Meet the Winners: The 10th Annual Fly Tying Competition

We are pleased to announce the winners of the 10th Annual Project Healing Waters National Fly Tying Competition! Following an exciting Public Judging Round (during which over 1,200 votes were cast!), six finalists in each category proceeded to the Finals Round to be judged by an expert panel who determined 1st, 2nd & 3rd place in each category.

Now in its 10th year, the Project Healing Waters Fly Tying Competition is focused on expanding the therapeutic experience for PHW Veteran participants by giving them the opportunity to showcase their fly tying skills and creativity in a fun contest.

MEET THE WINNERS

Category 1: Beginner

This category is for participants new to fly tying with 0 – 2 years of fly tying experience.

3rd Place

Shane Hallowell: Cupsuptic | PHW, Charleston SC

Cupsuptic by Shane Hallowell of PHW, Charleston SC

I am a veteran, father, fulltime student, and fulltime employee. I am a blessed with two beautiful little girls and amazing wife. I love the outdoors and believe in sharing nature with my girls. As a child, I was always out in the woods fishing and exploring which has not changed. Being able to pass on a love for the outdoors has always been important to me. I hope that by my actions, I can encourage my girls to want to do the same as they see my father and I sharing this experience through PHWFF.

There is a sense of calm and peacefulness you get when tying a fly with a sense of pride from the hard work and precision placed into each element. Tying helps with my steadiness and anxiety with social situations due to service-related PTSD. When a fly is complete, it does not have to be perfect, it only has to catch fish. If I can use one of my flies to catch a fish, I know that I can pass on a skill to future generations to keep a life skill and passion for nature as well.

I think the attention to detail that I put into each of these should be noticed. Each portion was meticulously assessed for detail and size to ensure likeness to the others. Multiple feather stacking on top of fly to ensure more uniformed action of the fly while being fished.

I have only been involved with Project Healing Waters for a short period, but what I like the most is the camaraderie and laughter that you hear while together

Shane Hallowell of PHW, Charleston SC

2nd Place

Matthew Leuthold: UV Parachute BWO Dun | PHW Rapid City, SD

UV Parachute BWO Dun by Matthew Leuthold of PHW Rapid City, SD

I am a proud USMC Veteran and served from 2005-2009. My wife and I moved to Rapid City, SD from Athens, OH in July of 2021 and I became interested in learning to fly fish. I have been fishing for as long as I can remember, starting with my grandfather teaching me and on to my own adventures. However, in all my days fishing prior to July of 2021 I had never picked up a fly rod. Learning to fly fish has reshaped my love of fishing, enhancing the experience. I appreciate what Healing Waters does for me and anticipate many wonderful fly fishing experiences.

I most enjoy that fly tying is a positive contribution to my life and lifestyle. When I wake early morning I have a constructive and thought provoking activity that can be done with out waking the wife! Starting my day with a few fly ties makes me feel like I am off to a good start. The detailed nature of tying flies contributes the the accomplishment of completing a fly. There is great satisfaction in catching fish on a self tied fly. Success after tying the fly and finding the fish completes an experience. The friendship of fishermen, the sharing of knowledge and application of the knowledge is a point of pride

The tail of the fly is from personally sourced sharp tail grouse feather fibers. I love the ability to use these fibers from successful hunting trips and find that using locally sourced materials on local waters produces results.

Utilizing the dark dun for the post a challenge in regard to visibility on the water but the benefit is mimicking the BWO when it is most vulnerable as the wings dry after hatching

I most enjoy the pride I feel in the assistance provided to the Veteran community. Project Healing Waters makes a unique difference in the lives of our program members. Veterans can feel lost or alone. When our group gathers, our members feel kinship and direction. I am most proud and most enjoy the positive contribution made by Project Healing Waters in the lives of many veterans that may not have alternatives that produce the same feeling of kinship and direction. Thank you Project Healing Waters. Also… fishing is fun!

Matthew Leuthold of PHW Rapid City, SD

1st Place

Andrew Mann: Upside down Wally Wing Dun | PHW Johnson City, TN

Upside down Wally Wing Dun by Andrew Mann of PHW Johnson City, TN

As a Marine Combat veteran, fly fishing has defiantly saved my life. Just being out on the water takes my mind of the negative things that pop up in life. There are those days however that I am not able to make it out to the water for whatever reason. On those days the fly bench has come to my rescue. I find that when I’m choosing a fly to tie, the more intricate the better. It really takes my focus off things when I only have a few hours to spare. And then when the moment that a trout rises on a fly that I tied, It really gives me a sense of accomplishment and joy.

