An introduction by the late Mick May
Visionary fisherman Mick May set up a charity to give cancer patients the opportunity to find some peace in fishing.
A year after his death, our correspondent joins the trustees for a day in pursuit of trout to honour his friend’s memory.
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A wonderful testimonial from one of our members
Like many others, I first came across the Cancer and Pisces Trust whilst watching the “Gone Fishing” programme with Paul Whitehouse and Bob Mortimer. Mick and Marina were given a chance to promote the work of this new support group and as a keen but self-taught fly-fisherman with a recent primary liver cancer diagnosis, I signed up via the website the next day. I was invited to the launch event at the wonderful Swinton Estate in Yorkshire and whilst I live in Dorset, the event took me close to my parents who live in Co. Durham so it was easy to fit in the two visits. My wife came with me and during a sumptuous lunch we met fellow cancer patients some of whom had no prior fly-fishing knowledge or experience together with a number of the Trustees and guides for the day. After lunch, my wife went with her guide to learn the basics of casting and how to tie a fly and I went with other more experienced anglers to have our casting fine tuned by one of the Trustees and their advice has stayed with me ever since. Distance was never a problem for me but learning how to delicately present the fly so as not to spook the fish and hopefully induce a ‘take’ has been invaluable. The afternoon was spent on the well stocked estate lake where beginners were taught how to correctly handle a fish and return it safely to the water and most, with the help of the excellent guides felt the adrenaline rush of a successful catch. For me, the beauty of the day was matched by only by the solitude - even though new friends and loved ones were close by. The ability to drift away with your own thoughts whist trying to winkle out that elusive ‘take’ is priceless and a wonderful distraction from the Groundhog Day tedium of scans, blood tests, procedures and consultations required by your cancer diagnosis. The occasional (in my case too occasionally) catching of a tree with a wayward cast or the loss of a fish near to the bank are all frustrating hazards of the art but immaterial when compared to the benefit of the solitude experienced where you can relax, take a deep breath and put everything into some sort of perspective. I have been fortunate to have also fished the river on the estate on a second visit and whilst I caught only one small brown trout, a lady beginner pulled out a salmon - fantastic. Once again, my day, mostly on my own, was enhanced by the sight of kingfishers darting along the riverbank and of an otter chomping his way through a fish that I had failed to catch! Wonderful! I live around an hour away from the southern venue at the beautiful Holbury Lakes just East of Salisbury and again I attended the inaugural day and a number of others since. Once again, this very casual day with help from some of the UK’s best guides if you want/need it and in the most glorious of surroundings is a wonderful distraction from your day-to-day concerns about your cancer journey. A catch and release policy for our members is really helpful as many do not want to kill their catch but if you do want to take a fish this also possible. A super lunch is always a welcome break between morning and afternoon sessions and offers a chance to talk to the other members/trustees/guides and make new friends. Some of the members have come just for one of the sessions as they have never fished before but many have said that the experience has been so rewarding that they will be coming back for a full day in the future. Marina and her team of guides are always on hand to lend experience and expertise to the members during their time at the lakes and whilst I never met Mick I must thank them both for their foresight and enthusiasm for a charitable support group that has certainly helped me through a difficult few years and which I know has helped many others. My own cancer journey is that I was diagnosed with primary liver cancer at the outbreak of covid, listed for transplant and spent the next couple of years undergoing various specialist chemo and radiotherapy sessions to try and control the tumours whilst a suitable donor was found. Two and a half years later I was expecting to be taken off the list as the various procedures had resulted in an inactive tumour but a final MRI scan discovered 3 more tumours. Five weeks later I had my transplant - God bless the NHS! I am convinced that the various days fishing with the Trust that I have enjoyed have helped me make sense of this life threatening disease and everything that it brings with it to your family and friends and I cannot recommend it highly enough to anyone with a cancer diagnosis whether you have fished before or not. Regards, David.
Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing
"Anyone who has watched 'Gone Fishing' will know that we're both great believers in the health benefits of angling. When we heard about Marina and Mick's plans for a fishing club for cancer sufferers we wanted to hear more and invited them to join us for the day. We loved meeting them both and we wish them and their wonderful charity every success"
About the book
Life is confusing for Aberdeen teenager Callum Anderson as he drifts through the lockdown summer of 2020. With exams cancelled and activities restricted, the aimless days and late, drunken nights all merge. When Callum’s behaviour puts the family dog at risk, his mother compels him to do something more productive with his time, forcing him to join a fly-fishing course on the banks of the beautiful river Dee. Callum is soon absorbed by a new passion and finds himself drawn to someone he unexpectedly meets there. Igniting a bond with his grandfather in their pursuit of the king of fish, he discovers how life is connected and how a legacy can live on.