Everyone in my circle knows I got my start with Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing. I owe so much to this organization. So much. Every year at the end of April, the weekend before final exams I might add, PHWFF has a tournament called the 2-Fly Tournament. Two man teams are allows two flies each that have to last them a whole day. Wrong choices, can’t switch. Lose em, you’re done. It behooves you to chose carefully and fish even more carefully.
I started out at PHWFF fishing in the pro/vet category back in the day. I’ve since then moved into the pro/pro category. So after a hard week at work and school, I felt a relief knowing that it was the 2-Fly weekend. This was the 8th year for the tournament. Every one of those years, the tourney has been held at the Rose River Farm. The property is owned by PHWFF Chairman of the Board of Trustees Douglas Dear. The beautiful Madison County private stream section has wild rainbows, wild browns, wild brookies, and stocked jumbo rainbows. It is truly a fun place to fish.
My favorite thing about this tournament is seeing the amazing friends I’ve met and meeting new ones. Every year Lisa and I leave in time to be at the dinner the night before the tournament. This year I wanted to get there early. The farm has stocked ponds and I wanted to at least let Emma Jo play around a bit with her rod. But this year the weekend would be intense to say the least. With one more child in tow, I called my mama in for reinforcements. She gladly accepted, and we began the road trip.
After leaving an hour behind schedule, we were on the road. Of course, we had to take plenty of rest stops with the most car sick prone child in the history of road trips. But we had fun with it. Check out those thighs. Pre-term ain’t got nothin on homeboy.
We got to the farm and went straight to the bass pond. We were on short time, so I kinda just let her do her thing.
Wyatt was enjoyin the view.
We practiced some forward casts.
We practiced some roll casts, which she is excellent at to be under 3 years old. When teaching your kid to fly fish, eye protection is recommended…..
When they wanna play with rocks or something else, let them. You don’t wanna shove fishing down their throat and make them hate it.
And when they say, “Me do it daddy”, let em do it.
Fellow DDF guide David Sisson joined me at the dinner. We usually fish the tournament together every year. The night was filled with catching up with and meeting new friends. My old buddy Andrew tried to tame crazy baby man.
And of course, running around after Emma Jo. One thing, besides the great keynote speakers each year, are testimonies from 3-4 participants on what exactly PHWFF has done for them. This is one of those things that produces a lot of sobs from the crowd. The vivid storytelling of each soldier and where they were vs. where they are now is always a special thing. After all that, we went back to the hotel and called it a night.
The next mornin we got some grub and coffee and headed to the farm. Everybody fished their beats and checked out the scores afterwards. We had a tough mornin, but were still sittin okay. My “friend” Ed Felker thought it would be cute to mess with my OCD. Ed is clearly immature for his very old age.
Before the second round, I had a mission that had been in the works for a long time. It involved me, a pond, and a Hobie Pro Angler. That’s right, MirageDrive foot pedal. I hate not being able to go out in a reservoir, pond, or even some river water without being rowed by a buddy. I want to be able to take myself out. But a regular oar setup is just not safe or efficient for me. Enter Cory Routh of Ruthless Outdoor Adventures. The man to see if you’re a kayaker in VA. Cory is a long supporter of veterans and other disabled people. He is just an all-around good dude. He promised to have one at the tournament for me to take out. To say this was amazing would be an understatement. This thing moves water! For the first time in a long time, I felt like I could do something I haven’t been able to do anymore. That doesn’t happen often. So when it does, I soak it in. Needless to say, I’ve already started saving up.
We went on to fish the second beat as Lisa and the crew arrived at the farm. She really wasn’t feeling good, but came to our beat anyways. My mama, who I consider just as responsible as my father for ensuring I was able to fish as a kid, had actually never seen me catch a fish one armed in person. They stayed a while, but we were struggling on our beat. Lisa had to head home before I could get one on the line. As they were walking away, I had a hook up. It was pretty nice to have her see me catch one finally, even at 30 years old. So they headed home for real this time. I won’ t lie; it made me quite nervous knowing those two women were driving my truck home. After taking her to the emergency room the next day, it turned out to be pneumonia just as Lisa said. Awesome, right? That’s some serious support right there.
Since Lisa hadn’t been feeling good and was busy trying to keep up with the kids, I don’t really have a lot of pictures. But Ed sent me some to include in this post, so the remaining pics are all ones he took. This first one of Emma Jo saying thanks is possibly my favorite picture ever with her.
Here’s a pic Ed took of me in the water during the second beat.
After our second beat, we headed to the tent with everyone for the total amount raised and the winners in each category. Ed caught me and my friend Harold in some deep thought….
We had to get the group photo outta the way.
David and I managed to squeak by with a 3rd place finish.
Over $200k was raised this year at the event! Unbelievable support! Being a participant back in 2006 healed me in more ways than one. But volunteering is possibly even more rewarding. It’s that feeling you get when you see someone, that’s in the darkest part of their life, smile that genuine smile. I really do love the comradery that comes with this organization. It’s something hard to explain, just as the brotherhood in the military is. Fortunately, some of the dear friends I’ve gained are close enough to me for long weekends. Can’t wait til next year!