The Yorkshire charity helping people affected by cancer with therapeutic fishing sessions – The Yorkshire Post

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Marina Gibson had a fishing rod firmly in hand by the age of five. Hers was a childhood spent angling with her parents, each school holiday an opportunity for river or sea fishing and getting stuck in to the pastime that years later would become her career.
These days, she runs The Northern Fishing School, based at Swinton Estate in North Yorkshire, and is a trustee of the newly-launched The Cancer and Pisces Trust, a fishing charity for those affected by cancer.
“The purpose is to use the well-documented therapy of fishing to aid those undergoing the trauma of cancer,” she says.
The charity launched in Yorkshire at the start of the month, with the Northern Cancer and Pisces Club based at Marina’s fishing school. Every month, people affected by cancer – and a companion they are each invited to bring along – can attend the club for a free half-day fishing experience and picnic lunch.
The aim is twofold – to provide a therapeutic pause and getaway from the consulting room and treatments, and to facilitate the peer support that like-minded people can offer one another.
“Fishing for most people is a place in the outdoors where they can release all their stress, concentrate on just that one thing,” Marina says.
“Whether it’s fast or slow paced, it’s so therapeutic as there are so many actions during the day to concentrate on and so many challenges to overcome – setting up your kit, learning how to cast, catching the fish, trying to trick the fish, trying to change the fly.
“There’ll be people who have been through cancer or are going through it and you never know who you might meet on these days. I can only imagine that if someone has had cancer it’s really difficult to make people understand who haven’t had cancer how they feel.”
Certified fly fishing coach and freelance writer Marina had the idea for the charity’s founding after being sent a review copy of the book Cancer and Pisces. It is a memoir written by the late Mick May, a man who in 2013 was diagnosed with the incurable asbestos-linked cancer, mesothelioma.
In the book, Mick charts his medical journey, weaving from the pain of his many treatments to the pleasures of his frequent fishing trips to British and exotic international rivers.
“I read it and then I tracked Mick May down and basically said what do you think of this idea?,” Marina recalls. “Inspired by his book, a charity called Cancer and Pisces which would open up fishing centres every month for free for people with cancer.”
Their meeting was early last year and for just over 12 months, the pair and other trustees worked to get the charity off the ground. Last year, Marina and Mick featured in an episode of BBC TV programme Mortimer and Whitehouse: Gone Fishing, explaining to the presenters how the trust would work and the benefits of angling.
Sadly, Mick passed away in March this year, before seeing the first club officially open, and the charity is now in his memory. “When Mick was diagnosed, he was like thousands of others each year in feeling lost and confused,” Marina says.
“Excellent organisations abounded to help new cancer patients, but he wanted to speak with people whose interests were similar to his. The bond which all anglers share will provide this.”
The aim is for the trust to operate a number of Cancer and Pisces clubs across the country, with sessions running between May and October. It is hoped a second club can be launched at a venue in the South over the coming year.
Membership is open to those who have cancer and their carers and is free, with the charity relying on donations to cover its costs. “We are open to everyone irrespective of whether new members have fished or not,” Marina says. “The trustees are united in the joy they take in helping and then seeing people catch their first fish.”
Marina’s enjoyment of angling in childhood with her family escalated in her early twenties. “It was something I went back to, to try to escape stress,” she says. “My parents gave me my own rod for my 21st birthday and that was it. Fishing was my escape.”
After giving up a job in commercial property in London, Marina moved to North Yorkshire around six years ago and travelled around the UK teaching people to fish.
She is a trustee for River Action UK, which works to raise awareness of river pollution and apply pressure on industrial and agricultural producers, and is also an ambassador for The Angling Trust and Atlantic Salmon Trust.
In 2019, Marina set up the Northern Fishing School, where she and her team teach all ages and abilities the art of fishing, connecting as many people as possible with the great outdoors.
“Fishing is one of the most mindful sports you can do – the art of fly fishing requires complete concentration, is total absorption and is both exhilarating and relaxing,” she says. “It is how I find calm and I know others would benefit from giving it a go too.”
Marina and The Cancer and Pisces Trust team have been hard at work fundraising for the charity – and their efforts will continue. “People have been so generous,” she says. “And the more money we can raise, the more fishing centres we can open up.”
Visit cancerandpiscestrust.org to find out more and to donate.

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