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“The best one yet” – PHWFF Casper ventures to West Yellowstone

July 17, 2018

This year’s trip to West Yellowstone was the best one yet! Steve and Barbara Lafflam really out did themselves this year! Our trip started with a dinner sponsored by former Vice President Dick Cheney in Jackson, WY. Our program founder, Ed Nicholson, was on hand for the event as well. VP Cheney, an avid fly fisher himself, spent several hours with our participants taking time to speak with each person there. What a wonderful surprise!


From Jackson we continued on to West Yellowstone, MT to gather at the Lafflam’s home. This year, we had a surprise for them and the host of volunteers. Ed’s presence was the perfect opportunity to have a presentation of the Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing’s PATRIOT AWARDThe Patriot Award is the highest award authorized by the PHWFF Board of Directors. It is presented to those who demonstrate exceptional support and dedication to the core values and mission of Project Healing Waters and our Nation’s disabled veterans.

Since 2014, Steve and Barbara, along with the volunteers who assist them, have provided their time and resources to serve and “give back” to the disabled veteran participants involved in PHWFF. They open their homes and organize community members to help each year. They also provide their own resources and enlist the support of community businesses gathering in-kind donations in order to support the annual trip.  Click here to read the full citation >

The fishing was terrific! The gathering time for meals with friends even better.

Mountain Sky Lodge

October 2, 2017

Mountain Sky Lodge and Guest Ranch.

Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing (PHWFF) had an opportunity to send several participants to a national trip to the Mountain Sky Guest Ranch on Tuesday, 09/19/17. The group consisted of 2 Vietnam era vets and 4 Gulf War era vets.
Tuesday evening started with an orientation in the grand room of the resort. Participants met the other guests and met most of the staff. Each department had a management representative to briefed on the facility and activities to would enjoy during the visit. Dinner was superb, including turkey, roast beef and all the appropriate fixings.
Wednesday started with a great breakfast buffet. Due to rain the previous day, the fishing trip planned for the Yellowstone River had to be postponed. The group decided to enjoy some activities at the ranch which included horseback riding.
For Thursday’s float trip, participants met the guides at the Angler’s West fly shop. Fishers were outfitted with waders, boots and rain gear. The weather was cloudy and drizzling, perfect fishing weather. Anglers caught their share of fish on the Yellowstone River including Montana whitefish, some rainbows and a few small brown trout. The group tried nymphing, streamers and some dry flies. Deb Crewdson was enjoying her first time on a drift boat. She managed to land 3 fish and had a great time on the water.
The accommodations, food and activities were “world class”. The participants all concurred that this was a great trip and experience. PHWFF has hope that in the future, other veterans will have the opportunity to visit and enjoy this wonderful ranch resort. We extend our thanks to Mr. Arthur Blank for his generosity and support of our veterans.

Goodnews River Lodge Alaska

July 29, 2017

Eight Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing program participants had the tremendous good fortune to spend a week fishing for salmon on the Goodnews River in Alaska! The trip was hosted by the folks at the Goodnews River Lodge and the participants were selected from different programs across the US.

This trip was made possible by a very generous grant awarded to PHWFF by the Harnish Foundation out of Tukwila, WA.  This grant covered all the costs for this trip of a lifetime to include the airfare of all eight PHWFF participants.

The travel getting there was a little bit long, but exciting. Once they arrived however, the beauty and peacefulness was amazing!

The participants spent six and a half days fishing for King Salmon, Sockeyes, Humpys, Dolly Varden and Chum. There were opportunities to fish for Rainbows and even Arctic Greyling. Some of the vets took an opportunity to take a hike to an old gold dredge left from back in the day.

Mike Gorton and his wife Dawn, owners of the Goodnews River Lodge, met with vets as they arrived making them feel welcome and right at home. The whole staff at the lodge were terrific. Karen Gorton, the head chef, made sure everyone was well fed. Of course she prepared absolutely delicious meals that no one expected. The Salmon Wellington was awesome!

Everyone at the lodge spent time talking with the vets and the guides kept the guys on the fish! John, Alex, Ross, Mitchel, Kyle, Jan and Cratty were terrific guides. They took the time to help educate the fishermen on the different salmon and how to fish for them. We’re not sure if the guides kept the bears at bay, but bear tracks on top of fisherman foot prints can make one at least a little more aware of his surroundings.

The vets took hundreds of photos and shared them with each other. New friendships made and an experience none of the participants will soon forget!


Cody-Powell Program article from the Powell Tribune 06/13/2017

June 23, 2017

Local non-profit gives back to those who served.

