Anglers form sisterhood bonds in river of resilience

  • Fishing
  • Otago
  • 16/05/2024

Anglers form sisterhood bonds in river of resilience

They came as strangers and left thick as thieves.

Seven women whose lives have been affected by breast cancer attended a weekend fly-fishing retreat at Makarora this month. (May 3-5)

Above: Katrina Comeskey catches a fish with guide Jake Berry on the Makarora River. Photo: Natasha Mitchell

The lower South Island chapter of Casting For Recovery held its annual retreat in picture-perfect conditions at Wild Earth Lodge, coordinator Lisa Brits said.

With a 40-year age difference between the youngest and oldest, the participants came from Christchurch, Maniototo, Wānaka, Dunedin, and Twizel.

“The thing that always astounds me is they come in on a Friday completely unknown to each other, and very quickly they become partners in crime and thick as thieves by the time they leave on Sunday,” Mrs Brits said.

“The ladies get so close so quickly.

“After the retreat they become a huge support network for each other.”

Left: Rosie Futschek (centre) joins other participants and Pinkies volunteers as the Casting for Recovery retreat at Makarora comes to an end. Photo: Santillan de Pinto

Mrs Brits said that after last year’s retreat, Casting For Recovery had sadly lost one of their participants, who passed away shortly afterwards.  

“The ladies were real supportive of each other, and supportive of her family,” Mrs Brits said.

A fly-fishing rod received at last year’s retreat was passed to her father, who was now going to fish with it.

This year’s Casting for Recovery participants were joined by six fly-fishing guides, of whom three were women, the largest contingent of female guides to take part since the lower South Island retreats began in 2017.

The guides were Kristina Placko, Erica Gilchrist, Shelen Scout-Boyes, Alan McIntyre, Jake Berry, and Santillan de Pinto.

On the Saturday, the women were taught fly-fishing theory and practised casting on grass before heading to Makarora River to learn stream-craft before the main fishing adventure the next day.

“I think the ladies were a step more prepared to go out for the Sunday,” Mrs Brits said.

The Saturday afternoon was also filled with massages, yoga classes, fly-tying and learning how to prepare and smoke a trout.

Mrs Brits said the fishing was a success with some trout caught and “loads” more seen.

“Lots of smiling faces and belly laughs to the point you’re crying. So, lots of fun.

“On the Sunday, the guides were there, the ladies had just come off the river, we’d had the whole weekend together, for me, I was going, ‘Wow, what a sense of community’.”

Mrs Brits said memories had been created that would last forever.

The retreat was supported by people’s generosity, such as Wild Earth Lodge owners giving free accommodation, the guides offering their time, the five “Pinkies” volunteers, Fish & Game support, and other contributors.

“It’s a team effort,” she said. “It’s not about breast cancer. It’s not about fly fishing. It's about everybody making it work. That’s what’s special.”

The retreat would be held at Makarora again next autumn, Mrs Brits said.

Casting for Recovery coordinator Lisa Brits helps Anne Kirk practising her casting on the lawn at Wild Earth Lodge. Photo: Santillan de Pinto

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