U.S. Marine Corps veteran Lawrence Diggins beamed as he stepped away from the casting box. His series of well executed fly casts had just secured his victory in the inaugural Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing (PHWFF) National Fly Casting Competition.  Diggins, who traveled from Long Beach, CA, joined 12 PHWFF regional champions to put their casting skills to the test in this fun contest at the Fly Fishers International Fair in Boise, Idaho on August 8 -12, 2018. Joining Lawrence Diggins on the winner’s podium were Henry Stockman of the Chattanooga, TN Program taking second place and Val Roberts of the Denver, CO Program in third.

View photos and video at the bottom of the post

The Casting Competition was made possible by a grant from the Bob Woodruff Foundation (BWF).  BWF leverages its expertise and collaborative network to find, fund and shape innovative programs that help our impacted veterans, service members and their families thrive. Receiving a grant from BWF is an honor that recognizes the dedication, focus and effectiveness of our staff, volunteers and supporters.

Developed alongside Fly Fishers International (FFI) in 2017, the competition aims to bring fly fishing and it’s proven therapeutic elements to more disabled veterans who can benefit from it. Fly casting instruction and education is one of the four core elements of the PHWFF Program alongside fly tying, fly rod building, and fly fishing outings.  In 2017 alone, PHWFF programs facilitated 1,775 fly casting classes across the country and served 8,470 disabled veteran participants.  The Inaugural Fly Casting Competition joined the popular Fly Tying Competition and Rod Building Competition as growing annual events within the PHWFF organization.

The Casting Competition began in May 2018 with 38 PHWFF programs participating.  Each program crowned a veteran casting champion who moved on to compete for the regional title and the opportunity to advance to the finals.  The regional champions who competed in Boise, ID were :  Jeremy Bristol (Northern New York), Gary Herber (Georgia/South Carolina), Henry Stockman (TN Valley), Jim Moore (Northwest), Lawrence Diggins (Southwest), Marcos Rios (Alaska), Michael Elliot (West Virginia), Rod MacLean (North Carolina), Steve Licata (Heartland), Tony Escalona (Virginia), Val Roberts (Rocky Mountain South), and Benjamin Dolby (Pennsylvania).

In addition to the competition, the Fly Fishers International Fair offered a wide range of educational and angling opportunities for the regional champions such as casting workshops and seminars.  At the end of these fun filled days, special guests Todd Desgrosseilliers, CEO and President of PHWFF, and Medal of Honor recipient Donald “Doc” Ballard presented the awards during a ceremony also attended by FFI leadership and Dr. Meg Harrell and Samuel Holmes of the Bob Woodruff Foundation.

The goal of the PHWFF National Fly Casting Competition is to improve the casting ability of our disabled veteran participants and the inaugural year was a great success!  It cast a lifeline to the disabled veteran participants of Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing.

The 2nd Annual PHWFF Fly Casting Competition Finals will be held July, 2019 in Bozeman, Montana.

SPECIAL THANKS

  • The Bob Woodruff Foundation, Dr. Meg Harrell, and Sam Holmes for their support of this inaugural competition and continued support of PHWFF.
  • Fly Fishers International and Len Zickler for their tremendous partnership.
  • Carole Katz and all those who helped with organizing, judging, and running the National Casting Competition finals in Boise, ID.
  • Donald “Doc” Ballard for his inspiration, support, and great spirit.

 

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