How I Still Fish from My Wheelchair
Being disabled and confined to a wheelchair doesn't mean you can't participate in angling. With a little bit of thought, a few adaptations you'll be out there fishing with the rest of them. I can say this because I've done it. When I first had my accident, I thought I would never go fishing again. How wrong I was.
What I'm going to do is explain how I fish. Obviously, what I say is not written in stone, you may find an easier and more comfortable way of fishing. Your disability may also differ from mine. If you are a C5/6, or even a C4, read this page and have a go. I'm quite confident you'll manage O.K.
The level of my disability means I have no movement in my fingers, it's not going to take a genius to realise that I can't hold a rod in the conventional way. It's important to attach the rod to your arm so it is totally secure. When you've got an angry twenty pound carp on the end of your line, the last thing you want is your rod slipping. Another thing to take into account is the angle of your arm when the rod is on it. If you sit all day with your arm at an unnatural angle, you're going to have problems.
I need a way to hold my fishing rod or pole very securely, I really cannot afford to have it moving around my arm, this will make fishing very uncomfortable. Holding my rod has been made easy by using orthopaedic wrist splint and a simple elasticated strap. Wrist splints are readily available for about £18 for a single splint. The splints you want to go for are the type that have a metal strip running up underneath. It's no good using any other type of splint as you will not be able to securely attach the special attachment that will hold your rod. What you'll need to do is get somebody to make you a special attachment that fixes securely to the splint. For the sake of brevity we will call this attachment a trough, it's basically a U-shaped piece of metal that your rod or pole fit snugly into. I find that using a small piece of Velcro makes the whole thing that much more secure and help stop the rod from moving around. A strong secure strap is also necessary to attach the rod to your arm, just using the splint alone will not be secure enough. If you haven't got anyone who can make you up a strap then go to your local haberdashery and they are sure to be able to make you the strap. I have found that securely attaching Velcro to elastic strap thing is by far the best way of securing the rod to your arm. I put a little bit of Velcro onto the butt of the fishing rod as well.
click images below to enlarge
There are various online companies that you can purchase splints from. I got mine from Firstaid4sport. If you order in the morning or early afternoon, you should receive your splints the next day, I was very impressed with the way they dealt with my order.
Supporting your fishing rod under pressure
An able-bodied person can easily support a fishing rod when it's under pressure, i.e. playing a fish. When you have a fairly high level tetraplegic disability you lack certain muscles that enable you to keep a fishing rod under full control. Tetraplegics often don't have a lot of control over their latissimus muscles which are located under your arms stretching around to your back. I have come up with a very simple way of supporting a fishing rod when it's under pressure. You can either simply jam the rod butt into the back of your wheelchair seat, or you can do what I have done and have a special attachment manufactured that attaches to your wheelchair. Obviously my attachment attaches to my wheelchair in a certain way, yours won't necessarily be the same so whoever manufactures the part for you will find somewhere on your wheelchair to attach this special implement.
The bracket I have is made out of steel with a three sided box riveted on the end. It is important that you make your bracket out of strong material as it could be put under a lot of pressure. The attachment doesn't stay on my wheelchair all the time, it fits very neatly into an attachment on the side of my wheelchair
It was quite a coincidence that my new Permobil had a very neat facility for attaching things such as leg restraints. I was able to utilise this facility to attach my fishing rod butt restraint. It really is almost made for the job, quite incredible.
Remap - custom-made equipment for disabled people
If you don't know anybody who has the skills or tools to manufacture either one of these brackets, or any other equipment that needs to be made especially for your needs then contact Remap. They are an organisation that helps disabled people fulfil their needs whether it be hobbies, daily living or whatever. They have a network of volunteers, in a lot of cases retired gentleman who come from an engineering background and have got the skills and tools available to make special adaptions. Remap will put you in touch with one of these people who will be able to help you.
If you go to their website and then choose your location, they will give you a list of contact details where you can find people closest to you.
Remap website: http://www.remap.org.uk/contact-us.php
Use a light rod or pole
I would strongly advise you to choose the lightest rod or pole available, if you try and use a big heavy rod then you are going to really struggle to both hold the rod and cast, you might even not be able to hold the rod properly if you hook into a sizeable fish.
Ken's Power Caster
A very clever device for helping disabled anglers fish was recently brought to my attention. A chap over in the USA who is quite a high tetraplegic have designed an automatic fishing rod that clamps to the side of his wheelchair. Not only can he reel in automatically, but he can also cast as well. This is a fantastic invention that will enable people who haven't got any movement at all to still participate in fishing almost independently. Check out "Ken's Power Caster" for yourself.
There are other means and ways of using a rod and reel if you are disabled. I have seen an electric reels available, although I think these may be quite heavy to hold on your arm as they use a motor to wind the reel. I recently came to hear about a chap in the states who has designed a completely automated fishing system that both casts and winds in automatically just with the press of a button. If you have little or no movement in your arms then this is certainly worth looking at. It's not really the sort of equipment that I need for myself, but I think it could help a lot of disabled people get back into fishing again.
There is a company called Elec-tra-mate who manufacture reels that can be operated by pressing a switch. Unfortunately, if your disability prevents you from moving your fingers, you may find using this reel impossible. I haven't looked into it, but I'm sure there must be a way of adapting the push switch to some sort of switch that a tetraplegic can use
Check their website out which can be found at www.elec-tra-mate.com/
Here is a short YouTube video showing a wheelchair angler using the Elec-Tra-Mate