Fly-fishing for men diagnosed with cancer


Reel Recovery is a fly fishing retreat for men with cancer. They are a charitable organisation where the participants do not pay for the weekend away, only the cost to get to the location is required.


Well-known among locals as a calming activity, fly-fishing is now being used to help men fighting cancer.

The non-profit group Reel Recovery held a retreat last weekend on the Whanganui River, giving 10 men from across New Zealand the chance to fish, talk, and relax - a more gentle treatment than many might have experienced..

Craig Caldwell, coordinator for Reel Recovery, says men from around the country who attend the fly-fishing weekend are ...
Paul Dell

Craig Caldwell, coordinator for Reel Recovery, says men from around the country who attend the fly-fishing weekend are able to open up about their cancer.

Coordinator Craig Caldwell said it gave the men, who all have different stages of cancer, a chance to talk about their concerns in the open air.

"It gets nearly all the guys to open up a lot, and go back [to their families] with a hugely more positive frame of mind."

Reel Recovery was started in 2003 by a group of fly-fishers from Colorado who were inspired by their fishing buddy's ongoing battle with brain cancer.

The New Zealand chapter of the organisation - the only one outside the United States - has held retreats at Castle Rock near Te Awamutu in 2014, 2015, and in February this year.

The weekend's retreat was the first one on the Whanganui River. It was based at Ruapehu Christian Camp in Kakahi.  

Caldwell said volunteers came from the New Zealand Fly Fishing team, local clubs, professional guides to buddy-up one-on-one with the men on the river.

"It takes great people with great skills to take these men out."

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He said all of the pairs caught trout, and the group practiced catch and release.

Facilitator Paul Dell said six "courageous conversations" during the weekend gave the men a chance to talk about their cancer journey.

"The men are often sharing things in these courageous conversations that they've kept pent up.

"It's about bringing these guys together to talk about things they might not have been able to raise with family and friends."

Dell said men tended to find "fellowship" at the weekends, which are non-religous.

The men were often able to communicate better with partners and families at home afterwards, he said.

Reel Recovery plans to return to Kakahi in 2017, in addition to holding a retreat at Castle Rock Adventure near Te Awamutu.

"The Whanganui river fished very well," Caldwell said.

 - Stuff


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