For the past 11 years, The Mossy Creek Invitational has provided a great day for great Americans while simultaneously raising vital support for our programs and the disabled veterans they serve. This year was no exception as countless individuals and companies embraced our cause and the disabled veterans we serve in memorable fashion. It is this embrace, this community, and the unconditional commitment of those who support the Mossy Creek Invitational (MCI) that we are able to continue bringing our unique form of therapy to those who have made great sacrifices in the service of our nation. For that we are eternally grateful.
The MCI has been held in Bridgewater, VA since 2008 and is graciously hosted each year by Robin and Bob Fitch. It is one of PHWFFs premier fundraising events while also serving as a fun fly fishing competition with Fifteen PHWFF veteran participants from around the Nation paired with a sponsor and professional fly fishing guide for a day of memorable angling on Virginia’s famed Mossy Creek. We are honored and humbled to announce that $225,986 was raised on Saturday June 2, 2018 to support our 222 Programs and the disabled veterans they serve in their communities. Of the total raised, 96 cents on each dollar goes directly to the disabled veterans we serve! We are humbled by the tremendous charity of sponsors like BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin, Golden Corral, Microsoft, the USO, Mossy Creek Fly Fishing, The Orvis Company and the Town of Bridgewater.
As the veteran competitors were drawn from PHWFF Programs nationwide a special pre-tournament day was planned by the Northern Virginia Chapter of Trout Unlimited on the Thornton River near Sperryville, VA. The sun shone bright (despite the storms that had been soaking the area with rain) and the veteran competitors were treated to guided fishing, professional casting practice and lessons, fly tying instruction, and a fabulous lunch. The outing gave them the opportunity to meet one another and “warm-up” on a fantastic local trout stream.
Following their day on the water, dozens of people attended a social gathering at O’Neill’s Grill in Harrisonburg, VA. As in past years, the gathering at O’Neills Grill brought sponsors, volunteers, guides, PHWFF leadership, and veterans together for an enjoyable time. The social hour provided friends, old and new alike, with the opportunity to visit, catch-up, and discuss tactics for the tournament.
Traveling towards Bridgewater and tournament it was evident something very special was in store. The town of Bridgewater, VA, through the efforts of former Mayor Hallie Dinkel, a USAF Vietnam veteran, marked the occasion with an outpouring of hospitality and generosity. Despite the recent storms and flooding, the community had American Flags hoisted throughout the town and a banner flown over Dinkel Avenue welcoming the veterans and volunteers.
The greater Harrisonburg/Bridgewater, Virginia area shattered its record May rainfall the morning of the 31st bringing the monthly total to a whopping 10.87 inches – the previous record was set in 1924 at a total of 8.68 inches for the month of May. This historic deluge flooded local waterways and made them all nearly unfishable. But Mossy Creek is a truly unique fishery: it is a peaceful limestone spring creek that meanders 8 miles from it’s spring-head in the village of Mt. Solon to it’s confluence with the North River. As a spring creek it was spared the run-off of larger tributary systems and remained fishable for the tournament. Thanks to the generosity of the Fitch family, Linden “Stump” Wenger, and Bill Gottwald the Mossy Creek Invitational takes place on 3 miles of private water that is divided into 15 sections for the tournament with each team fishing a different section in both the morning and the afternoon.
The volunteer guides for the MCI once again came from our dear friends at Mossy Creek Fly Fishing. They have generously donated their time and talents for the past 11 years in support of the MCI and PHWFF. Mossy Creek Fly Fishing is a Virginia fly shop, guide service, and school located in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley minutes away from spring creek brown trout on the famous Mossy Creek and wild brook trout in the freestone mountain streams of The George Washington National Forest and Shenandoah National Park. We were honored to have such a stellar team of professionals accompanying the veteran and sponsor anglers.
Following a light stream-side breakfast and announcements from Tournament Director John Miko, PHWFF Founder Ed Nicholson provided a fly casting and fish catching lesson to those veterans competing in the tournament. He imparted his intimate wisdom of the Mossy Creek fishery, lessons that would prove important throughout the day.
Soon thereafter, the teams headed to their assigned beats for the morning session. Despite the overcast skies and threatening rain, Mossy Creek lived up to it’s expectations, as the wily inhabitants of Mossy Creek accepted the offerings presented by the competing teams. Many fish were caught throughout the morning as teams worked together and relationships were built stream side.
Breaking for lunch, the veterans, volunteers, and supporters eagerly settled in for an enjoyable lunch donated by Frank Showalter and Golden Corral. With lunch came the rain — in buckets. This did nothing to damper the occasion – as the old saying goes, “rain delays are for baseball.” For the afternoon, teams were assigned new sections to fish — enabling each team to cover new water and experience a different section of this unique fishery. Despite the rain, the teams geared up and began tussling with the creeks watery inhabitants. Not to be deterred by the inclement weather, the smiles that abounded up and down the creek were accompanied by bent rods, rain coats, and beautiful trout.
The anglers were off the water by 4:00pm, eager to enjoy the dinner planned for 4:30 beneath the tent. However, with the increasingly heavy rains and numerous storms in the area John Miko, Tournament Director put Plan B into place. Thanks to Hallie Dinkel, former Mayor of Bridgewater, the Bridgewater Town Hall was made available. Volunteer Coordinator Don Bell and his dedicated team took care of everything and a fabulous dinner was readied for competitors. The tremendous team work and support of all the MCI Volunteers ensured this special day would continue unfettered and safely.
Upon settling in the new venue, and safe from the heavy rains and storms swirling throughout the valley, all attendees were treated to a fabulous meal while numerous awards presentations took place. We are proud to announce that CPO Brian Carr, U.S. Navy and Steve Gillette were the winners of The 11th Annual Mossy Creek Invitational! Join us in congratulating him on this great accomplishment.
Following these moving presentations, Robert Gil, U.S. Army (ret) spoke powerfully and personally about his journey and the positive impact that the PHWFF Program, and community, has had on his life. “If there is one word I could use to describe Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing, it is HOPE.” His story of recovery left a lasting impact upon all who bore witness — further reminding, and inspiring all, as to why the MCI exists and the true impact PHWFF has among disabled veterans and disabled servicemen and women in need of our healing waters.
It was a remarkable weekend. The embrace, the community, and the unconditional love of those who support the Mossy Creek Invitational will enable us to continue bringing our unique form of therapy to those who have made great sacrifices in the service of our nation. Our deepest thanks to all who contributed, sponsored, and supported this special and inspiring event – it is their generous support that will enable us to continue bringing our program to disabled active duty military and veterans in communities across America.
SPECIAL THANKS TO: BAE Systems, Inc. | USO | Lockheed Martin | Mossy Creek Fly Fishing | Bridgewater, Virginia | Military Intelligence Corps Association – National Headquarters | Golden Corral | Microsoft | Steven Toyota | Momentum Earthworks | Harrisonburg Honda | Bob Wade Subaru | Sustainable Solutions | O’Neill’s Grill | Orvis Fly Fishing | Neveplast, LD&B Insurance and Financial Services, Engineering Solutions, Chesapeake Restaurants, Integrity Home Mortgage Corporation in VA, WV, MD, PA & DC, Schrock Construction, Smithfield Foods, Firstcare Orthopaedics Inc, Jacktown Restaurants AND all the friends of the Mossy Creek Invitational.