Are you looking for an outdoor pastime that’s good for your health? Do you need some time out? Then fishing could be the answer. Life is so frantic it can be a challenge to slow down and devote time to rest and relaxation. Even given the opportunity, some of us find it impossible to do absolutely nothing. We seem to have lost touch with how to wind down.
Finding a way to recharge your batteries is essential for good health, and fishing could be just the ticket. Here are 8 reasons why:
1. The great outdoors
Being outside has obvious benefits, at the very least to blow-off the cobwebs of being cooped up in an office for 48 weeks of the year. But there’s actually a scientific reason why being out in the fresh air is beneficial to your health. We derive vitamin D from the sun, even on a grey cloudy day. Fishing helps your body to top up on critical reserves, just from being outside. Vitamin D is essential for strong bones — it helps the body absorb calcium, it reduces inflammation and it helps with depression.
It’s easy to mistake fishing as a sedentary sport. While the act of fishing itself doesn’t offer a high-impact workout, long walks from the car to the fishing spot, and carrying equipment is a boost to the heart and lungs. Even setting up, casting off and winding in give the upper body a workout.
3. Stress relief and relaxation
Studies have shown that just being near water can improve stress levels. Wallace J. Nichols has written extensively on the benefits of being near water and its effect on our happiness.
He explains the neurological, psychological and emotional changes our brains experience when we are close to water. Nichols’ work refers to scientific studies, one of which showed students performing better academically if taken out on water-based wilderness treks. He argues that we live in a dehydrated, digital world, pointing out that babies are born with their bodies comprising of 80 per cent water. As we age, we dry up. Being near water, Nichols argues, nurtures us and puts us nearer to our natural state.
In addition, there are benefits from the simple act of mindfulness and the meditative nature of fishing; whiling away hours at the edge of a river or lake carrying out a repetitive task. Focusing on where the fly is going to land on the water, breaks the train of everyday thought. Surrounded by nature, anglers have the perfect opportunity to switch off from modern life.
For many, sharing a fishing experience with Dad or Granddad is a childhood rite of passage. It’s a great bonding experience for family and friends. Incorporated with a weekend camping or hiking it can bridge the gap between hard-working dads and technology-obsessed teens. Younger kids may not cope well with the patience and waiting involved, turning the day sour with cries of ‘it’s boring’. But crab fishing is a great toddler pre-fishing alternative.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a bit of solitude. We all need it from time to time. Having space for quiet contemplation is great for our mental and emotional health.
6. Mastering a skill
There’s more to fishing than it may at first seem. Casting a fly properly is one of the most difficult things an angler can learn. But you don’t need to worry, heed a few beginners’ tips and you’ll be hooked before you know it (see Into the Blue for beginner’s lessons). So long as you have a little time and patience, you’ll have plenty of time to master a new skill. It will do wonders for your self-esteem and sense of achievement, especially when you catch your first fish!
Simple things to know if you are new to angling include:
• Your fishing knots — a strong, well-tied fishing knot will help swim your fly and help create a natural lure.
• Swim your lure naturally — use your fishing rod to mimic the natural movement of your bait through the water. You are more likely to get a catch than by reeling it in at speed.
• Change depths. If you are having no luck in the top water, go deeper. Use weights accordingly.
• Don’t be afraid to move locations — if you’re not catching anything despite casting right and left and going deeper, move to a new fishing spot.
7. Healthy eating
If you get to eat your catch, you’ll be notching up your healthy food choices. The NHS Live Well guidelines recommend we eat at least two portions of fish a week. Fish is loaded with important nutrients, including protein, vitamins and minerals. Fatty fish are a great source of omega-3, which is important for brain health.
Any fisherman will tell you there’s nothing quite like the excitement of reeling in a prize catch, and it gives you ultimate bragging rights amongst your fishing friends. It’s a great boost to the spirits.