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Thirst Colorado: "Music festival aims to improve mental health"

Updated: Nov 1, 2023

By the Thirst Team

Like many men, Jennings Hester struggled silently with depression and anxiety for a decade. After finally seeing a therapist, he wanted a way to help other men get therapy, bond and improve their mental health.

So he founded Fishing the Good Fight (FTGF), which hosts fly fishing retreats, group therapy sessions and other mental health programs for men. The group will raise funds and awareness at the Green Line Music Festival on Saturday, Sept. 9, at Breckenridge Brewery’s Barbox in Littleton.

The festival includes three bands and a silent auction that will offer fishing trips to Wyoming, Mexico and Chile. Mental health providers and fly fishing companies also will be on hand. Tickets are free, but donations are encouraged.

The event is the biggest fundraiser of the year for FTGF, and helps fund scholarships for the group’s fly fishing retreats and other therapy programs.

"Men make up over 80 percent of all completed suicides yet less than 25 percent of people treated for a mental illness and or substance abuse,” Hester said. “FTGF is working to change these statistics.”

He said he had several reasons for connecting fly fishing with mens’ mental health. “First, you are immersed in nature and the science behind the psychological benefits of nature is significant,” Hester said. “Second, it's an ice breaker that most men enjoy. It's easy to talk about fly fishing and it encourages men to open up about their mental health. Third, there are a million variables as we are trying to figure out the puzzle. It requires you to be completely present and mindful. If you're thinking about anything else, like everyday stresses, you aren't catching fish.”

The retreats are open to novice and experienced fishermen, who “go back and forth between mental health and fly fishing work all weekend.”

FTGF is based in Denver, with retreats and programs around Colorado. Hester plans to open a second chapter in Colorado Springs, and eventually expand nationwide.

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