Local Faces: Patrick Ryan
Patrick Ryan is one of the founders of the award-winning Killinarden Angling Initiative (KAI), which was originally established in 2014 to encourage young people living in Tallaght and the wider community to learn about angling and engage in educational workshops.
Speaking about what sparked his interest in angling, Patrick said it began at the ripe age of five when he was brought out to the lake by his dad.
“If you speak to any angler, they will tell you it’s always somebody in the family that introduced them to it,” Patrick told The Echo.
“I don’t play sport like football, basketball or anything, I don’t even watch it. I was like that all my life. My teachers always tried to get me to play sport – but it just never worked.
“An angler is always someone who looks for an alternative and that is definitely me. Because I didn’t play sports and I didn’t like big groups of people, I was always the quiet one in the corner.”
When Patrick made the move to Killinarden 15 years ago from Brookfield, he said that he noticed that there were a lot of people who fished, and he felt there was a need for a fishing group in the community, especially for the younger demographic.
“I met up with a few local lads and one guy called Stephen O’Flanagan, who is still involved with it today, and we met up with the community development officer and came up with the idea to start a fishing club for kids,” said Patrick.
“We met up in Killinarden Community Centre and 48 children turned up on the first day – so we knew straight away there was a huge interest and a need for the fishing club.”
On the back of the successful first meeting, Patrick and fellow co-founder Stephen organised the first group fishing trip at Corkagh Park.
“It was early April, and it was cold, it rained and it was a horrible day, but all 28 children stayed – none of them wanted to go home,” Patrick explained. “We stayed up there for something like nine hours in total.
“We were all soaked to the skin, but that day proved it to us that this was something worth doing.”
With a huge interest in the initiative from kids in the local area and wider community, KAI decided to hold a 24-hour angling competition to raise money for their own equipment.
“Young people fished during the day and adults fished overnight. It was fantastic and everyone loved it.
“There was one child that was there who had ADHD, dyspraxia and other behavioural conditions. He sat for 12 hours and fished and complained after the 12 hours that he had to go home. He went on to win the competition and even caught more fish than the lads that fished for 24 hours.”
This was an epiphany moment for Patrick, who realised that angling could be used as an educational tool and as an outreach, prompting KAI to begin educational workshops on different topics such as drugs and alcohol awareness as well as working alongside several local rehabilitation projects and probation services.
“It introduced us to a whole new category of people,” he explained. “We worked with the kids in Foróige and youth services and for the adults we ran programmes for people in recovery, people with mental health issues and people in probation services to introduce them to fishing.
“It really worked, and I actually have a letter from a therapist who told us that just after the first four hours of being out fishing with people in mental health programmes she was able to find positive outcomes.”
Highlighting the link between fishing and mental health, over the last six years KAI has raised a whopping €24,000 for charities such as HOPE suicide prevention in Tallaght and Pieta House through fundraisers.
“This year we did it for HOPE, because we know small charities are struggling and they need support because they can be forgotten about,” said Patrick. “These groups, like HOPE are in our community and are involved heavily in helping the people in our area.”
Speaking about the long list of benefits that fishing offers to people of all ages, Patrick says that it is a “mindful” activity that requires you to focus your attention on just one thing.
He said: “You have to be very present. You forget your worries because you are there, you are present, and you are focused. A lot of people think you are sitting there doing nothing, but fishing is actually very active.”
With an established core group of young fishermen, KAI approached South Dublin County Council in 2015 seeking a new location for fishing due to Corkagh Park becoming unfitting due to lessening numbers of fish and unsuitable conditions.
“We had nowhere to bring the kids fishing inside our area or even inside Dublin. The travelling was costing a lot of money, we were renting a coach and equipment and then renting a venue on top of that,” explained Patrick.
“We identified Ballymount Park in Kingswood, which is about three acres. One of the benefits of Ballymount is that we have enough access to train up the kids properly on a regular basis so that they could actually become competent enough to compete and go on to the internationals and on to the Irish team.”
Unfortunately, like so many groups, KAI’s regular meet up’s at Ballymount to go fishing have been put on hold for the last 20 months due to the pandemic.
“We haven’t been able to have any kids together or any workshops. Over the pandemic, we focused on the lake, and we cleaned it and took out as much organic matter as possible to lower the nutrients in the lake to reduce algae.
“A lot of local people helped us with that, there are a lot of people locally that really support the project.
“We can’t wait to get back out. Most of the kids are local and I bump into them, and they always ask, ‘when are we going fishing?’ and I don’t know what to answer them, it’s difficult. I don’t want to drag them in and send them back home again, you’ll lose them if you do that.”
Hoping to be back out on the water soon, Patrick says that KAI will continue to be an accessible, inclusive and enjoyable group for all-ages in the community which will keep on breaking down boundaries and connecting communities through fishing.