Guest post by Fly Rod Chronicles with Curtis Fleming. Watch the episode described below this Monday at 7:30 pm, Tuesday at 4:30 pm and Saturday at 1 am EST.
It all started at Walter Reed VA Hospital, and a man with a desire to help wounded warriors. “I’m just the idea man,” Captain Ed Nicholson said to Curtis Fleming, Host of Fly Rod Chronicles. The two were standing at the Project Healing Waters (PHW) Annual 2-Fly Tournament in Madison County, Virginia. The Rose River meandered behind them amplifying a constant soothing sound. About 100 soldiers and veterans are nearby and eager to hit the water and spend the day fly-fishing together.
You see, that’s what PHW is all about…Captain Ed Nicholson had a vision to use fly-fishing and fly-tying as the catalyst for the physical and emotional healing to America’s wounded warriors, and why not? What can be more relaxing and rewarding than fly-fishing? PHW gives the soldiers and veterans the opportunity to be with one another learning the art of fly-fishing. It gets them together much like a fraternity, and sooner or later they end up talking about their problems and healing together.
PHW is in its fifth year of operation, and its great success wouldn’t be possible without the thousands of volunteers (there are only four paid employees), and if you ask a PHW volunteer, they will probably tell you that they get as much out of the program as the soldiers and veterans. Without these great volunteers the 2-Fly Tournament and other events wouldn’t be possible.
The 2-Fly is a tournament setting, but there’s much more to it than catching fish. Robert Bartlett was the first wounded warrior to be in the program and he summed it up best when he said, “If you can get a guy that’s had four years of surgery out on the water to catch a trout and smile for a minute, well then maybe he can smile a little bit more the next day and the next.” PHW has helped many soldiers like Robert Bartlett get their life back.
Bartlett was blown up by an IED. “I died three times and came back,” he said with the scars of war all over his face and body. But Bartlett said that he “wouldn’t change anything…I’d go back and do it all over again. I was proud to serve my country and I met a lot of amazing people through PHW.”
Bartlett praised PHW for both helping him physically and emotionally. “I only have the one eye,” as he pulled his polarized sunglasses down, “so depth perception was a real big issue after the surgeries, but PHW got me out casting at fish, relearning how far away things are. Now I’m constantly casting at fish.” Bartlett was recently married and he said “A lot of us wouldn’t be married without PHW.”
Josh Williams, a wounded warrior who lost his left arm brought his wife to the event, and she was carrying their first child. He said that he has “came a long way” since his first day in PHW…Today you can buy William’s own fly patterns in Orvis shops everywhere.
PHW has touched a lot of lives and the Fifth Annual 2-Fly Tournament was a huge success as a fundraiser raising more than $150,000, but it was even a bigger achievement for all the wounded warriors and veterans. Everyone spent the day together on the Rose River not thinking about anything but the fish and the opportunity catch it on a fly-rod. The fraternity of PHW is amazing to see, and the effectiveness it has on wounded warriors is amazing. Everybody attending the 2-Fly that day experienced something special.
To see the amazing story and the soldiers in action make sure you tune into Fly Rod Chronicles August 8th at 7:30 PM. To find out how you can help soldiers get their life back visit ProjectHealingWaters.org