Angling’s life savers!

We all know fishing can be good for our wellbeing, but for some anglers it’s literally a life saver. This week we hear more from the amazing projects harnessing the healing power of our sport...


by Angling Times |

“Fishing kept me going throughout”

Ryan Scutt, Make A Wish UK

Battling cancer is a tough, terrifying ordeal at any time, but it doesn’t get much crueller than being diagnosed on your 15th birthday. That was the reality for keen young angler Ryan Scutt, who not only missed bank time, but almost a whole school year with gruelling treatments!

“Fishing kept me going throughout,” he revealed to Angling Times. “Even when I felt totally drained, I’d think about it, and I loved watching angling videos every day.”

Korda and Urban Banx videos were his favourites, giving Ryan his fishing fix even on the worst days of treatment, and he even practised tying new knots and rigs.

Lifting his spirits further, charity Make a Wish UK bought him a new bivvy and Angling Direct vouchers.

“It made a massive difference,” says mum Hayley. “Social workers said he didn’t need therapy – he’d found his own. The thought of being back at the lake, able to fish again, quite literally saved him.”

Now well on the path to recovery, Ryan is catching up on GCSEs, but he can’t wait to be back fishing. “I’m basically going to live at the lake this summer!” he said. His favourite water is Todber Manor, and his targets include a catfish and a 30lb carp. Follow him on Instagram (ryan.scutt_fishing)!

To help their inspirational work, visit www.make-a-wish.org.uk

“Once you start fishing, you want more”

Andy Hercus, Tackling Minds

A long-term PTSD sufferer, Andy’s honesty was stark when we spoke to him about involvement with innovative angling charity Tackling Minds.

“When I left a tour of Afghanistan, I started to get ill. I would overthink things all the time and I made several suicide attempts,” he says. He’s still awaiting trauma therapy, but reckons fishing has been a huge help. “When I was invited to a fishing session in Rochdale, everyone made you feel welcome. It was easy to talk to people and I’ve made new friends.”

To his surprise, Andy soon caught a 4lb barbel, which pulled like a train. “Angling puts you in a different place,” he says.

“Once you start fishing you want more. These days I never want to pack up!”

Fellow Tackling Minds regular John Ward is similarly inspired by the group. A veteran of six military tours, he admits he was “suffering terribly and had become a functioning alcoholic” until a medical professional suggested getting back into fishing. These days, in spite of health complications, he is in a much better place and loves helping out others as a qualified coach.

“Fishing is literally a life-saver,” he says. “We’ve had folks who are totally closed down, coming out of themselves. One guy wouldn’t even speak to health professionals – but after a bit of time on the bank we were chatting like old friends.”

For more on Tackling Minds and how you can help, visit tacklingminds.org

“I was in a really bad place. Angling brought me through” 

Steve “Johnno” Johnstone (iCarp)

With complex PTSD, Steve Johnstone was struggling with civilian life after his time in the forces. “I was so fed up,” he recalled. “I got the sack from two jobs and was sectioned for a while.”

Johnno was at rock bottom when he got the call from iCarp, a pioneering group using carp angling to help ex-forces personnel. “As a former match angler, my first response was ‘I’m not venturing to the dark side’!” he laughed. But after spending a trip to France with fellow veterans he felt like a different person.

“With the banter and friendship, it felt like being back in the military.”

Despite having flashbacks from conflict experiences, Johnno has gone from strength to strength, and is now a qualified coach and counsellor himself.

“There’s a definite stigma around formal therapy,” says iCarp founder and trauma therapist Dr Mark Wheeler. “We need to find other routes to get through to people. Angling can be a life-saver. We’ve reached guys set on taking their own lives.”

iCarp now plans to reach out to emergency services staff and early onset dementia sufferers. Key to this is getting hard evidence, so the group is working closely with the NHS and University of Essex.

To find out more and see how you can help, visit icarp.org.uk

GAME CHANGERS: FOUR HUGE STEPS ANGLING PROJECTS ARE TAKING

  • Expert studies and evidence: Anecdotes are one thing, but today’s angling heroes are also producing powerful evidence that fishing boosts mental and physical health.

  • Broadening the net: More groups and professions are now being included in angling projects, from 999 staff suffering from PTSD, through to excluded youngsters and dementia sufferers.

  • Angling by prescription? Fishing is now recognised and recommended by more and more GPs and NHS staff as a powerful therapeutic activity.

  • Passing it on: Participants in angling schemes are not only seeing personal change, but taking qualifications to help others in turn, with support from the Angling Trust.

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