Essex Anglers are proud to have the opportunity to produce this post, on what Fishing means to a range of different Anglers, the Essex Anglers team, some of our amazing guest bloggers we have had and some amazing names in the Fishing world have all opened up on what Fishing means to them, and how it benefits their Mental Health, and just a bit of their story.
It was an honour to put this piece together, reading the stories of everyone, thank you to everyone who has shared their story, and I hope you all enjoy this read and hopefully some of it resonates to you.
Feeling very privileged to have fished from a really young age, experiencing all types of angling with close friends and family members, I have probably taken fishing for granted, with the main aim to catch the biggest one or more than everyone else there. No realising that my love for the sport is someone else’s escapism, and in some cases saviour. Being in the trade for many years, I come across lots of different cases where fishing can really help with metal health issues, from X services to kids that didn’t have the best of upbringings. So now when I get to go fishing for pleasure, usually away from the match scene, on a nice river somewhere, I tend to sit and take it all in, appreciate what we are given, the surroundings, wildlife, flowing water, the the peace and quiet away from every day life, the Indescribable feeling you get when the float goes under or the tip goes round, I totally get it. It’s not just a sport or past time, it’s something amazing that can help sufferers in ways no other medicine or counselling can.
Being fairly active on social media, I could tell you dozens of stories that have been privately shared with me where fishing has quite literally saved a life. Whether is it respite from the tortures of PTSD, healing after a lost loved one, or even the escape from an ever more insane world, angling has played an invaluable part in providing the individual with a coping mechanism.
For me, fishing is the ultimate escape; a time to dream up impossible things and then chase those dreams through the power of solitude, moonlight, sunrises and all the surrounding glory that nature shares with us. For so many, angling is essential lifeblood and I certainly count myself among the masses
I grew up in the countryside of Essex and being close to nature is in my bones. All through my childhood I was either outdoors playing in the fields or on a boat at sea. Life was good.
My work in contrast is completely driven by meetings and human interaction. Although I love my work and am lucky to have a job that takes me all over the world – it is from city to city, one hotel to another. A fake world where my hotel room could be anywhere and time is just a number on a dial. The older I get the more I find this lifestyle draining. I thought this year without business travel I could settle more at home. But conducting 8-hours of zoom calls a day has just intensified the self administered pressure and isolation from the world outside my home office.
Fishing is my ‘reset button’. Where I can get away from it all and just be me. Sea fishing is my passion as it is so driven by the powers of nature that I have no control over. It is humbling to appreciate the power the moon has on the tides and how as the earth speeds around the sun our seasons change. I feel when I fish that I am no more than just another grain of sand on the beach adapting to the environment around me. I love the nature around me, far more than just the hunt for the fish – I absorb everything from the seasonal birds to the landscape colours on the countryside behind me as I gaze out to sea. The smells and sounds seep into my subconsciousness. All the negativity of modern life seems to be put into perspective in that the world has spun around for millennia and will continue to do so.
I look forward to each pending season and what new fishing opportunities this brings. I get excited by each new species caught in the new season as if it was my first fish. I am never happier than when fishing. The seasons always bring something new to the day.
So yes, I admit that I struggle normally to switch off from work. I am a habitual worrier despite my sometimes fake smile. I take life far too seriously and this year it has been worse than ever, with every work day being a conveyor belt of video meetings against a backdrop of crisis decisions at work affecting our staff and customers. I have really struggled with my health, both mental and physical. When I fish I forget it all, no checking my phone, no working through solutions to work problems whilst performing other tasks – I totally switch off from the world and forget everything except fishing. I return home mentally refreshed and physically exhausted. For me, fishing has kept me going this year and will do so increasingly as we return to winter darkness. It gives me purpose that is only ever a few days away. Life is good when I fish.
I had a tough time through school, Bailey for a young guy, isn’t the easiest name to grow up with, not having loads of friends made the school years really tough, and the escape every weekend of going Fishing with my dad was a huge help through it, a chance to forget about it all and be out in some amazing scenery to connecting with wildlife, which in my opinion makes everyone happier. As I’ve grown older and in recent years, I’ve learnt a lot more about mental health and how it affects all of us, keeping up with your mental health, talking about it and taking time for yourself is so important, and Fishing provides me that.
