Fly fishing has long served as both a sport and a way to relax. There’s something about the activity – tying lures, wading into waters, patiently waiting for the one big catch – that instills a sense of peace, of being in tune with nature.
One organization has tapped into fly fishing’s appeal to bring that sense of peace to our nation’s veterans.
Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing (PHWFF) is a volunteer-based nonprofit group that uses fly tying, rod building, and fly fishing to aid the physical and emotional rehabilitation of disabled active military service personnel and disabled veterans needs of disabled active military service personnel and disabled veterans dedicated to the physical and emotional through fly fishing and associated activities including education and outings.
PHWFF also reaches out to veterans through educational programs and outings. In 2017 alone, its programs served over 8,400 injured and disabled military service personnel and disabled vets across the country.
A National Outreach to Veterans
Retired Navy Captain Ed Nicholson founded the organization in 2005 to help wounded service members recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center after tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. An avid outdoorsman, Nicholson felt that fresh air and a change of scenery would be a welcome relief for soldiers after weeks or months in a hospital. As his trips progressed, he noticed there was something therapeutic about tying a fly, casting a rod, and listening to the sound of rushing water.
And he was right. Psychologists say fly fishing has a number of benefits, including fine motor skill development, hand-eye coordination, concentration, and a feeling of accomplishment.
Its huge success led to its nationwide expansion over the following years, and it’s now established in Department of Defense hospitals, Warrior Transition Units, and Veterans Affairs Medical Centers and clinics.
More than 150 VA facilities and other centers now refer patients to the fly fishing group for outdoor excursions and recreation therapy. The program is available to any disabled Veteran who wants to participate.
Today, PHWFF consists of 185 programs nationwide, with more than 3,500 volunteers dedicated to helping vets.
The official PHWFF site has an interactive map that shows programs and news items from around the country, along with contact info for each location.
More Than a One-Day Fishing Trip
What makes Project Healing Waters stand apart from other disabled veterans charities? It’s not a one-time outing – it’s a program. Its volunteers teach classes on an ongoing, long-term basis. Their dedication and efforts go far beyond a quick, one-day trip.
Attendees of the fishing clinics, even those who’ve never fished before, learn the ins and outs of fly fishing, fly casting, fly tying, and more. PHWFF provides all of the equipment is for free. Likewise, there’s no charge for its fishing trips.
For the people served by PHWFF, the camaraderie and socialization they find at the regularly scheduled clinics are just as important as any enjoyment they get from the actual fishing excursions. Instead of simply fishing and saying, “See ya’ around,” they might say, “See ya’ next week at the fly tying workshop!” In fact, many of those who participate in Project Healing Waters’ classes and trips eventually become PHWFF volunteers themselves, taking on fly fishing jobs.
PHWFF recently announced a partnership with Fishing TV to be a participant in World Fishing Day, which will take place on June 23, 2018. The first-ever global celebration of angling, the event on Fishing TV will include an ambitious live, 24-hour broadcast of fishing around the world. A network of free fishing events will accompany the broadcast, with the goal of celebrating the sport as well as getting more people interested in it.
Giving Back to Those Who Have Served
As a non-profit organization and charity, Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing relies on the generosity of others to continue its programs. Anyone who is interested in helping PHWFF’s mission can donate through its website. Additionally, you can choose to sponsor a trip, donate fishing equipment, host a fundraiser, or – if you’re in the hotel or restaurant business – offer meal or lodging discounts.
By using fly fishing as a recreational, therapeutic tool, Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing gives our injured veterans the opportunity to rebuild their self-confidence and gain a feeling of peace and belonging.