Casting for recovery

reel time Casting For Recovery
CFR participant Kitty Grimsley caught this rainbow trout under the guidance of Georgia Regional Fisheries biologists and guide Jeff Durniak. - Rusty Chinnis | Sun

The cool air along the Chattahoochee River mingled with the mid-morning sun created a magical backdrop for the female fly fishers as they worked their way along the stream with their guides.

I had arrived in the North Georgia mountains the previous afternoon and was honored to be included with a number of journalists covering a Casting For Recovery Retreat.

The event had started a day prior to my arrival on a Friday afternoon at Smithgall Woods State Park near Helen, Ga. That Saturday, the participants were taught the basics of fly casting, fly fishing and had the opportunity to enjoy a relaxed day in the Blue Ridge foothills.

Casting for Recovery was founded in 1996 in Manchester, Vermont, by a breast reconstruction surgeon and a professional fly-fisher. Awarded 501(c)(3) non-profit status in 1998, Casting for Recovery’s innovative program focuses on improving the quality of life for women with breast cancer, and has garnered endorsements from medical experts nationwide.

I learned about the event from Jimmy Harris, owner of Unicoi Outfitters, a major sponsor of the two-and-a-half-day event. The women were fishing a private stretch of the Chattahoochee managed by Unicoi Outfitters, a favorite fly fishing haunt of mine. Harris, his wife Kathy, his staff of local fly fishing guides and area volunteers were working up and down the river with the participants, exploring the many runs, riffles and pools that hold some trophy-sized brown and rainbow trout.

As I photographed the anglers and their guides, I was struck by the good humor, the spirit and resilience of a group of women who were recovering from one of life’s most devastating challenges. Whether they were strong enough to wade the swift currents or needed to sit in a chair at the water’s edge, these indomitable women were embracing their lives and the camaraderie of their fellow fly fishers on this halcyon day.

At the end of the day’s fishing, everyone had experienced the thrill of hooking, fighting and landing one of the river’s beautiful trout. That afternoon they returned to Smithgall Woods for lunch, an awards ceremony and a slide show highlighting the weekend’s activities.

Casting For Recovery depends on the support and goodwill of business owners like Jimmy Harris, medical professionals and the volunteers that are so critical to the program’s success. They offer 60 retreats across the country, host 800 women each year and have served over 8,000 women to date. The program is free of charge to participants. To learn how you can help, donate or shop in their online store.