There is certainly more to fishing than just catching fish.
Fishing has a way of reconnecting an angler’s mind and soul with nature. Now, a national nonprofit is using the health benefits of fishing to help those in substance abuse recovery, including here in Pennsylvania.
Reeling in Recovery started in Georgia in 2019 and became a non-profit in the summer of 2022. The organization hosts free fishing retreats across the country, with the first in Pennsylvania taking place on April 15 in northeastern Pennsylvania.
“Recovery is admitting that you have a problem and that you need a higher power to help you. And waist-high standing fly fishing is experiencing what that higher power, in my case God, has created… the sobriety and serenity are truly gifts from God,” said Jason Causey, a board member and past participant in one of the retreats.
Causey, 53, lives in Atlanta, Georgia, but previously lived in Pennsylvania for 15 years. I wish the program was available 10 years ago when I got sober.
“I think it would have made things a little bit easier,” he said.
He remembers the support he received when he got sober in 2014, so he wanted to get involved with Reeling in Recovery when he heard about it from Becca Sue Kline, the nonprofit’s founder. He understands the value of involving someone who has had similar problems with substance abuse.
“That’s the basis of Alcoholics Anonymous. You know what these people are going through. They might be walking in different shoes or coming from different places, but the story is the same,” he said. “I was lucky that someone was able to pull me out of my band and that’s why I’m where I am today.”
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Why fly fishing?
The sport and hobby of fly fishing provides the escape that many people seek in their lives.
“When you’re out in the wild listening to the running water and somebody’s teaching you how to cast a fly line and you hook the first fish, I mean there’s nothing like it. You forget all the bad things that you ‘they’ve been through that day or that week, it’s just a way to escape without drugs or alcohol,” Causey said.
Trying to escape life or a problem is what drives people to abuse alcohol or drugs, he said, but being outdoors is a natural effect that’s better than substance abuse.
“Nature has a funny way of helping you cope,” he said. “It’s a recharge. It grounds me.” The prospect of being in the wilderness helps him realize that all the things he’s worried about aren’t so important anymore. “We have our tendency, as normal humans, to sometimes overinflate things, let it get the best of us. I think that’s a struggle for me sometimes, and fishing helps bring things back to normal. perspective”.
While living in the Keystone State, he enjoyed bass fishing on a variety of ponds. “The lakes were full of bass,” he recalls. “Pennsylvania has some of the best trout waters in the world.”
This program is designed to introduce people to a lifelong hobby. “You can fish anywhere in the world at any age,” Causey said.
“Fishing itself isn’t very difficult, you have to have some kind of working knowledge, but with fly fishing there seems to be so much peace of mind. You’re a piece of all nature. You’re a part of it. You really don’t you’re in charge, you’re just participating in this process,” he said.
“We want to give that experience to the newly recovered or someone going through it, or someone who’s been in recovery for 20 years and never steps in a river.”
Georgia Skuza, the organization’s director of communications in Philadelphia, looks forward to the retreats because she knows their value.
“I have a family history of addiction, and I actually found Reeling in Recovery on social media in August,” she said.
He has been fly fishing since 2019. “Pennsylvania is one of the homes of fly fishing, and I thought it would be a really good way to expand our mission here,” he said.
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Retreat from Pennsylvania
The Pennsylvania program will be held April 15 at The Delaware River Club in Starlight, where they will be fishing for trout and fall trout.
The retreat is open to anyone in addiction recovery.
“Whether they’re in recovery for 20 years or two months. Really anyone in the area who wants to learn about fly fishing or has been fly fishing and is in recovery and wants to meet more people, but it’s for those who are recovering from substance abuse,” Skuza said.
During the retreats, participants will see fly tying demonstrations, casting demonstrations, clothing instructions, and a presentation by a nature-informed therapist who will combine recovery, nature, and fly fishing, and of course, go to to fish The class is limited to 10 people.
The organization tries to supply equipment to anglers or they can bring their own.
“If they are beginners and have never touched a fly rod, we hope to supply them with everything: waders, boots, fly rod, reel and wader if needed,” he said.
The program is free for participants, but they must pay their own travel expenses. Costs are met through fundraising and donations. Other retreats this year will be held in North Carolina, Georgia and Colorado.
“Many of our members are in recovery or have been directly affected by addiction. They have found, like many other programs, that fly fishing is a healing outlet. Fly fishing really helps focus their recovery and, in a way, provides an unconventional healing outlet in sobriety,” Skuza explained.
Those in recovery talk about the need for a routine, and there is a routine in fly fishing.
“You put your rod together, you put on your reel, you get dressed, you have your months when the fishing is really good and that routine and that consistency helps a lot of people stay grounded. When you’re in the water, everything else melts away. Fly fishing has really been an integral part of a lot of people’s sobriety journey,” he said.
Visit reelinginrecovery.org for registration information for the Pennsylvania recall. The group’s website and Instagram, reelinginrecovery, have ads.