Reel Recovery’s mission is simple: Help men in cancer recovery by providing them with a supportive, peer environment focused on the “healing powers” of fly fishing.
To that end, the U.S.-based nonprofit has been organizing retreats for 20 years. It marks the milestone this year with its most prolific schedule yet: 30 outings across 20 states, plus four in Australia and New Zealand.
No previous fly fishing experience is necessary, but all registrants must be men aged 21 or over in any stage of treatment, recovery, or in full remission from any form of cancer. All you have to do is get a signed medical release from your doctor and show up. Reel Recovery provides all meals, lodging (the events last 2 to 3 days), and fishing equipment. You don’t even need to own a rod.
Along with time on the water, the men take part in what Reel Recovery calls “courageous conversations,” geared toward encouraging the groups at large to share their experiences.
“Many of our participants have never tried fly fishing before, nor have they talked much about their cancer,” Reel Recovery Director Stan Golub said in a press release. “But learning something new and feeling the support of the other men can lead to a new outlook and hope for the future.”
Why men? According to data, women with cancer attend support groups three to one. Reel Recovery wants to change that by providing another outlet and option for men with cancer.
Reel Recovery said slots are filling up fast this season, which kicked off in New Zealand on March 3. The next outings on the list begin May 8 in Hope, N.J. and Gordon, Australia. This year’s schedule concludes with a retreat in Navasota, Texas, on November 3, 2023.
“Getting out into nature is such a relief from the confinement and sometimes isolation that can come with cancer treatment,” Golub said. “We’ve heard it time and time again from men who’ve attended our programs. When they’re out on the water, it’s as if their cancer drifts away.”