Vets Find Solace at the End of a Fly Rod

Feb 13, 2013 11:41 PM

Returning from the battlefield to everyday life can be a difficult, even seemingly insurmountable to some. But a new program is helping vets through the art of fly fishing.

For anyone that has been fly fishing, they know it's a calming and therapeutic experience. But for these vets, the joy lasts far beyond the last fish.

When she was growing up, Jessie Oliff used to fly fish with her father and grandfather all of the time.

"When I got my traumatic brain injury, I never thought I would be able to do it again," said Jessie.

As a Sergent in the Army, Jessie suffered a stroke after being hit in the head with shrapnel. Now she only has use of one arm.

"I did not think I was going to be able to ever do something like this but then they take you out here and you get to do it," said Jessie.

With the help of friends and the use of a special adaptive reel, she returned to her old ways on Wednesday, catching a nine pound trophy trout.

"I catched it and it was just massive and it was crazy and it was amazing, I have never caught a fish like this before and I never thought I would be able to and it was just a great feeling," said Jessie, who was one of a handful of vet's that caught some normalcy on the end of a fly line Wednesday.

"Oh the experience is wonderful.. I could not ask for a better day, better fish, it is just a thrill of my life," said Navy Veteran Todd Cooper.

"Its helping you know... it gets me out of the house and keeps my mind occupied an my hands busy," said Marine Veteran John Cleary.

That's exactly why Project Healing Waters was started.

"I think I see a big change in a lot of these guys, the guys come in especially with PTSD and they are quiet... I have seen a lot of guys that have really changed now," said Steven Spry, with the Redding Chapter of Project Healing Waters.

Katie Harris owns the lakes and is a life long angler herself. She sees how fishing can help vets re-learn old skills.

"You have to really stay patient and stay strong and you have to rise to the challenge and begin trying to figure out what the fish are eating and to be successful," said Harris.

Skills that Jessie Oliff now treasures.

"It kinda brings you back and kinda finally makes you feel like you have some control back," said Jessie.

Project Healing Waters started in 2005 in hopes of helping out vets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. In the years since, it's done just that.


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