April 24, 2014 6:00 am • By Brian Gehring
Last week I had an interesting conversation with a fellow from Maryland, a Vietnam vet named Ed Nicholson.
He called me to talk about fishing — more specifically, fly fishing.
Nicholson told me that about a dozen years ago, while he was in Walter Reed Medical Center undergoing treatment for cancer, he got to know quite a few injured military members and disabled veterans.
Among his duties in 30 years of U.S. Navy service, Nicholson commanded a destroyer and a frigate along with a tour in the Mekong Delta.
Nicholson said he was introduced to fly fishing in 1982 while training in Idaho Falls, Idaho, and as the saying goes, he was hooked for life.
It was during his treatment at Walter Reed, he said, that he got to know some of our returning soldiers who were wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In 2005, Nicholson founded the Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing organization, a nonprofit group that uses fly fishing to help vets heal emotionally and spiritually.
Nicholson said the
organization has more than 150 chapters in 49 states, with North Dakota being the only state without one.
Nicholson said his group teams up with local fly fishing clubs willing to provide volunteers and organize the program and a VA medical facility that will host the program.
He called me to see if I had any contacts with fly fishing groups in the state. Aside from a story on the Missouri River Fly Fishers, I told him that I wasn’t aware of any other organized clubs.
“Why is that?” he asked.
As I was on the phone with him, I mentioned the fact that the wind blowing 25-30 mph might have something to do with it.
While I have fished with a fly rod in the past, it’s been more than a few years and I am by no stretch of the imagination very experienced.
When I went, I had the good fortune of having a couple of people who knew what they were doing showing me the ropes.
Nicholson said that characterizes his group perfectly. The organization provides basic fly fishing instruction: fly-casting, fly-tying and rod-building classes, along with clinics for people with a lot of experience or none at all.
All equipment is provided to the participants at no cost, as are the fishing trips themselves.
Nicholson said for the veterans who are involved, they have found a sport that is relaxing and calming.
“But the real value is the relationships that have been built,” he said.
If there is a group or groups in North Dakota interested in finding out more about Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing and becoming involved with it, you can reach me at 701-250-8254 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Or visit http://bit.ly/1rg50x2.
Reach reporter Brian Gehring at 701-250-8254 or email@example.com.