Casting for Recovery allows patients in any stage of breast cancer to find strength fly fishing. Photo: CfR

“Casting for Recovery” Brings Fly Fishing to Breast Cancer Patients

The outdoors are therapeutic. Spending time in the sun, the woods or by the water can placate a lot of pain and worry. That is one reason why Casting for Recovery (CfR) offers free fly fishing excursions for women with breast cancer. Two of their events are coming to the Bay watershed this year. 

The organization was founded in 1996. CfR provides women with breast cancer a free weekend away.  Not only is the weekend free of cost, it is planned to be free of stress, worry and treatment. Through fly fishing, attendees experience nature, relax, and heal as much as possible with others who are going through the exact same thing. Their website says “the gentle motion of fly casting can be good physical therapy for increasing mobility in the arm and upper body. Couple that with the emotional benefits of connecting with nature, and you’ve got powerful medicine.”   

The program treats over 700 women each year. Ten thousand women have participated through the years. Best of all, 100 percent of participants recommend the program to others. It works. Attendees report feeling empowered, and enjoy the comfort of an expanded support base. In 2021, even with COVID, the program held 38 retreats and served 439 women. Chesapeake Bay Magazine got to go along to a retreat in our April 2018 issue.

There will be a retreat May 13-15 at Graves Mountain Lodge in Syria, Virginia, west of Culpepper. The lodge sits right on the Rose River, which is stocked with trout. The waters of Shenandoah National Park are literally just up the street. On September 23-25, there will be another retreat at Shepherd Springs in Sharpsburg, Maryland. This is in western Maryland along the Potomac River.   

You don’t need any experience or gear to participate. The retreats provide the gear, guides, instruction, meals, quarters, and anything else that patients might need. Participants vary in age from 23 to over 90, and vary in their cancer stages and treatments. There is a place for anyone with breast cancer. CfR encourages participants to step out of their comfort zones and leave family and pets at home. That way, every participant starts in the same place.    

Carolyn Harvey, of Maryland, attended her first retreat in 2003. Harvey, a 29-year survivor of breast cancer, had such a marvelous experience with the event that she became a volunteer the very next year. “I had such a wonderful time,” she said. And she fell in love with fly fishing! She became a Program Coordinator for CfR. “We always have more applicants than room at the retreats,” she noted. “But I don’t want applicants to be discouraged. You might not get in the first year, but keep trying because the program is that beneficial.” 

Participants are chosen by random drawing after completing an application. The deadline for the Graves Mountain Lodge retreat is this Friday, March 4. If you know someone who might benefit, have them look into castingforrecovery.org.

-Kendall Osborne