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High Sierra Fly Casters extends mission to communities in need

by Fred LaSor

The High Sierra Fly Casters is a fishing club with a difference. Yes, as our website says, we are dedicated to encouraging fly fishing and the maintenance of fisheries of the eastern Sierra Nevada, including waters in eastern California and northwestern Nevada. But we have another mission that has been growing since we got started in 2004: providing a fly fishing experience to a variety of cancer patients and survivors, as well as other at risk populations. We are proud of this community involvement and want to share our story with readers of The Record-Courier.

Starting in 2004, HSFC has allied with the Reel Recovery program to provide volunteers (“fishing buddies”) for men who have cancer, giving them a weekend retreat where they can briefly get away from their constant companion — that dread disease — and spend time learning how to cast a fly and maybe even catch a fish or two. At the last retreat the participant I was showing how to fish actually hooked and landed 10 trout. I should take lessons from him! That was the first time he had fished with a fly.

Reel Recovery started in Colorado, and the High Sierra Fly Casters joined the program very early in its existence. We have participated in every retreat since then, adding fishing buddies and participants every year until we reached maximum capacity last year. In 2020 we expect to take part in two Reel Recovery retreats, and individual members have participated in retreats in Idaho and Oregon.

While the purpose of the retreat is learning to cast artificial lures made of feathers and fur in order to entice the trout that live in our neighboring waters, the 500-pound gorilla in the background is always the Big C. Some of the new fishermen are newbies to the dreaded disease while others have been in treatment for years. In all cases, the fishing buddies are open to talking about cancer if their new-found friends want to, or to talking only about fishing. We leave it up to the participants, and some of the ensuing conversations are very emotional.

In all our programs, the subject is fly fishing, but our goal remains to get patients into the countryside, to enjoy nature, and to think about something other than their physical affliction.

And since getting involved with Reel Recovery, the HSFC has taken up similar efforts with women cancer patients (Casting for Recovery), with wounded veterans (Reel Vets), and have branched out in the past three years to work with at-risk teens who are residents at the China Springs Youth Camp (Reel Kids).

Since some of the youngsters at China Springs are too small to handle nine-foot fly rods comfortably, HSFC has volunteered to build a number of six foot rods for the younger participants. This effort is being facilitated with the generous donation of rod ingredients from Pacific Bay International of Sequim, Wash., and HSFC club members will supply the volunteer effort to build and finish the small fly rods.

High Sierra Fly Casters has a web site http://www.hsfc.us/ and a Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/highsierraflycasters for readers who would like to learn more about our activities and possibly volunteer to get involved in our community activities. Our new season is starting right now, with our annual banquet coming up on March 14. Check us out!