In March of 2011, John heard of a national tie-a-thon that was tying flies for PHWFF. He pledged to send 200 flies for that event but kept tying until he reached 1,500 flies. He liked the idea of tying flies for disabled veterans and contacted our organization. He was invited to visit to the Project Healing Waters classes nearest his home to meet the disabled veterans who would benefit from his flies. He did and he hasn’t stopped coming in the years since that first introductory meeting.
John Woodling has tied more than 17,000 flies for Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing since March 2011. 17,000 flies. That works out to a retail value of $34,000. His flies are praised for being those that every fisherman must have in his fly box. Each box is precisely arranged and many have commented that his boxes are arranged so perfectly that it would be a shame to remove any of the flies.
In addition to filling the fly boxes of many veterans in the Long Beach PHWFF program, boxes of his flies have been sent to the 2-Fly Tournament and fundraising events in the Southwest Region to be used as raffle or auction items. A single box of his perfect flies typically brings in more than $400 in raffle sales and has gone as high as $950. Over the years, his boxes of flies have netted us thousands of dollars to aid in our mission.
John served in the Navy in the South Pacific during World War II as a radio operator. In his 80’s now, he volunteered to lead the fly tying classes for Long Beach PHWFF for two years. John planned every class, provided all the materials and made handouts for each veteran participant. He has never asked to be reimbursed for any materials – not for the classes or the flies he has donated.
With a background as a highly regarded competitive swimming coach at both the collegiate and club level and having coached several Olympic Trials qualifiers and national level swimmers, John is well-suited to teaching. He helps with all weekly classes: fly fishing basics, fly tying, fly casting, and rod building. He is a quiet, humble, patient hand with a very soothing personality – a gentleman – who is respected and loved by all the volunteers and veterans in our program.
Southwest Regional Coordinator Carole Katz presented the Patriot Award to John Woodling on June 13 for his tireless and extraordinary service to Project Healing Waters and to those wounded warriors and disabled veterans whom this organization serves.