In this interview Team Flylords caught up with Rafael Salado and Allison Riggie to learn more about Chasing Apache and their movement to spread awareness about mental health and suicide prevention through fly fishing.
Flylords: Tell us more about Chasing Apache?
Raphael: “Chasing Apache was created to spread awareness about mental health and suicide prevention through fly fishing. In the summer of 2023, Allison (my girlfriend), Boba (our Great Dane) and I will be hitting the road in our Jeep to fly the lower 48 for trout and spread health awareness mental. We will save Arizona for our last stop as Apache Trout can be found there. My cousin’s nickname was, “Apache” and that’s how we got the idea to chase the Apache Trout in his memory. I also feel a deep connection to the Apache Trout as their population has finally been restored after decades of collaborative conservation and recovery efforts.”
Flylords: How did Chasing Apache come about?
Raphael: “On May 6, 2021, my dear cousin hanged himself.
Before he was hanged, he lived a beautiful life. He was a nurse, a college graduate, an investor, a flyweight fisherman, a devilish cook, and great son/nephew/friend/nephew/brother/cousin. He cared deeply for others and truly had the biggest heart. This dude blew me away when he took our grandma and his mom to an Aventura concert. For those who may be unfamiliar with Aventura, he is a well-known Dominican Bachata artist.
When Covid hit, everything went downhill fast, really fast. We were roommates when the pandemic started. We became roommates when my cousin encouraged me to move in with him after my divorce, during which time this guy really stepped up to the plate! He would call me every day just to check in and see how I was doing, knowing I was an emotional wreck. After we moved in together, we had the time of our lives! It was the first time as adults we had really bonded. He was my lover and my brother.
He was very friendly, social and family oriented, but that all changed with COVID. Everything is closing, the uncertainty of the future as a result of the pandemic; changed it. He didn’t want to leave his room. He had the curtains down the whole time, the room was so dark. He kept saying he felt empty inside and didn’t want to eat. I remember having to cook for him, take dishes from his room, clean his room and put the vegetables away. My beautiful cousin was cleaner than Mr. Clean himself, and definitely cleaner than me. If I left the dishes in the sink, he would roast me! Then his manic depression hit. It went from bad to being on a roller coaster ride with no seat belts and just trying to hold on to whatever you can get your hands on. It was like living with a stranger. He began to become unrecognizable. He went from over $40k in his accounts to negative. He was very responsible and money wise. He went from one car to four cars in just a few weeks. He bought a Corvette, a Jeep and a Camry and bought his girlfriend of two weeks a Mercedes. He was blowing money as if he had strapped an ATM to his backpack. He dyed his hair blonde. He pierced both ears. He had artwork hanging sideways all over his room. My cousin was a neat guy and was always organized, which is why I was so shocked by the recent turn of events.
Unfortunately, he became very aggressive towards his loved ones as well, verbally attacking us all. He would start an argument and cause potential fights. He even got into trouble with the law after a night at a strip club. He had had no prior run-ins with the law, nor had he been a frequent strip club goer, but his manic state had completely changed him. He was definitely not himself and I began to understand how serious mental health is, much more than just a chemical imbalance.
In the spring of 2021, my cousin and I had our best friend over and we were talking about how we were feeling about what was happening in the world as a result of COVID. When my cousin spoke, he said peace, but at the end he said, “I’m trying,” in a low tone of voice and a sadness in his eyes. At the time, I didn’t think much of it, but the next morning, when I went for a walk on the beach at 5 am, I couldn’t stop thinking about his words and all the signs of his manic depression. Loss of appetite, he tells me he feels empty inside, doesn’t want to be social anymore, doesn’t want to leave his room, and in general, is just extremely sad. I knew I had to do something, his life was in my hands. I remember that morning, crying on the beach, as I suddenly realized that my cousin had committed suicide. I immediately jumped in my car and drove to his father’s house, still crying, arriving just before 7am. When his father answered the door, I said, with tears running down my cheeks, “I think Apache is suicidal.” That morning my uncle put my cousin down with him and placed some supports to help my cousin regain some stability.
