What will you be leaving behind? What will you be taking with you? How has it impacted your life?
We will touch on these questions later….
Flipping through the TV channels one night I stumbled across a show Highlighting Reel Recovery. A non profit organization that provides free fly fishing retreats for men living with cancer. I saw it and thought to myself I want to be a part of it. Jumped online filled out some forms. Then a month or so ago Bob Macias calls me up and asks if I want to be a fishing buddy at the Idaho retreat. I was so excited.. and a little nervous. (off point, but Bob is a genuine man. Love Him.. That goes for all those Nevada brothers, Danny, Jose, Kim… Just all serious amazing people.)
Finally show up to the retreat on Friday morning out at the Wild Horse Creek Lodge in Mackay. What a gorgeous bit of heaven right here in Idaho. The rest of the day was pretty much just getting settled in and helping prepare for the retreat. Meeting and chatting with other fishing buddies and the participants as they began to show up in the afternoon. It really put my mind at ease. Funny thing was that it did not take long for everyone to become brothers. Although I still had no idea what was in store for the rest of the weekend.
Friday night hanging around watching Steve Weston (In the wild chef, again off subject, but this dude makes it look easy. And everything was off the hook. (no pun intended) cook dinner for us…. You would love to have been a fly on the wall listening in on the conversations being had. I will admit to being a somewhat quiet guy, but I laughed till I hurt. Travis aka Hank “Parker” Patterson told us of some recent trips he had been on. If you don’t know of him. You should get to. He just has one of those sense of humors that never ends. I had some great conversations with the fishing buddies just basically becoming brothers.
Saturday morning finally rolls around. We start getting the gear laid out. Waders on the deck. vests out. rods rigged up. The excitement of getting on the water was starting to get to me. Taking a man out to fish with me on water I have never fished. I was a bit scared as well. But talking with the buddies who had come to this retreat put me at ease and also kept my confidence in myself up. The talent and knowledge in these guys was absolutely ridiculously killer.
As we met out on the grass getting to know everyone. We all grabbed our first partner for the day. Started getting them wadered up, and making plans for the day. We decided to go out in pairs in case of any emergencies and to limit vehicles around. I looked to a guy that had been making me laugh the night before…. And we were off!
The North Fork of the Big Lost River is Beautiful. Just so you know. It was a nice morning drive out to the water.
Finally out in the water with my buddy for the morning. The fishing was a bit of a challenge. Not much happening for us. But we did find a great little shelf and pool that had some good holding. We tried some dries, nymphs with no luck. So I went to an old reliable fly. It was one I had actually taken from one of my grandfathers fly boxes he gave me. A black crystal bugger…….. Right? hahaha. But first cast in… a nice little cutty comes out of the shadows and rolls on us. Our excitement could not be contained. You would have thought we landed that fish. We were yelling and high fiving. Next cast…. same thing. Five times this cutty rolled on us, one time actually mouthing the fly, but never taking it. Time to head back for lunch. I was bummed. But my buddy was pumped.
Everyone else had results similar to ours in the morning. Trying to figure out what might be the ticket for the afternoon. I think everyone was set on making the afternoon unforgettable, and it was.
We swapped buddies and headed out for some new waters. My buddy this go round was a gentleman with a very respectable mustache. I mean of course we have to share some beard grooming techniques. Which I shall take to the grave… This man had such a fun attitude. We just laughed for what I swear could have been hours. Talking about family, life, cancer, friends and of course fishing. I was truly humbled by this man. The strength he has… I wish my little mind could put into words the fishing I did with this guy. But we found a nice little run. I had tied on a nice hopper pattern with a bright copper jon dropper. Second cast into the riffle a nice rainbow just flashed and lit up the line, and before we knew it, disappeared into the river. But we new it was going to be on. I saw a rock making a nice shadow, told Jon to make a nice drift pass it. He puts a perfect upstream roll cast smooth on the surface, a quick mend……. BAM! A cutty comes out from the shadow and he is hooked up. I am not sure who was more excited but we were both hootin and yelling.
After a nice tug, admiration of the fish, and the release. I stood up from the water and Jon was there with a fist bump and bear hug. I think our smiles could have been seen from Mars.
Back to camp for another night of laughter and good times. Everyone’s stories from the day were coming back will good news. fish were on the score board all around. It was all high fives and smiles. For myself I know I was a changed man after spending that time with those 2 men in the water.
As we finished up our dinner in the loft of the barn. A few of us were trying to decide if we should head out on the water for a little fun for the evening. John Dietsch (A river runs through it. not a river runs over it…right Danny? hahaha ) asked me if I wanted to go hit a nearby spot. Right? This guy is a hell of a fly fisherman. I was pumped to get out there with him. The water we ended up fishing was great water. Tight little canyon. With trees growing out of rocks. We decided we should strip some streamers. John had some hits and hookups. I was just not putting anything together. But I watched this guy work the water. I came away with some good strategies. I could go on and on about our short little outing. But maybe I can make that into a future post. (Me and John should go throw some big streamers on the Henrys Fork I think 😉
Sunday morning came way to fast. But Steve’s biscuits and gravy sure got us feeling better. Suit up quick and off to the water for our last fishing with our buddies. My buddy this morning… the Helicopter Pilot. This guy had some killer stories. We fished, fished, fished, but only one little flash from a small trout. It was a tough morning out. He began to tire, so we decide to lay down and admire a near by range in the hills.
But before I knew it he jumped up to snag a pic of me “laying down on the job” We had a good laugh. He set me up;) We talked about his wife who is also sick with cancer. But we both just had the same feeling of being in an amazing place at the same time just soaking it all in. What an incredible weekend we have had. The both of us. Two different stories. But here we are. At this moment in time nothing ailed us. We were calm. Life was good.
At the end of the retreat, we joined the participants in the final circle. Standing behind them as Bob went around to the participants and shared his feelings of each man. Bob had asked the men earlier the same 3 questions we started out with. As we all listened to their answers I was happy I had my sunglasses on.. I couldn’t help the tears and emotions. Simply powerful. Strength and peace in the circle. These men are fighting for their lives. Courageous. The time spent out there. Has been hard for me to put to words. It is nothing I have ever experienced. It changed my life forever.
What will I be leaving behind?
-All those little things that you worry about in your daily life. Those stupid things that eat at you and get you down. They don’t matter. Life is short and precious. Live every second like it is your last. I have said this before but I will say it again. Never let a day go by with out telling the people you love… that you love them.
What will I be taking with me?
-Hope, Love, humility, memories and a big bunch of new friends. (and a whole lot of fishing knowledge, which never hurts;)
How has it impacted my life?
-Those qualities I just listed…. well that is inspiration to be a better man today than I was the day before. One step at a time. Always looking forward. And to “keep my eye on the fly”.
I wish I could be half the man that all of my new brothers from this retreat are. Inspirational and courageous. If I could only be this kind of a man for the other 362 days in the year. Wow. How would that be?
Reel Recovery needs our help to continue to offer retreats in Idaho. If you have anything to offer or donate. Please go to Reelrecovery.org to do so. I hope to only grow with this organization and help it serve men with cancer. I am excited for next years retreat. And will find anyway I can to help make sure they happen here. I know my fellow brothers who were there feel the same way.
BE WELL! FISH ON!
Thanks for coming by. Thanks to all who support us over here at ASO. And as always, Get out there!