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May 31, 2016 | Toni Christopher

Be Well! Fish On!

[Diolog Magazine Camp Allen June 2016] Dire circumstances often can lead to innovative and inspired ideas. Reel Recovery is one such initiative, created by avid fly-fishermen inspired by their fishing buddy’s battle with brain cancer. This “band of brothers” witnessed firsthand the beneficial impact that fly-fishing had for their friend. As a result, they founded Reel Recovery in 2003 to provide the same opportunity for other men and have found Camp Allen to be the perfect location to gather with its comfortable lodging, spaces for quiet contemplation and conversation and its 1,100 acres of pine trees, hiking trails and stocked lakes. 


Reel Recovery is a national nonprofit organization that conducts fly-fishing retreats for men recovering from all forms of cancer. The retreats combine directed “Courageous Conversations” and expert fly-fishing instruction, allowing participants to share their stories, learn a new skill and form deep, meaningful friendships. Yet perhaps the most important aspect of the weekend is the renewed hope gained as they confront the challenges of their recovery.


One Reel Recovery participant spoke for many when he said, "I discovered that while fly-fishing, I was in another place. In this place there was no cancer, no pain and no fear."  


Mike Emerson, the group’s state director, describes their mission of hope and relief: “The program is designed to be both experiential and reflective, to develop group camaraderie  as well as individual skills and to build bonds of friendship that provide a reservoir of personal hope.”


Reel Recovery’s program is intentional, intimate and thoughtful. Each retreat hosts only 14 participants, each of whom is paired with a volunteer, or fishing "buddy," who helps the participant learn the art of fly-fishing. The volunteers all pay their own way. At each retreat, the men arrive on Friday as strangers and leave on Sunday as best friends. A small staff—consisting of the state director, a counselor, a medical director, and a site coordinator—enables the group to remain intimate and to bond quickly, which is vital for the Courageous Conversations. 


Reel Recovery held their first retreat at Camp Allen she is identified elsewhere in October of 2015 and scheduled their return annually for both spring and fall retreats for the next three years. Their tag line, “Be Well! Fish On!” captures the group’s heart: to use fly-fishing to aid men recovering from and fighting cancer in the renewal of their mental, emotional and spiritual wellness and to then continue to press on in the battle for full healing. By creating a safe place for total strangers to open their hearts, share their hurts and battle their fears, Reel Recovery allows hope to take root and healing to begin ...  Be Well! Fish On! 


To learn more about Reel Recovery,   please visit