The aim of FISHABILITY UK is to use fishing as a support mechanism for ex-forces personnel finding difficulty in rehabilitating back into mainstream activities.
By finding some peace and solitude, and a focus for quiet contemplation, whilst making new friends, those seeking valuable space and time will then be able to regroup and move forward.
Having defended our realm, our boundaries, and our freedom, the very least we can do is respect that fantastic commitment and give them something back.
In a fishing context, FISHABILITY UK plans to network those that can give help to those that really need it, by pooling and redistributing the kind and generous donation of goods and services.
These resources will go directly towards providing fishing experiences, whether on a 1:1 basis, or for groups.
Fishing has been proven to be an excellent therapy in countering psychological wounds, which can go undiagnosed even years after forces’ service has been concluded.
We no longer have military hospitals in this country, treatment now needs to be effected directly by the NHS, or by charities.
The most prominent of these is www.combatstress.org who deliver dedicated treatment and support to Ex-Service men and women with conditions such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression and anxiety disorders.
To see how the right kind of therapy is able to make an impact, take a look at the following web links:
So what can you do to help FISHABILITY UK ?
Well, firstly, a landowner or perhaps a business, may be able to offer a fishing lake for the day, or a beat on a stretch of river, creating the seclusion.
An angler can offer some instruction or guiding capacity. Skills can be taught, or existing knowledge can be advanced! Regular anglers on a fishery can also consider donating a fish or two to catch, providing ‘the bag’ for the day.
Some tackle that is currently sitting idly in a cupboard could now be resurrected and given a new lease of life by passing it on to someone who could really use it!
Pledge some catering for the day.
Pledge a donation, to cover other expenses including transportation, protective clothing and safety equipment, or help with the administration side such as setting up and running a website.
Become a volunteer and help to raise funds!
Tony Hern’s involvement provides fly-fishing opportunities via professional fishery management and qualified casting instruction on the Albury Estate.
It is hoped that in time, a sea-fishing appendage can be added to FISHABILITY UK.
The first FISHABILITY UK game fishing event took place last weekend, Sunday 8th January as the Albury Park Syndicate hosted a fly-fishing experience on the Park Lake for a group of 10 veterans receiving treatment at Combat Stress HQ in Leatherhead.
Very many thanks to the Albury Estate for getting the ball rolling!
Former Reservist Sven Hughes composed our first press release:
“The therapeutic effects of fishing have been known for centuries”, Tony Hern explains. “These veterans seem to find it beneficial to their recovery, and the Fishability UK charity is very proud to help.”
Tony Hern is the fisheries manager at Albury Estate Fisheries. On Sunday 8th January, joined by a local angling colleague, Roger Sharp, Fishability UK hosted an event for ten veterans suffering the effects of Post Traumatic Stress.
When Post Traumatic Stress is left either undiagnosed or untreated, it can become a disorder: PTSD. And it’s no great secret to say that the British Military and NHS still have some way to go in delivering an adequate level of care in this area for former forces personnel.
On seeing the part that fishing could play in helping these veterans, Roger and Tony joined together to found Fishability UK. The charity has already provided coarse fishing outings and casting lessons to veterans suffering with conditions such as PTSD. Fishability UK also liaises with the ‘Fishing For Forces’ charity to bring fishing opportunities to the widest possible group of veterans.
“It is nice to be helping on a local basis for local veterans” explains Roger Sharp, one of the charity’s founders. “Think of us as an add-on service; to help support the more traditional mental health organisations and facilities.”
This particular Fishability UK event had been arranged for patients from Tyrwhitt House in Leatherhead – the local HQ for ‘Combat Stress’ which provides dedicated treatment to veterans with conditions such as PTSD. The day started at 08:30 when the veterans arrived at the exclusive Park Lake in Albury. They were greeted by the Fishability UK team, as well as twelve volunteer fishing guides, who had very kindly donated tackle, and the fish to be caught!
After traditional military ‘scoff’ of bacon butties and sweet tea, the veterans were given a crash course in fly casting before being paired-up with an expert instructor and sent off in search of trout.
“I think people see us as doubly scary” explains Peter, one of the veterans. “We have mental health issues and we are trained soldiers. It just sounds threatening doesn’t it? But we’re really not. We’ve just got different wounds: invisible wounds, and these fishing events are really beneficial in helping us to mend. ”
During the morning, the veterans set about thrashing the water before gradually learning to cast a fly with grace and precision. Gradually, shouts of celebration started echoing around the estate grounds as fish were coaxed from the water.
But during the day’s fishing there were also quiet moments when the guides and veterans could chat. By the afternoon, as trust was established, the guests began to reveal their individual stories.
There’s Jim, a former member of the Parachute Regiment. He served in Helmand, Afghanistan, amongst many other warzones. In addition to suffering serious physical and emotional injuries from an I.E.D., he also saw many of his ‘brothers in arms’ killed around him. Then there’s the veteran who completed five military tours in Kosovo and two in Bosnia before being evacuated as a medical emergency from the battlefield. He now fights a daily battle with depression, anxiety and an array of other PTSD symptoms.
Ten veterans, each with a uniquely heart-wrenching story but also with a shared Esprit de corps thanks to the efforts of charities such as Combat Stress and Fishability UK. They may have been certified as unfit to serve in the military and unable to work on ‘civvy street’, but they are far from wanting sympathy. “We’re getting through” a veteran nicknamed ‘Dog’ is keen to make clear. “We keep each other going. And we’ll get each other through this.”
The Fishability UK event was clearly a much-needed tonic for the veterans and a genuinely humbling experience for the guides. Trout were caught, a superb lunch was enjoyed (sponsored by a local business) and a great deal of tea and laughter was shared.
But whatever the number and size of trout that were caught by the veterans on the day, there is one particular fish that will stay in the memory for many years to come. Over lunch, a particularly quiet veteran came out of his shell a little to recount his hilarious yarn about the time he caught a 7ft oceanic white-tipped shark, off the back of a 5000-tonne Destroyer.
So, it was wiping away a tear of laughter that I drove off, leaving these exceptional men to finish their day’s fishing. They were true heroes when they fought for our country and they are showing the same grit and courage today, as they overcome their current personal battles.
There are more Fishability UK events already planned for the coming months. However, as a small local charity, Fishability UK relies on donations (of time, fishing equipment and financial support) to make each event happen. “Every little helps, even down to a couple of tins of beans”, adds Roger.
If you know of anyone who could benefit from a Fishability UK day, or would like to make a donation towards future Fishability UK events, please contact Roger or Tony: