This blog contains no photos out of respect and privacy for those involved. To learn more, please visit fishingthegoodfight.org
I was flicking my way through Instagram one day when I came across a post that caught my eye. An account by the name of @fishingthegoodfight was hosting an event in my town! I'm a sucker for joining in on the fun, so I sent a message to the account offering some help with the event. Little did I know, the event wasn't just an event - it was a full-blown transformational experience that couldn't come at a better time. Let me explain.
Fishing The Good Fight is a nonprofit based in Denver, Colorado. The organization was founded by Jennings Hester and hosts men's mental health retreats on some of our waters throughout the state. The retreats aim to foster community and togetherness, to allow space for openness and vulnerability, and to create bonds and outlets while on the water. The notion that fly fishing provides therapeutic benefits shines in the settings that Jennings and Board members create on these retreats.
When I reached out over Instagram, I was thinking I'd help where and when needed. But when I showed up to the lodge Friday afternoon, I knew that weekend would be so much more.
A group of guys welcomed me in the front door, all chatting and enjoying some fishy company. I immediately knew this was a warm, welcoming, and positive group of guys. The bonds were already starting to form in the first few minutes, and only strengthened over the coming days.
My role as a volunteer was right up my alley: assist the team with whatever needed to be done, and be a friend to those I partnered with. Thinking back on it, I'm not sure "volunteer" is the best word for my involvement that weekend. I was fortunate enough to be right there, a part of this quickly-forming community, rather than looking from the outside in. The experience put everyone on the same level and that was the most profound feeling during our time together. We were all equally excited for every fish, every success, and every moment of solitude on the water. That's true community.
Throughout the weekend, we learned about topics like weather and entomology. I've been fishing for years and still learned a ton from these group sessions. Jennings and Baker, another Board member, did an awesome job getting everyone up to speed on the ins-and-outs of fly fishing. We all took something home from that weekend, and their leadership catalyzed first-time anglers into life-long hobbyists who have a new passion for the rivers we love so much.
The weekend reminded me of the teachings in Wallace J Nichols' book, Blue Mind. The group came together to face our red and grey mind conditions and allowed ourselves to enjoy a communal blue mind mentality. This came from the water, and served as the connection we all felt. Being a part of a collective blue mind mentality was refreshing and lent me nostalgia to the early days of my fly fishing journey. To be a part of someone else's early days was nothing short of spectacular.
Fishing The Good Fight is doing an outstanding job creating space and time for those who need it. They're creating a new wave of community and support in our circles and opening a new door for the healing properties of spending time on the water. If you or someone you know could benefit from a weekend of rejuvenation, check out FTGF's website here. If you want to support their work, find their donation page here.
Thank you Jennings, Baker, and the entire group for welcoming me into this space. It was a weekend I'll never forget.