Get Fishing News

Get Fishing for Wellbeing in London – urban angling prescribed to get into fishing for mental health and wellbeing

By Graham Mabey
Regional Angling Development Officer, South East and London, Angling Trust.

I want to let everyone know about the potential benefits that fishing can have for their health and wellbeing, and a series of Get Fishing for Wellbeing events I ran at the fantastic Walthamstow Reservoir Angling Academy in London. These events were hugely popular with people whose GP or health worker had prescribed them to go fishing!

The events were run as a course of ‘learn to fish’ type lessons partly because the Get Fishing Team from the Angling Trust, have been lucky enough to access the amazing classroom and education facilities generously donated by Thames Water  at its Angling Academy. We will be using this new “base” in London to help show newcomers how going fishing can overcome some of their challenges.

The thinking behind our approach here is that by providing regular weekly classes we can run our usual have-a-go angling sessions at a slower pace, cover things in a bit more detail and also – this is quite important too – provide a regular activity that the attendees can look forward to every week.

A lovely personal testimonial from this participant about how she’d always wanted to try fishing

This format gives a great first-impression of what fishing is all about to newcomers.  Regular anglers who have been fishng for ages – like me – know that in between actually going fishing, we spend a lot of time reflecting on what we did, what worked ,what didn’t go so well and how to solve the problem next-time. Combine this practical aspect of fishing with the amount of nature that you are able to absorb just being out by the waterside, and you have a fully-immersive experience!

“I really, really, really enjoyed the fishing course! Living in London it was a complete eye opener to see something like it just within arm’s reach. Fishing has always been something I thought about as “load up the car, drive into the countryside, etc” and like many people in London I don’t even drive so it can seem like a non-starter!”
Get Fishing for Wellbeing Course Participant

It’s this regular angling habit we want to nurture in participants, as well as providing them with a bit of respite from other everyday issues. Fishing is rapidly gaining a growing reputation for being able to effectively lessen the impact of things like anxiety, loneliness, depression and so on which can be a feature of mental health and wellbeing conditions.

Watch the video! See what happens on a Get Fishing for Wellbeing course

The course was funded by Natural England and we would like to thank them for their interest and involvement in the Get Fishing for Wellbeing initiative. Natural England’s investment meant we could run two, three-week courses every Tuesday. A standout for me was that although the weather was against us, and as a result the fishing was very tricky and slow, the feedback from participants nevertheless reflects the resounding success of the project!

I struggle with mindfulness or meditation apps, but something about the potential promise of a fish allowed my brain to quieten down and focus on the float. In the end the “catching a fish” became the least important aspect, it was the new skillset, the new community of people met on the course and the angling community as a whole. These were the new and helpful ingredients introduced into my life.
Get Fishing for Wellbeing Course Participant

These Get Fishing for Wellbeing sessions are designed to not just teach people angling skills, but to also notice and reflect on the outdoor environment, to learn how to relax, and to help stay mindful in the moment- all proven ways to improve wellbeing.

Get Fishing for Wellbeing combines outdoor activity like bird watching and nature recognition in its mindful approach

We use a blend of classroom based learning, practical fishing sessions and nature based activity in these sessions. This included bird watching and nature walks around the fishery. Combining outdoors experiences with related wellbeing theory – such as comfort zones and mindful meditation/breathing techniques mmediately helps people recognise opportunities that already exist right on their doorstep, and to access nature and angling as a form of therapy.

Living in an urban environment it brought a hobby literally close to home and made it seem accessible. I don’t drive and spend a lot of time in the city, so it was eye opening to be able to find somewhere to go fishing five minutes from a Tube station!
Get Fishing for Wellbeing Course Participant

Amazingly, all places on the course filled within 48 hours of our Eventbrite booking going live. This clearly demonstrates the need and want from local London residents to get outside and learn an activity to improve their wellbeing.

A Get Fishing for Wellbeing Whopper – not bad for your first fish!

Participants were not simply members of the public looking for a new activity to occupy their time or to make new friends. What was also incredibly promising is that attendees were a mix of NHS workers, Social Prescribers, and people referred to the course through their GP’s or Social Prescribers to improve their mental health and wellbeing. Some had even booked holiday from work to come to the course, and attendance across the sessions was very good, especially considering the very wet spring weather!

I have never been able to get very far with meditation and mindfulness apps but with fishing, I just have to focus on the float and I might get a fish! It’s very effective at focussing my brain, which is no small feat.
Get Fishing for Wellbeing Course Participant

It was noticeable how much the fishing sessions allowed participants to relax and reflect on things, in an outdoor setting  – something  they told me they didn’t normally do with their free time.

Attendees received a Get Fishing Award certificate as a record of their progress from novice to intermediate angling skills

Even though the fishing was quite difficult, due to the cold weather, clear water and time of year, all the participants learnt the basics of fishing and what the next-steps are so they can go again on their own or with friends or a fishing club.

The nature walks allowed me to take notice of the surrounding environment and it was a lovely venue. It’s been wonderful to be introduced to fishing and to experience it for myself. Fishing seems to be about slowing down, taking your time and enjoying the pursuit over the outcome.
Get Fishing for Wellbeing Course Participant


Thanks to Will Barnard, Fisheries Manager and Angling Development Lead at Thames Water, for providing the venue

On the final day participants were given their own whip fishing poles, certificates of attendance and information on how to fish again in the future. Thames water has kindly allowed Get Fishing for Wellbeing course participants to come back and fish on the Pump House Pond for free after the course! This will hopefully lead to the attendees continuing to include angling as a tool in their “toolbox” of techniques and skills to support their positive mental health.

I got the chance to try something completely novel to me, and experienced a few days outdoors. It was lovely to meet the other participants as well, I am hoping to see them again in the future if there will be more events organised.
Get Fishing for Wellbeing Course Participant

Thank you once again to everyone involved in making these Get Fishing For Wellbeing courses a success – especially Thames Water, Natural England and the Environment Agency who support and funded the courses.


Graham Mabey
Regional Angling Development Officer (South)
Angling Trust
07946 263131
[email protected]

Get Fishing | Get Fishing for Wellbeing

The Angling Trust’s ‘Get Fishing’ campaign is proudly supported by
Shakespeare, Exclusive Tackle Partner and Angling Direct, Exclusive Retail Partner
as we all work towards getting more people fishing, more often.

The Get Fishing campaign to get more people fishing more often is funded by the Environment Agency from fishing licence income as part of the National Angling Strategic Services contract with the Angling Trust, and Sport England. Children under 13 do not need a licence, and licences for children aged between 13 and 16 are free but you still need to register and receive a licence in order to go fishing. You can get a licence for the full year, for 8 days (ideal for holidays!) or just a day’s fishing.

NOTE: Although young children who are under 13 year old do not need a licence to fish, the person supervising them needs the proper fishing licence to take hold of the rod or to help the child fish with it.

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