Free Fly Fishing for Veterans Provides Serenity and Connection

Provided by Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing, Inc


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On waterways across the country, warriors hardened from service and sacrifice, are feeling peace, joy and connection—often for the first time in a long time.

Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing (PHWFF) provides basic fly fishing, fly casting, fly tying and rod building classes to both Veterans who have never fly fished before, and seasoned anglers. Fishing trips, both one day and multi-day, are provided free of charge to participants; including all fly fishing and tying equipment.

PHWFF is dedicated to the physical and emotional rehabilitation of injured and disabled Veterans through fly fishing and associated activities including education and outings. But, PHWFF transcends fly fishing. The organization builds relationships and fosters communities for Veterans and outdoor enthusiasts.

PHWFF on a fishing excursionUsing a nationwide network of over 200 programs, PHWFF programs meet regularly throughout the year with volunteers, teaching the basics and advanced techniques while building long-term relationships. The program is much more than a one-time fishing trip. The camaraderie and community developed during regular year-round classes are just as meaningful as the outings.

 “Project Healing Waters has allowed me to enjoy life, to give back and get back to mainstream Veteran support activities at a level I’ve never experienced before. It’s been a tremendous experience as well as a relief that I can identify with. I’ve never had something in my life that has been so relaxing and meaningful.”Donald ‘Doc’ Ballard, U.S. Navy/Army (ret.) | Vietnam, Medal of Honor Recipient

Over 116 VA healthcare facilities host Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing programs, allowing PHWFF to bring their unique form of therapy to an ever-expanding number of Veterans. At these locations, PHWFF volunteers are VA volunteers. They provide fly fishing, fly tying, and rod building programs and a caring community for the Veteran patients.

“Project Healing Waters is more than a fishing program,” said Marilyn Radatz, Salem VA Medical Center’s Supervisory Recreational Therapist. “The connections that our Veterans establish make a tremendous impact on their lives and within their communities. The time they spend learning to tie flies, as well as the sport of fly fishing, bring an ideal therapeutic value to each of their lives. It is a joy to watch our Veterans build upon relationships with their fellow Veterans and guides as they venture into a safe, relaxing and meaningful leisure experience.”

Over 8,300 Veterans are currently participating in PHWFF programs throughout the United States supported by over 4,000 volunteers. Many participants have found the program so transformative that they have become volunteer leaders striving to serve their fellow Veterans through PHWFF. Over 20% of PHWFF volunteers are former participants in the program.

PHWFF Participant Sabrina tying a fly.

PHWFF Participant Sabrina tying a fly.

“My life now has something in it I can obsess over and be passionate about that is healthy. My life revolves around fly tying and fly fishing. I have attended many PHWFF trips and events. I am now giving back. I now guide my fellow Veterans as a volunteer. Being able to feel that fellowship again is wonderful. I no longer hate myself; for the first time in a long time, my life revolves around wanting to live free and healthy. – Kyle Chantiz, U.S. Army (ret.)

PHWFF is a nonprofit organization founded by Ed Nicholson, a retired Navy captain, at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in 2005 to bring community, camaraderie, and a unique form of therapy to those who have honorably served and sacrificed for our Nation. Since that time, the PHWFF program has expanded Nationwide, establishing its highly successful program in Department of Defense hospitals, Warrior Transition Units, and VA Medical Centers.

To join the PHWFF program in creating a strong, supportive community connected through shared experiences, camaraderie, and challenges of the rod, reel, and line, visit the PHWFF homepage or email programs@projecthealingwaters.org

PHWFF invites you to join their community of Veterans, volunteers, and military family members.

“Project Healing Waters has given me the opportunity to interact with other Veterans and patriots. Through the art of fly tying, fishing and rod building I have made connections and friendships with people that I never would have met otherwise. These interactions and relationships have taught me to see the similarities in my fellow man instead of focusing only on our differences.”Gary Herber, U.S. Army (ret.) | Afghanistan

Find a Local Program

VIDEO: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oPlb5Rc9meM

Disclaimer: The sharing of any non-VA information does not constitute an endorsement of products or services on the part of the VA

Author

Steven Clipp

Steve Clipp joined VA in 2017 with the White House/VA Hotline and is currently on detail as a communications specialist with the Veteran Experience Office. Steve, a Navy Veteran, served as an electronics technician in Fighter Squadron 31 (VF 31-F/14s) on-board the USS Abraham Lincoln. Using the GI Bill, he graduated from Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, West Virginia in 2015 with a Bachelor of Arts in Communications.

Comments

  1. JamesH.Ward    

    I am 100% permanent & Total , vietnam erra combat
    Served w: 1st InfatryDivision 68-69 Lakehi & Xion.
    In wheelchair 90% of time but van set/up for me
    to drive. Interested in program but have no clue
    as to what to do as Ilive in the Triad of North carolina.