My fascination with the underwater world made it inevitable I would enjoy fishing. What I didn’t expect from it though was the huge mix in emotions. There is the elation of the catch, the deflation of the loss, the tranquillity of the summer sunrise or winter evening. All of this focuses the mind, provides clarity when all else may feel foggy. What has also came with my fishing is something else – blog writing, social get togethers (when not in Covid times) and, more recently, a chance to put together events and guide new anglers in my beloved style of LRF. All of this has driven my passion for angling, my love of the sport and most importantly my positive outlook on life. Sure there are stresses in fishing – blanking for one – but they are small in the grand scheme of things. Fishing is humbling, it is a quick way to place myself in nature, to be a visitor in a world that isn’t quite my own. We live an increasingly urban life. Many of us spend 40 plus hours in dark offices, bleak building sites and other unnatural spaces. It’s no surprise that depression and stress have sky rocketed, with more and more people seeking help via anti-depressants and therapy. For me, fishing is my therapy, an opportunity to escape the mundane and experience the wild – whether that’s a rugged rocky outcrop, an open beach or even an urban harbour or canal. Like so many others I have an intense job, I have made poor financial choices (mostly not fishing related!) and my childhood wasn’t always the best. Through any struggle though, angling has been my port in a stormy sea, a moment of tranquillity in a hectic life. I hope that it is the same for you. Be safe out there, stay as social as you can and keep fishing!
Fishing for me isn’t really about catching fish, it’s about so much more. If I could boil it down to just one word I’d probably say “Mindfulness”. I know that sounds a bit hippyish or something a “right on” company asks it’s employees to remember when working from home. However I believe its a real and tangible thing and is something that means different things to different people. For me the essence of mindfulness is watching the float. All that concentration on one small physical thing, sitting there a few feet away, all the while your watching that float you’re focused, all other thoughts are just a wisp in the back of the mind. As a way to clear your head there’s nothing finer in my opinion, I suffer with terrible anxiety, which leads to stress that can turn into depression if not dealt with. When I’m watching that float and concentrating, those worries are gone, and if they do come back to the front of the mind, I find my thoughts will usually be more ordered and in turn won’t seem so bad. Often a practical solution to a problem will drift into my mind while fishing, or a phrase or sentiment might manifest it’s self, that I might pass it on to a loved one or family member who’s problem by proxy is also adding to my worries. Even if no answer appears, being outside, in the fresh air, amongst nature, by the calming influence of the water will generally soothe and calm, which goes with out saying will do wonders for one’s mental health.
The best way to start discussing how ‘Fishing promotes positive mental health’ is to talk about my favourite person: my Dad John Wilson who sadly passed away in 2018. A British fisherman voted ‘the
Greatest Angler of All Time’ and the man responsible for introducing this ever-growing sport; to millions of people around the world.
With an MBE for services to angling, the author of over thirty books, a journalist, a TV presenter and a conservationist, Dad became known to the world as ‘John Wilson’ the fishing legend with the
My first fishing experience was at the age of five. Dad and I would go night fishing and sleep in the back of the car with our sleeping bags. Dad would meticulously set up the rods, chairs and (optimistically) the keepnet. And then he would then spend the next however long unpicking the line
from a tree I had excitedly cast into, Steaming with frustration but desperately not wanting to kill my enthusiasm; as I had wound this poor fish up and right through the top eye of the rod; he would laugh and we would carry on fishing to make sure we had success. Ever the perfectionist.
My upbringing allowed me to virtually live outdoors, being by the water and amongst the flora and fauna; I was taught to have the utmost respect for the environment I was in and still do to this day. Learning to love the green and blue spaces around us and their purpose; is invaluable and needs to be taught as young as possible.
Unbeknown to my Dad, something which holds huge relevance and meaning now is that his fishing was an inspiration for me and my business, the John Wilson Fishing Enterprise (JWFE) which promotes mental health as a key objective for children and adults under the umbrella of social care.
The JWFE delivers the teaching of basic skills in how to fish. By building communication, self-esteem, confidence and creating ownership; the children and adults are learning and achieving through the art of fishing. This brings about small steps of positivity and works towards bringing the potential of great change into their world.
We all know Fishing has an unexpected connection with happiness and wellbeing — but being outside in nature can improve your mood, memory, and self-esteem. With its evidence in reducing blood pressure and decreasing the risk of certain cancers; it is hugely underestimated in creating positive emotional wellbeing. Creating positive psychological experiences and physical activity both promote wellbeing.
