How fishing found me

My earliest experience of fishing was with my father, he took me on an overnight fishing trip when I was 12 years old.  It made such an impression I can remember exactly what we did.  When a friend suggested fishing, to relieve the tedium and isolation of my pandemic experience, I knew this was something I would enjoy.

Fishing is now a core part of my mental health recovery.

 

Friendship

The fishing community have been very welcoming and generous with their time and knowledge.  There is often someone eager to engage in a conversation about fishing, whether at the lake side or on the high street.  The shared interest creates instant connection and I feel involved and appreciated.

 

Confidence & Self-Esteem

With the support of some amazing coaches, at Henfold Lakes, I learnt the art of fishing.  As well as passing on their technical knowledge, they encouraged me to think about the energy I bring to the situation.  Reeling in a fish requires focus, self-control, determination, and inner calm.  This experience is so different to the emotional overwhelm I often feel.

I noticed a significant shift in my confidence when I started to share my growing knowledge with others.  A highlight moment was being approached by a family who wanted to talk to me about what I was doing.  I set up a rig for their young son and helped him caste off.  I take great pride in helping others learn how to fish, I get such a boost to my self-esteem.

 

Responsibility 

When a fish takes the bait, I feel both excited and responsible for bringing it in safely.  If I don’t engage firmly, I risk losing the fish, if I fight it too hard, I could damage it.

Once I’ve landed a fish, I take care to inspect and assess it for injuries.  I use special disinfectant spray to treat and seal any cuts.  Any concerns about the health of the fish are reported the bailiffs and/or environmental agency.

 

Calm
Looking out over a peaceful lake, I find myself paying more attention to the environment and water features.  I imagine what lies beneath the surface and reflect upon how favourable the conditions are for Carp.

At home I am easily stressed by the small things, less tolerant and often overwhelmed by my emotional reactions.  Being outside by the waters’ edge, I feel calm and relaxed.   I am less irritable and tics and random outburst stop.  Finding mud or fish bait on my clothes or the bottom of my mug I accept is a part of the experience, I shrug them off.

 

Best catch
I’m not going to disappoint here, catching bigger and more challenging fish is core to the excitement.  Whilst 22lb Carp is my current personal best, my most satisfying experience was landing my first Carp completely independently, planning and executing my approach and creating my own bait mix.

 

Most challenging
Fishing at night, has been my most challenging and satisfying experience. I noticed my mood dip dramatically towards the end and packing up in the rain was a particularly miserable experience, it is getting easier with practise.

 

Future goals

Training to become a fishing coach, sharing the joy of fishing, is now a core goal for me.  In the meantime, I am focused on catching bigger fish, in bigger locations with more demanding water conditions and fish species.  I am also addressing how I manage my money so I can save up for my first fishing expedition in France, next year.

For now, I am enjoying a sense of freedom and joy, sat at the waters’ edge, in hopeful expectation.  Feeling forever grateful for the amazing coaches, at Henfold Lakes, they have been a lifeline.

Contributed by James Stevens, Service User.

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