Written by: Trisha Campbell
It’s amazing what goes into planning for a yearly weekend retreat, especially with COVID. A whole other layer of planning has to occur. Retreat teams across the country are dedicated to establishing protocols for safe, healthy retreats in these trying times. This year is the 25th anniversary of Casting for Recovery and the 21st anniversary for the Washington branch. Staff members came together through the incredible lead of Program Coordinator, Jane Lanning. She assembled the perfect team, from medical personnel to fly fishing instructors.
The retreat started above Leavenworth, Washington at Mountain Springs Lodge. Staff members arrived and were exuberantly readying for the participant’s arrival. We were joined by a new staff member, Kristin Bufe, who was leading this year’s fly fishing instruction. This was the first time I had met Kristin, but our mutual love of fly fishing and our desire to give to others were the common threads for a new found friendship.
As Kristin and I went over lesson plans and looked over the property where we would be fishing and casting, we found two small ponds on the property. We stood staring at one of these small ponds as we talked over our fishing options for the participates. Both of us stood staring at one of the ponds in anticipation of some signs of fish activity. Nothing! We decided to walk to the other pond with our fishing gear in hand. The first thing we saw was a “NO FISHING” sign. Looking past that, we saw a beautiful mayfly hatch going on with incredible Rainbow trout circling the shore of the pond as they fed on the emerging mayflies. Our excitement grew as we walked closer and saw the fat 14-to-18-inch rainbows!! WE HAVE FISH!
The retreat got underway with 14 participants coming from all four corners of our great state. The ladies ranged from 35 to 75 year of age. They were in all stages of treatment and recovery. Smiling faces were everywhere as staff members assembled to serve these fierce warriors against breast cancer. The weekend was a flurry of activities and meetings. Medical and Psychosocial staff of Lea Jackson and Louise Harris held meetings that are the retreat’s main events. The closed meeting is where the lady’s bond, share, and learn from one another in a safe place. This is what it is all about!
The vehicle used to get these women together is fly fishing. So, casting sessions, entomology and the grand finally of fishing fell into its place in the agenda. For the grand finale of fishing on Sunday morning, Kristin and I had help from staff members and the Wenatchee Valley Fly Fishers. Bruce Merighi helped get the word out to club members and Daniel Hammond, Bruce Phillips, Gary Anderson, Fred Kunzman and Mike Wyant answered the call. Those five guys came loaded to help our ladies catch fish. These men are the best you would ever want to meet!
Lots of fish were caught, but the first one touched everyone greatly. The fisher, Louise was selected as an alternate for the retreat when one of the originally selected participants had to decline their invitation. From the initial moment Louise arrived, she stated she just wanted to catch a fish, she didn’t even care if it was a plastic one. I helped with setting up her line with the perfect fly, paired Louise with our staff member, Dr. Trish Shands, and hurried them onto the pond. My previous reconnaissance told me right where she needed to be. As Dr. Shands took Louise into her competent hands, I left to retrieve my net from my vehicle. As I opened my vehicle; the shouts could be heard! Louise had hooked into a feisty rainbow. This was no plastic fish. Well, the tears flowed as Kristin jumped into action and netted the wonderful hen and brought it to Louise’s touch. As Kristin and I hugged with tears in our eyes, she whispered in my ear, I can’t wait until next year, I’m hooked!
I’ve been volunteering for 12 years with Casting for Recovery to serve women who have breast cancer. Universally, this labor of love results in being honored to see women of incredible strength face their struggles with love, caring and connection. This year was no exception!
Fly Fishers International Washington State Council are proud supporters of both Casting for Recovery groups serving Washingtonians.