Nonprofit teaches veterans to fly fish

Veterans Voices

DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – A nonprofit organization is helping disabled veterans heal through fly fishing. Here in the Miami Valley and across the country, Project Healing Waters teaches the sport to veterans for free.

Project Healing Waters teaches veterans how to fly fish and build their own rods. Several veterans we spoke with say it has made a big difference.

Tamie Chapman served in the Air Force for 12 years as a jet engine mechanic. At one point, she fell from a maintenance stand and broke her back. She says regular fishing can be a challenge but fly fishing is much easier.

“There’s nothing better than catching one on a fly you tied on a rod you built,” she says. “It helps your mental attitude. My children have noticed a difference, my family have noticed a difference.”

Chapman has been active with Project Healing Waters for five years. Organizers say the program is open to active duty servicemembers in treatment or veterans with some form of disability.

“When you fish like this. You’re captivated. You think of nothing else,” said Project Lead Nathan Via.

Officials with the Dayton VA Medical Center say they make sure veterans of any physical ability can participate – even those who are legally blind.

“We’ve had veterans through this program that have had PTSD, some with depression, some that have suffered strokes,” says Karla Riste, Occupational Therapist with the Dayton VA.

For Chapman, there’s more to Project Healing Waters than fly fishing.

“We’re all veterans, and we understand each other. And these guys start out as fishing buddies, but they’re pretty much family now,” she said.

Project Healing Waters runs classes and outings all year round, and if you’d like to get involved or donate, click here for more information.

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