Squeals of delight could be heard periodically as the 13 women reeled in fish after fish from the pond.
But these women are no ordinary fishers, they are all part of a group called Casting for Recovery — a retreat for women with breast cancer to learn how to fly fish as a therapeutic technique.
“It is a phenomenal program,” said Casting for Recovery organizer Ann Proffiitt. “It is impressive what they have done.”
Thirteen women, of all ages and stages in breast cancer, are invited to Carson Valley to spend two and a half days bonding and fishing.
Casting for Recovery has become an international event, after two physicians in Vermont discovered the movements used to fly fish are the same movements the women use during therapy to recover from a mastectomy. To participate, the women fill out an application for the Casting for Recovery in their area and then are chosen on a lottery who will be able to attend. Once there, the women don’t have to worry about a thing: the organizers pay for all of the food and lodging, serve the women and just let them sit back and relax.
“They don’t pay a dime, all they have to do is get to us,” Simas said.
The women arrived in Carson Valley on Wednesday afternoon and through Thursday they learned how to fly fish as well as participate in a number of group sessions.
“This creates a lifelong friendship for these women,” Proffiitt said.
“And it just shows how powerful and strong these women are, it is incredible,” added Jennifer Simas, Carson Tahoe Hospital Resource Center clinical trials nurse.
Then on Friday, they spend three hours in the morning fly fishing with their guides.
“We want them to remember that they can still do stuff and learn new things,” Proffiitt said.
For many of the women, this is the first time they’ve tried fishing and they loved it.
“Oh I will definitely try (fly fishing) again,” said Peggy Limi of Bakersfield. “And my guide George is so much more patient than my husband.”
Limi started her reconstruction in November 2014 and just finished the process in January. She will see a doctor every six months to make sure the cancer is kept at bay. She said it’s that bond of experience the women share that’s what makes the retreat so great.
“It has been wonderful being with a group of women who all share the same journey and sisterhood,” Limi said. “And we get to come out to this beautiful place, how lucky can we be?”
The event has been hosted by Carson Tahoe Hospital and sponsored by GE Bentley for nearly 15 years. The women all fished this year in a pond on property owned by Jim and MaryAnn Bentley, who stocked it full with 90 rainbow trout just for the women.
“We think that it’s the right thing to do,” said MaryAnn. “I have had members of my family with cancer and it is a hard thing so it’s nice they can just forget about it and be with other women who know what they are going through.”
“It has to do with purpose in life,” added Jim. “It is very gratifying if we can move people’s chis forward.”
And the women loved it, the atmosphere was lighthearted and encouraging. Whenever one of their new comrades would catch a fish, everyone around would drop their rods and gather around to shout words of encouragement. And to end it all, as per tradition, the woman would grab her fish from the net and grab a photo and a kiss before letting it go.
“This is their favorite, when we do our evaluation sheet at the end of the time the No. 1 suggestion is always longer fishing time,” Proffiitt said.