Anything Fly Fishing

Project Healing Waters: Fly Fishing – Myrtle Beach

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I have learned that heroes, as TV and Movies portray, only show one side of the story. We all enjoy and are entertained by tales of a hero who serves and protects, or a hero who is willing to lay down their life for family and friends and principles; one that fights for freedom, justice and the marginalized. But what happens to that hero when the fight is done? What happens if they are no longer physically or mentally able to defend and be the hero? What if their fight has left them wounded and without purpose? That’s not a story we are often told, but it should be.

Near the middle of March this year, Netflix added a movie to its platform titled Mending the Line. Overnight the film rocketed to the “Top 10” list and was the number 1 movie in the world being streamed on Netflix. I had heard of the movie about a year ago, but I did not watch it until its debut on Netflix. It could be argued that this film is the modern-age A River Runs Through It as I am sure it will once again send the sport of fly fishing on a skyrocketing trendline in popularity. However, the message behind Mending the Line is less about the beautiful places and casting to rising fish, and instead provides an exposé on the human condition and purpose of life. This film is not for the faint of heart, as the scenes are emotional, intense and even dark. But the film does an excellent job of showing that the sport of fly fishing calms and provides peace to the agitation and chaos that rests deep inside of us.

The story is told through the life of a soldier, whose battle in Afghanistan leaves him physically disabled and struggling for purpose. This is not just a story for entertainment value. This story is shared by men and women all over the world. There exists a therapeutic opportunity for those heroes whose fight follows them home. There is an organization that aids in restoration, healing, and redefining of purpose for those heroes who are lost or lacking community, and it is known as Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing. Here, the art of angling becomes a conduit for healing, resilience and camaraderie.

Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing, began in 2005. Their purpose was serving Wounded Military Service Members at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center upon their return from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since then, Project Healing Waters has expanded nationwide with the profound mission of supporting and rehabilitating our nation’s veterans through the therapeutic medium of fly fishing. These programs have been established in Department of Defense hospitals, Warrior Transition Units, and Veterans Affairs Medical Centers and Clinics. Project Healing Waters helps active military service personnel and veterans in need through a dedicated, developed curriculum of fly fishing, fly casting, fly tying, and fly rod building. As one of the leading nonprofits in the area of therapeutic outdoor recreation, Project Healing Waters is using the sport of fly fishing to provide a profound impact on those who have served and sacrificed.

One of the greatest rewards of my personal involvement with Project Healing Waters is the relationship formed between the veterans and myself, as a volunteer. Once a month I visit the Vet Center in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Our group is small, but it feels like family. The group is composed of veterans from different branches of the military. The joking and jawing about which branch is better is a hilarious paradox. Abroad they fight alongside one another, but back home they constantly rag one another. Since the first of this year, we have been building rods. From my first visit, the group welcomed me in and was excited I was there. I was offered to the chance join in and build a rod with the group, but honestly, I have enough fly rods as it is. But I did join in the casting practice in preparation for the annual casting competition.

Those of us who are avid anglers and spend time outdoors can speak to the restorative healing powers of nature. For the veterans and military participants, the camaraderie, connectedness, and community found in being a part of this organization provides an increased sense of belonging, resilience, and post traumatic growth. Within the structure of Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing, veterans can find a sanctuary that extends far beyond the banks of any river or the confines of a workshop. The benefits of engaging in fly fishing, fly casting, fly tying, and rod building are profound. Fly casting serves as a therapeutic exercise, fostering mindfulness and focus. As participants work to hone their angling skills, a natural meditative outlet is provided for veterans, offering respite from the challenges they may face. The art of fly tying immerses participants in a creative process, promoting a sense of accomplishment and self-expression. Additionally, the hands-on experience of rod building within the program instills a sense of ownership and connection to the tools of their newfound hobby as they construct personalized instruments for their angling pursuits. Together, these activities incorporated into the Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing program help to contribute a holistic approach to overall well-being. The benefits of being involved in this program are endless, and at times I feel like we as anglers need to step out of the river or boat and look back at the shore to see who we can serve. We might find that the joy of fishing is more enjoyed when it is shared with others!

For more information about Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing or local chapters to get involved with, they can be found on Instagram @phwff or online at

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