“This retreat was so much more than fishing; this was a life-changing experience.”  

This participant’s quotation sums up the experiences of the 10 men from the Peter Mac Men’s Shed who attended Reel Recovery Australia’s retreat held at Marysville between 4th and 6th May 2022.  

The program was run by Mending Casts Inc, a not-for-profit organisation run solely by volunteers devoted to helping people during their cancer journey by introducing them to the health and well-being benefits of fly fishing.

The three-day Marysville retreat was the first to be sponsored by the Peter Mac Men’s Shed where all meals, lodgings and fly-fishing equipment were provided at no cost to the patients. 

The program commenced with the “Vesting Ceremony” where participants were introduced to fishing “buddies” who would accompany them through the 3-day program.  

The buddies dressed the men in fishing vests which had been signed by others who had been through the program before them.  This creates a strong bond between them and a symbolic connection between past, present and future participants.  

After dinner, the men engaged in fly tying where they were shown how to tie a “wet” and a “dry” fly.  These would then be used in the following days of fishing.

Day two kicked off with fly casting lessons run by qualified instructors.  Under this experienced tutelage, the men were quickly casting with a proficiency that would enable them to catch fish.  

Come midday, everyone was off to the Goulburn River to test these newly learned skills.  Several trout were caught and safely released, whilst the men stood with their buddies in the afternoon sunlight and shared in the beauty of their environment.  On dusk, a Courageous Conversation was held riverside where the men shared their cancer journeys with each other while circled around a campfire.  It was a magical evening on so many levels.

The third day started with a fishing session at a private lake near Buxton.  It wasn’t long before the men were hooking up left, right and centre with everyone catching their first fish on a fly rod, plus many more thereafter.  

The laughter and sheer joy on their faces was so gratifying and they now understood the respite that fly fishing can provide from their everyday troubles.  The retreat concluded with the emotional “Closing the Circle” ceremony where participants, buddies and volunteers shared tears of hope, love and gratitude.  It is a powerful and uplifting affirmation of the benefits this program brings to all who experience it.

In fly fishing as in life, with every cast there is hope…Be Well Fish On!

John Billing
President - Mending Casts Inc &
Reel Recovery Australia Retreat Co-ordinator