Fly fishing has long been considered a soul-soothing activity by anglers, but now this meditative pursuit is benefiting our armed forces.
For veterans of conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, learning the art of fly fishing can help heal injuries that other treatments fail to reach.
So just what is it about fishing with the fly that does so much to help heal wounds – particularly those we cannot see?
• Community – veterans suffering from mental or physical effects of conflict can feel isolated, and may find it hard to settle back into society. Learning to fish and spending time with other veterans and anglers creates a sense of camaraderie that can be missing from civilian life.
• Excitement – having something to look forward to, experiencing the thrill of catching a fish and having a reason to smile. Veterans benefit more than most from these positive experiences.
• Challenge – the completion of a fly fishing course is just the beginning. Becoming adept at the art of the fly is a challenge that takes time and dedication to achieve.
• Therapy – fly fishing is widely considered as an effective therapy for many psychological and emotional problems. The experience of a few days surrounded by nothing but the water and fellow veterans can have an incredibly healing effect.
Why our veterans need help
Nightmares, flashbacks and intrusive, unwanted memories are symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Mental illness is estimated to affect around one in five of the nearly 200,000 UK service personnel who have seen active duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Mental trauma may be accompanied by life changing physical injuries which take time to learn to cope with and adjust to.
Helping our heroes with fly fishing
There are many charities across the world who use fly fishing as a means of rehabilitation, and so many are worthy of recognition. However, Fishing for Heroes in the U.K and Project Healing Waters are two great examples.
Fishing for Heroes specialises in the support and treatment of military veterans and serving personnel suffering from PTSD, Combat fatigue and other problems relating to active service.
A three day residential fly fishing course allows veterans to be assessed for ongoing need, and at the same time teaches them the basics of a life skill that will enrich and enhance their lives.
As Ken a Falklands veteran testifies “All PTSD sufferers know that quiet times can soon become bad times, Fishing For Heroes teaches a skill that can (with practice) keep the quiet times…..Quiet”.
Project Healing Waters is an American charity dedicated to the physical and emotional rehabilitation of disabled active military service personnel and veterans – through fly fishing, fly tying education and outings.
Smooth running waters and a renewed relationship with nature provide the time, space and enriching quiet to help our brave servicemen and women along the road to recovery.
For more information on the good work these charities do, watch the video below: