The Finest Therapy On Earth

Written by: Isobella Ash

This year, over a quarter of us will experience a mental health problem or condition of some kind, which is an astonishing figure. However, it has been discovered that Fly fishing is extremely good for your mental health and well-being, but how is that?

I have fished the fly for over 30 years, the realisation that every cast has a positive aspect to my well-being and state of mind is at the forefront of every step I take and every fly I cast up a river. I live with autism and Bi polar disorder which can make daily life very difficult. Fly fishing opens up a world of freedom and takes away the boundaries and difficulties that are prevalent in most people living with mental health disorders, it also improves our cognitive brain function, helps reduce levels of stress and anxiety and ultimately provides us with exercise that further releases endorphins that promote our wellbeing.

That being said, I feel fly fishing goes much further, the fundamentals that come with fly fishing are ideally suited to some therapies that can assist in the treatment of mental health disorders. These can include the repetitive nature of fly casting or the simple processes of fly selection. What is really going on, is the brain is being engaged in what I like to call “Aqua Therapy”. From the moment a step is taken into a flowing river the mind becomes loaded with things like scenic views that generally accompany fly fishing, flowing water, the sounds of nature, the company of friends, the processes of fly fishing, and the search of that special fish.  

In fact, fly fishing is so good for you that in 2011, two Scottish mental health hospitals suggested it as an effective treatment for selected patients with mental health problems. In 2011 NHS Scotland managers agreed to set up a scheme to get their patients out on the water fishing and interacting with their local community.

NHS Scotland staff took groups of around eight patients to their local lochs and Stillwater fishery’s in the Glasgow area to learn the processes of fly casting. By learning these new skills in a peaceful and relaxed environment, they believed patients would gain a sense of achievement and enjoy both the fresh air and the opportunity to interact with nature and other individuals.

How did they get on? Calum MacLeod, NHSGGC Head of Mental Health Services, said; “We are tremendously proud of what the teams at both hospitals have achieved.  Everyone, including our patients, are incredibly motivated and the resultant benefit to the patient’s health and wellbeing has been fantastic.

Furthermore, in an article published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, all walking, whether a stroll through the woods or a stroll through the city, helps to improve mood in clinically depressed people but they discovered that it’s walking in the great outdoors that’s best. The people they studied over this period were able to think up to 16 % clearer.

As a fisher I often find that I walk in the great outdoors more during a fishing excursion than at any other time.  For me a day spent fly fishing is a day that leaves me feeling revived, positive, and energised combined with a complete sense of wellbeing that can last for many days following. Essentially the benefits of fly fishing hold no bounds in the treatment of mental disorders and associated conditions.

Fly fishing in my opinion is one of the finest therapies on earth. It’s phenomenal ability to help individuals experiencing times of difficulty or ongoing metal health issues, by far out ways generalised treatments and medications. It provides endless possibilities and leaves them with a feeling that nothing else can provide!


By Lee Currie,

Fishing Specialist, Orvis Edinburgh  

2 thoughts on “The Finest Therapy On Earth

  1. Jake Kapeller

    I think fly fishing, to an extent has saved me. It puts you in environs, that most people wouldn’t go out of their way to see. Yet, we search for those places. It’s put me around GREAT people, and given me great volunteer opportunities. It has changed my life, and has helped with some of my struggles with depression, and anxiety. Yes, fly fishing has helped save me.


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