(Men)ding Lines – Jake Smith
Casting for Recovery’s (Men)ding Lines series is back! Each month, we will highlight a male river helper, donor or volunteer who is supportive of CfR. Meet Jake Smith, a longtime River Helper for Casting for Recovery Utah who is passionate about both fly fishing and serving women with breast cancer.
Tell us about yourself and how you became interested/involved in the sport of fly fishing?
In the mid 90s during highschool I used to bow hunt for deer in the Uinta Mountains while my buddys would nap. I made it a goal to figure out how to catch the cuttys I was seeing in the creeks and beaver dams. After catching some of them, I had a colleague take me to an Idaho river to fish. It happened to be during the Mother’s Day caddis hatch. After that day, I was hooked.
When did you get involved with CfR and what makes you want to return as a River Helper to continually support CfR?
My dad was diagnosed with leukemia and passed away in August of 1990. I had been guiding for a few years at that time when I heard Utah was launching a Casting for Recovery program. I believe the first retreat was 2011. I wanted to volunteer and was a River Helper at every retreat until 2020 when covid shut things down. I get as much of a reward and satisfaction as the women I’m guiding. The pure joy and smiles I see from the participants are the best!
What’s your memorable experience (with a participant or at a CfR retreat) that stands out in your mind?
At one of our retreats, two women hadn’t caught a fish during fishing day. I was asked if I could catch a fish for each lady. No pressure right? I got into the water and the first cast managed to hook one, but broke it off. I must have been nervous, so I grabbed one of my other rigged rods and after maybe two or three drifts, hooked and then handed the rod to the lady to fight and land. Such a cool but stressful experience to be part of.
What words of encouragement would you give to a breast cancer survivor who is hesitant about attending a Casting for Recovery retreat because they don’t fly fish?
In all the years I have been a river helper, most women never thought they would fly fish, but once they did, thought it was fun! They are able to meet other women that have experienced the same hardships of cancer and become another support system for one another.
Do you have a ‘lucky’ fly that you use on CfR retreat waters?
Each year, our fishing day has been on the middle Provo River and it’s known to have finicky fish. For all but one retreat, my lucky fly has been a size 24 thread midge. The other time happened to be a split case pmd nymph.