Caesar Creek Lake, Waynesville, OH—The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the managers of Caesar Creek Lake, decided to put on a new event, Take a Warrior Fishing. They enlisted dozens of volunteers, many with boats, and helped the Veterans take a morning out on the lake fishing for the big ones.
At lunch time, everyone came back in for burgers, brats and hot dogs. There was much conversation, new friendships and an overwhelming sense of gratitude for our nation’s Veterans.
I was there as a representative of Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing – Cincinnati, but I also took my cameras. I captured many photos, but the one below is one of my favorites. In a way, it says it all. Everybody is smiling.
The local fly fishing group and Project Healing Waters has a regular schedule to go fishing at one of the county parks. It’s a pond on a children’s farm, and fishing is usually not allowed, but there are exceptions like for the kids and the Veterans group. Because the pond is not regularly fished, it has fish in it just waiting to bite on something. It makes for a good experience. And, it is all catch and release.
The Veterans range in age and are veterans of too many wars—Vietnam, Iraq, Gulf War, Afghanistan. One is a Korean War Veteran. The mission of Project Healing Waters is to give Veterans a little R&R. It is amazing how disabilities disappear on the water with a fly rod or fishing pole in hand. Shaky hands become still. Troubles disappear for a little while.
Willy was at the pond for his first fishing experience with the Veterans. Confined to a wheel chair, partially paralyzed, he needs help with just about everything. He has movement in his arm, but cannot grip your hand to shake it—that doesn’t stop him from introducing himself and sticking his hand out towards you. “Hi! I’m Willy.”
Willy cannot grip a rod, so we did like all good soldiers do, we improvised. We strapped the pole to his forearm, so that he could lift and lower the rod. Volunteers helped by baiting the hook and watching the rod for him. It was a team effort.
In what seems like the short time we were there, Willy caught more fish than anybody—eight! I guess the fish liked the piece of hot dog on a hook. Willy was happy, saying it was one of the best days he has had in a long time. I think his smile says it all.
Of course, the rest of us had some success with the fly rods. In all, it was a pretty good day for all of us.
It’s a first for me. I bought my first fly rod in my twenties. Forty years later, I own a few others, but have never built a fly rod. This past year, having become more active in our local fly fishing club, Buckeye United Fly Fishers, I have started tying flies and helping others. When the rod building class was announced, I was second in line to sign up.
Six weeks later, I have a fine 7’6” 4 weight travel rod for carrying on the motorcycle. It was an amazing experience, and I must admit, addictive. Lots of fun. I’ve been scanning through the rod building catalog looking at other possible projects. I’ve always wanted a 3 weight.