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PICTURE: Ben Koba, courtesy of fotopiaimage.com

A FEW years ago Ben Koba was homeless, addicted to heroin, and living in a tent in a train station car park.

“I knew I had to change something about my life or I was going to die,” he said.

“I had been into sea fishing as a youngster and decided to try it again. So when pay-day came around, instead of buying drugs, I bought a rod and reel and got back into fishing.

“It immediately gave me something to focus my energy on and I have never looked back,” he says.

Through despair and determination to turn his life around, Ben started the ‘Wirral Sea Angling Academy.’

Word of Ben’s project got around and other people addicted to drugs started asking him to take them sea-fishing and teach them how to do it.

“It just snowballed from there,” Ben explains. “Soon  I  had all kinds of people wanting to go sea-fishing – veterans, disabled people, those with mental health problems, and people who just wanted to try it out.”

The Wirral Sea Angling Academy is a not-for-profit organisation and since starting it, Ben has held around 300 trips with over 200 people taking part.

One of Ben’s fishing protégés is Adam Hoolahan, who is registered blind. He said: “I first met Ben last summer and quickly became friends.

“I had never fished before and I knew very little about what it entailed, but I found Ben’s passion for it electrifying. I like to give everything a go and as far as possible, not allow my lack of sight to be a barrier to trying new things.

“So, I took up sea fishing last August, with Ben giving me one-to-one tuition. What I loved was not only being out by the river, which I found extremely calming and therapeutic, but Ben’s knowledge of the Mersey and the many species which call it home.

“Ben was very reassuring and patient, explaining what different parts of the rod, line and reels were used for and giving me hands-on demonstrations, making this a tactile experience for me. Catching my first fish was exhilarating and I was incredibly proud of myself when I caught a baby cod and a flatfish in one four-hour session.

Extremely positive

“Fishing has done a lot to help me to overcome stress and anxiety, much of this exacerbated by Covid restrictions, so I saw this as a great opportunity to involve other visually impaired people.

“I am delighted to say that quite a few service users of Wirral Society for Blind and Partially Sighted people have come on trips facilitated by Ben and his fantastic team of volunteers and the feedback is extremely positive.

“I would recommend sea-fishing to anyone, visually impaired or otherwise. You meet people, sometimes you catch, sometimes you don’t, but that is part of the excitement, and you get to remove yourself for a little from the constraints and stresses of modern life.”

 

  • WIRRAL Sea Angling Academy, a not for profit organisation, promotes recovery and wellbeing through fishing.
  • Headed by Ben Koba, the Academy has organised more than 300 therapeutic fishing trips since 2018.
  • The group supports people in recovery from substance abuse and people with mental health problems, and especially those with visual impairments and disabilities.
  • Contact, tel 07379 662384 or email w.s.a.a.bkh@gmail.com