The world's best flyfishing site.
Flyfishing as Therapy


Manual de Lanzado
Sección de Carlos
The Downloads


Monday: Paul Arden
Tuesday: Harps
Wednesday: Bernd Ziesche
Thursday: Mr T.
Friday: Ray
Saturday: Viking Lars
Sunday: Bruce Richards

Ronan's report

Thursday 11th December, 2008

For lots of people flyfishing is a great way to remove or at least get away from the stresses and strains of everyday life. I'm probably more in the "compelled to go fishing" group, it's something I have to do. If I don't go out for more than a week or so I get antsy. 2 weeks? Look out! My brother is the same way about surfing. A girlfriend of his once asked my mother if she knew why he had got kind of prickly and on edge, thinking it was something she might have done without realising. After eliminating other factors a diagnosis of "too long without a surf" was arrived at. A suggested remedy was to put him in the bath and chuck buckets of salty water at him. Casting practice fills the everyday-stresses-and-strains spot for me, rather than fishing as such. There's nothing like 10 minutes of casting to clear my head when something with work has got me discombobulated.

In any case, most of us would agree flyfishing is a great way to get away from cares and worries. However a few weeks back it really hit home for me that flyfishing can have a deeper therapeutic value for those who have problems above and beyond the everyday ones we all share.

As a background for what follows, and without wanting to bore you, I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), also sometimes known as ME. I've been sick for 12 years now, since I was 20. I'm a lot better than I used to be. For the first few years I was barely able to stir from bed or later the couch, so I'm glad that's over with. I'm still unable to lead what most people would consider a normal life though.

Flyfishing has proved to be a great pursuit for me. It gets me outside again, with something to do while I'm out there. I've always done lots of outdoor things, but many of them aren't feasible since getting sick and I've never been one for just wandering about without a purpose. I've always enjoyed being on and in the water. Flyfishing can be fairly easy going physically, although I am able to do trips more healthy people might find hard work. Much of the walking involved is on the flat, rivers and lake shores are good like that. Going uphill is a lot harder, but I can deal with it, if slowly. Over the summer season my fitness improves, I just have to be careful not to overdo things. My recovery is much slower than a healthy person, I'm just now getting over what turned out to be quite a demanding trip last Friday.

CFS can lead to having some pretty black days. Constant tiredness isn't good, and when the real world does catch up with you things which stress out healthy people can be even harder to deal with. I used to be a pretty happy-go-lucky guy, but not so much these days. For the last few months I've also had a secondary illness of some sort, gall bladder being the current suspect, which has run me down even further. It's prevented me from doing a lot of the things I'd been planning to do early this season.

A few weeks ago I was having a pretty bad time of it so I decided to go for a fish at a lake, just as an excuse to get out of the house really. Funnily enough things got even worse once I got there. People were fishing where I'd wanted to go (doesn't happen much on a weekday!), the wind was in my face (not usually an issue), I was getting tangles and basically I just got in a worse and worse mood. I decided to leave before I got any angrier.

On the way back I thought I may as well stop at a river and have a look at a fish I know. He wasn't home, but I decided to continue upstream on the off chance. As I made my way upriver a change started to come over me. I started to feel a lot better. Things cheered up. It was a great day, windier than ideal but sunny. There were some fish about and I managed to pick up four of them. One was sitting with it's nose right in line with a fence crossing and almost touching the river surface, a very tricky lie. Another was 4.75 lb, a very good fish for that river, which was in a beautiful clear pool. I missed a couple of other fish, but it didn't bother me. I felt as if a great weight had been lifted off my shoulders. It might have been a different story if the fish hadn't been cooperative, but I don't think so. I left the river feeling upbeat and positive, the exact opposite of how I'd arrived.

When I'd had a chance to think about it I realised that something more than the usual good day fishing had occurred. I've seen various flyfishing organisations and charities mentioned on websites and in magazines, those who take people with cancer fishing, or perhaps people with disabilities or mental health conditions. I'm sure most of us have heard of something like that. I've even read the testimonials of those who've taken part. I'm ashamed to say I haven't really given much consideration to them. My attitude has always been something along the lines of "I'd certainly like to be taken fishing as well!".

My experience on the river that day has put the efforts of those organisations into much sharper focus. There really is something about flyfishing which can have a deep therapeutic effect. For me I think it was because the concentration on what I was doing was pretty complete. I was concentrating on the river, watching for fish. When I found one I was concentrating on the fish, looking for casting obstacles, where I was going to go if the fish took and then presenting the flies. I think the act of concentration disconnected my brain from my previous troubles, stopped it whirring round and round and gave it a chance to put things in perspective. By the time I left the river my problems hadn't gone away, but they had assumed a more realistic proportion. People with CFS often have problems dealing with stress, people I've talked to have found a need for something external to stop their mind racing in a bad feedback loop. To an extent I'd never experienced before flyfishing had done that for me.

It might effect different people in different ways. Someone in a wheelchair might get something different from the experience than someone suffering from cancer. Of course if you're not the least bit interested in flyfishing then it probably isn't something which is going to work for you! However there is now no doubt in my mind that going fishing can be an experience which really makes a positive difference above and beyond just the simple act of going fishing and getting away from things for a bit, which so many healthy people benefit from. I've personally never felt such a marked effect before, and I fish quite a lot. Even if not everyone feels the same effect the chance that someone might have their life materially improved, even if just for a short time, has really opened my eyes. Just the social contact could be a big help for people whose world can be very, very small. I see the testimonials from people benefiting from the work of such organisations in a whole different light.

From a quick look on the web I couldn't find any organisations to help sick or disabled people with flyfishing in NZ. I'm not about to suggest I'm going to start one! If I may though, I would like to make the suggestion that you look to see if there is an organisation in your area that you could get in touch with. A few I came across at random are Casting for Recovery (UK), Project Healing Waters (US) and English Disabled Fly Fishers (UK). Flies often seem welcome and if you tie what better excuse could there be to whip up a few old favourites. Volunteering to spend a few days on the water with people could be a big help. I know I enjoy helping people catch fish almost as much as catching them myself (well, within limits!). It seems to me there could be opportunities to get involved which are more fun than giving money, and which don't actually require that much effort. I've started this thread on the Board where you can add organisations who help sick and disabled people with flyfishing that you might be aware of. If you are involved with one it would be great to hear a bit about what you do.

I don't mean to sound preachy or anything. This experience has been my own personal revelation and I don't expect it to be yours. However if you happen to walk away from the water feeling better than when you arrived, perhaps try and imagine how someone with a chronic illness or disability might feel.


Pic Of Day

SL Promotions



SEXYLOOPS SCHOOLS - Flycasting in England and Hungary. Contact Paul Arden for more info.

Sexyloops on Facebook: Sexyloops on YouTube: www.YouTube/SexyloopsTV. This is Snapcast - our irregular monthly mailshot!