Thursday, September 6, 2012

Project Healing Waters was founded in 2005 and has expanded to sponsor more than 100 outings nationwide each year. The recent event in Maryland — a tournament dubbed “Stars and Stripers” — included both fly fishermen and light-tackle anglers pursuing striped bass in open waters. Most often the group’s outings are dedicated to fly fishing in trout streams and small rivers.

“The saying goes that trout don’t live in ugly places,” said David Folkerts, the group’s plans and operations manager. “That’s so true. You’re in beautiful places and it’s just a calming and relaxing effect, both psychologically and physically.”
Trout may not live in ugly place, but Striped Bass sure do sometimes...

Folkerts is one of only a handful of full-time paid staffers, but he got his start with the group as a participant. He was newly commissioned and on his first deployment to Iraq in 2005 when an IED hit his dismounted patrol, ravaging the left side of his body. At Walter Reed, he was approached about Project Healing Waters.

“At the time, my left hand was still paralyzed and I thought it’d be too difficult to try and I didn’t want to fail at something,” said Folkerts, who was medically retired in 2008. “They kept on bothering me to come out and try it. I did and I learned how to cast and learned how to manage a line and do what I need to do to fish. I went on my first outing and caught a fish and it was all over. I fell in love with it.”
Wish-A-Fish, 2003
Many of the recreational fisherman I know are veterans, and most would like an opportunity to participate in such a program if it were held within a reasonable distance.

Another similar program that I have participated in that is similar is "Wish-A-Fish", a program for getting special needs children and their families out for a day of fishing.  My boat is a touch small, but Charlie and I have taken his boat to Solomons several times, when Wish-A-Fish was having events in Solomons.  The kids are always quite taken with the boat ride, and sometimes even with the fishing. 

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