18 April 2011

Project Healing Waters at Jess Ranch Lakes

If you haven't yet heard of Project Healing Waters or seen someone who's life fly fishing has changed, it's time to do some reading.  That power has been around for many hundreds of years but more recently it  has taken on a new form.  Project Healing Waters started in 2005 with the intent to help disabled veterans heal physically and emotionally through fly fishing and fly tying education and outings.  PHW now offers itself to veterans at over 70 medical centers and Veteran Affairs hospitals.

PHW rod tube holding the hopes and efforts of one of the veterans.
I have recently become involved with PHW functioning at the VA in Long Beach, CA through the Long Beach Casting Club.  As I entered the program the vets were half way through building their own fly rods.  The rods flaunted decorative ties, rod seats and handles, many paying tribute to war time and country.  Each veteran had a rod to build and keep as an introduction to the world of fly fishing.  Just two weeks ago the rods were finished and some of them sent to Maryland for a national PHW rod building competition in a bid for best rod and a guided trip to Montana.

One vet's rod is a marked tribute.
For the second time in two years volunteers and veterans made the trip  to Jess Ranch Lakes, a hatchery in the high desert of Southern California with associated trout ponds .  Hi-Desert Fly Fishers catered the outing with food and drink, and helped many of the vets test their new gear.  Though the fish were big, I mean really big, it was a challenge to really test the rods.

A rainbow takes a look but won't be fooled.

A HI-DESERT angler ties on a new fly.

Like all good fishers we had our excuses ready, punctuated by some very exciting hook-ups and a netted fish now and again.  The excitement of being on the water made the low numbers quickly forgotten.  The peace, the friends and the focus on the water reduces what’s important to what’s in front of you.  The water becomes the focus, the fish are the goal, and what is not immediately around you becomes far, far away.
The biggest hook-up of the day doubles over a 6wt. rod.
It is harder now for someone to find the outdoors, to get out of the urban, the workplace, the hospital and go fishing.  PHW makes fishers out of war veterans and out of heros.  
The possibility of a large fish gets everyone on their feet.
You don’t have to have seen the perils of a war to know the power of fly-fishing.  It treats all of us the same.

Long Beach Chapter Project Healing Waters is ready now to start fly tying.  In September the vets will be traveling to Montana self-made and ready for world class trout, precious time on the water, and a trip they more than deserve.  To learn more about Project Healing Waters and  PHW at Long Beach visit:


  1. Excellent post! Do the PHW rods from TFO come with the stellar rod tube? If not, how do I obtain one and support PHW?

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