Photo: Ed Kashi

Plans do not always work out. For some Veterans this deviation from the plan is often the result of an unforecasted, traumatic event that leaves many wondering, “What am I going to do now?” The Veterans that make their way to Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing programs find that the multifaceted nature of fly fishing helps in answering that question.

At the root of our cause is the strongly held belief that the sport of fly fishing, and its associated activities, hold many therapeutic benefits — encompassing the physical, mental, and emotional. Fly fishing usually happens in beautiful places — places where nature can soothe and nurture, and most importantly, instill hope. As John Buchan once remarked, “The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope.”

In addition to the natural methods of relaxation and restoration offered by fly-fishing, the sport also requires dexterity, keen eye-hand coordination, balance and intense concentration—challenging for even able-bodied anglers, much less those adjusting and adapting to their new abilities. But through these challenges come opportunities to learn, adapt, and evolve through this fun, challenging sport — offering a rehabilitative outlet outside the traditional physical therapy room.

Fly fishing restores hope and offers many individuals the chance to recover both physically and emotionally. For those that are bed-ridden, have to re-learn how to use extremities, or learning their new prosthetics, the PHWFF Program offers everything from tying flies, building rods, casting, and fishing – that all contribute to the healing process.

For those that have incurred mental or emotional injuries there are the calming effects of nature and empowerment in learning new skills. For those torn from their teams, camaraderie abounds. In short, we have something for everyone. Engaging in the sport with fellow veterans, and the associated outdoors community, it serves to give pause to the pain and negativity and replaces it with confidence building endeavors followed by the establishment of new goals and support structures.

Our volunteers, participants, and supporters tend to establish long term bonds that are durable and extend nationally. Entering into this network of caring and dedication allows those involved to develop new plans and develop new passions along the way.

“We don’t just take people fishing. We build relationships, and within that comes the healing. It transcends fly-fishing.”Ed Nicholson, Founder and President, Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing

Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing (PHWFF) began in 2005 serving wounded military service members at Walter Reed Army Medical Center returning from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since then, PHWFF has expanded nationwide, establishing over 200 highly successful programs in Department of Defense hospitals, Warrior Transition Units, and Veterans Affairs Medical Centers and clinics. In 2015 alone, PHWFF served 7,424 injured and disabled military service personnel and disabled veterans. The PHWFF program is unique in that our volunteers are teaching classes on an on-going, long term basis. Learn more at www.projecthealingwaters.org.

Co-authored by:

PHWFF Social Media Assistant 1SGT David Ira Strouse, US Army (ret)

PHWFF Director of Communications Daniel Morgan