(Men)ding Lines – Ron Blome

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We close out our Casting for Recovery’s (Men)ding Lines series with Ron Blome who volunteers for CfR Arkansas. Learn more about Ron and how he shows his support for CfR by using his journalism/videography skills. Thanks Ron!

Tell us about yourself and how you became interested/involved in the sport of fly fishing?

When I was about 10-years old, one of my uncles took me out for a weekend of fishing on the backwaters of the rivers north of Mobile, Alabama.  I was instructed in casting, catching and cleaning my fish.  We used old open reels with nylon line on a stiff fiberglass rod.  Late in the afternoon mayflies started hatching in clouds near his fish camp and he pulled out a bamboo rod and began the most elegant wand waving dance of fishing I had witnessed.  He caught a lot of fish, but I understood that bamboo fly fishing magic would be a hard skill to learn.

Despite a couple of lessons over the years, I never felt like I could cast a fly line well.  But in 2010 a brother-in-law was another relative to the rescue.  He invited me along for a week of fishing in remote Alaska.  Silver Salmon, Pink Salmon, Chum Salmon and feasting Rainbows filled the rivers and creeks that year in the Yetna river watershed.  In hindsight we were blessed by abundant runs, I was hooked.

Back in Arkansas, the spinning rods were put up, a fly rod purchased and ever since, I’ve been trying to tighten the loops, and figure out what the trout are eating and at what depth.  I have since returned to Alaska one more time, fished Montana, Oregon, New Mexico, Michigan and North Carolina and built my own bamboo rod.  

When did you get involved with CfR and makes you want to return as a volunteer to continually support CfR?

Sherry Barnhart, our Arkansas Casting For Recovery coordinator spoke to our Fly Fishing Club – Arkansas Fly Fishers – 5 years ago and explained the program.

I spent my career as a journalist working in network news and appreciated what a wonderful story she was telling.  In 2018 I volunteered to produce a short video on the Arkansas retreat that could be used for spreading the word and raising funds.  I found a great story.  I was just amazed at the effect a short weekend retreat could have on the ladies.  The fishing was fun and therapeutic, but the personal bonding that came from sharing a perilous journey was my lasting impression.  This fall, the Arkansas Chapter returned from the covid lull, and I set out to produce a more indepth video.  Even though men aren’t present for the first two days of the retreat, I was determined to meet and interview more attendees and share their story. 

What’s your memorable experience (with a participant or at a CfR retreat) that stands out in your mind?

There are so many moments that tell this story.  One of my favorites is when the guests get out of the guide’s vehicles and are geared up and about to walk to the water.  It’s like watching excited children on Christmas morning.  A what will we do with these toys moment?  “We’re going fishing” they cheerfully announce, followed by  “I have no idea what I’m doing.”  And it doesn’t matter.  It’s about the weekend journey that takes them wading into a river, a trusted river guide volunteer at their side and then the moment when a trout leaps at the end of the line and they scream “oh my gosh, what do I do.”

The moments I don’t get to see are still the most important.  The gathering in the lodge or around the campfire when they share stories of disease, treatments, survival and through laughs and tears they offer encouragement and the knowledge they are not alone.  That’s what they say when I interview them at the end.  They have broken through isolation, bonded with new friends, and found grace in nature and a river.  And they’d like to fish again.

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?

Don’t be hesitant if you’ve never fished before.  Although fly fishing is an important catalyst for the retreats, it is the just a means to the end.  It is your invitation to share and bond with other cancer patients, an opportunity to be pampered and a chance for a mental time-out.  The guides will say you only catch fish when the line is in the water.  Don’t pass up this opportunity because there’s a line for everyone to hold onto.

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