ANGLERS around England were returning to the banks for the first time since lockdown began as restrictions on the sport were eased last week.

A change in Government guidelines surrounding outdoor activities announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson meant as of last Wednesday morning, anglers around the country were able to fish on their own or alongside people from their household for the first time since the middle of March.

Social distancing was in evidence in Northwich, where Tom Jackson, an IT project manager, was among four anglers who turned up to his local club early on Wednesday.

Like many, he was delighted to have a reason to get out of the house and forget about the news.

"I'm unable to work due to the virus so once all my DIY was complete, I've been sat twiddling my thumbs," he said.

"Nothing takes your mind off things quite like fishing."

Martin Salter, chief policy adviser for the Angling Trust, was at his local club on Wednesday morning helping to re-open and to ensure everyone was aware of the rules under which they were able to fish.

"We were delighted with the sensible and responsible attitude of the anglers who turned up to fish today," he said.

Mr Salter said the Environment Agency sold 21,000 rod licences in the 24 hours following the announcement on Sunday that fishing would again be allowed, compared with 4,000 in the same period last year.

It led to fears some fisheries might be overrun on Wednesday morning, and some videos circulating on social media appeared to show big queues.

But Mr Salter, who said there are about two million anglers in the UK, had heard of no reports of any major issues on Wednesday afternoon.

"Angling is the ultimate self-isolating sport," he said. "Large crowds and successful fishing don't mix."

The trust has produced extensive guidance for clubs and anglers, and is attempting to impress upon everyone the importance of sticking to the rules.

"When there are lots of people not able to do the sports they love, we're going to have some public scrutiny," Mr Salter said.

"We're trying to get across to every single angler in the country that they have to be ambassadors for the sport."