I used a #12 B10S Stinger hook which I wrapped in Dunn 8/0 UTC uni-thread. I used Coq de leon for the tail and quills from a moose mane for the body. After wrapping the body in quill, I turned the hook upside down. On the bottom side of the Hook, I used a natural mallard flank feather for the Wally wings. By threading the tip of my mallard flank through a UV glue nozzle I was able to guide it between the hook barb and shank so it could be tied in above the thorax. For the thorax I used peacock hurl and a #12 natural hackle. After wrapping the thorax I secured the hurl and hackle infront of the hook eye and whip finished 4 times.

When I chose this fly, I was really looking for something that was realistic, but something that I had not seen done 100 times. That’s when it hit me, when you see a Mayfly, you never really see one that has its body laid out flat. Even when they are flying, they have their tails flexed upward. That’s when it hit me, “turn the hook upside down” to give the body that upward flexing look.

I enjoy almost every aspect of Project Healing waters, but most of all is the comradery. When I got out of the service, I really lost that sense of brother hood. Always having someone around to talk to or relate to. With PHW that is just part of the therapy, being able to talk to your brothers and sisters that have shared some of the same experiances that you have.

Andrew Mann of PHW Johnson City, TN

CATEGORY 2: INTERMEDIATE

This category is for participants with greater than 2 years but less than 5 years of fly tying experience.

3rd Place

Mike Black: Clouser Minnow | PHW Fredericksburg, VA

Clouser Minnow by Mike Black of PHW Fredericksburg, VA

I served in the Air Force from October 1983 through September 2004.

Tying is just part of the enjoyment. Putting my finished fly at the end of a tippet and catching a fish is the greatest enjoyment.

I have taken the basic Clouser characteristics and have added Mallard Flank to accentuate the laterial line and add color to simulate the color of a bait fish.

The Clouser is such a versatile fly…from salt water fishing to fresh…this fly catches fish. A recent outing at Lake Anna, Virginia I was targeting Stripers. Although I did not catch a Striper, I did catch a Catfish, Crappie, White Perch, and Bream. This fly catches them all.

Project Healing Waters is a great place for me to meet other Veterans who are also interested in learning more about fly fishing. I thoroughly enjoy spending time with other Veterans and the volunteers who support PHW. Without the volunteers and financial support we receive from the sponsors this program does not exist. THANKS to all of those who support PHW across the Country. God Bless America!

Mike Black of PHW Fredericksburg, VA

2nd Place

Jon Krahe: Mini Intruder | PHW Erie, PA

Mini Intruder by Jon Krahe of PHW Erie, PA

I am a 26 year combat veteran of the Marines and Army. After my last tour to Iraq my wife suggested I retire. Do to my injuries I have been rated 100% disabled through the VA. A little over 3 years ago I was introduced to PHW through my mental health counselor.

It has been a game changer for the good for me. I am very lucky to have a wife who knows and understand me and my moods. I know it must be a bad one when she tells me to “go build some flies” or go get some stream therapy

The best thing that that I get out of tying is that I clear my mind of intrusive thoughts. Second is that I can create beautiful Working instruments that hopefully can catch me a whopper.

I enjoy the comradery of the fellow veterans, the great mentors and the over abundance of knowledge they pass along to a newbie.

John Krahe of PHW Erie, PA

1st Place

Mark Hallowell: Light Spruce | PHW Charleston, SC

Light Spruce by Mark Hallowell of PHW Charleston, SC

I love the outdoors and the peace it brings with walking, fishing or just enjoying the beauty.Now sharing this with 7 granddaughters holds a special place in my heart.

My son (served in the U.S. Army in Iraq) and I are both in the Healing Waters Program and were able to spend some quality time tying flies and building rods together during the weekly meetings, as well as at our homes during the week. It led to some amazing conversations I would not have had, had it not been for the time spend in the program together. I also was able to see a wonderful part of him that I had not seen before. There was also an incredible time with the group as well.

The traditional “Light Spruce” with a touch of flair. Using maroon floss and medium rib wire vs. smaller wire to bring out the depth of color. Also using a ¾ body to highlight the rib region and add flash

Mark Hallowell of PHW Charleston, SC

CATEGORY 3: ADVANCED

This category is for participants with greater than 5 years of fly tying experience.

3rd Place

Darrell Olson: The Cracker | PHW Charleston, SC

The Cracker by Darrell Olson of PHW Charleston, SC

I enlisted in the USAF in 1974. During my 20-years, I had the privilege to serve with the 81st FW in the UK & Turkey and with the 51st FW in ROK, & PI. I retired from the military in 1994 from the B-2 Stealth Bomber Program at Edwards AFB, CA. My father tried his hand in warm water fly tying attempting to tie flies like wooly buggers, wooly worms, & streamers that he would use to catch sunfish. With the help from PHW I’m tying flies for bass, bream, redfish, & speckled trout here in the Charleston area.

