(Men)ding Lines – Nick Gazda
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 Nick Gazda, a longtime River Helper for Casting for Recovery Western Pennsylvania 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?
I have always loved fishing for trout. Our family has a camp in Forest Co, PA and I grew up fishing the small mountain streams in the area. I had taken a fly tying class many years ago and have been fly fishing since.
When did you get involved with CfR and makes you want to return as a River Helper to continually support CfR?
My wife Beth was a participant in 2002. She volunteered the next year to work at the retreat. The Western PA chapter stopped having retreats. A fellow participant from the retreat she attended called and asked Beth if she would be interested in trying to bring CfR back to Western PA. She agreed and it took two years of fundraising that my wife and I were involved in before they were able to hold another retreat.
It has been 14 years now with Beth being the participant coordinator and myself a river helper. So I would say we have been hooked. It is such a special thing to be part of.
What’s your memorable experience (with a participant or at a CfR retreat) that stands out in your mind?
As far as memorable experiences. It is always special when the ladies arrive to the fishing site. They are all wide eyed. They are all geared up head to toe. They tend to walk oddly from wearing boots and waders for the first time as they search for their assigned river helper.
A couple years back my participant was born, raised and still lived in the city limits of Pittsburgh. We had a great morning and she did catch some fish. The best moment however was after changing her fly I told her to go ahead and cast. She responded with, “Can I just have a minute to take this all in? I have never seen anything like this. It is all just so beautiful.” As she looked around at the clear water, trees and blue sky. That’s something we fishermen/women already know. Trout live in beautiful places.
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?
I will and do encourage any women to sign up for a retreat. They will not regret it. I only get to spend a few short hours with the group but they all have so much fun. You can see the bonds that were formed only after a weekend together at the retreat.
The Western PA team is awesome with Ashley Wilmont as our lead instructor. She is a member of the US Womens Fly Fishing Team. The participants are well instructed and perform great on the river.
Do you have a ‘lucky’ fly that you use on CfR retreat waters?
My favorite fly? I always use junk first. Eggs and mops. I change flies constantly but overall I tie a very simple version of a pheasant tail nymph that always seems to work for my participants.