Fishing as Calming and Contemplative

.. .the very sitting by the Rivers side is not only the quietest and fittest place for contemplation, but will invite an Angler to it11

All of the project team found that fishing calmed them down and helped them with life. While sitting on the side of the pond where we were fishing, Hugh engaged young people in conversation about the benefits of fishing. Here is an extract from his field notes:

I told Jordan that he was now my co-researcher and that he was better at researching than me. We talked about what he had been doing and then we walked round the other side of the pond with Marcus to get some video of everyone fishing. Kieran came with us and Marcus, and he talked about fishing. Kieran talked about how it was calming. (Field notes, 18/06/2013)

Hugh observed that the topic of fishing being calming and tranquil is something that everyone discussed. In our discussions, we explored why fishing is so good for mental health and resilience and how other young people can benefit from fishing. In a discussion with Kirsty, aged 13, and Jean, youth worker, together with Kate, researcher, about the benefits of fishing from their perspective, Kirsty observed:

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 (Discussion, November 2013)

Jean, youth worker, likewise observed:

Jean: Coming into fishing offers alternative mode of being. There is no pressure at all. There is no pressure to catch a fish. (Discussion, November


When discussing fishing, the youth workers and the young people talked about the special effect of sitting by the river bank. Many of the young people talked about the calming effect of fishing and how it alleviated their stress. Young people, especially the young women, talked frequently about the dangers of being out late and night and being on the street, and these feelings were borne out by the recent report on child sexual exploitation in Rotherham.12 Rotherham at night was not a safe space for young people. The benefits of fishing as a stress buster was also echoed by the boys, who talked about how fishing calmed them down, and helped them forget problems at home. Youth workers also found fishing helped them in their work and also supported their anti-bullying work, particularly with girls.

Fishing does not require talking; rather, it requires concentration. In that sense, fishing can be seen as a form of mindfulness that supports focus and quiet. Fishing was perceived by the youth service as offering opportunities to deal with wider issues of mental distress such as bullying and problems at home. In the extracts below, Jean and the young people were talking about bullying while fishing:

Whilst I [Hugh Escott] continued to fish Jean, Chantelle and Ellen talked about bullying. Both Chantelle and Ellen had been bullied and Jean has

worked with them to address this. Jean was telling them that they should

just ignore bullies and Chantelle and Ellen talked about bad approaches to bullies. The bullying conversation started because Ellen said that she had heard about someone hanging themselves because they had been bullied. Chantelle said that she would like to set up a company that dealt with bullies and helped young people. I asked some questions about bullying and Jean and the girls explained what they did to work on self-esteem etc. (Field notes, 07-05-13)

From a youth work perspective, fishing was important as it offered a space to talk to young people. Hugh describes below his conversations with Jean, youth worker, about the girls and the importance of the girls fishing: [1]

away from her family and that she hoped she would come again. Jean also said that Chantelle had said to her last year that fishing was like a dream. (Field notes, 21-05-2013)

Fishing was described by the young people as providing a space ‘like a bubble’ and being a safe space. The dream-like quality of fishing is echoed by the work of Ernst Bloch, who highlighted the importance of the daydream in creating the conditions for hope and possibility.13 Fishing was a form of ‘possibility thinking’14 as it was about the hope of catching a fish.

  • [1] talked to Jean about how it made a lot of sense that she brought the youngpeople fishing as I saw how it caught the attention of the louder kids butthere was a space to talk to others, like the girls, who had lower self-esteem.Jean described how one of the young girls had been dissuaded from goingfishing by her dad, saying, ‘that’s not for people like us’ (people onbenefits). I said that I could see why older people could be jaded but that itshouldn’t interfere with a young person’s potential. Jean thought that it wasimportant for someone like Chantelle to follow her dreams and that shethought that coming fishing was the only thing that Chantelle got to do
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