By Lester Mead, Deputy Regional Coordinator PHWFF – The Heartland (Be sure to view the photo gallery below!)
On July 21, 2019 Five Project Healing Waters Flying Fishing Participants (PHWFF) from different parts of the country made a long awaited journey to some of the most beautiful landscape in the country Kodiak Alaska. The trip was hosted by Vic Laird and the Chief Petty Officers Association in Kodiak. While in civilization the participants were guests on the Coast Guard Base Kodiak. There they were welcomed and shown very much gratitude and hospitality.
The 1st day of the week-long trip the participants set out on 3 fishing boats to experience the open waters that surround Kodiak. There they were able to see a multitude of sea life to include whales, dolphins, sea lions and otters. The main target of this 1st day was to hook up with some Halibut, Rock Fish, Link Cod, Yellow Eye, and Salmon (Silvers, Kings). The day ended with smiles, stories and statements like “Halibut are like reeling up a sheet of plywood in the water”. That day between 300-400lbs of fresh fish were delivered to the fish processor. For the next 4 days the participants headed to a remote location which the trip started with an 18mile side by side (ATV) through a valley that reminded them of the movie Jurassic Park with the rolling green hills and untouched landscape. They spent the next 4 days fishing for the well known and liked Sockeye Salmon (aka Reds) in the Saltery River.
When not fishing during the 19-20 hours of daylight there were trips to explore the surrounding area there was at least 3 to 4 participants that saw bears everyday they were fishing and had to share the river with them since they were going for the same target Salmon. During the stay everyone enjoyed stories around the fire pit and eating 3 home cooked meals each day to give energy to keep getting their lines wet. Everyday someone would make that 18mile trip to deliver the days catch to the fish processor. Each meal on the base was provided by one of the enlisted or officer associations and during which had time to share experiences and stories from both sides.
The last night the dinner was provided by the main host Chief Petty Officers Association (CPOA) at the beach house where the participants were thanked and presented with 10 year anniversary items of this trip. The participants also followed suit and signed the back of the trip poster as all trips before have done.
To most the trip was said to be the best thing that has ever happened to them or the bucket list was able to get a check mark. But the best part was seeing the healing take place and the relaxation of all the participants just being able to enjoy the outdoors and water and not have to think about everyday battles. The last night there was tears but also laughter which was awesome to see. On the last day the participants where meet at the airport with an extra 100lbs of fish that was being sent home with them. This was a bonus to an already excellent and life changing trip.