CAF partnered with Eagle Mount of Bozeman to host the first-ever fly fishing and water adventure camp in Gallatin County/Big Sky, Montana July 18-21,2021. The camp kicked off at the outdoor campus of Eagle Mount with a meet and greet catered by Follow Yer Nose BBQ -inspired by Montana outdoor chef and CAF athlete Eduardo Garcia.
This first ever camp had 8 adaptive athletes, many who were fly fishing for the first time ever along with two more seasoned CAF coaches, CAF staff and 4 water handlers and volunteers. Local guide service Gallatin River Guides was hired to lead the two days of drift boat and walk/wade fishing on the Yellowstone and Gallatin Rivers. CAF Program Lead Wilson Dippo researched adaptive techniques for those with lower arm/hand limb loss.
Local 15-year-old Ridley Brandmayr was introduced to CAF when he was 11 by Eduardo Garcia after he lost his hand while meat processing wild game to make summer sausages; he led in total fish caught, showed us how to tie the flies and was truly a leader in the sport at his young age.
The four athletes using wheelchairs were beginners or had never fly fished before and after two days on the river, all caught fish and the bug to do more! Drew Asaro who grew up in Idaho and now lives in Bozeman -fished for the very first time in his life.
In 2018, Drew was skiing at Big Sky Mountain with his roommate Sam (who is one of the Gallatin River Guides) when he hit a tree and broke his back resulting in paralysis. The next year, CAF granted him a mono-ski and he’s back on the mountain and now giving back by helping Eagle Mount coach new athletes in the sport. Drew and Sam reunited at the camp with two days on the river and day three at Hyalite Lake enjoying the wheelchair stand-up paddle board, kayaks and of course more fishing.
CAF’s growing partnership with GRIT Freedom Chair was the difference in ensuring that 15-year old Michael who was born with proximal femoral focal deficiency in both legs could join on the walk/wade day and sit comfortably in the shallow water catching fish alongside his guide.
This camp was inspired by young CAF supporter Michael Blitzer who leads the CAF Club at Riverdale Country School. Michael personally loves fly fishing and he wanted to share his passion with others who likely would never have the opportunity to try this technical and logistically complex sport.
This passion triggered CAF figuring out how to make the needed adaptations and work with the local fly fishing guide shop so that more people with disabilities visiting the Big Sky area can enjoy the sport and the beautiful outdoors that Montana offers!