On Sunday morning, 14 intrepid survivors of breast cancer spent the morning at the Winthrop National Fish Hatchery, learning the art of fly fishing from seven members of the Methow Valley Fly Fishers (MVFF). The event was coordinated with the hatchery and MVFF by Casting for Recovery (CfR), which is a national organization dedicated to enhancing the quality of life of women with breast cancer. CfR has a unique approach that combines breast cancer education and peer support with the therapeutic sport of fly fishing.
CfR sponsored a free retreat for survivors at Sun Mountain Lodge over the weekend, and incorporated emotional support, a focus on wellness, empowerment and opportunity, and a half-day of guided catch-and-release fly fishing at the hatchery, which, by all accounts, was highly successful. Not only did every single woman catch at least one fish — including, according to MVFF member Pete Speer, “some hogs, one of which broke a woman’s fly rod!” — but they also had a lot of fun and were able to “forget about their illness and rejoice and show enthusiasm for our great fishing mecca,” says Larry Riggins, MVFF president.
Larry adds, “without a doubt this was one very enthusiastic event. Women recovering from cancer … were jumping up and down like cheerleaders whose teams were winning!” He also notes that he found the event “a true blessing” to witness, and that for the MVFF members involved in the fishing workshop, “it was a rewarding experience and more fun than if they had been catching the fish.”
Hatchery manager Chris Pasley apparently had to chase off some invading otters to ensure that the pond would be amply stocked for the women — an activity he is well-versed in. (See my column from May if you want a reminder about the hassles these otters have been creating for the hatchery.)
Like me, you may be wondering “What is the connection between fly fishing and breast cancer?” CfR says, “For women who have had surgery or radiation as part of their breast cancer treatment, the gentle motion of fly casting can be good physical therapy for increasing mobility in the arm and upper body.” And, of course, “couple that with the emotional benefits of connecting with nature, and you’ve got powerful medicine.” The retreats sound unconventional, but many survivors call the experiences “life-changing.”
Otter chasing, fly fishing, rod breaking, skilled and passionate fly fishing instructors, and the strong company of women fully celebrating life — Larry says, “this is what Methow friendship is all about.”