I tie my own flies. It’s fun and relaxing. It’s also exciting to catch a fish on a fly I’ve tied.
Some time ago, I started looking for a good pattern for blue gills and bass. I started with something I saw called a bead-head bugger. I started tweaking the pattern to try different sizes hooks and features. I finally settled on pattern and made a bunch with different colors.
I also made some up in black and olive. All these colors work. Tied on a #12 barbless hook with ultra chenille and rubber legs. They’re blue gill candy.
As I started fishing and catching fish with these, the Veterans of our Project Healing Waters program took notice. “What are you using?” “Can I try one?”
So I made a bunch to hand out to the Vets. It’s become a very popular fly.
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.