by Countable | 10.17.17
On a recent Sunday afternoon, a group of military veterans returned to the field to hunt for an elusive foe: the freshwater fish.
"I don't pull trout out of a hole," Ed Tansue, a Gulf War vet, told the New Jersey Herald, "it was trout that pulled me out of a hole."
Tansue is one of thousands of veterans participating in Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing. PFHWFF was started in 2005 at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center by Ed Nicholson, a retired Navy captain and avid fly fisherman. While recovering from prostate cancer in the D.C. medical center, Nicholson was struck by all the wounded and distraught soldiers doing nothing but lying in their beds.
"I thought, ‘I’d really like to take some of them fly fishing,'" Nicholson told People. “I didn’t have big plans—just an outing or two. But pretty soon, I saw the potential and realized it would be much bigger than that.”
Nicholson’s guppy dreams have grown to trophy-worthy trout: Project Healing Waters now has over 200 local chapters in all 50 states and Germany; in 2015, PHWFF helped nearly 7,5000 emotionally injured or disabled veterans. Participants learn how to cast, tie their own flies, and detangle lines.
In late September, the National Park Service teamed up with PHWFF for the first time. It was this outing on the Delaware River were Tansue was casting flies from a drift boat.
While serving as a scout during the first Gulf War, Tansue suffered a back injury. Shortly afterwards, the 12-year army vet was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorders, and presently relies on 100 disability.
"I hurt my back," Tansue said. "Now, I spend all my time fly fishing,"
Nicholson told People it doesn’t matter if a vet is suffering from PTSD, the loss of hearing or sight, or the loss of limbs — Project Healing Waters volunteers will get them fishing.
"I had a dear friend named Bill who…lost both of his legs to a land mine," Nicholson said. “When we got to the water, he asked, ‘How are we going to do this Ed? I’m in a wheelchair.’ Just like that, one of our strong guides waded out from the boat, put Bill on his back and waded back to the boat with him.”
"We don’t let disabilities get in the way of what we want to provide. Regardless of the situation, we’ll get them on the water to catch fish."
Veterans interested in joining Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing can find a local chapter here:
(Photo Credit: @PHWFF via Twitter)
Written by Countable
I feel this is a good thing, the yoga of the fishing 🎣 world! Maybe it will bring them a inner peace they r looking for✌️😎 if anyone deserves it our Vets certainly do!
7,500 veterans participating in this program sounds like a worthwhile investment to me and that's not counting the volunteers who help make the program a success and reap the benefit of caring and contributing to a solution. Small starts add up, small starts make an effort, small starts encourage more small starts. However, I believe that each participant would not see this program and its healing benefits as a "small" start in their lives. Healing is not a luxury and I'd feel extremely successful if I could point to 7,500 veterans that benefitted from an idea I had and then acted upon.
I am not a veteran but it is a healing process. It helped me when I some issues.
7,500 is not a small start. I doubt any of the participants or volunteers in this program consider it a luxury or a small start. I would consider myself a success if I could have come up with this idea and then acted on it to the benefit of 7,500 veterans. Perhaps it is a small start, but small starts grow, small starts encourage other small starts and small starts are usually the basis of bigger solutions. Healing our veterans, no matter what the number, is not a luxury it our responsibility and if fly fishing is one of the activities that helps, so be it.
What “heals veterans” is knowing they didn’t fight for a corrupt administration willing the defile the land, ignore the needs of its people, and provide both veterans and pre-veterans with a livable wage, solid healthcare, and access to various mental health services. Fly-fishing is a luxury designed for only 1% of vets.
Great program. Fremont, ca has this year program. The vets love it.
If it helps then yes
I wonder how long this will last. Trump and his minions have gutted the EPA and the Clean Water Act. I wonder how long the trout will last? Enjoy while you can.
As long as it doesn’t cost any tax dollars they can do whatever they want. Go fish to their hearts content!
The best idea yet.