On May 6, 2021, he took his own life.
After that, and still to this day, I struggle with feelings of sadness, pain, and guilt. I feel like I haven’t done enough.
Apache’s pursuit was created to help those still living and struggling with mental health. This is my goal. I believe healing can happen through fly fishing. They say the waters have healing powers.
Fly fishing saved me. Fly fishing for trout and being on the water has brought me solitude and strengthened my spirit, and it’s important for me to share that with others.”
Flylords: What resources does Chasing Apache have to offer to people struggling with mental health?
Raphael: “On our website at chasingapache.com, we have a page with various mental health links if you need help figuring out where to go for support, or you can always contact me directly (firstname.lastname@example.org ). I always try to connect with people on the water. Every time I meet someone fishing, I share with them what we are doing with Chasing Apache and how helping others while fly fishing has really helped me heal and find peace within myself. I’m always surprised by how quickly people I meet on the water open up about themselves and share their mental health struggles and stories with me. It’s a beautiful thing to engage in these conversations because it reassures me that I’m not alone in my depression and anxiety, and I hope it does the same for them.”
Flylords: How can people use these resources and be part of Chasing Apache? Who can join?
Raphael: “Following Apache is not about who can join. It’s about eliminating the stigma associated with mental health. It’s about educating yourself through our website, resources or conversations. It’s about finding the right support for yourself or getting the support to put the right support in place to help a loved one in need. Everyone is invited to join us for our annual 5k run/walk in my cousin’s hometown of Lynn, MA to spread mental health and suicide awareness and remember all those we have loved and lost from suicide. Please visit our website for more information and to register!”
Flylords: What is your mission?
Raphael: “My mission is to make my mark on the world, knowing that I wasn’t in this to chase, fame or money. I did and will continue to do this work to make the world a better place. The world began to fight long before I existed and will continue this fight long after I am gone. As Big Papi (David Ortiz) said, “If you believe in someone, it can change their world.” I believe that with enough transparency in sharing people’s personal journeys with mental health, we will change the landscape of how we treat and view mental health as a society and people will be more empowered to seek the help they need. Through deep conversations with other anglers about our shared mental health journeys, it lets them know they are not alone. It was because of the many conversations I had with other fishermen about their mental health challenges, a father who lost his son to cancer, a guide who suffered from depression, and another fisherman who was on the verge of suicide that I saw really. how many others were out there struggling and struggling just like me. Mental Health has this stigma where it’s not okay or safe to talk unless you’re in therapy or behind closed doors. Why?”
Flylords: How can people support Chasing Apache?
Raphael: “Buy our goods! Designed in-house, at least 10% of every purchase will be donated to a cause that helps support mental health or suicide awareness.
Donate used equipment! As we build our guide service for the city’s children and veterans, we will need as much equipment as possible to get as many people out on the water as possible.
In the coming months we will add one more donation tab on our page where people can help fund our trip as we plan to head out next summer to fly fish and spread mental health and suicide awareness in the lower 48.”
Flylords: What events do you organize, support, run?
Raphael: “We are currently working on creating a Big Brother guidance service for the city’s children. As a teacher and growing up in the city of Boston, I know that city kids are at a disadvantage when it comes to access to respected fishing waters, exposure to fly fishing, and green spaces in general. You don’t see things like that growing in the city. What we see are MBTA buses, buildings on top of buildings and barely any trout waters. Massachusetts has trout stocks, but because the demand is so high and the supply so low in the cities, if you don’t fish right after they stock up, you won’t be able to catch anything. My inner city youth guide service will be completely free and we will supply all the equipment and materials the kids may need, so donations are great for us to get as many kids out on the water as possible. we can.
We also know that the waters and the outdoors have healing powers, and we think they can be used to help veterans suffering from PTSD. We are working to partner with various veteran support groups to provide mentoring services to those who have served our country.”
For more information about Chasing Apache, please visit the website here. You can follow Chasing Apache on Instagram at @chasingapache.