    1. Dave Hissom    

      Hi James, go to projecthealingwaters.org to find a program near you. I know North Carolina has several. If you have trouble feel free to email me and I’ll help you get in touch with someone close to your location david.hissom@projecthealingwaters.org.

  2. Andrew klepacz    

    Am a Vietnam vet in sw wi would love to do some fly fishing have some inexpensive gear sounds like a wonderful program!

    1. Dave Hissom    

      Hey Andrew, The only program in WI is in Appleton but you mention SW WI so there may be a cloer program in Illinois or Minnesota. Checkout projecthealingwaters.org, click programs, then select your region (midwest). If you have any difficulties feel free to email me at david.hissom@projecthealingwaters.org.

  3. Lynda c Brown    

    I would love to learn this!

  4. Albino Griego    

    I’m a veteran living in Taos NM. I would love to try fly fishing. Don’t know the first thing about it.

    1. Dave Hissom    

      Hey Albino! There is a program in Taos. Send me an email at david.hissom@projecthealingwaters.org and I’ll get you in contact with your local program lead.

  5. Rufus Brackley    

    I am a seasoned fly fisher. Fishing Maine my passion. I tie flies and build rods. I not an expert but my rods and flies catch fish.
    I would like to help teach Vets to fly fish.

    Rufus Brackley

    1. Dave Hissom    

      Hello Rufus,
      There are programs in Bangor, Auguste, Auburn, and Rome. I’m sure that they would love to have an experienced fly fisherman volunteer. I wish you were in Virginia! Shoot me an email and I’ll get you in contact with the program lead closest to you. david.hissom@projecthealingwaters.org

  6. W Rusty Lane    

    I would love to learn fly fishing. I just don’t know where to begin. I am a 50% disabled Vietnam veteran former USMC sergeant and I live in eastern Tennessee. I like to fish but don’t know where to begin. Thank you.

    1. Dave Hissom    

      Hey Rusty,
      The Tennessee Valley region has a ton of programs. I’ll attach the link so you can find one close to you.
      https://projecthealingwaters.org/programs/locations/tennessee-valley/#1463589419896-6c4003d1-d85df7ba-bf7b
      Any problems feel free to contact me at david.hissom@projecthealingwaters.org

  7. Sandee Mares-Torres    

    I would love to go fly fishing! It’s funny, because yesterday I was just talking to a nurse about it 2 days ago saying I wanted to learn! How do we go about it? I’m located in Minnesota.

    1. David Winkler    

      Hi Sandee, there are two programs in Minnesota one in the Twin Cities and one in St Cloud.
      Send me an email and let me know where you’re at and we’ll see if we can get you connected.
      David.winkler@projecthealingwaters.org

  8. Randy R. Pool    

    I would like to go on a fly fishing trip, Learn to tie flies and learn rod building. Thank You

  9. Wayne Tonnesen    

    I am a DAV who is will to take a vet fishing for Salmon in NY eastern end of Lake Ontario, the salmon river and Orwell creek. You can contact me at pack117@comcast.net

  10. Johnny Walker    

    Any Veteran with a service related disability, does not have to be combat related, is eligible.
    Not disabled? Would you like to get involved as a volunteer and help your fellow Vet? We would love to have you be a part of the program and team.

    Go to this link and find the program nearest you:
    https://projecthealingwaters.org/programs/locations/
    Click on your state.
    Next click on the link at the center of the three options. The button will say something similar to “South Central Programs” or “Tennessee Valley Programs”. It will give you a listing of all of the programs in that region. Choose the one nearest you.

  11. Jerry Walker    

    Project Healing Waters would love for you to join us, take a look at the following for a Program near you: https://projecthealingwaters.org/programs/locations/

    Respectfully,

  12. Joel Dickey    

    MN Vet interested. Thank you for programs like these to keep the band of Brothers/sisters together.

  13. Eric Brohimer    

    I am interested in the fly fishing, I need this type of hobbies to help with mindfulness.

    1. Johnny Walker    

      Any Veteran with a service related disability, does not have to be combat related, is eligible.
      Not disabled? Would you like to get involved as a volunteer and help your fellow Vet? We would love to have you be a part of the program and team.

      Go to this link and find the program nearest you:
      https://projecthealingwaters.org/programs/locations/
      Click on your state.
      Next click on the link at the center of the three options. The button will say something similar to “South Central Programs” or “Tennessee Valley Programs”. It will give you a listing of all of the programs in that region. Choose the one nearest you.

  14. John A Vorburger    

    I am a Vietnam vet. I served in the inland waterways of the Mekong Delta. I am a recipient of the Presidential Unit Citation, Navy Commendation, combat Action Ribbon. Is this program open to me?

