Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Leaving Our Troubles Behind for a Little While

I took a half-day from Wolf Creek Angler yesterday. It was a last minute deal and you really don't know what to expect when someone calls last minute like that. They are usually first-time anglers that were sitting around a relative's house, getting a little bored and trying to fill some time--like they've been brainstorming what to do and someone either sees an add or maybe they watched "A River Runs Through It," and thinks; "Hey! we should do that!" I showed up at the shop and the assumption seemed to be pretty accurate; one adult and three adult children looking to get out of the house for a few hours.
It was a little frantic because Kevin, the dude that offered to take everyone on the fishing trip, was flying out of Great Falls at around 2 o'clock so we needed to get him off the river and driving by about noon. We took their rig down to where we were going to take out so they could be on their way and not have to wait for us to load boats and take care of gear at the end. While we were getting our plan rolling, we barely had a chance to introduce ourselves. We were definitely in go-mode.
We dropped three of the anglers off at the Craig Bridge and Kody, the oldest of the siblings, followed me downstream to the Spite Hill FAS. On our way back to the bridge access, we had a few minutes to get better acquainted and it gave me a chance to figure out who was who.
It turns out that Kevin, who I had originally thought was the dad of the three siblings, was really a family friend who was visiting from Arizona and was just trying to get the kids away from the harsh reality of how unfair life can be for a little while. 'Dad' was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer in December and Kevin was there to see him.
Those of you that have gone through something like this understand how mind-numbing it can be trying to sort out the array of emotions that pop up unexpectedly, like some kind of internal haunted house where every turn has another ghost or zombie or freakish clown soliciting more fear and more anxiety. The thing is, with a haunted house at an amusement park, you know it eventually ends and you can jump on another ride that is fun and exciting and all the fear goes away.
I remember those emotions from when my dad got sick. One minute you're scared. The next minute you're confused and sad and then you don't know what to think. And then there's the false sense of hope that he's actually getting better. Then you're pissed off because he didn't. And then you're just numb.
What we do on the river isn't brain surgery and we certainly don't save any lives. We fish and if I'm going to be totally honest, we probably get paid a little too much to do it. However, yesterday made me realize where we do have some opportunity to help some people and I'm going to explore that a lot more in the future. Sometimes people just need to smile. Sometimes they need to get off the rollercoaster of emotions and just not think of things for a little while and fly fishing isn't a bad way to do that.
It works with vets and I think programs like Project Healing Waters and Wounded Warriors are great. We also have Casting For Recovery for women who have breast cancer. But what about the kids who are dealing with their mom or dad either being away at war or who have come back and are different either physically or emotionally? What about the kid that has a parent going through cancer or has to watch them die? What are we doing for them?
I propose that we do something. I know that's vague and not real thought out but having been in the non-profit world for sometime as well as the adventure therapy profession, I know we can make a difference so what I'm doing right now is to give a shout-out to anyone interested in brainstorming how we might put something together. I'm serious about this because I think we have something to give back to our communities out here in Montana and we need to do something. Having talked with Jason Orzechowski from Wolf Creek Angler, I know he's in and even if it's just offering to take a kid fishing for a few hours, it is something and I for one, am happy to donate my time.  
If you're interested in teaming up or you know a family that could use a day on the water, get ahold of me on Facebook. Just look up Montana Dream Fishing Outfitters or visit my website: www.mdfishingoutfitters.com.
As for Kody, Nick, and Katie, they all caught fish and I'm pretty sure they all had a good time. The pic above is Nick's first fish on a fly. He went on to put a pretty big hurt on them and his big brother; I think he enjoyed watching as much as I did. (Kody did catch fish by the way but I'm not posting the picture because it might give Nick a little more ammo if you know what I mean...) Matt Hargrave put Katie on her first fish, which was also pretty damn cool.
I want to thank Kevin first of all for introducing us to the family. I also want to thank Wolf Creek Angler for the opportunity and most of all, thanks to Kody for sharing their story and opening my eyes to an opportunity to give back. I'm looking forward to seeing you guys out on the water again.
Keep 'em where they live...