Paula Adamerovich mother, daughter, and owner of Competitive Angler is like many of the hardworking women in the fly fishing industry. All except for one life-changing circumstance, that was thrown at Paula completely out of the blue as it is for many women. Paula was diagnosed with Stage One breast cancer in 2014 and joined the hundreds of thousands of other mothers, daughters, aunts, and grandmothers among so many loved ones who are affected by this disease.
Paula’s story starts off as many others do. She was living a normal happy life in small town Latrobe PA. A mother to two sons who worked at a local Doctor’s office. After her diagnosis, Paula continued to work while going through radiation treatments. The majority of us will be lucky enough never to have to go through radiation. For those of you who have had to deal with these treatments, you know how detrimental radiation can be to someone’s everyday quality of life. After going through 33 treatments, taking some time off from work, Paula decided she wasn’t going back. A bold move by a woman who decided to spend her new life doing something more fulfilling. She would retire and figure things out from there. Her oldest son Jake was an avid fly fisherman. Since he was a boy, like many of us, a love of fly fishing and the outdoors was instilled in him by his grandfather. Jake pursued his passion for angling and cultivated his fly fishing skills. He went on to join the U.S Fly Fishing Team and compete at the national level. Years later Jake found himself at the world-renowned publication Field & Stream. In conjunction with his mother leaving her job, Jake felt like it was time to start anew as well. It was time to make fly fishing a full-time job. Jake convinced his mother to help start Competitive Angler. An online fly shop focused on European tight line nymphing, selling both tying materials and nymphing set-ups.
The shop brought many other aspects of the sport into Paula’s life. For example, events, like attending fly fishing shows and expos to promote the shop and establish a presence within the community. It was at the Cabin Fever Fly Fishing show where Paula stumbled across a Casting for Recovery booth.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Casting for Recovery, this is a volunteer based; donation-funded nonprofit that supports women who have or have had breast cancer. Their goal “is to enhance the quality of life of women with breast cancer through a unique retreat program that combines breast cancer education and peer support with the therapeutic sport of fly fishing. The program offers opportunities for women to find inspiration, discover renewed energy for life and experience healing connections with other women and nature. Casting for Recovery serves women of all ages, in all stages of breast cancer treatment and recovery, at no cost to participants.”
Some may call it a wonderful coincidence and others will call it fate. Either way, Paula was intrigued. She was told to apply for a retreat spot and that even if she was not initially chosen to apply as an alternate. In many cases, women will be chosen, but are unable to attend. The chapter will then pick a new candidate from a list of alternates. Paula applied to the Western Pennsylvania Casting for Recovery chapter and lucked out when she got the call saying she received an alternate spot. Nervous, slightly intimidated and excited Paula accepted.
Paula joined 13 other women at the prestigious HomeWaters fishing club in Spruce Creek, PA. The women who embark on these retreats are from all walks of life and in all stages of breast cancer. In addition to the participants, the retreat consists of guides, nurses, psychologists, lodge staff, and previous participants. All of which are dedicated to providing a top-notch experience for the retreat participants. The weekend kicks off with a few different icebreaker activities to get everybody comfortable with one another. This is the start of a bonding experience unlike any other. The volunteer staff provides entomology classes, casting clinics, Q&A sessions, yoga sessions, and other continuous opportunities to be together, learn from one another, and share your story. No matter what activity you’re involved in at the moment, the discussion usually transitions back to breast cancer. “The experiences we have are all different, but the same,” says Paula.
When it comes to being out on the water, each participant has their own guide dedicated to helping and teaching them fly fishing skills. Most of the women are completely new to fishing and end up catching fish. In Paula’s case with the previous fly fishing knowledge she has she was hooking up left and right. At one point another participant told her to leave some fish for the rest of them to catch!
Speaking to the experience “the entire weekend is about us, and the volunteers do everything they can to reinforce that. We were waited on hand and foot and made to feel special at every opportunity.” One of the reasons the retreats make such an impact on the participants is because they are mothers, daughters, wives, and women who are caretakers for many others besides themselves. Having a weekend off from being a caretaker, where you’re being waited on for a change is something many women aren’t able to experience despite what they have gone through or are going through. In addition to the experience, Paula mentioned the impressive swag provided by Casting for Recovery and many other brands involved in the industry. “Every night when we returned to our rooms there was a bag of goodies on the bed. It was a fun surprise, and we were so thankful to everyone.”
When speaking with Paula about the retreat the excitement was easily heard in her voice. “It was the best thing I ever did.” After having such a wonderful experience she desperately wants to give back in any way she can to Casting for Recovery. She wants other women affected by breast cancer to have the opportunity to experience what she did. One thing Paula noticed while attending the retreat was that all the fishing gear used was borrowed or demo gear on loan. Paula offers Thomas & Thomas rods on the Competitive Angler website and has had a relationship with our company for the past few years. When thinking of ways in which she can directly help this program she immediately knew that if the chapter had their own gear, this would take a huge logistical weight off of the retreat coordinators and hopefully lead to more opportunities to bring participants out on the water.
Paula reached out to Thomas & Thomas with her story and was gracious enough to share her experience with us. After speaking with her, it was without a doubt in our minds that we knew we wanted to be involved with this program. Paula’s point of contact here was Joe Goodspeed. Joe has been putting together a collection of Thomas & Thomas fly rods to send to the Western, PA chapter of Casting for Recovery. These aren't rods they’ll be borrowing or giving back. These are rods they’ll be keeping forever. It’s our hope that they will enhance the experience these women have for many years to come. We’ll be following up with this chapter of Casting for Recovery at their next set retreat date in August of 2018. We’re hoping to build upon our relationship with the organization and help in any way we can. If you or someone you know is being affected by breast cancer, please pass this along to them.
Fly fishing as a sport is inherently therapeutic, a retreat is a chance to form relationships with those who can relate to what they’ve gone through, and that could make all the difference in the world to someone going through the stages of breast cancer. For more information on Casting for recovery head over to their website here Castingforrecovery.org. We urge you to get involved in any way you can whether that’s volunteering for a retreat, donating your time, old gear, a monetary donation, or even offering insight or advice for retreat locations and guides. Anything you can do to help this amazing organization will make a big difference to the people involved.
We thank you, Paula Adamerovich for sharing your story with us and to Beth Gazda for providing us with these images from their retreat.