I have steered my interest to more of historical flies to challenge me more into how to tie flies from fly tying experts like Charles F. Orvis, Mary Orvis Marbury, Megan Boyd, Carrie Stevens, Tom Steward, etc. from their collections of flies tied by the originators. In most situations, I have to decipher the material list from colored plates in the books that are drawn & painted somehow. This has allowed me to learn old & new techniques in fly tying.

The first Cracker fly, Tied by Trowbridge in 1885 resembled the Blue Jay & by 1887 morphed into the fly that I have submitted. For me, the Cracker represents a small blue crab which is redfish candy in my opinion. The pattern that I tied uses a blind hook where I had to research to locate a Harrison’s O’Shaughnessy Dublin Limerick. Next I had to learn to determine the size and how to attach silk gut to the hook. The last challenge for me was to figure out how to do a mixed tail/wing for the fly. I found that doing a mixed tail/wing is very difficult to tie 4 consistent flies.

The enjoyment that I get from PHW gatherings is the camaraderie with other veterans at meetings and trips. The camaraderie that is developed has led to some great friendships that have transitioned to the point where we meet-up to going fishing locally and even some trips.

Darrell Olson of PHW Charleston, SC

2nd Place

Bernard Gary King: Wired Stonefly | PHW Conroe, TX

Wired Stonefly by Bernard Gary King of PHW Conroe, TX

I joined Project Healing Waters about 4 years ago. PHW has helped me open up by being around people with similar interest. I especially enjoy learning how to tie new flies and teaching and helping others tie flies.

Fly tying is challenging. It takes my mind off other things and helps me get lost in something creative. It gives me something to complete, whether it is one fly or this competition. I enjoy learning different techniques and materials to tie the same fly following internet demonstrations which helps me develop and hone my own skills. I am especially interesting in researching the history of the origin and development of flies.

The Wired Stonefly Nymph uses a tungsten bead, lead free wire and two UTC Ultra Wires to make it a very heavy fly. The two different colored (black and copper) UTC Ultra Wires create a bright segmented abdomen. It can be tied in many different colors.

Project Healing Waters has been a great experience for me. It gives me the opportunity to relax and be around guys with similar interests. I appreciate the quality instruction we receive from the volunteers, guest instructors and other participants. During the pandemic I started teaching fly tying to other participants on video conference. I get a lot of satisfaction doing this and feel like I am finally really contributing. I am teaching myself to tie one handed so I can help our one handed tiers better.

Bernard Gary King of PHW Conroe, TX

1st Place

John Rogers: Wired Golden Stonefly | PHWFF Altoona/Holidaysburg, PA

Wired Golden Stonefly by John Rogers of PHW Altoona/Holidaysburg, PA

I’m a Army Vet, I served from 2012-2016. Once exiting the military I used my Post 9/11 Bill and attended The Penn State Univerisity. I Obtained a B.S in Wildlife and Fisheries Science with a focus in Fisheries. After graduation, I became employed through the PA Fish and Boat Commission as a Fish Culturist working with cold water species however primarily trout. When I’m not working you can find me fly fishing with my wife on many of the central PA streams including Spruce Creek, Penns Creek, Little J or the infamous Spring Creek.

This fly uses a TCO200R sz 8 hook, med tungsten stonefly head. The legs and tail are created with white Goose Biots. The tail has a small thread dam behind it to create a flared appearance and create separation of the tails. The body is created with a thread body to form a larger taper. Then, two strands of Med. wire in tan/Ginger are used to create the appearance of segmentation. The thorax is formed using Tan Ice Dub with biots tied in-between the wraps to create distance between the fly and legs. Sm.Silver tinsel and bleached PT fibers make up the wingcase. Whip Finish w/ red collar and UV resin coat on wingcase.

One of the things I enjoy most about fly tying is the ability to research the insects I intend to imitate and replicate them in my own way. This allows me to creatively think through the problem and create something unique to me and give me an edge over the common fly fisherman. Sometimes the difference between a day without a bite and a bite could be as simple as a coloration or a weight and with your own tying you can cover all your bases with variations and profiles that might not be available to others.

One of the things I enjoy most about PHW is the community it has created. I enjoy the ability to communicate and talk with people who share similar backgrounds and understand the stories and events we as veterans have gone through. It makes for a safe environment to talk freely and not worry about judgment.

John Rogers of PHW Altoona/Holidaysburg, PA

Join us in celebrating the tremendous talents of all those PHW participants who participated this year!

CONGRATS!

The PHWFF Fly Tying Competition has grown each year since it’s inception in 2012 and since that time we have been delighted and astounded to see the remarkable patterns and flies submitted from PHWFF programs across the country.  A special thanks to all those volunteers and programs who made this annual competition such a success.

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