This is not your typical flyfishing blog, but please read on…..
I moved to New Zealand 13 years ago and luckily chose the wonderful Owen Valley to establish my wee fishing lodge. I was lucky principally because of the sensational people who lived in the valley, particularly Braden & Robyn Cooper and Ross & Pauline Farrell. These farming families proved to be the most friendly, down-to-earth people one could possibly meet. And they went out of their way to help a computer industry refugee and city slicker like me acclimatise to life in a remote rural setting.
And then 2 years later, Pauline was diagnosed with breast cancer. She fought bravely but unfortunately the cancer was very aggressive and 10 years ago she died.
I did the usual things in response, including donating to various cancer charities. And then I guess life moved on. That was, until I heard the American-based charity Casting for Recovery (CFR) had set up in New Zealand. CFR retreats focus on improving quality of life for women with breast cancer through the therapeutic sport of flyfishing.
For the last four years we’ve donated Owen River Lodge to host the CFR South Island retreat. This April, the retreat kicked off late Friday afternoon and went through to mid-afternoon Sunday. There were 10 participants, all at different points of the battle with breast cancer. The women were supported by two specialist nurses and a gaggle of “Pink Ladies” – the volunteers that provide the glue to make the whole thing work.
Friday night was spent getting to know one another and having a fabulous 3 course meal prepared by Ryan our head chef. After a hearty breakfast, Saturday morning began with learning to cast – and then the heavens opened as only they can in the South Island! Never mind, there were massages for all, manicures, some Pilates to stretch out to and fly tying to watch and learn. And then of course there was another 3 course feast courtesy of chef Ryan, followed by a group discussion and even a little sing along.
On Sunday morning, the clouds parted and the sun shone on these very brave women. Each was guided by one of the 10 fishing guides who volunteered their services for the day. The three hours on the water went quickly and, as with every retreat we have hosted, fish were caught! Then it was back to the lodge for lunch, followed by group photos and the close of another retreat.
The Casting For Recovery retreat is absolutely the highlight of my season – it fills my heart and sets my spirits soaring.
In memory of Pauline Farrell