*Blue and Green spaces create opportunities to restore emotions and reflect on life problems.
*Improved psychological wellbeing by enhancing mood and self-esteem
*Improved physiological health and recovery from physical illness
*The facilitation of social networking and creativity
All the above make a huge dent in helping the children/ adults with more complex issues/trauma. Small steps can open communication channels which in turn can pave the way for promotion of mental health in many ways.
Vitamin D helps your body regulate the absorption of calcium and phosphorus, two key minerals that improve immune system function and help defend against disease. The best source of vitamin D
is a day outdoors under the sun.
Fishing encourages an appreciation of Nature. Getting outdoors helps children appreciate and understand nature around them as it teaches them the importance of taking care of the environment; including the fish they catch. Children can put away all the electronic devices that control this media driven world and just take in the scenery and fresh air.
Children’s eyes light up when they talk about fishing; it is an adventure and it is also the perfect skill to pass on. Spending time with your family also promotes feelings of security and wellbeing, making
fishing a worthwhile activity to learn.
Since my dad’s sad passing 2 years ago; this mission has enabled me to continue his amazing work and to remember him every time I am near a lake or just outdoors fulfilling my own passion and career. I feel that I am doing what he spent years doing, although he was never aware of the legacy
he created; true social work through fishing.
I was asked what fishing means to me and my mental health. For me, getting out on the bank allows me to zone out and reset, forget the stresses of work and day to day life. But what’s even better is getting out with one of my daughters and spending that precious time with them, teaching them the love of the sport and also patience and respect.
A few weeks ago, I did a blog about the mind, body and soul. I wanted to share the benefits of what
fishing does for me and how much its in my life. I stated that fishing is my life. It makes me feel at
one with myself and allows me to reflect on my own problems. Even when I was writing the blog, I
was mindful about going too deep into the topic, as I didn’t want to put anyone off or be judged that
I was opening up.
This year has seen a massive increase in angling as a whole and this is a result of the pandemic we
are facing together. We have seen thousands take up a rod to try and bring some normality to their
lives. It also shows that people wanted to get out and put their minds at ease and not go insane
being locked indoors.
I count myself lucky that I have always had this amazing hobby, sport or pastime that allows me to
enjoy life and make some amazing memories with my family and friends. I was walking around a lake
in Essex a few weeks ago and bumped into a fellow angler who was Carping with a picture of his
Dad. The picture was in a nice frame and proudly sitting beside the bank. You could see the passion
in the angler’s eyes along with the emotion. It was great to see how this was his way of coping in this
hard time for him. His Dad was probably looking down and fishing alongside him.
Never be too proud of sharing your problems as the person you’re talking to could have well been
through the same situation and can be a great shoulder to lean on.
People often ask and wonder why we fish and the answer is quite a lengthy one as the reasons we fish are endless! I personally live quite a hectic lifestyle behind the scenes and have been brought up in a fishing environment that I know no different. My escapism to life’s daily struggles and the obstacles it throws us, is to go fishing. Just being beside water is therapeutic, nature all around you, it’s the best natural therapy that life can buy. I honestly don’t know what I’d do without fishing and that includes my family who are all fishing mad but it’s a time we get away from the digital world we live in and have quality time together as a family outdoors and fishing makes that all happen. To those that don’t fish or those that are starting out in fishing…Please don’t think that you have to catch BIG…Fishing is about enjoying yourself, enjoying the outdoors and catching a fish is a bonus ‘irrelevant of size or species’
Fish for you, ask for advice (I do every day – there’s so much to learn in fishing but you’ll also be surprised at how many people are there to help )
Remember YOU time = EVERYTHING and you are so important. I suffer from anxiety and fishing helps deal with that and I hope more people will give it go so it can help many more battling with mental health in this crazy world we live in. I’m passionate about fishing for a reason, and that reason is that it’s the best outdoors natural therapy that life can bring.
Fishing isn’t about the biggest fish you catch (but it’s a great feeling when you do!) Fishing is time out, time to reflect, relax and realign yourself and to pause from the the hectic lifestyle we live – embrace it and enjoy that time for you.
One things for sure, a bad days fishing is better than a good day at work! Go and give it a try and you’ll never look back but you will look forward to every time you go again!