    1. Johnny Walker    

      Any Veteran with a service related disability, does not have to be combat related, is eligible.
      Not disabled? Would you like to get involved as a volunteer and help your fellow Vet? We would love to have you be a part of the program and team.

      Go to this link and find the program nearest you:
      https://projecthealingwaters.org/programs/locations/
      Click on your state.
      Next click on the link at the center of the three options. The button will say something similar to “South Central Programs” or “Tennessee Valley Programs”. It will give you a listing of all of the programs in that region. Choose the one nearest you.

  15. John M. Trott    

    I live in California and there is no program from Healing Waters. However, my brother-in-law and sister-in-law are volunteers in the Maine program and they always tell me of the positive outcomes of their trips. If there is a program that you can join please do.

    Semper Fi
    John M. Trott

  16. Robert McKee    

    I do want to say that the guys at the Viera VA Healing waters saved my life. I was in very bad shape mentally. They brought me in and I learned fly tying, then rod building. I now have my own shop. Thank you Paul, AFL,
    John, and everyone else.

  17. Robert McKee    

    I tried to get help from vet Texas and never heard back from anyone. How do I get help? I have just been in a two prong battle, one with bladder cancer and the other with lung cancer. VA said no to agent orange involvement.

  18. Earl Cochran    

    I would like to go on a fly fishing trip.
    Cochrel@gmail.com

    Thank you

    1. Johnny Walker    

      Go to this link and find the program nearest you:
      https://projecthealingwaters.org/programs/locations/
      Click on your state.
      Next click on the link at the center of the three options. The button will say something similar to “South Central Programs” or “Tennessee Valley Programs”. It will give you a listing of all of the programs in that region. Choose the one nearest you.

  19. Brent Lichfield    

    I am a Vietnam era Vet but never was tip of the spear “in country” but served in europe as the war wound down. I would love to be involved to help my fellow Vets of any time of service or disability level. Am an advid fly fisherman, ty my own flies, and love the streams and lakes east of Salt Lake City Utah (Uinta Mountains). If I could help in any way please contact me at via email.

    1. Jerry Walker    

      Hello Brent,

      Project Healing Waters would love for you to join us, take a look at the following for a Program near you: https://projecthealingwaters.org/programs/locations/

      Respectfully,

    2. Johnny Walker    

      If you would you like to get involved as a volunteer and help your fellow go to this link and find the program nearest you:

      https://projecthealingwaters.org/programs/locations/
      Click on your state.
      Next click on the link at the center of the three options. The button will say something similar to “South Central Programs” or “Tennessee Valley Programs”. It will give you a listing of all of the programs in that region. Choose the one nearest you.

  20. Frank R. Peluso    

    Is this program open to all vets or just Wounded Warriors. I am a Vietnam Era veteran, was never in country.

    1. Johnny Walker    

      Any Veteran with a service related disability, does not have to be combat related, is eligible.
      Not disabled? Would you like to get involved as a volunteer and help your fellow Vet? We would love to have you be a part of the program and team.

      Go to this link and find the program nearest you:
      https://projecthealingwaters.org/programs/locations/
      Click on your state.
      Next click on the link at the center of the three options. The button will say something similar to “South Central Programs” or “Tennessee Valley Programs”. It will give you a listing of all of the programs in that region. Choose the one nearest you.

  21. Ron Golden    

    Is this program available in Vancouver Washington

  22. Edward Keith Randall Sr.    

    I am a service connected disabled vet. I would love to learn to fly fish. Will my wife ode be able to join with me.

    1. Jerry Walker    

      Hello Edward Keith Randall Sr.,

      Project Healing Waters would love for you to join us, take a look at the following for a Program near you: https://projecthealingwaters.org/programs/locations/

      Respectfully,

  23. Franklin Lee Ravenell    

    I would like to join Vet Tix

    1. Tommy Collum    

      Send me your name address and branch of service and I will send you a referral. All you have to do is fill it out and send it to vet tix.
      My email is nej7913@hotmail.com

  24. Ellwood Greiner    

    I am a Disabled Vietnam Veteran who do I get a hold of to go Fly Fishing and to see baseball games I live in OCEAN ISLE BEACH NC

  25. Rod Schultz    

    A big thank you to all that care enough to offer such programs!

  26. Richard Long    

    Sounds good to me. How do I sign up with the next classes.

  27. Sharon    

    Hi. I would like to participate if possible.
    Thanks,

    Please email me.

  28. Jule Ray Westcott    

    AZ is worse, 100% disabled veterans don’t get property tax exemptions. Most of the western states give that exemption. My state reps won’t even return my calls like rep Blackman

    1. Jeff in Phoenix    

      Send a comm to SEN McSally or even Sinema.

