The local chapter of Project Healing Waters Fly-Fishing (www.projecthealingwaters.org) hosted a veterans fishing outing on Cherokee’s trout waters this past weekend for more than 20 veterans. Veterans from as far as Camp Lejeune traveled many miles to participate in the first annual “Christmas Classic” before winter’s bite set in.
Armed with fly rods, waders and super small artificial flies, the vets and local guides chased after the Oconaluftee and Raven Fork’s skittish trout on both Saturday and Sunday, stopping only for lunch and to change flies.
The event was based at River’s Edge fly shop in Cherokee with Robert Blankenship, of the Cherokee Fish and Game Management, providing exceptional water and fishing conditions. Saturday’s fishing was slower than normal due to cold winter water temperatures, but everyone hooked at least one, with a few over 20 inches coming to the net. The Steve Youngdeer American Legion Post 143 let the veterans use their hall for the Saturday evening dinner, with Harrison’s providing the catering.
Fishing commenced again on Sunday with overcast skies, but fish were once again caught. After many heartfelt best wishes, handshakes, and promises to stay in touch, the veterans and their guides began the long journeys home. The support from River’s Edge and Robert Blankenship was invaluable and PHWFF cannot thank you enough.
Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing (“PHWFF”) is a national organization that uses the healing powers of our streams and fly fishing to help disabled veterans. Founded in 2005, there are over 100 chapters in the United States and Canada, including the local Western North Carolina chapter. PHWFF events include fly-fishing on local waters, and hosting fly tying events as well. Participants often enjoy the camaraderie of being around fellow veterans as much as the actual fishing and tying events. For more information about upcoming PHWFF events and how you can help support this great program, email the local contacts at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (828) 550-8487.
– Robert Blankenship, Cherokee Fish and Game Management