Trout Unlimited Cohutta Chapter Sponsors Veterans Fly Fishing Class
By Rob Hilkin
The Trout Unlimited Cohutta Chapter recently completed its third Veterans Fly Fishing Class. The four sessions were held at the Boys and Girls Club in Canton.
The class opened with a wounded warrior from Iraq sharing his experiences. He was seriously wounded in Iraq and nearly died. While he was recovering in the United States, his entire squad was killed by an improvised explosive device (IED). He went through some dark periods. The therapeutic value of fly fishing helped him climb back to the light and recover.
A previous student from the first class shared her experiences with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and how fly fishing has freed her of her anxiety attacks and difficulty with breathing.
Twelve veterans attended the classes. A certified casting instructor taught an hour of casting each class. Classroom activities included equipment needed, rods and reels, lines and leaders, entomology, fly-tying, knots used in fly fishing, common flies used, websites and YouTube resources, and safety. A well-known local author of multiple fly fishing books and an online fishing newsletter gave a presentation about fly fishing in Georgia. He ended his informative presentation by signing his latest fly fishing book.
On April 11, the class journeyed to the upper Etowah River for their on-the-water fly fishing experience. This is where the true magic of fly fishing happens. Seven of the veterans had never been on the water before. They each were assigned a guide from the Cohutta Chapter and coached on wading, safety and how to read the water. Over half of them had success and hooked up with a trout and felt the magic tug of the fly rod. Some felt a really big tug from a large rainbow trout in the beautiful waters.
The experience provided many smiles and heartfelt appreciation and the echo of “I’ll be back.” For the guides, it is a special memory they will always carry with them. This has been a life-changing event for some of the veterans and the beginning of a new interest and love of the outdoors and fly fishing. The beautiful mountains and clean trout streams are truly a great healer of the mind, body and spirit.
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