waders should be worn
  • Participants must be taught the correct use of a wading staff

Fly Fishing

Eye protection is important for those being introduced to fly fishing (safety glasses, sun glasses or similar). A hat should also be worn to protect the head and ears.

Any crossing which requires more than a simple step across a small stream should not be underestimated and should only be contemplated when no significant risks are posed by doing so. When managing risks associated with water hazards, leaders must operate within the scope of their training and experience.
The council´s in house Lowhills Award does not provide formal training in dealing with water hazards, and leaders who are qualified in this capacity are required to ensure that any water crossings carried out under their supervision are of no more than ankle depth, able to be carried out easily and are inconsequential in the event of a slip.
Leaders who have undertaken national awards such as the Summer Mountain Leader Award will be more able to apply a reliable risk benefit analysis when faced with these hazards; however the overriding consideration should be avoidance of such hazards wherever possible.
The key to a successful outcome lies in the planning and risk assessment stages. Contingency plans should be drawn up for those situations where water is above ankle level or where the outcome of a crossing is uncertain. These should include alternative routes or waiting until water levels recede.

N.B Leaders who have undertaken training in any relevant capacity must lodge a record of that training with the management of their establishment.

Instruction in recovery techniques from deep, fast water when wearing waders and the use of a wading staff should be given prior to allowing participants to fish from faster moving water.

Training in casting techniques must be provided and carefully supervised prior to participants being allowed to fish on their own.

Advice should be provided on the action to take if a hook becomes embedded in flesh.

Where fishing or angling expeditions take place on the sea, or on large expanses of inland water, this should only be undertaken on board a vessel which currently meets the operating guidelines laid down by the Department of Transport.

Co-ordinators or leaders should be aware of the need to use craft that are adequate for the activity and large enough for the numbers taking part. The ratio of staff to the number of participants will be dependent on the type of vessel used and must be within the recommended ratio of 1 leader: 5 participants.

A CEN approved life jacket or buoyancy aid must be worn.

Particular attention should be paid to ensuring that participants clothing is warm as well as wind and waterproof. Fluorescent coloured clothing which makes accident victims more visible is of particular benefit.

Co-ordinators or leaders need to be aware of those in the party who are not confident swimmers and take account of this in their supervision arrangements.

Measures to prevent seasickness should be considered. It should be noted that some treatments can cause drowsiness.

Casting from sea fishing boats should not be permitted.