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.
For more information about Project Healing Waters, visit their web site.
See you on the highway.
The Back Story
There is more to this personal essay, and it’s how it came about. I reviewed a documentary film last year called the Welcome, and I was haunted by the film–not in a bad way, but in a way to do something. It was like that voice in the bottom of my heart and soul that kept saying, “Well, Brent. What are you going to do now?” And, that voice would not leave me alone.
The premise of the film is about finding a way to welcome home the warriors–our veterans. I kept thinking about how I would use the motivation of this film to do something. I should do something. I am a veteran myself, a Vietnam Veteran. I should be helping my veteran brothers and sisters. It’s time to get involved somehow.
When I learned our fly fishing club, Buckeye United Fly Fishers, was involved with veterans programs, I investigated and joined the cause. That’s how I became involved with Project Healing Waters. It’s an incredible program. I don’t know if I would have been involved had I not seen that film. If you get the chance, you should see it too. You will be moved. –B.
Once a year, the Buckeye United Fly Fishers host the Cincinnati Fly Fishing Show. It’s a gathering of the faithful to demonstrate fly tying, fly rod building, places to go, and of course, things to buy. Most of all, it’s an opportunity to introduce to the curious what fly fishing is all about. Buckeye puts a big emphasis on fly tying, giving some of the regions best the opportunity to show their stuff.
I was blown away by this mouse. I have never seen anyone tie a mouse on a hook. Now, you’re probably asking what would go after something like that. Big bass. More protein per volume, I guess, and that big mouth is capable of swallowing big “snacks.”
A couple of tables down, another fly tier was showing off his creations, and in addition to more mice, he had some really cool flies.
Our chief fly tying instructor is Ken Dixon. He is very generous with his time and knowledge, always giving interested individuals a hand.
Also at the show, the club’s affiliation with Project Healing Waters. PHW is a program to help veterans by introducing them to the calmness of fly fishing and the quiet of healing waters. It’s a worthwhile effort, something I am involved in.
Great show. Now, let’s find some time to visit a stream or two.