Fishing is not on the top of the list of things to do when you have been through the trauma of breast cancer, and trying to get your life back together again. But as the members of an organisation called Fishing For Life have discovered it is exactly what this group has helped them to do.

South West Fishing For Life

As Jenny, one of the members at Wimbleball on Exmoor, said, ‘’If you had asked me in the summer of 2007 if I would pick up a fishing rod and go fly fishing at the beginning of the next season, the answer would have been categorically NO, but in January 2008 I was diagnosed with breast cancer and I thought my life had come to an end. Whilst visiting the Breast Care Clinic at Musgrove Park Hospital, Taunton, Somerset, I came across the leaflet advertising Taster Days for fly fishing at Wimbleball Lake for SWFFL, and, with encouragement from my husband, decided to give it a go.

“I know that all the ladies enjoy getting together once a month, when we can forget about our daily routine. It is our time to be in the fresh air, our time to think about ourselves, have a laugh and to know that we can talk about our experiences with others if we want to, and you never know, even come home with a trout or two for supper.’’ Jenny has now become a Level 2 coach so she can give something back as she said as it has helped her move on with her life.

The club’s qualified coaches aim to teach people to fly fish and, in doing so, enhance their well-being as the fishing techniques are beneficial to building up tissues and muscles after surgery. Men make up about 3% of breast cancer victims and are just as welcome to join the groups. The local hospital Musgrove Park breast cancer unit’s nurses and physiotherapist’s have been to the organisation’s days and are very supportive.

There are many physical and psychological benefits of exercise following any illness or operation, and fly fishing has specific benefits for people following breast cancer said a physiotherapist.

  • Movement can improve circulation and any swelling or lymphoedema that may be present.
  • Specific movements involved with casting can improve shoulder strength and stability in an overall ‘safe’ shoulder position.
  • Confidence and body image can be improved by the support network and motivation of a new hobby/sport.
  • Stretches and movements can improve the mobility of any scar tissue that may be present.
  • General mood and wellbeing can be greatly helped by many factors such as the excellent support network that is provided by SWFFL, as well as a reason to be outdoors and socialising.
  • Exercise releases ‘feel good hormones’ called endorphins which in turn improve mood and energy levels.
  • SWFFL provides a network of friends and support to help breast cancer patients with ‘moving on’ and coping with difficult times, as well as the ability to share information and experiences with people who can empathise. Thanks to the generosity of   various waters and all the volunteers these days are free for the members to attend and also provide them with a social and supportive network.

Fishing For Life is not all about fishing but ‘me’ time and a soul-finding time in beautiful locations, back with nature by still waters. If fishing is not really your idea of fun there is always a cup of coffee and plenty of chat and time for a walk. SWFFL always encourage friends and family to support, do their own thing while the members are having fishing instruction and then joining in the refreshments afterwards.

SWFFL was founded in 2008 on Wimbleball Exmoor and has now grown to eight groups: Wimbleball, Somerset, Kennick in Devon, Siblyback in Cornwall, Blagdon in Bristol and the Pennines, Bolton, Dorset, Hawkridge, Spaxton, Somerset and Gloucester/Worcester. As it has grown and moved from the South West the other groups are simply called Fishing For Life.

In time it is hoped that there will be  groups all over England so anyone who has suffered or is living with breast cancer can enjoy what this unique organisation has to offer: support, friendship, ‘me’ time, caring volunteers who listen and lots of fun and laughter!

Please look at the website for more information.

If you would like to go along to any of the groups or talk to someone please ring Gillian (secretary) 01398 371244 or email