The water was absolutely beautiful, but of course, it was supposed to be. The eight veterans and their guides were standing upon the bank of the famed Willowemoc – just downstream from the exact spot that George LaBranche, author of "The Dry Fly and Fast Water”, in 1904 cast his Pink Lady into history.
Not that the hallowed history of the place mattered much to the vets – they were riveted by the beauty of the day and the opportunity cast a fly through the feeding lanes of the trout that were said to inhabit the stream.
The veterans were invited to experience the waters of “The Willow” by the members of the DeBruce Fly Fishing Club, whose forty or so members enjoy the peace, beauty, and superb fishing that the Willowemoc provides. Past members of this exclusive conclave have included respected fishing writers Sparse Grey Hackle, Nick Lyons, Dick Salmon, Howard Walden and Ed Zern. Today’s guests were perhaps not as notable, but no less deserving.
Club president Allan Virginia, and fellow member Evvy Goyanes, reached out to our Veterans Service Partnership with the offer – requesting that we assemble a few local vets for a day on the water. Filling the slots was no problem, as every community in America has its share of veterans. Those that turned out included veterans affiliated with the Croton Valley, Mid-Hudson, and Columbia Green TU chapters.
Some of the vets had enjoyed the sport of fly fishing in the past; some had drowned a worm or two, and two of them had never fished before. All were eager and as soon as the beats were assigned, they and their personal guides hit the stream and by lunch time most of the vets had landed a trout or two and all of them had had fish on. The smiles were blinding and by dinner time, which was hosted by a local fine eatery, their stories and their details probably grew by a few inches, proving that they were all now experienced trout fishermen.
After a good night’s rest in the bunkhouses graciously provided by the Catskills Fly Fishing Center and Museum, the vets were in for another treat. Our hosts at the Debruce club had arranged for the vets to spend the day on the Beaverkill as guests of the neighboring Beaverkill Trout Club. With a history dating back to 1872, their club, like the DeBruce Club, has a storied past leading to the birth of dry fly fishing in America.
The Beaverkill proved to be equally productive to the Willowemoc, and by the end of the day all had landed some very nice trout. In fact, one of the guys who had never fished before led the way with four very nice rainbows.
Our Veterans Service Partnership, which was formally established in January of 2011, is building a rich history of providing healing, hope and rehabilitation to our nation’s disabled veterans. Through our Fly Fishing 101 programs; our fly tying instructions and sessions; our rod building classes and our outings, over 1,000 TU members brought the healing power of the water to approximately 1,000 disabled veterans last year. Through our independent programs and our partnerships with Project Healing Waters and others, our members provided the manpower to deliver nearly 50,000 hours to the cause. And to intentionally misquote a certain politician, “It doesn’t take a village” to do this. All it takes are a few chapter members willing to extend a hand to a deserving veteran.
Protecting … the honor of recovering soldiers
Reconnecting … veterans to the healing power of nature
Restoring … dignity, health and confidence to disabled veterans
Sustaining … it all through engagement with our members