Casting for Recovery Brings Inspiration to Lawyer’s Canyon

Written by: Karen Syron, Flying B Ranch

Casting for Recovery staffers pair attendees with theor “river helpers” on Day One.
Photos courtesy Flying B Ranch

Fly-fishing is therapy for a lot of us. Casting a line, immersed in the sights, sounds, and smells of nature…it’s good for the soul. For women battling breast cancer, the sport is therapy on the path to recovery. By now, everyone knows someone who has been affected by breast cancer, because one in eight women are diagnosed with the disease in their lifetime. From June 10-12, we welcomed back Casting for Recovery’s North Idaho/ Eastern Washington chapter for their annual retreat at Flying B Ranch.

There are several organizations focused on fundraising for breast cancer research, in the quest for a cure. Casting for Recovery is committed to improving the quality of life for women following a breast cancer diagnosis. According to their website, “Casting for Recovery was founded on the principle that the natural world is a healing force and that breast cancer survivors deserve one weekend- free of charge and free of the stresses from medical treatment, home, or workplace- to experience something new and challenging in a beautiful, safe environment.”

The Pink Boat spreads the organization’s message on rivers across the country.

All of us have a role to play. Those of us with little time but some cash to spare may donate to the cause. Those of us with experience in fly-fishing or fly-tying may volunteer, and those of us with a facility, may host. Casting for Recovery is an amazing organization with an unbelievable team, and it was named a 2016 Top Nonprofit by GreatNonprofits. Although the organization is based in Manchester, Vermont, they are expanding rapidly throughout the West. I was first introduced to them through our relationship with the Orvis Company.

The weekend was emotional, as it should be. Fourteen staff assistants and clinicians arrived a day before the participants to prepare for the weekend’s fly-fishing retreat. In addition, thirteen “river helpers” volunteered their time to teach fly-fishing to these thirteen ladies who have had their lives touched by breast cancer. Sessions encompassed fly-fishing topics–such as fly-tying, knot tying, reading water, and how to present flies to trout. The other component is medical, touching on lymphedema, yoga, medical massage, and group discussion.

The dock on the trout pond allows wheelchair-bound attendees access to good fishing water.

A good portion of the weekend, we helped out just by giving the participants their privacy. We shut off the lodge to our own staff even, to give them full privacy to talk openly among each other about their battles with breast cancer. This is one of the only times you will see our office doors closed with guests in the lodge, allowing us to conduct business in guest services while not interrupting their sessions with ringing office phones. Our facility is ideal, with plenty of guest rooms, large dining areas, a full-time chef, and housekeeping staff. The real gem to our location isn’t the lodge itself; it is our private trout pond that is wheelchair accessible. Our stocked trout pond has ample shoreline with clear ground for the back-cast, in addition to a dock that allows great fly presentation from a wheel chair, and a gentle sloping area ideal for launching CFR’s pink ribbon-adorned drift boat.

Attendees “greet the sun” as a way to be thankful for each day.

The last morning of the retreat, the ladies gathered in front of the lodge, facing the canyon wall, to “greet the sun.” They literally greet the beginning of a new day, thankful for another day to experience the joys of living. And no doubt about it, these ladies are really living it up! To see women going through so much, still with ear-to-ear smiles, to hear their laughter from the parking lot in the morning,is good for our souls, too. We as fly-fisherman love the activity and the places it takes us. For these women recovering from breast cancer, it is rejuvenating.

The weekend’s retreat ended with presentation of awards to each of the ladies who attended the event. Before gathering for their group photo, the ladies attending each took time to sign the pink drift boat with a note about what the weekend meant to them. After photos, the guests departed for home and the Casting for Recovery staff stayed behind and met to review the weekend retreat, discussing what was great, and what could be better next time. This group of staff and clinicians really are the salt of the earth.

The notes on the pink drift boat are inspiring.

Most all of us know someone who has fought breast cancer. My husband and I see this first-hand with his mother. My mother-in-law, Diane, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001. She underwent chemo, radiation, and a mastectomy. Today she is in remission, she walks four miles every morning, and doesn’t go a day without singing and dancing. She has chosen to be joyful amidst struggle, just as these women are doing. In war, a soldier never forgets that they are at war, just as a woman battling cancer never forgets she has cancer. Miraculously these retreats give these women a weekend to free their minds of all they can, and to focus not on cancer, but on fly-fishing.

And sometimes the notes are fun, too!

The team at Casting for Recovery, including the staff, clinicians, river helpers, and all other volunteers, should be so very proud of what they have developed. This program is making a difference in the lives of so many women, at a time where they need every boost they can get. So, if you have an old fly rod in your garage that you aren’t using, some fly-tying materials at the bottom of your bin, or maybe a vest that doesn’t fit anymore, donate it to Casting for Recovery. Or, if you happen to have some extra time, or maybe a great location for an event contact them and ask what you can do to help.

Click here for more information about Casting for Recovery.

Karen Syron is a manager at the Flying B Ranch, in Kamiah, Idaho.

Participants and staff gather for a group photo at the close of a very memorable weekend at Flying B Ranch.

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