Ten women from throughout the North Island came together recently for a special weekend retreat at Wharepapa South's Castlerock.

The Casting for Recovery (CFR) retreat provides a time for relaxation away from the pressure of everyday life for women whose lives have been profoundly affected by breast cancer.

Participants were offered the chance to gather in a beautiful, natural setting and learn to fly-fish.

The women were given the opportunity to experience the peace and solitude of the Puniu River under the watchful eyes of their 'river helper buddies'. None had tried fly-fishing before, yet all were keen to give it a go.


After a morning of tutoring under the guidance of Garth Plank, who has represented New Zealand at World Fly Fishing Championships, and Craig Caldwell, each of the women was given a fishing rod and shown the mechanisms of casting and tying flies.

Much hilarity followed as the women practised out in the paddocks around Castlerock before entering the water on the final morning of the retreat.

The mood was one of excited anticipation as each participant donned their waders, slipped into their fishing vests and set off with their river buddy to fish.

Robyn Wilson, nurse for the retreat, was moving along the riverbank keeping an eye on the participants and on her return said 'the buzz out on that river was intense'.

"The women were so excited to be in the water, chatting with their helpers, increasing their knowledge and catching fish," she said.

Several women caught and released fish, several had tugs on their lines and the smiles on faces as they returned to base were a highlight of the weekend.

The weekend wasn't solely about fly-fishing.

A strong group of volunteers ensured that nourishing, healthy meals were served throughout, a trained massage therapist and a nurse were right there for well-being, plus the team from Look Good, Feel Better took a session on makeup and skin care.

"Pampering is an essential part of the weekend," said Wendy Caldwell, co-ordinator for the CFR North Island retreats.

"The women were able to relax in the spa, swim in the pool, have massages, reflexology, manicures and also learnt to flax weave. We are so grateful to local businesses who supported us.

"We are not funded, the programme is not-for-profit and we rely on the generosity of donors and organisations."

Mrs Caldwell said reading through the comments on the women's evaluation forms it was obvious that all participants had benefited from the time away. One comment summed it up well: I feel blessed and so very grateful to everyone who gave up so much time and put in so much effort to make sure we were safe, happy, spoilt and so well fed. Thank you very, very much. Sarah