Written by Don Cogger
June 13, 2017 8:10 am

Marine Corps and Project Healing Waters veteran Charlen Hank (front) heads out for a day of fishing in the 2017 Cutthroat Classic Fishing Tournament at Monster Lake earlier this month. Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing is a program that gives back to vets wounded in action by introducing them to the peaceful art of fly fishing.
Marine Corps and Project Healing Waters veteran Charlen Hank (front) heads out for a day of fishing in the 2017 Cutthroat Classic Fishing Tournament at Monster Lake earlier this month. Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing is a program that gives back to vets wounded in action by introducing them to the peaceful art of fly fishing.

Tribune photo by Don Cogger
Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing gives wounded vets a peaceful outlet

When Powell resident and Army veteran Larry Smith injured himself on the job a couple of years ago, he found himself with a lot of time on his hands.
“I had to find something to do until I got healed up,” Smith said. “I’ve been swinging a hammer for 35 years; it’s all I knew how to do.”

To fill some of that time, he began tying flies, becoming so proficient at the intricate hobby that he turned it into a side business. He started a website, Under the Bridge Ties, to sell his wares. He also began to donate some of his flies to Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing, an organization that began in 2005 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. The primary purpose of the organization is to provide therapeutic outdoor recreation for disabled veterans, usually in the form of fly fishing. Intrigued by the idea of helping veterans, Smith thought he would volunteer his expertise in fly tying instruction to the organization’s local chapter.

The only problem? There wasn’t one.

“I would have [had] to go all the way to Casper or up to Bozeman in order to tie flies for two hours,” Smith recalled. “One of the biggest fly fishing places in the country, and we don’t have one? Ridiculous.”

Smith placed a call to the group’s headquarters to inquire as to why there wasn’t a chapter in Park County. The answer he got was simple.

“No one ever wanted to put one there,” he said. “That’s what they told me. So I told them, ‘Well, I do!’”
Things moved quickly after that, with Smith filling out all the necessary paperwork to start the local chapter, appropriately named Cody-Powell Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing. The group had been hosting two fly-tying meetings a month, one in Cody and one in Powell, as well as scheduling fishing trips for the veterans. With Smith now healed from his injuries, he’s had to cancel the fly-tying meetings until fall to go back to work.

“But we’re still doing the fly fishing trips, stuff like that,” Smith said. “We’re always, always working on something new.”

Fly fishing trips aren’t the only service the Cody-Powell Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing provides. Last year, the chapter constructed a 130-foot sidewalk for George Holcomb, a retired veteran wounded in Vietnam who eventually lost one of his legs. An accomplished woodworker, Holcomb was the subject of a feature story in the Tribune last year, highlighting a fishing boat he built by hand.

When Smith paid Holcomb a visit to his home in the Willwood area shortly after the article ran, he noticed the distance between Holcomb’s house and workshop was 130 feet of broken terrain. Figuring he might be able to help, Smith and the Cody-Powell PHWFF returned a short time later with everything needed to create a concrete path from the house to the shop.

“We were the first PHWFF chapter to do a project like that,” Smith said. “What we do, it’s not just about fly fishing. If a veteran comes to town and needs assistance with food or rent or something to get started, we help them with that.”

But fishing is the activity that brings everyone together.

“Some guys don’t want to fly fish,” he said, laughing. “So I got all the stuff to make spinners, fly rods, we just build as we go. My wife Tina and I started this; we both run the program, and if anyone wants to fish, they just need to give me a call and we’ll work out something with somebody.”

Time, money and equipment have been generously donated since the program’s inception, something Smith said he doesn’t take for granted.

“We get help from guides, or people with boats, you name it,” he said. “People just want to fish with these guys and girls. And it costs them nothing; we pay for everything. We provide waders, all the equipment, they don’t even have to have a fishing rod. We will provide it for them. We just want something special for the veterans, they deserve it.”

Tim Wade, owner and outfitter of North Fork Anglers in Cody, has worked with Project Healing Waters since the local chapter’s inception. Wade has worked with similar chapters in Colorado, Sheridan and Buffalo, and was pleased to see one begin in Park County.

“I think it’s a very good program,” Wade said. “I think we could use more turnout by the vets. We have plenty of volunteers, but it seems the difficulty is the volunteers show up more than the vets do.”

Wade said there could be any number of reasons more vets have not reached out to Project Healing Waters, but volunteers will continue to get the word out. For vets who are perhaps on the fence about giving fishing a try, Wade would tell them to put their fears aside and rest assured that everyone is there to help them get better.

