The longer I have been in the fly fishing community the more often I hear the phrase “fly fishing saved my life”.
Each story is different, but we are unified through our passion of fly fishing. Today I want to tell y’all about Cade’s story, a disabled veteran with a lifelong love of fly fishing.
On a Thursday back in February of 2018, Cade had a great spring day of training for an ultra-marathon. Feeling accomplished he hit the sack, only to wake the next day with a strange tingling from his chest down to his toes. Cade made the assumption that he pulled something in his back, or pinched a nerve and figured he needed to go ahead and call in to his job at the hospital to take a couple of days to recover. Except, after a few days the sensation had become worse. Cade went ahead and saw a doctor who told him that he would do blood work but it was probably just early diabetes. Cade had a feeling it wasn't, but had to follow protocol. Turns out Cade’s gut feeling was right, the blood work came back and it wasn’t diabetes. His doctor advised him to see another doctor at UAMS in Little Rock due to this being out of his expertise. Cade spent 4 weeks at UAMS hospital before he was correctly diagnosed with Transverse Myelitis.
Transverse Myelitis (TM) is a disorder caused by inflammation of the spinal cord. It is characterized by symptoms and signs of neurologic dysfunction in motor and sensory tracts on both sides of the spinal cord.
The involvement of motor and sensory control pathways frequently produces altered sensation, weakness and often paralysis. As time went on, he lost all feeling from the chest down and required a wheel chair to get around. He continued to work his 12 hour shifts at the hospital but with his insurance only allowing him a transport wheelchair (at the time they thought his condition was not going to be permanent) that had no cushion, it led to him being back in the hospital again for 2 ½ months due to sores that required surgery and time to heal.
This was rock bottom in Cade’s story
He had gone from an active lifestyle from outdoor adventures with his aussie Felix, running, hiking and rock climbing to feeling held captive to a wheel chair with an illness with that there is no cure for.
One morning while in the hospital when he was at his lowest, he looked down at his foot and noticed it moved, so he repeated the action and that was it, that was all he needed to overcome this and feel alive again.
Just like our other stories you may be curious as to where fly fishing comes into play? For Cade it was his and his dad’s favorite pass time. Cade had even spent an entire summer when he was in his troublesome teens at 13 (where his mom told his dad they had to do something about him) at Yellowstone fly fishing and camping with his family. That summer forever changed him and was just what his family needed. Cade always enjoyed fly fishing, but now this was something he could still do from a wheel chair. He was still able to cast and fish like other fisherman from some spots on the bank.
We need more handicap accessible water
"One thing Cade would like to see more of is handicap accessible fishing ramps with no railings in the way of casting."
Just like his favorite spot at Dry Creek Run next to The Norfork Hatchery in Arkansas. I looked up this place and he is right, more places like this need to be built so people like him have more options than a run-down boat ramp to fish from.
Almost 3 years later, Cade has made progress though, he has slight feeling in his legs and can walk a few yards with a walker, however he feels he has plateaued but is happy to have had this much improvement. Cade has many wonderful fly fishing buddies that take him out on their boats and that is when he feels the least amount incumbered with his wheel chair. He is free to fish all the waters just like any other anglers. Also, him and Felix enjoy camping and photography. I relate to Cade, dogs are life.
"Felix is his best bud and stays by his side through thick and thin."
I asked Cade what advice would he give anyone in fly fishing that is struggling?
He stated “I’d say for people just starting out that finding a mentor or mentors is really important. It’s a tough sport and can be very frustrating and that just compounds if you’re trying to learn it on your own. Try and find a community within the sport that motivates and inspires you. That can from a good fly shop, an online group, or any number of organizations like Trout Unlimited, Project Healing Waters, The Mayfly Project, etc.” I agree with this, do not just give up, we have our bad days but having a group of people that help and provide support are key in this sport. Thanks so much for the wisdom Cade!
I just have to say, in my opinion Cade is one of the most authentic and outstanding people I know. He is an empathetic that has the most positive outlook on life and his posts on Instagram leave you wanting to see more. Be sure to check out his Instagram How now Brown trout. Hilarious name but serious pics of browns!
Tight lines and good vibes y’all!