Post Lockdown Breaks for Better Mental Health
2020 has been a difficult year for all of us, in so many ways. Dealing with a pandemic and the seismic shift in our day to day routines were hard enough, let alone being told by an inept government what we should and shouldn’t do. On top of everything, our being restricted to travel overseas, whilst in my view, essential to control spread of the virus, was something that didn’t sit well with many people.
In the UK we work very hard, and our rewards are simple enough, no I don’t mean red wine, chocolate, or binging on Netflix. I’m talking about our overseas holidays, for some relaxation and sunshine.
Escape from the noise, go fishing!
Sometimes the pace of life is hectic, and noisy. I mean noisy in the sense we are surrounded by a constant drip feed of communication, coming at us via email, tablets, phones, TV radio and adverts churning out a non-stop conscious babble. The pressure of work too can be overbearing, deadlines, long hours, stress and managing work relationships, can all take its toll. By the time our holiday arrives, We’re knackered. It’s as if we need a few weeks of meditation to help us wind down and prepare us. In the lead up to our escape, frantic tying up of loose ends and working long hours to complete deadlines takes its toll, leaving us totally frazzled, emotionally and physically.
And then escape! The vision of Tim Robbins in the Shawshank Redemption as he emerges from the sewage pipe and holds his hands up to the skies – freedom, TIME OFF! (albeit in the pissing rain)
We as humans are super stoked about escaping for overseas holidays and rightly so, we deserve some down-time. Life is too short! If you live to an average age of 80, then you have approx 4,000 weeks on this planet.
It’s never been more important to get a holiday and escape. Consider also that a lot of us now work from home, its even more important to get out to the open air and enjoy freedom, open spaces and fresh air.
Post Covid – safe outdoor pursuits, fishing in Scotland
In July 2020, travel restrictions were eased, and this led to a very busy period, continuing on through to October. Our Orvis Endorsed fishing guiding company Alba Game Fishing, found ourselves with a new type of clients – UK visitors.
What we lost with inbound American/ overseas visitors, we made up for in UK guests looking for a workable alternative to a holiday abroad. There was a huge appetite for people to escape to enjoy freedom, fresh air and a sense of well being on the river.
A staycation fishing break in Scotland – better than going abroad?
Nearly all the guests that came fishing post lockdown, confirmed they were indeed substituting a sporting break in Scotland for their holiday abroad. In fact not just fishing, the whole of Scotland was overrun with people escaping the cities. If you were lucky enough to head to the far North and drive anywhere near the NC500 it was rammed!
Guest houses and hotels were full as were camp sites and camper van parks. People were sleeping in cars in lay bys and everyone wanted to be outside, enjoying the fresh air and there were very few places left where you could actually escape people.
Where in Scotland can you fish and escape crowds?
This is why fishing in the river and lochs of Scotland was one of the best options in Scotland. It seemed to me one of the few places you could enjoy the countryside and escape the crowds. River beats are privately owned so usually free from public access. There is a right to roam in Scotland, but some really abused this. Thankfully, private river beats escape this problem. The Ghillie would send them packing with some solid advice!
Our days with guests allowed them to really enjoy getting away from it all, with space, freedom, safe social distancing and relaxation. Open space, room to breathe and a place to really disconnect, to reconnect with the real you. Furthermore, if you are new to fishing, you can learn new skills and try a fly fishing for beginners course.
A new way to deliver fishing trips – safely and in the open air
We quickly had to find a new way to deliver trips safely.
For the safety and comfort of guests and our guides. All of our guides completed a Coronavirus Infection prevention course with the World Health Organisation. We also applied common sense, safety procedures, that kept our guests and guides safe.
- We met guests at the venues to avoid car sharing
- No handshakes, high 5’s or hugging.
- We temporarily stopped serving lunches and guests brought there own
- We carried bottles of hand sanitiser made by our local Gin company, any time we handle a rod, hands are thoroughly sanitised first
- Safe distancing (easy when you are fishing)
- At the end of a day, all the rod handles and points of contact are cleaned down with alcohol
All of the above measures are carried our without any fuss. There are more layers to our safety procedures, and you can read them here.
All this aside, our fishing days carried on pretty much as normal.
How did we maximise our time during lockdown?
What an opportunity lockdown was for us. No seriously! An opportunity to gear ourselves up for future success. Time is our most precious commodity and here was a chance to waste not a moment. We managed a fishing tackle audit of the entire stock and purchased 20 new crewsaver life vests.
