If you’re fishing on a famed Western river, don’t be surprised if something large and startling appears from upstream. No, it’s not the world’s biggest strike indicator. It’s a hot-pink RO drift boat, representing Rowing for the Cure, that’s sure to stand out from the other watercraft on the river. Now in its fourth year, the project is the brainchild of a group of fly-fishing-industry professionals whose goal was to come up with a new way to raise awareness and money to support breast-cancer research.
Rance Rathie and Travis Smith, owners of Patagonia River Guides, developed the original the concept for the pink boat, and Robert Eddins, owner of RO drift boats, donated his time and facility to make the idea a reality. The fishing and PR campaign was put together by Ian Davis, co-owner of Bozeman-based Yellow Dog Flyfishing Adventures (his mother, Judy, died of breast cancer, which is why “Judy” is imprinted on the back of the boat in her honor) and Whitney McDowell, an avid angler and marketing professional, whose mother is a two-time breast cancer survivor.
The boat travels around the West, being handed from guide to guide. On the water, the guides will accept donations from clients, other guides and anglers, or anyone else who wants to help. So far, the Pink Boat has raised $17,800 for Montana women with breast cancer through the Susan Komen of Montana foundation, and Judy has spent 113 days on the water. (It even sank once, on the Yellowstone River, although no one was hurt and the boat was fine.) The boat has also participated in eight parades and three fishing tournaments.
The guide who has raised the most money at the oars of Judy is Toby Swank of Fins & Feathers of Bozeman, Montana.