“If it takes baby steps, we’ll walk with them every step of the way,” Wade said. “If they want to take big steps, we’ll be there for those as well. I would tell them not to be self-conscious about their condition; it’s a good time to begin the healing process. This program is truly about them.”

Having guided vets on earlier trips, Wade said getting them on the river and into some fishing is a humbling experience, one that he never tires of.

“You’re dealing with people that have given their bodies to the safety, health and welfare of our country,” he said. “What we walk away with from it is an appreciation of the human spirit and the determination that these vets have to be a functioning part of society. It’s very rewarding as a guide to see these men and women come out of their shells. You just see the joy, you see some of that pain go away. For a short time, they’re kids again.”

Smith said the communities of Powell and Cody have been very supportive of the program, as have people across the nation. The Cody-Powell Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing held a recent online auction that raised $5,300 in a week.

“I do business with fishermen from all over with the flies I sell,” Smith said. “I put the auction up on the Facebook page, and the next thing I know, I have guided trips donated from all over the country. I got a hog hunt in Texas donated to me; fly rods, fishing vests, stuff just came pouring in from all over for this auction for our local chapter.”

If someone had asked Smith a couple of years ago if he could have foreseen all of this unfolding the way it did, he would have laughed and shaken his head.

“I’m a firm believer that God puts me in every place for a reason,” he said. “In every place I’ve ever been, something good has always come of it. When you’re hurt and not making money, and selling off your things to pay the bills, things can look pretty bleak. But you just have to keep the faith, and believe that good things are going to come of it.”

Smoke & Guns Shooting Event Fundraiser

June 17, 2017

smoke-guns img_2322 img_2323 img_2315 img_2319 img_2320 img_2321Powder River Armory sponsored the 2017 Smoke and Guns Charity Shoot today. Casper Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing (PHWFF) was honored to be selected as the beneficiary of the event!
Over 50 competition shooters and supporters attended the shoot. Several Casper PHWFF participants attended to show their appreciation. Members from local law enforcement agencies, civilian competitive shooters and local fire fighters all came together for a day of fun on the range and to show their support for our local PHWFF disabled veteran participants.
A special “THANK YOU” to the folks at Powder River Armory, local Law Enforcement, Casper Firefighters and Firefighters Local 904, Wyoming Gear Builders and the many donors who made this event possible!


North Platte Event 4 JUN 2017

June 6, 2017

The Casper, WY Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing program had a terrific float fishing trip on 4 JUN! The weather was amazing on the N Platte that day, and 9 participants were able to attend. We had a couple guest “first timers” we met through our friends at Hunting with Heroes. Kirstie Ennis, a combat wounded USMC veteran and Brian Meyer, also a combat wounded veteran, were able to join us for the day. To participate with them for the day and see the strength and resiliency they have was truly inspirational. Together with our supporters at Crazy Rainbow Fly Fishing / The Ugly Bug Fly Shop, and our local program participants we had a marvelous day. Looks like our new friends will be back to visit soon. For our volunteers and program supporters; THANK YOU! Your support helps make the experiences possible for our amazing veteran participants. We couldn’t do it without you!

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PHWFF Rocky Mountain NE Regional Joint Program Event

June 2, 2017


Local news story on Rocky Mountain NE Regional Joint Programs Trip

May 28, 2017

Rocky Mountain NE Regional Training Event

May 10, 2017

The PHWFF Rocky Mountain NE Region sponsored a training class for Program Leads 5-7 MAY 2017. We found a terrific venue at the Ramkota Hotel in Casper. PHWFF COO David Folkerts was able to attend bringing information and updates directly to the Leads. Attendees came from Bismark, ND, Sioux Falls, SD, Rapid City, SD, Sherian, WY and Casper, WY programs. Several participants from the Casper Program and others were also in attendance to share their thoughts and perspectives about our programs. The folks at the Ramkota treated our people superbly! We were able to put together some fishing time with participants, some PLs, several of which are eligible participants turned volunteers and HQ representatives. So nice to see HQ interested in feedback from the people they serve. Ugly Bug / Crazy Rainbow provided the guides to make sure all had a wonderful time. Overall, GREAT weekend! Special thanks to all of our supporters who help us grow our programs and reach out to our disabled veteran community!

Kudos to Casper, WY PHWFF program supporters.

April 26, 2017

Shout out with a big “Thank You” to the Wyoming Fly Casters!  WFC has been the support group for our Casper, WY PHWFF since it’s inception.

We also want to say “Thank You” to Hunting with Heroes.  This organization also supports the Casper, WY PHWFF program.

Thank you all!