Parkinson's Disease patients catch on to fly fishing

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APPLETON, Wis. (WBAY) - People living with Parkinson's aren't letting the neurological disease slow them down, instead they're staying active with those in their same boat.

Wisconsin Parkinson Association and Trout Unlimited teamed up for a fly fishing clinic at Appleton's Memorial Park on Sept. 4, 2019 (WBAY photo)

For people like Linda Schlavensky, living with Parkinson's Disease isn't always easy. According to Schlavensky, "There are times when you have your days and some days are better than others and I just have to live with it."

And live is what a group of Parkinson's patients are all doing, as the Wisconsin Parkinson Association teamed up with Trout Unlimited for a fly fishing clinic at Appleton's Memorial Park.

"It's something you can do your entire lifetime, it's enjoyable, you're in beautiful place, so it's a neat hobby. A lot of times people that have disabilities think they can't do stuff and in a lot of cases they can do this," says Jim Oates with Trout Unlimited.

The idea for the clinic came from a man, living with Parkinson's, who also enjoys fly fishing. Since Parkinson's is a movement disorder, affecting the muscles, he realized the techniques used in fly fishing are a great way to stay active.

Carolyn Hahn from the Wisconsin Parkinson Association says, "Big movements are really important, focusing on a loud voice and larger gestures to help retrain some of those muscles. So, with fly fishing, as you can see, there's the motions and that kind of thing that can be really good to help, like I said, retrain some of those muscles."

Whether these anglers caught anything or not didn't really matter. The fact that they were out here, trying something, and moving was a victory for them.

Linda Schlavensky says, "This is good for Parkinson's actually because you're using muscles that you don't normally use and it's kind of relaxing, it really is, I'm glad I came."

It helped them not only physically, but seeing they could still succeed and enjoy the outing, despite their diagnosis, also gave the confidence to perhaps continue in the future.

"My son lives out in Colorado and he's asked me to come out and try it and I've said I've never done it, so maybe now I can," adds Patrick Pelkey, a New London many who also has Parkinson's.

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