DOCTORS in Wales should be able to prescribe angling instead of anti-depressants, according to one of the UK’s top fishermen.
The call comes from ex-world champion angler Hywel Morgan who wants to persuade NHS Wales that an afternoon spent by the riverside can be better for mental health than popping pills.
He will be beating the drum for his sport and its positive effect on mental health when he takes charge of the Angling section at the two-day Welsh Game Fair at the Faenol Estate, near Bangor, on the weekend of September 9 and 10.
The show, organised in association with the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, will also cover everything from axemen to conservation, shooting and wildlife, and is expected to attract 20,000 people to the estate’s magnificent 500 acres overlooking the Menai Straits.
Hywel, the son of legendary angler Moc Morgan who began fishing as a two-year-old in Cardiganshire, has captained Wales in the Home Internationals three times where he has three times finished Top Rod, won world championship casting titles, set a world record by casting 66 roads simultaneously and made regular TV appearances.
He said: “The therapeutic properties of fishing are huge and in England several health authorities are now prescribing courses of angling instead of anti-depressants for mental health issues.
“People suffering from depression are being given fishing sessions and every angler knows that when you go fishing the world stops.
“The only reason you take a mobile phone with you is to take a picture of a fish you’ve caught. You forget about the stresses of life and it’s a great way to relax.
“It’s fantastic that health boards in England are now recognising this and we need to see it happening here in Wales as well.
“There’s an organisation over the border called Tackling Minds and they’re doing a fantastic job and it’s proving very, very successful in helping people with depression.”
Hywel, who lives in Pontrhydfendigaid, in Ceredigion, added: “My dad always used to say that every hour you fish doesn’t count towards your life cycle so it’s an extra hour of life. You do switch off when you’re fishing. It’s very beneficial.”
Research conducted by Angling Trust has shown that 86 per cent of anglers say fishing has helped improve symptoms of stress or anxiety, and 95 per cent would recommend fishing to help manage mental health or stress levels.
It is also good for the health of our rivers, according to Hywel who will be demonstrating his casting ability at the Welsh Game Fair’s Fishing Village which is being sponsored by Natural Resources Wales.
James Gower, chief executive of Stable Events which organises the event, alongside The Game Fair and the Scottish Game Fair, wholeheartedly supports Hywel’s call for fishing to be recognised by NHS Wales as a treatment to improve mental health.
He said: “Many people were attracted to angling during the Covid lockdown because it was one of the first sports to re-open and allow you to get outdoors and enjoy the countryside.
“That’s really important for the health of our rivers as well because fishermen and women are the eyes and ears of our waters – they find out about pollution first and raise the alarm.
“That’s why it’s important to get kids involved from an early stage because they will be the ones who look after our rivers, lakes and streams in the future.”
It will be a busy weekend at the Welsh Game Fair for Hywel who is co-ordinating and compering the angling activities as well as demonstrating his casting skills and compering the UK Casting Championships.
That will attract a quality field which will include the top performers at the Scottish Game Fair at Scone Palace and The Game Fair at Ragley Hall with the final on Sunday deciding who will be crowned the UK Game Fair Champion.
It’s part of a mouth-watering programme of activities over two days at the famous estate above the Menai Straits which hosted the Royal Family for the Investiture of King Charles as Prince of Wales at nearby Caernarfon in 1969.
At the heart of the event is the main arena which will stage a rolling programme of events and displays including demonstrations by the Clwyd Axemen and wildfowler Chris Green, the Cornish Countryman, and teams of spaniels and retrievers battling it out in the Four Nations International.
Well-known TV farmer Gareth Wyn Jones is hosting an on-site pop-up restaurant, Cwtch Kitchen, which will serve up seasonal dishes including grey squirrel burgers while the countryside issues of the day will be addressed in the Countryside Conversations Theatre.
There’s also the chance to get hands on at a range of rural activities including archery, fishing, airgun shooting, clay shooting and gundog handling and learn how to survive in the wild with bushcraft master Huw Jones of Ynys Twca.
The event is also an important fund-raiser for countryside charity the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust – a 92-year-old charity that conducts vital research into Wales’s most vulnerable species and a major retail event with 150 stands including major clothing and equipment brands alongside small independent retailers and artisans.
The event is open each day from 9am to 5.30pm with free parking and children under eight admitted free. For more on the Welsh Game Fair go to https://www.welshgamefair.org/