When people think of a fly fishing guide the thought is of someone working with a client for pay. And, 99.9 percent of the time that is true.
However, there are times when fly fishing guides volunteer their time and talent to be a river helper for someone in need of “something else.”
Two organizations that use fly fishing guides for “something else” are Casting for Recovery, or CfR, and Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing, or PHWFF. It was my pleasure to use my time, and whatever talent I have as a guide, to work with both this year.
Neither group is in the business of raising money for research. CfR and PHWFF treat the spirit, mind and body through fly fishing. It’s a great concept yielding wonderful results.
CfR was founded in 1966 in Vermont by Gwenn Perkins Bogart and Dr. Benita Walton. At the time, Mrs. Bogart was a fly fishing instructor for the Orvis Co., and Dr. Walton was a breast reconstruction surgeon. It is easy to see how that friendship resulted in a nonmedical way to help breast cancer survivors.
Dr. Walton felt that the movement pattern of fly casting could help heal the muscle and tissue damage done by surgery and radiation. Mrs. Bogart provided the expertise in teaching those movement patterns. Along the way they also found that learning how to fly fish proved helpful in healing the spirit and mind.
PHWFF was conceived in 2005 by Ed Nicholson, while a patient at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. After Mr. Nicholson retired from the Navy he put his thoughts into action and began helping the men and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan heal in spirit and mind through fly fishing. The program has since expanded to include any veteran with 156 programs at military and veterans hospitals. The program uses not only fly fishing outings, but teaches classes in fly tying, rod building and fly casting. For the Durango outings, the program is led by Robin Marsett from Fort Huachuca in southern Arizona.
So, where do the guides with talent and time on their hands fit in? For CfR and PHWFF to effectively help clients a one-on-one teaching and helping partnership was developed. To afford that many professionals a volunteer program was designed. The program reached out to as many guides and other qualified helpers as could be found, and a “can’t refuse” job description was created. The description said, “If you want to do something that will make you feel really good about yourself, for weeks, then call us.” I admit I couldn’t find those exact words anywhere in the files of CfR or PHWFF, but that’s what it boiled down to.
The guides and helpers are the most professional and caring people you can ever be around. Truly, who couldn’t get high by helping a 92-year-old breast cancer survivor or a Vietnam veteran still having difficulties adjusting to his war experiences. How about a 24-year-old Iraq vet telling you how he hasn’t been this at peace for over two years. Or the cancer survivor telling you that if she can fly fish she has hopes of winning the battle.
I know, and have been associated with, many men and women who get high on those very experiences. To CfR and PHWFF, I say thank you for giving me the chance to help somebody in need of my time and talent. Please keep dialing my phone; I’m still not real good with emails.
Reach Don Oliver at firstname.lastname@example.org.