Casting for Recovery UK & Ireland (CfR) is a free retreat programme for ladies who have (or have had) breast cancer. We use counselling, medical support and fly fishing to great effect as a holistic body and mind outdoor therapy. We are lucky enough to draw on the skills of some of the top people in cancer nursing, counselling and fly fishing to volunteer on retreat and to support our lady participants through a fun and energising experience. Here experienced counsellor Tina, top fly casting instructor Vera and Clinical Nurse Specialist Lottie, explain why their talents all come together on retreat to bring ladies with breast cancer a memorable weekend. The programme is funded entirely through donations and is run by The Countryside Alliance Foundation. You can donate to us here.

Vera Carlson is an experienced member of the Game Angling Instructors Association (GAIA) who leads casting sessions on some of our retreats, often with her with husband Bob.

I am Vee and I am delighted to be a fly casting instructor at the CfR retreats.  These weekend retreats provide participants with a fantastic opportunity to try out a sport they would probably never think of trying, without any pressure, in the company of other ladies.  Most of the ladies who attend the retreats are completely out of their `comfort zone` when they arrive – they have usually seen fish, most probably eaten fish, sometimes touched a fish but never thought they would catch one and all this without the need to touch any creepy crawlies.  At the retreats, once kitted out with outdoor clothing supplied by Orvis UK, the ladies at least look like anglers and from this moment the fun begins.  There is always help on hand to make sure everyone enjoys the whole experience from looking at the equipment, tying knots, and of course the casting. The casting is a great laugh because it is a very different thing to anything they have ever done before and we generally, in a short space of time, see some amazing results. Sometimes we see the fly line forming spaghetti when things have gone wrong but who cares, we sort out any tangles, laugh about it and try again.  Sometimes there is more laughing than casting but we will always ensure the ladies have a good time.

Coffee break, a little rest and chatter with newly made friends – dare I interrupt and say more casting?  We have lunch to fit in somewhere, a bit of `what fish eat` and soon it’s tea time.  When does the fishing take place?  Sunday morning is when it all happens and every lady is given a local fishing guide to help her catch a fish.  These guides are specially chosen for their kind manner, plus they are all good anglers but there is always a lot of apprehension.  `What will he be like?`  or `Is my guide good looking!?`. It’s a bit like `Blind Date` and quite a bit of teasing takes place but we have a very scientific way of pairing a lady with a fishing guide and that is where the mystique lies.

Off they go to fish, usually the ladies are so involved with their casting, fishing and chatting with their guide they completely lose track of time and with hoots and shrieks around the fishery as trout are caught it’s great to see a huge change in the ladies as their confidence grows and their only concern now is how to cook that trout they are taking home in the carrier bag.

Fly fishing gives you confidence, a challenge, a new experience and an amazing hobby with new friends. The whole team at Casting for Recovery ensures all ladies have a superb memorable weekend at a lovely hotel with amazing food and can go home with lots of unforgettable memories.


Tina Cooke is a Member of the British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists and runs the counselling side of many of our retreats.

The retreats facilitate informal sessions allowing participants to explore their own emotions and feelings. The retreats allow ladies to find their own voice whilst being respectful of others. Alternatively if ladies simply want to relax and listen the choice is theirs; as we always tell the ladies when they arrive “these retreats are all about you!!”

Whilst it is true we are all unique and have unique circumstances, hopefully throughout the weekend ladies will come to realise none of us are alone in our struggles.

All of our participants are fully supported throughout the weekend from the moment they arrive on the Friday afternoon to fishing, lunch and fond farewells on the Sunday afternoon.

The Friday evening’s activities consist of a few ‘ice breakers’ to help everyone relax and feel comfortable with all the other participants on the retreat – we appreciate that everyone who comes along may feel nervous about what they have let themselves in for, but we soon try to put them at ease. Cate (my partner in crime) and myself are always on hand throughout the retreat if anyone feels the need for ‘time out ‘ or space to deal with any concerns or issues.

Saturday afternoon’s two hour session is set aside for a group counselling session and relaxation – these sessions are tailored to the requirements of the group. The goal of the session is to share experience, strength, hope, concerns and feelings in a confidential setting – again no pressure, we only ask ladies to share what they feel comfortable sharing. Then comes the relaxation part of the section where hopefully ladies can unwind, chill and take some “me time” – well deserved and hard to come by for most ladies!

Sunday morning has time set aside to allow everyone to reflect upon their weekend and what it has meant to them (no words are needed internal reflection)

Casting for Recovery UK & Ireland offers a valuable source of support for ladies having had, or going though, breast cancer. (May I add that retreats are set in fabulous surroundings and everyone on the team is dedicated to making everyone as comfortable as possible)

Bonds, friendships, connections and wonderful memories have been created though CFR – so what are you waiting for?


Charlotte Weston is a Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, RMH.

As a breast oncology CNS I support patients from diagnosis through treatment which can include surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, endocrine therapy and targeted therapies.

I became involved with CfR as it provides a beautiful and unique opportunity for ladies affected by breast cancer to take a step away from the pressures of their daily lives and experience of cancer treatment. The retreats are held in exceptional quality, beautiful locations and staffed with expert support from hotel staff, fly fishing guides, counsellors and nurses. I have been struck by how quickly retreat participants become at ease with each other and form new friendships, sharing experiences and laughter.

We tailor the healthcare professional-led group sessions to each group’s information and support needs; management of menopausal symptoms and lymphoedema are popular subjects. The weekends provide an opportunity to address some of the issues related to breast cancer diagnosis and treatment such as fatigue, confidence, diet, exercise, stress, relationships and body image. Warm-up exercises before the fly fishing sessions are fun and tailored to women’s specific needs as a result of their cancer or its treatment. The fly fishing guides are knowledgeable, supportive and enthusiastic, watching the ladies cheer each other as they catch fish is one of my favourite parts of the weekend.  The final three-course lunch of the weekend is held in a beautiful restaurant where each participant is presented with a certificate during a moving ‘graduation’ ceremony and there is a strong feeling of team spirit and a sense of achievement for everyone.

Working with CfR has inspired me to think of new ways to improve access to activities for all patients affected by breast cancer. I am inspired by all the participants I have met and the staff who give their time and resources to support this special organisation.

Join us in 2017

Our free weekend retreats are run at some of the most beautiful locations across the UK and Ireland we are delighted to advertise the remaining retreats for 2017. Ladies can apply online to attend and retreats will open to applications on a rolling basis. Please note that places on retreat are allocated by ballot and are subject to medical clearance.

Retreats in North Yorkshire and County Mayo have already closed to applications, but the following retreats may be of interest:

  • 21-23 July – Kimbridge on the Test near Romsey in Hampshire (open to applications – apply here)
  • 22-24 September – Forbes of Kingennie, Broughty Ferry, Angus
  • 20-22 October – The Arundell Arms, Lifton, Devon

For more information please contact [email protected]