Gone fishing?

Posted on August 9, 2016 by Eleanor McKenzie
Fishing at dusk

I must admit that I know very little about rod and line fishing, but do have some experience of sailing out in a dinghy with my father and his friend. During the summer holidays we would retrieve the contents of lobster pots dotted about the coastal waters where the Mourne Mountains sweep down to the sea in Co. Down. Fishing of all types is a very popular hobby across Ireland and enthusiastic anglers from around the world head to its loughs and rivers to enjoy some of the best fishing in Europe. Well, it’s fine as long as you don’t mind a bit of rain, but I’m guessing that fans of fishing are used to water… The same is true of fishing throughout the UK.

From 22 July to 29 August it is National Fishing Month in the UK. The aim of this ‘awareness’ month is to encourage people of all ages and backgrounds to have a go at fishing. Undoubtedly, although fishing is a ‘quiet’ activity, it is one that encourages time spent outdoors and an opportunity for bonding between generations. Furthermore, fishing has other health benefits apart from getting people out into the fresh air.

Fishing therapy

Healthy recreational activities play an increasingly important therapeutic role in maintaining mental wellness and helping people with a mental health diagnosis to recover and rehabilitate. Fishing is one of those activities and as therapists point out, everyone is somewhere on the scale of mental wellness, and fishing can help people stay at the ‘well’ end of the spectrum. So, what are the key ingredients of fishing as a hobby that will do you a world of good?

It encourages you to take a break from life’s stresses. I imagine Toad of Toad Hall would second that. In “Wind in the Willows” he was very keen on fishing and one of his most famous quotes from the children’s classic is “Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”  Of course, you don’t need a boat to go fishing; sitting beside a river or a canal, or perched on a harbour wall are all great places to relax with a fishing rod.

Fishing gives you a chance to learn a new skill and that can improve confidence levels. Plus, when you catch a fish –even if you throw your catch back—it gives a sense of accomplishment that further boosts self-confidence. And, if you successfully fish for your supper, imagine the sense of pride you will have when it is served up. Today, we are very detached from the sources of our food and fishing is without doubt the easiest way to recover a connection with our food at its origins. City dwellers as much as country folk can fish, whereas hunting for birds or game requires expertise with guns and traps, and is more controversial and dangerous than waiting for a fish to take the bait.

Fishing can be enjoyed as a solitary and meditative activity that encourages calming the mind and “being in the moment.” This is a powerful way of coping with stress and fraught situations. Taking yourself off to a riverbank or the canal for a spot of ‘me time’ can help you to find solutions by simply clearing the mind of the many conflicting thoughts that cause stress and block you from finding a way forward.


Fishing on the river while on holiday

Fishing holidays

But, fishing doesn’t have to be a solo experience. The camaraderie of groups of fishing enthusiasts is a potential lifeline for people living alone. As Freewaters, an Alaskan fishing experience organiser suggests, “it is a low-key, casual environment” that offers an opportunity for a laugh and a chat. Considering that loud noise frightens fish away, it is perfect for those who prefer their entertainment at the lower end of the decibel scale.

Plus, it does qualify as a “mild fitness” activity. Reaching a fishing spot typically requires some walking or biking to reach the best ones, and in this era of low Vitamin D levels it can also boost that. Just don’t forget the sunscreen when it’s a sunny day. Fly fishing, which requires the repeated movement of casting the line, has been shown to help women recovering from breast cancer surgery as the movement is similar to the recommended exercises that promote soft tissue stretching. In the USA, Casting for Recovery is a charitable organisation and support group that organises fly fishing retreats for women with breast cancer. Perhaps it is an idea we could bring to the UK!

If you would like to find out more about fishing events during National Fishing Month, or you’re already a fishing expert who would like to share your knowledge, you can find out more here. And, if you have ever wanted to leave a note on the table that says, “Gone fishing!” now is your chance.

by Eleanor McKenzie

Eleanor McKenzie is a Northern Irish writer with a passion for art, literature, and red wine. She's worked at advertising agency JWT, edited a journal for a European social policy think tank and tried to teach teenagers the difference between "there" and "their". Being 50+ has not significantly changed Eleanor's life, although she finds it a handy excuse when she wants to avoid anything too energetic.