Our fly tyers were kept busy tying some highly effective patterns. This proved to be time and money well spent. John Richardsons Red Francnsnaelda signature tune fly had almost 20 salmon this year. It was a fly to fall back on, when the going got tough. As well as a huge investment in superb salmon patterns, we filled several fly boxes from some of Scotland’s best trout and grayling fly tyers, like Davie Mcphail, Cuillin Rae and Billy Scott.
On the tackle front, we added some new Sage LL trout rods, our favourite being the 9ft 4weight. The new Orvis Mission and Clearwater salmon rods were a superb addition, and guests were able to try before buying these superb rods. The 14ft 9 weight Sage Sonic was a particular favourite and perfect salmon fishing on the River Tweed and the River Tay.
Lockdown took us to new levels…of Nymph fishing
Perhaps the sexiest addition to stock is the purchase of the Sage ESN (European Style Nymphing) rod and reels, and the new Orvis Clearwater 10ft 2 weight nymphing rods. These are the real deal and I am in the process of writing a full review on both of these rods.
This has taken nymphing for trout and grayling to a new level. A superb rod, and well done Orvis.
After a review of our stock of waders, we added 5 pairs of waders and boots to stocks, and now carry 35 pairs of Orvis Clearwater, Encounter and Sonic waders and 36 pairs of Orvis boots. We have various sizes all the way up to few pairs of size 15 boots, that were launched with a bottle of champagne cracked on them, as they slid down a runway to the river, in front of crowds of cheering people.
Post lockdown fishing for everyone – beginners to experts
When an enquiry comes in to us, often the enquiry is misaligned to what the best fishing is for that time of year. For example we get requests to take groups sea fishing in December when the sea is souped up and fishing is extremely slow as most of the bait fish have departed and the herring and mackerel are long gone, taking the bigger predators with them.
We also get enquiries from people simply looking to “go fishing” and with an open mind. No matter what category any enquires fall into, we really do try and recommend experiences that will deliver the best according to the time of season, river levels, and ability of the clients.
Covid had a positive impact on salmon numbers – fact!
Many of the “just go fishing” guests were encouraged to fish for salmon this year. Covid has been cruel in many ways, but a blessing for salmon stocks. With restaurants closed for the main part and commercial fishing curtailed, there were certainly record numbers of salmon returning to the rivers and we capitalised on this and had a bumper year.
For the trout anglers, post lockdown fishing in the lochs was fantastic and it was hard to fail. Catching free rising trout in the rivers and lochs and using nymphing techniques.
For the sea fishing anglers, we delivered some exciting shore fishing and boat trips, fly fishing in the saltwater for Pollack and sea bass.
Then of course when the river are too high and the sea too windy, we have fantastic pike fishing on offer, on a private loch (lake) south of Edinburgh.
Good Mental Health, the solution is ….go fishing
Lets not beat around the bush, Covid and lockdown affected many peoples mental health. I know being stuck in the house with my lovely family led to some rising tensions and arguments over….well nothing really!
On a personal note, I decided to stop drinking and exercise more during lockdown and this helped me greatly. But I couldn’t help feeling trapped.
The thought of not getting away to new spaces, the outdoors and fishing were taking its toll. I really began to crave space, freedom, and being out in nature.
This all changed, as soon we were all allowed out on the river again in July. I never quite realised how much I missed doing what I do, and how privileged I was. To spend time in beautiful places with guests has to be one of the best jobs in the world. The most rewarding aspect of all of it was helping people relax and get into a good mental space. You could see how grateful our guests were, to be in the outdoors and enjoying the river. No tension, no babble, just the sounds of nature, the calming effect of the water and occasional moments of excitement when a fish was hooked or landed.
Hunter gatherer instinct
Perhaps it’s that fishing taps into the primal “hunter gatherer” instinct that lies deep in our brain make up. Instincts forged by our ancestors and sometimes dormant in many people, due to the pace of normal life. When we fish, we awaken those instincts and I believe this is brain nourishment, exercise and a great stimulant, that results in well-being. It’s easy to become focussed in the moment when fishing, and that by default shuts down the stream of conscious noise. I’ve always understood that fishing for me, is a form of therapy, meditation and promoter of positive thinking. Only when we let go of the noise, and shift our focus into the moment, the nuances of tempting a fish, do we truly disconnect and relax.
Covid vaccine, confidence to travel and fish again
2020 was weird and wonderful. 2021 was better and after the vaccine.
At time of writing this, there’s a minor spike in infections. To be honest this was to be expected, as all viruses mutate and find ways to infect new hosts.
All of our guides have been triple vaccinated, and we remain diligent in our safety protocol.
Our motto going in to 2021 is to Disconnect to Reconnect! Good health and be safe!