Lessons Learned at the 2012 Vermont Casting for Recovery Retreat


The attendees, CFR crew, and river helpers from the 2012 Vermont Retreat posed together before hitting the water to try to catch a trout or two.

photo courtesy Casting for Recovery

Last Sunday, a few of us from Orvis—Nancy Perkins, Tyler Atkins, and I—headed up to Stowe, Vermont to serve as “river helpers” at the 2012 Casting for Recovery Vermont Retreat. Held at the stunning Lake Mansfield Trout Club, the event hosted 14 women who had survived or who were in treatment for breast cancer. We were coming in at the end of the three-day program, when the women would actually get out on the water to test their new skills. River helpers serve as guides on a one-to-one basis for attendees.

CFR Vermont 2012

Terri and I started with the basics, like how to get a leader unraveled without making a knot.

photo courtesy Casting for Recovery

After a brief orientation, in which CFR’s Sheila Reid explained what was expected of us, we were introduced to our fishing partners for the day. Mine was Terri, an eager young woman from New Hampshire. She was raring to go, the first one dressed for the river, and her enthusiasm was contagious. She told me right off the bat that, not only was this her first time fly-fishing, but that it was her first time fishing, period. So we were really starting from ground scratch.

Casting for Recovery VT Retreat

I only had to explain mending concepts once before Terri picked them up, which was
pretty impressive for someone with no angling experience at all.

photo courtesy Casting for Recovery

The group drove to a local stream that offered easy access and wading, and we spread out along several hundred yards of water. Unfortunately, the water was low, and the sun was beating down pretty hard—hardly ideal conditions. Terri and I found a deep pool below a riffle and got to work.


Staring at an indicator for a few hours without result can be mesmerizing.

photo courtesy Casting for Recovery

In my time as a fly-fishing guide and editor, I’ve taught a lot of people how to fly-fish, and I would say that Terri was in the the top ten percent of students. Because there was no bug activity on the water, I rigged her with a Copper John under an indicator and taught her the roll cast. She picked up the casting very quickly, but more impressively, she understood both the theory and technique of mending as soon as i explained it to her. Any guide will tell you that “mend” is among the most common words they say on the water, but Terri was quick to notice when her line was in need of readjustment. Alas, the fish would not cooperate.


We came off the water without a fish to show for our efforts, but Terri gave every
impression that she planned to take up fly fishing seriously.

photo courtesy Casting for Recovery

Despite the poor fishing, it was a glorious morning on the water, and my time with Terri was fun and challenging. Casting for Recovery is a great organization that does really important work. If you haven’t checked them out, visit their website. And I highly recommend the experience of serving as a river helper. It is an enriching experience, and the opportunity to share something you love with someone who may need a new passion will make you think more deeply both about the sport and about life.

Click here to learn more about Casting for Recovery.


Serving as a river helper was a great experience, and I got a new
friend and potential future fishing buddy out of it.

photo courtesy Casting for Recovery

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *