The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

February 18, 2013

Project Healing Waters

VA program helps veterans heal

By Wendy Holdren
Register-Herald Reporter

— Veterans at the Beckley VA Medical Center are working with the Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing program to assemble their very own fly fishing rods, which is both a fun and therapeutic activity.

VA Public Affairs Officer Debbie Voloski said this is the first year veterans have been able to build their own fishing rod, but they have participated in the fly casting and basic fly fishing classes before.

She said last year, one veteran told her that the fly casting class truly saved his life.

“He had felt isolated, which is a common problem among our Vietnam veterans.”

But being out there on the water, sharing a harmonious experience with other fly fishermen, greatly helped him reconnect, Voloski said.

Program coordinator David Hansford said the Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing (PHWFF) started in 2005 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and has since expanded to over 140 programs in the country.

The program ranges from basic fly fishing for beginners who have never fished before, to those with prior fishermen who are trying to improve on their skills.

All fly fishing equipment is provided to the veterans at no cost, and many participants can go on fishing trips to test out their skills, also at no cost.

Volunteers teach these courses on an on-going, long-term basis.

“The socialization and camaraderie of the classes are just as important as the fishing outings. There is also a thrill about testing yourself against the trout.”

Hansford said money is raised for this project through the national organization and Trout Unlimited is also a sponsor.

Trout Unlimited sends many volunteers to go alongside the vets on their fishing trips to provide a one-on-one experience.

Hansford said the program truly is a “healing” one and it has grown immensely.

He said he hopes to see more female warriors join PHWFF, but many females are a part of a group called “Casting for a Cure,” which supports breast cancer research and funding.

“It’s a good experience and if a veteran is interested, just contact the Recreational Therapy Department here at the VA Medical Center.”

For more information about Project Healing Waters, visit

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