I have come to the realized fact that I will never be able to change the world. Tough shit right? However I have concluded that I can impact and change a single person’s life. Taking a step towards the right direction is always a step gained. When I reached out to my fellow anglers at the Reel Recovery retreat I figured out how to get that one step closer. We all figured out how to get one step further away from the absurdities life throws us, even if it was only for a few days. Isn’t that why we all fish? A true angler doesn’t go out for the fish. He goes out to find a body of water to focus on one thing: “Keeping his eye on the fly.” My interpretation of those words that were said to me by a participant of Reel Recovery is as follows. I can keep my eye on the fly because I can control where my fly lands. It can land in the sorrow, shallow depths of some stagnant water or it can land in crisp clean fast moving water. What would you choose: To feel sorry and pitiful, or strong and courageous? These men on the retreat chose to throw their fly in the strong courageous water not knowing what was about to come next.
Being a young adult, I use FaceBook probably more often then I should. Nonetheless social media is what led me to Reel Recovery. I saw a post by a fellow known as Hank Patterson or Hank Parker, as some like to call him. His post sated that he was in need of men to come help out at a retreat to teach cancer patients how to fly fish. I was hands down all in. Anyone who knows me should know that I love to fish and enjoy teaching others how to fly fish. I got ahold of Hank and got the ball rolling by going to www.reelrecovery.org by filling out some simple forms. One of the sections it asked, “What was you experience with cancer?” I answered it the only way I could. My father had colon cancer when I was younger. He went through chemotherapy and radiation and is now he is 10 years cancers free. I didn’t think anything of it, but Bob Macias (State Coordinator of Reel Recovery) thought differently. Bob called me with a cheery tone in his voice. He gave me a little information on what was going to happen at the retreat. He then asked me if my father would like to come as a participant and added how cool it would be to have him converse with the other participants and give them hope. Bob also added that it would be the first time ever there would be a father and son group at the Reel Recovery. Shortly after, I made a phone call to my father and purposed the idea to him. He was instantly onboard!
We arrived at Wild Horse Creek Ranch near Sun Valley, Idaho on Friday July 10th not knowing what to expect. As my father and I hopped out of the truck we were greeted with handshakes and smiles. My father and I parted ways for the evening because he attended the group meeting to go to. I had some beers to drink with the other fishing buddies. Now If I could describe each individual fishing buddy I would take hours of your time for each guy. So let me put it in a simple way, they were like the brothers I never had. We had an amazing camp cook named Steve Weston. He kept everyone happy and was a damn funny guy might I add!
Saturday morning rose with thunder clouds circling like hawks above us, waiting to strike down rain without any notice. Getting all the gear out, which consisted of waders, vests and fly poles all lined up, we waited patiently for the participants to get done with breakfast. We were eager to go slay some fish. After a quick vest signing ceremony and handing out PostFly box’s donation of fly out we were off and out in vehicles, ready to hit the water. The first gentleman I took out was named was Kurt. He had some fly fishing experience from the past and we set out to find a nice fishing hole to see if anyone (the fish) were happy to see us. They weren’t… not a darn thing happened. Beside the point of having caught no fish, we were having a great time. Laughing at every time he got his fly stuck, we managed to free it many times before we actually snapped off and lost it to a tree fish. The morning fishing didn’t last long so we headed back in for lunch just in time as the clouds decided that they needed to lighten their load and a down pour commenced shortly thereafter. We had a quick lunch and the rain subsided thereafter and the guys were jonesin to get back on the water.
This time I was paired up with David who was a wildly young soul at the age of 80. He was speedy, agile, and a good caster. We set off going up further on the river then I had gone in the morning. We got out of the truck and did a little hike to a nice hole that looked promising. David laid his fly out on the water and it instantly sank because of the currents. Letting the fly drown and swing through the hole got some attention though. A 14” cutthroat came out and took his fly. “Keep tension!” I yelled excitedly. I was more excited to see him hooked up then he was. Playing the fish with PLENTLY of tension on the rod, I dipped my net down to scoop the fish when I heard a loud pop. SNAP! I was successful in netting the fish and David was successful at snapping his rod. After a quick photo we tried to mend his rod but to no avail. By that time, we had to head back to the lodge for dinner. I made sure to tell David to tell everyone at dinner that his fish was so big it snapped his rod. It was a partially true fishing story! The fishing buddies and I had another amazing dinner thanks to Steve.
The next morning came quick, with clear skies and fly anglers ready to get out on the water. We wasted no time eating and gearing up to head out. The final day had come upon us. I was paired with Allen, who was a badass. He was a hunter, fisher and all around nice guy. We hit the water in good fashion and I educated him on bugs in the water and how to get a good drift in order to fool a fish into taking his fly. I decided to get off the water and head to the spot where David had caught his fish the day before. I set Allen up on nymphing since nothing was hitting on top. After his first cast into the hole he hooked up a nice 10 inch rainbow trout. A quick photo and a fist bump later, he had his fly back into the water. “Bobbers down!” I yelled. He set the hook again and brought in a 12 inch cutthroat! We were getting excited after two casts in a row with a fish on! A few more drifts through the water hole gave us no luck. I mentioned how he should drift the flies further out in the in the pocket and as soon as he did a huge flash and his bobber disappeared. “It is down! It is down!” I repeated. The fish thrashed violently and pulled line from his hand. It was a big fish for the skinny waters we were fishing. I netted the 16” cutthroat and Allen was beside himself. His smile ran from ear to ear as he released the fish back into the water to live another day. It was a great way to top off the day because it quickly came to an end. Allen and I got back into the truck and headed back to the ranch for lunch and ending ceremony.
After a successful day, we attended the ending ceremony. It was short and sweet. We stood in two circles, with the participants standing in an inner circle, and the fishing buddies located on the outer circle. We reflected on where this weekend had taken us physically and mentally. A gentleman said he gained his sense of humor back because of his experience with us. To know that just our simple actions brought this guy back his smile could make anyone happy. The participants joined hands by putting their right fists in with thumbs out to be held by people right next to them to form a circle, then us buddies laid our hands on the should of them and brothers around us. We were all connected. On the count of three Bob said, “Be Well, Fish On!” The mountains boomed with echoes of the voices of men who had been touched by Reel Recovery. I discussed earlier how I, as a person could not change the world but could impact an individual. We impacted 11 participants and they ended up returning the favor. It is a beautiful cycle that everyone needs to experience in one way or another. We laughed and we cried. But most of all, we kept our eye on the fly. It was back to reality for everyone as we parted and ways and went home. It was hard to part ways.
This is my challenge to all those who read this, how many individuals can you impact positively? If one person could impact another in a positive way then it will start a chain reaction. How much of a difference can you make? Think about it.
Be Well and Fish On.