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Fishing As Therapy for Our Military Heroes


The Farlows team asked if I wanted to write something about my involvement with Fishing For Heroes – a charity I’ve been working with for ten years. It’s something very personal to me, so here goes…

Fishing For Heroes is a registered UK charity, founded in 2009 they are celebrating 15 years in 2024. Working nationwide, their aim is to help and support forces personnel suffering from emotional issues such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and combat fatigue through fly fishing. They provide fully funded fly fishing courses and instruction as therapy for veterans and serving soldiers, seamen and airmen of the British and Commonwealth Armed Forces. One of its more notable Patrons is Sir Ian Botham OBE.

Fishing Therapy

Fly fishing is proven to be an effective therapy for PTSD - research from the Universities of Utah, South Maine and Salt Lake City in the USA has shown that a short course of instruction can result in a 20% reduction in PTSD symptoms (Research - Rivers of Recovery). Any service man, woman or veteran can apply for help at any time (PTSD can often take years to manifest itself). The charity holds fully funded weekly fly fishing get togethers across the country with qualified angling coaches on hand to teach, guide and support them. After the initial course, they are introduced to a mentor in order to establish a bridge back into society via the game fishing community, and the charity continues to support and help them through continued contact and organising group fishing events.

I first got involved with Fishing For Heroes in 2013 when I organised a fly-fishing competition to raise money for them. Like many, I have a history of family serving in the military – my two grandfathers both served - and it was a way of giving something back to them for their sacrifice. As an angling coach, it has always amazed me how many of the people who come to me for fishing lessons have a military background – fishing for them is often a way to relax and focusing their mind on the task in hand stops it from wandering.

Fishing For Heroes CompetitionFishing For Heroes Competition
Fishing For Heroes CompetitionFishing For Heroes Competition
Fishing For Heroes CompetitionFishing For Heroes Competition

The first competition I ran raised over £5,000 – never did I expect to raise as much money from one event on one day and the support I had was just phenomenal. I ran many more competitions for Fishing For Heroes before the charity asked me to lead as a coach at one of their events. Today I am the lead coach in the North of England and it’s an absolute privilege to be able to spend time with some of the ex-service personnel who have given so much for their country. The purpose of the get togethers is for the veterans to learn to fish, to relax, to immerse themselves in the outdoors and hopefully catch a fish or two. There’s usually plenty of friendly banter taking place and the guys wind each other (and me!) up all the time.

For me one of the best bits about the days is when they turn up in the morning and you just don’t know what it has taken for them to get to the event. Many of them suffer from severe anxiety and often it’s the first time they’ve stepped out the house for a number of days, or even weeks. They can arrive quiet, subdued, and very much keeping themselves to themselves. But, as the day progresses, more often or not they slowly come out of their shell, have a laugh and a joke, and catch a few fish. That’s why I do what I do – if I can give these people just one day out of many where they can laugh and forget about everything else, then that’s what makes it worthwhile.

I have made a number of good friends through Fishing For Heroes, but sadly have lost a few too, and it’s always difficult. This year two friends passed away in short succession – two stalwarts of the Northern division of the charity and both who I’ve known since the early days. It’s been tough and they’re very much missed at our events. We’re hoping to get at least one more get-together in before Christmas and I might even wear my Santa hat!

Fishing for HeroesFishing for Heroes
Fishing for Heroes CapFishing for Heroes Cap

If you’re a veteran or existing serviceman or woman from any of the three armed forces struggling with PTSD or similar, you are not alone. I’d encourage you to contact Fishing For Heroes to see how they might be able to help you.

To find out more about the charity or to donate, please visit:

(charity number 1135355)

2022-11-04 16:19:00
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