CFR – Long Island

September 27 – Sunday

Sol called a while ago and asked if I wanted to help out with the Long Island Casting For Recovery Retreat this year. I had done it 4 times before but usually there were more than enough volunteer helpers so I told him if he needed me I would be there. He called again this week and so I went.

Sol Harz and Mike Gelber organize the “River Helpers” from both LI Trout Unlimited and the Long Island Fly Rodders. Our job is to be a coach for a new fly fisher who is attending the weekend retreat for women who have had to deal with breast cancer and all that that entails. It brings them together for information, support, camaraderie and to be exposed to yet another way to enjoy their life going forward – fly fishing.

Lee Weil and the team of other women CFR volunteers, led by Christina Galicia,  instruct us on how to manage the day: It is to be driven by the participants and what they want to do rather than our usual obsession with catching fish. Some want to just try it and may prefer watching the birds or looking at the river with its flora & fauna. Others are enthusiastic learners but may ask for some assistance in tying the fly on and presenting it. And then there are those like Dara who are determined to take this on and do it all!

We strolled and talked, getting to know each other, telling of family and home towns. We stopped at the first beat, number 16, a swirling back eddy and rushing  chute where everyone knows there are fish but few can connect with them.  We tie on a small dry fly and she casts.  As she watches it move, I explain the drag principle. It moves into the chute and drowns and she lets it fish through since, just maybe, someone will take a bite of the sunken dry fly.  After a while we move downstream and try a number of spots (the “hot spots” are already filled with the 13 other participants and their helpers).  Still, we find some likely places further down and try another dry, an emerger, a streamer and then put on a nymph.

I explain that all the traffic in the area can put the fish down and we need to wait quietly for them to come out from hiding in these less than fish packed locations. And they come. Dara roll casts like a pro and we watch the iris caddis move well downstream as she feeds it line; through the turns of the current and near a fallen log – sure to be a fish there, but none show up.

The stream walkers (volunteers walking the bank and checking on everyone, keeping cameras at the ready along with water and advice) come by and tell us to go to 13 where Wolfie and his fisher have just caught 3 but when we arrive they are still fishing and there is a crowd around them. Up to 14 and then 15 we find some peace – and some fish. Hanging in the current under a tree are a few likely candidates.

We put on a streamer without any weight and let it drift past them, bringing it back and forth, trying to elicit a response. It is staying too high in the water column. Next she ties on a woolly bugger with a cone head – a green one.  Yes, she tied it on, and she also did all the fishing. Once or twice I asked her if I could position the fly for her and she said: “No way! We are going to do this right.” What a gal!

She placed that fly perfectly, almost in his mouth, but it was not to be. Mike came by and said time was up. We begged for a few more casts. When nothing changed we reluctantly moved out of the river.  I think Dara would have stayed until mid night to catch that fish.

At #16, where we started, there was a crowd yakking. Andy and his fisher were working the pool. They pulled in and headed for lunch.  There were still a few folks walking out so I asked if we could just fish it until they caught up with us. “Sure” was the reply.

We had that weighted woolly bugger on and Dara remembered how to fish the eddie and the chute. I suggested she pull it under the white foam at the center during its downstream route.

BANG! Fish on! What a wonderful thing – and the screams of joy and excitement were well  justified for how hard she worked all morning.

He was a big rainbow and had been in the stream a while. Dark in fall color and fat, not to mention full of energy.  We tried to hold him for a photo but he did not cooperate, jumping 2 or 3 times from our hands and finally back into the river, safely returned to his lair.

We laughed and shouted as the audience applauded.

What a day. I am so glad Sol called.

Fishing-the-Connetquot-with-Dara
Fishing the Connetquot with Dara

Casting For Recovery is a national organization that works with women on the difficult task of moving on with their lives after being diagnosed with breast cancer. Obviously focused on fly fishing, there is no need to have any fishing experience to join them. Please click here  to find out about the retreats…which, by the way, are free.

If you’re a fly fisher, please consider volunteering. They have a variety of fund raising events across the country so if you can donate a guided day on a river, or some equipment, or cash (!) it will be most appreciated and will help to keep this great organization going.

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