There were times during the pandemic when I’ve felt pretty useless. No more so than seeing the toll it takes on my colleagues who work so selflessly to care for our residents and keep our front-line services running.
I’ve been into fly fishing since moving down from London in 2006, mainly fishing at places like the Barrow Tanks, Chew Valley and in the Welsh mountains.
As well as being something I take huge pleasure from, it’s a great way to escape, relax and interact with nature among beautiful surroundings.
Mindfulness is a much-used phrase at the moment and fly fishing, with its focus on casting, watching the fly and trying to catch a trout, has proven to be a successful therapy for military veterans suffering with PTSD and also patients recovering from breast cancer.
Feeling overwhelmed and unsure of how to react to what Fran is going through, I say the only possible thing I can under the circumstances: "Do you want to go fishing?”
Fishing with Fran - Fly Culture Magazine
There was one particular Zoom when I noticed one of our Care Home Managers, Fran wasn't her usual self. It was in April 2020 when the Trust and our care homes were in full lockdown.
I made an excuse to call her afterwards to see how she was and on the spur of the moment, asked her if she wanted to come fishing with me.
A few weeks later, I met Fran and her husband Allan at a private syndicate lake I fish at.
It was a first for both of us: Fran had never fly fished and I had never taught anyone to fish before.
But Fran has a naturally inquisitive mind and a determination to master whatever she puts her mind to.
I also had some pointers from a friend who was a fishing guide on how best to condense 15 years of knowledge into 30 minutes to get Fran fishing.
Put Mother Teresa and a T-800 Terminator into the one of the transportation pods in David Cronenberg’s version of The Fly and what materialises out the other end would be a care home manager.
Over the last couple of years, I’ve been writing articles for a number of fly fishing magazines and I thought my experience of fishing with Fran would make a good story. I pitched the idea to the Editor of Fly Culture Magazine and he commissioned me to write an article, which has now been published.
I’ve heard terrible things said about the care sector during the pandemic by what I thought were intelligent people, such as: “It’s only affecting really old or sick people;” and even: “They’re going to die anyway.”
I hoped that in writing about going fishing with Fran, I’d be able to share her experience of running a care home during the pandemic and show what her and all our frontline colleagues have been through.
How even if we’re not willing to risk our own health, our relationships and potentially put our lives on the line every day - we can all still play our part in supporting those that do by wearing a face mask, social distancing, getting vaccinated and behaving responsibly.
It was a great day for both of us. Fran was a dream pupil and she was even kind enough to lie and compliment me on my teaching abilities.
We also had a laugh, ate homemade gingerbread and even caught a fish. Most importantly, Fran wasn’t thinking about lateral flow testing, visitor pods, shift patterns or the responsibility of leadership.
I’m extremely lucky to have a lake to take people fishing on, but whatever your passion is – be it baking, bird watching or Beyonce – it's fun sharing it with a colleague, having the chance to get to know them better and putting a smile back on their face.
So why not try sharing your passion with a colleague?
Among all the tears shed over the last twelve months and the sheer bloody physical exhaustion, there’s been laughter too. Plus chocolate - lots of chocolate - and an unbreakable feeling of trust between those who carried on when no-one was looking beyond the next sixty minutes of their shift.