  29. Terry L Betts    

    Project Healing Waters has been phenomenal. I started out at the VA Hospital in Portland Oregon. My first fishing trip, I was given a rod and reel. One of the volunteers spent the entire day working one on one with me teaching me how to cast. Before I left Portland, I took part in a three day fishing trip at a private resort. The highlight was catching a 14 inch brook trout. Just to show how great the volunteers are, on that trip I was talking to a volunteer about the problems with seeing the line up close. He took the magnifier he had on the brim of his hat and told me to try it out. At the end of the day I went to hand it back to him, telling him how well it worked. He said, “Great. Keep it.” They have just started a program close to me in Florida and I am looking forward to being a part of Project Healing Waters again.

  30. Fred Zenz    

    I went on a similar program a few years ago.
    It was started by a veteran, Jeff Butler, a national park ranger on the Namakogam River in Northern Wisconsin! I made many great friends on that trip! Jeff is one of the
    best!

  31. Walter Burandt    

    I am interested I fly fishing

    1. Johnny Walker    

      Any Veteran with a service related disability, does not have to be combat related, is eligible.
      Not disabled? Would you like to get involved as a volunteer and help your fellow Vet? We would love to have you be a part of the program and team.

      Go to this link and find the program nearest you:
      https://projecthealingwaters.org/programs/locations/
      Click on your state.
      Next click on the link at the center of the three options. The button will say something similar to “South Central Programs” or “Tennessee Valley Programs”. It will give you a listing of all of the programs in that region. Choose the one nearest you.

  32. Walter Burandt    

    I am interested in learning more about your program.

    1. Johnny Walker    

      Any Veteran with a service related disability, does not have to be combat related, is eligible.
      Not disabled? Would you like to get involved as a volunteer and help your fellow Vet? We would love to have you be a part of the program and team.

      Go to this link and find the program nearest you:
      https://projecthealingwaters.org/programs/locations/
      Click on your state.
      Next click on the link at the center of the three options. The button will say something similar to “South Central Programs” or “Tennessee Valley Programs”. It will give you a listing of all of the programs in that region. Choose the one nearest you.

  33. Kenneth Cassar    

    I would love to be a part of this

    Thanks

    1. Johnny Walker    

      Any Veteran with a service related disability, does not have to be combat related, is eligible.
      Not disabled? Would you like to get involved as a volunteer and help your fellow Vet? We would love to have you be a part of the program and team.

      Go to this link and find the program nearest you:
      https://projecthealingwaters.org/programs/locations/
      Click on your state.
      Next click on the link at the center of the three options. The button will say something similar to “South Central Programs” or “Tennessee Valley Programs”. It will give you a listing of all of the programs in that region. Choose the one nearest you.

  34. James T Knisley    

    Bristol Bay Lodge in Dillingham Alaska is looking for a fly fishing guide from now until early September.

  35. Dennis Zulewski    

    Are there any free fly fishing classes in Florida ????

  36. matthew webb    

    I’m an oif vet. Have never been good at fishing. Would love to learn

    1. Johnny Walker    

      Any Veteran with a service related disability, does not have to be combat related, is eligible.
      Not disabled? Would you like to get involved as a volunteer and help your fellow Vet? We would love to have you be a part of the program and team.

      Go to this link and find the program nearest you:
      https://projecthealingwaters.org/programs/locations/
      Click on your state.
      Next click on the link at the center of the three options. The button will say something similar to “South Central Programs” or “Tennessee Valley Programs”. It will give you a listing of all of the programs in that region. Choose the one nearest you.

  37. curt roeber    

    Rah, Rah You make it sound so nice. Fact is, my VA won’t give me the Med’s I need for my diabetis so my kidneys will continue to fail until I die. Just so they can show they stay below budget or some such BS, VA is the only place that the pharmacy overrules 2 doctors. SO SAD

    1. Johnny Walker    

      Any Veteran with a service related disability, does not have to be combat related, is eligible.
      Not disabled? Would you like to get involved as a volunteer and help your fellow Vet? We would love to have you be a part of the program and team.

      Go to this link and find the program nearest you:
      https://projecthealingwaters.org/programs/locations/
      Click on your state.
      Next click on the link at the center of the three options. The button will say something similar to “South Central Programs” or “Tennessee Valley Programs”. It will give you a listing of all of the programs in that region. Choose the one nearest you.

  38. Donald Clayton    

    In the state of Michigan WHO love us veterans NOT you have to be 1005 service connected to get a dime of help from them!!!!!

    1. James A Johnson    

      Move to AR. I’m 100% and I pay zero property taxes, no personal property taxes, lifetime fish/hunt license for $35, truck tags ~ $20. And if you ask discounts at many stores.

Comments are closed.