Fishing with Friends

14 May 2019 | North West England

Fishing with friends

Group battles mental health issues with community fishing trips.

When people come together to help their community, everyone thrives. This is certainly the case with a unique community group who have nicknamed themselves ‘Fishing with Friends.’

The project reaches out and gives hope and purpose to the most vulnerable amongst us and those in challenging circumstances through the communal activity of fishing.

Co-founder Anthony Carr knows how it feels to struggle with issues like addiction. Just five years ago his life was spiralling out of control. But today, not only is he free of drugs but he and pal Andrew Farnworth are helping mentor those going through similar circumstances.

They launched the fishing group, and a number of other community projects. The Bolton group is made up of former prisoners, the young and vulnerable and those with mental health problems. They are all men that Anthony himself can relate to.

He says: “I have been in their shoes, I know what it is like. But I am still in recovery and can still learn from them too. And I know what a help fishing can be. It is something about being around water - it is calming and peaceful and it gives you something to focus on other than what is happening in your day-to-day life.

“You are in a place where you don’t have to make a rash decision. It doesn’t even matter if you catch a fish or not, that is not the point. When the guys first join they don’t say much. But over time they do, they can share with the group, relax, and have a laugh.

“Even with those lads who don’t say much, I can have a one-to-one with them without them even realising. They will open up and if they want to talk, they can.”

Andrew, who has proudly been clean for eight years, added: “It is great for those who are less mobile too, not everyone can join our boxing or football clubs. I just like seeing the smile on their faces when they are there.”

During the warmer months the group will converge at Cobden Mill once a week. Anthony has sourced all the equipment which means everyone can use a rod free of charge.

“I didn’t have anything when we started. It was hard work. But I got the word out there and asked everyone I knew to donate fishing equipment. And I just walked into fishing and tackle shops and explained what I was doing and asked them for help.

“The lodge where we fish also charges but I explained who we were and managed to get a discount. It all means the chaps can come along and enjoy the session for free.”

John is a resident of Mary Seacole House in Westhoughton, which helps people recover from mental illness.

John, 47, who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, says the fishing trip is what he looks forward to most all week.

“I find it relaxing. And it makes me feel good, just being there. It gives me the chance to open up and talk about whatever is going on in my life. To be honest, it does help me get up in the morning.”Anthony adds: “I have seen first hand the change in those who come fishing. I have had people stop smoking, start showering and have a shave for the first time in weeks. These are things most of us take for granted but for these guys it is huge. If I can just show one person a better outlook and that, although there is darkness out there, there are also shades of light.”

For anyone wanting to help with funding of the project, please call Anthony on 07720 204 827.

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