More than 38 million Americans hunt and fish, and 3.83 million of them are fly anglers. Of this group, 32% of fly anglers are fly fishermen. And now, scores of war veterans are joining the ranks, pulling on their wader boots, grabbing their fly fishing equipment and jumping in.
In Anchorage, Alaska, a new program has been started to teach veterans fly fishing skills to help them overcome physical and mental obstacles associated with combat trauma.
The program, called Project Healing Waters, is aimed at veterans and active duty servicemen. They group veterans together, and through the therapeutic motions of fly fishing, the men and women can bond as a group. They talk through their different psychological and physical ailments, and doing this makes everyone feel comfortable knowing that someone else is going through the same situation.
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder is one affliction experienced by the majority of the veterans. Participants in the program love to take part in fly fishing because it puts their mind elsewhere. Whenever they are stressed out or experiencing flashbacks, the veterans take their skills learned at Healing Waters to calm themselves down and focus on the bigger picture.
They also attribute the calming effects fly tying has on their mind when they are having a particularly bad moment. Fly tying is the process of making the artificial fly fishers use, and it requires concentration. The instructor compares mastering fly tying to swinging a golf club, where you do it right once, then you want to get better and better.
Additionally, the veterans attribute this program to being similar to finding a religion. It has been a form of salvation, something to look forward to, and a way to make friends who understand exactly what it is like to return home from combat.
Who knew fly fishing had the power to change lives?
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