Fishing and Youth Work, or 'What Is It about Fishing that Makes Life Better'?

Kate Pahl, Hugh Escott, Johan Siebers, Richard Steadman-Jones with Jean Simmons, Marcus Hurcombe, Kirsty, Anglers from Phoenix and Parkgate Junior Angling Club

Jean (youth worker): I think it is the opposite of your busy life style. You go from busy, busy, busy to sat gazing, I mean gazing, watching the water, watching the float. It is like your whole being is watching the water, watching the float. To go from the very first day, like I said to go from all of these kids going from a different community, to beside the water, they went from hating each other, to being around the water, the transformation was—I was totally gobsmacked at the transformation. If this can do this for young people then all young people should have the benefit from it, whatever background you are from, whatever school you are from whether you are a girl or a boy, none of that comes in to this no prejudice. (Discussion November 2013)

Our chapter is about the benefits of fishing for young people who might be having a hard time, particularly those at risk from bullying or anxiety issues. We describe a project where a group of young people went fishing every week, and, together with some academics, an artist, a poet and a © The Author(s) 2017

C. Walker et al., Building a New Community Psychology of Mental Health, DOI 10.1057/978-1-137-36099-1_5

philosopher, plus some helpful youth workers and fishing coaches from an angling club, attempted to answer this question:

What is it about fishing that makes life better?

Below we tell you about our project, but meanwhile, here are some thoughts from Kirsty to give you an idea of what fishing can do for young people who experience mental distress. Kirsty (aged 14) talked to Kate (one of the project team) about why fishing is good for young people. In a conversation with Jean, a youth worker, she told us what it meant to her:

Jean (youth worker): Kirsty had never been fishing before in her life and she loved it.

Kirsty: I had never been before and it were something new. I liked it because of how calming and peaceful it were, to just sit there. It’s just peaceful and it takes your mind off other things.

One of the things fishing could do was to put children at risk of bullying or feeling down into a different place—as Kirsty explained here (Fig. 5.1):

Kirsty catching a fish

Fig. 5.1 Kirsty catching a fish

The thing with fishing, projects like this, it gets kids off the street instead of—kids my age can be sat by the side of the riverbank instead of being out late at night. When they are sat by the side of the riverbank they are like, admiring the nature of the place. Fishing ain’t gonna solve a problem but for the amount of time you are doing fishing it takes your mind off a problem, because its focusing on what you are doing. (Kirsty)

Our key argument is that activities like this, which slow you down, are quiet and meditative, and in natural surroundings, are important for young people and they give them something special.

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