Over the weekend I attended the Casting for Recovery retreat for breast cancer survivors. I initially mentioned the retreat and my ethical dilemma associated with it in this post: Casting for Recovery.
The retreat was held at a fishing lodge in Northern California (Indian Creek Lodge). We had the entire lodge booked for us. There were 14 participants and about 10 staff all staying at the lodge. Casting for Recovery is funded by the generous donations from many different local fly fishing clubs, as well as local fly fishing stores, and a few other major sponsors. In addition, a bunch of anglers volunteer to be river guides, such that when we fished on Sunday morning each participant had a personal river guide. It was a privilege to have the opportunity to learn a lot about fly fishing, but also to spend a weekend in the company of many incredible women. Most of the staff were also program alumni and fellow survivors, which made it that much more meaningful. The staff went out of their way to make sure my needs were met (my special diet but also issues with my neuropathy). I was touched by how considerate and compassionate everyone was.
All day Saturday was spent learning about fly fishing and attending a couple of support group type meetings (one on physical aspects of breast cancer, another on emotional aspects). The support group type meetings really highlighted how lucky I am to be where I am. I have access to several different support groups, such that I can choose which groups work best for me. Many of the women didn’t have access to support groups, or the groups that they did have access to did not work well for them.
Sunday morning we got all decked out in our gear and went fly fishing. Each participant was paired with a volunteer river guide – so we each had our own personal guide to teach us more about fly fishing, to tie on our hooks (flies), and coach us on where and how to cast. One of the ladies even caught a fish!
During the presentation on “what fish eat” the fishing instructor talked about the spiritual connection with the fish. She emphasized the importance of taking a moment to breath in and take in your surroundings. A big part of fly fishing is just the experience of being in the river – feeling the water flowing around you – being part of the environment around you. One important thing that fly fishing does is help to monitor and support the health of river systems. In order for there to be fish to catch, the river needs to be healthy. So the fly fishing clubs help to promote and preserve the wild spaces needed for fly fishing. For the most part, fly fishing is a catch-and-release type of fishing.
I was struck by how much more technical it was than the hook-and-bate fishing that I did growing up. When you are fishing to eat, the goal is more about catching fish. The gear is pretty simple – you don’t even need a fishing rod – all you really need is some line, a hook, and some bait (worms work nicely). It occurs to me now, that the last time I was fishing was off the back of a container ship! With fly fishing, it is more about using a variety of different techniques to catch fish. The gear is much more complex – with specialized line, leaders, and lures (known as flies). If you are just trying to catch fish, it is inefficient. However, if you want to experience the magic of being part of the river – that is much more what fly fishing is about.
The entire time I was fishing, I was aware of a Canada Goose that was nesting on the little island right across from our fishing hole. The picture, unfortunately, makes it look so much further away than it was. We waded out to about 20 feet from the island.
Although I enjoyed the opportunity to try fly fishing, and I love the magic feeling that comes with casting, I do not see myself taking up the sport. I’d so much rather fish in places that allow me to eat the fish. I cannot see myself making the investment in all the gear that is needed – although, if someone were to offer me a free weekend of guided fly fishing, I certainly would not turn it down
After the weekend, I’m left feeling the need for a longer retreat. I need more time to process the events of this last year. I need time to clear my head, and decide where I want to put my energies. One of the things I learned about at the retreat is an organization called Commonweal – They do a week long retreat for cancer survivors and their partners – a Cancer Wellness Program. It is a weekend full of healing, yoga, and support groups, all set at a retreat center on the coast, just north of San Francisco. A couple of the women (participants) at Casting for Recovery had attended Commonweal retreats and highly recommended them. I really like that the retreats include your partners/caregivers. I am much more willing to spend a week away at a retreat center when I know that I can share that experience with my hubby – who needs it just as much (if not more) than I do. I will call them tomorrow and see when we can get in!