5th Annual Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing - 2 Fly event
September 24, 2014
10 years ago, I lost my best friend and ?brother-from-another-mother?. Dustin Sides was a Marine with the 9th Communications Battalion stationed in Iraq. He had just finished a mission and was headed back to base when his unit was ambushed. Several Marines were injured; however Dustin gave the ultimate sacrifice for his country and fellow Marines. I remember the day that I was notified like it was yesterday. I was overtaken with disbelief, dread, sorrow, and pain. At that point, I took it upon myself to always let it be known to the ones that DO make it home, that their sacrifices, large and small, won?t go unseen. There are so many people coming back, traumatized either physically or emotionally, and it?s our duty as Americans to support and help them?we literally owe our lives to them.
This past weekend I was given the opportunity to volunteer my time and guide 2 veterans for an event called the Project Healing Waters, 2 fly competition. ?Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing, Inc. is dedicated to the physical and emotional rehabilitation of disabled active military service personnel and disabled veterans through fly fishing and associated activities including education and outings.? http://www.projecthealingwaters.org/
Rundown of the event:
Essentially, you have a ?vet? in the boat, as well as a ?volunteer? that could also be a veteran, but those titles are different based on how scores are calculated. Each angler picks 2 of the same flies that they want to use for that day. If one fly is lost, they can use the second, however if both are lost, they can take a third, but will be penalized with removing their largest fish from their scorecard in exchange for the backup fly. At the end of the day, there are 3 categories that are scored:
1. Largest fish for a vet.
2. Largest fish for a volunteer.
3. Most fish for the boat.
This year, the basecamp was stationed at the KOA in Ellensburg and hosted all of the contestants, volunteers, and guides for the weekend. Fantastic food was prepared (smoked prime rib, baked beans, cheesy mashed, and cobbler courtesy of Jerry Daschofsky), thousands of dollars in door prizes were given out, and fun was had by all! This was my first year participating, however it will NOT be my last. Chuck and Jerry put on a pretty amazing event and I would highly recommend anyone that might be interested in volunteering, to check it out. If you?re unable make the event next year, but would still like to help, you might look into donating a couple bucks or some gear to the organization. Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing ? Northwest Region Facebook page or you can email Chuck Tye, Regional Coordinator at email@example.com
There were 23 boats on the water ranging from the farmlands down to Roza. Rowers included your average weekend fishermen to professional guides. Some threw dry flies, while others took the nymph route. Some boats netted 1 fish, some netted 20, but everyone, even if for just 5 hours, concentrated ONLY on catching fish. The sun was hot, the water was low and clear, and fishing was downright difficult. My anglers and I ended up floating from Lluma to Mahre?s corner. We literally didn?t touch a fish for the first hour or so, and it wasn?t for a lack of trying. Only being able to select 2 fly patterns puts the anglers at a severe disadvantage. Sometimes the fish just key in on a certain bug and if you didn?t anticipate that bug, you may be out of luck, which is precisely what I think happened for some of the boats. Our fly however managed to allow us 8 fish to the net, which wasn?t too bad given how the fishing started out. We had to target good seams and run more than one drift over them to be successful. One side channel in particular produced 4 fish, one of which ended up winning the ?largest fish for a vet? and taped at 18?. Even given the tough fishing conditions, I was occasionally reminded by my angler, ?Where are you? Not in an office my friend, it?s a great day!? And he was right, it was a great day!
With these low and clear conditions, don?t be afraid to park the boat and wade-fish some of the good looking runs/seams. Reduce the size of your indicator to detect the subtle strikes and go small with your flies. Our selected fly was the anato may, however other anglers did well on smaller/sparser flies such as the Psycho mayfly. Also, if you?re not restricted by only fishing 1 fly pattern, look for the risers. Throughout the day, we were haunted by the occasional rise, mid-river, and you can bet if we could have, we would have switched it up and chased them in a heartbeat.
Lastly, I challenge you to become involved somehow with helping our veterans out. They were and will continue to be there for us, now it?s our turn to repay the favor. Fish on!