By: Tim Metzger, Program Lead, Washington DC
December 2nd – 4th, 2022
Harman’s Fly Fest gathered for its 10th year the first weekend of December in Cabins, West Virginia. Doctor Mike Cherwek started Harman’s Fly Fest as an event for the Ft. Belvoir and Quantico Programs. However, the event has grown to include Programs throughout the National Capital Region, including Washington DC, La Plata, and Fort Meade.
Harman’s Luxury Cabins boasts two miles of private access to trophy trout water within the Monongahela National Forest in Grant County, West Virginia, about 2 hours from the DC area. Todd Harman, the current property owner, is the third generation to operate the property, which has been in service for 80 years. The 21 cabins are luxurious, including fireplaces, hot tubs, pool tables, and more amenities that make the event special for our participants. The National Capital Region is very grateful to the Harman family and their staff for their generosity to our programs in sharing their beautiful property for the weekend.
Of course, the luxury is nice, but the scenery really sets the stage for this historic event and enables everyone to come together. Steep cliffs, cold riffling water, and dense forest give the property intense natural beauty and a sense of seclusion from the business of the National Capital area.
Most arrived Friday afternoon and evening, and some were able to wet their lines before the event kicked off that night at the North Fork Ruritan Club meeting hall. Alex Colonna led the “Iron Fly” tying competition, where participants tied a fly and provided detailed information on its background, the materials used, and how it might fit on the “menu” for the local trout. Everyone voted for just one fly, and four finalists had to tie a size 12 Yellow Humpy for the next day.
Dinner (along with the rest of the meals for the event) was provided by Blue Roof Caterers from Cass, WV. Jenny and Diane Botkin took good care of the 78 combined participants and volunteers in attendance. In addition to dinner, there was a plethora of gear and books for participants to take home with them. After a night of stories around an impromptu bonfire, everyone was eager to fish the next day.
After a quick breakfast, safety brief, intel from the local guide Tim Caudill, and group photos, participants were paired with volunteer guides, and everyone hit the water. Part of the joy of Harman’s is meeting new people, so participants and volunteers were paired from different programs. Healing through fly fishing connects us all, and everyone becomes fast friends.
Despite some morning rain and fog, it didn’t take long for folks to land fish, A LOT of fish. Here are some of the highlights! It really was hard to narrow down the pictures to one article!
I wanted to also give a shout out to my DC Assistant Program Lead Mitch Fenton. Aside from being probably the youngest volunteer in a leadership position in the country, he is a fish WHISPERER! Here are some of the many photos of Mitch and his father John (long time DC volunteer) putting their participants on dozens of fish.
After a full day of fishing, it was back to the Ruritan Club to finalize the results of the fly-tying competition before dinner. After the voting and judging of the Yellow Humpy, the finalists received prizes of loon tying mats, tying materials, and some special tying tools for their efforts.
Everyone enjoyed another hearty meal of Salisbury steak and pork from Blue Roof. Special presentations were made for participants who overcame significant adversity to participate, and volunteers were presented Derek DeYoung Pilsner Glasses.
Some folks hit the water again on Sunday morning, and some made the trek home. The weekend was not defined by the amount of fish caught (but, to be clear, that number is high!). Still, by the lasting impact Harman’s Fly Fest has on all participants and volunteers each year when the event concludes. Each year, everyone who makes the trek to Harman’s brings canned and dry goods for the local Petersburg Interfaith Food Pantry to give back to the community. This year, the Fly Fest donated 1,733 pounds of food and a monetary donation of 728 dollars!
The event would not be possible without volunteers from around the National Capital Region and the event organizer Jim Bensinger. Jim expanded the event to include several of the region’s programs to create synergy and promote collaboration between programs. I think I speak for all the participants and volunteers when I say that Jim is onto something here because this event was a heck of a lot of fun and everyone made some new friends. Thank you to Jim and the Besinger Family for all that you did to make this happen.
I’d also like to thank my friend Pat McBride of Reston, VA, for lending me his SWEET Cannon camera we used to document this event, and my wife (and Navy Veteran!) Ingrid for taking the pictures, enabling me to guide part of the day.
Here is photo dump of many other great photos taken throughout the day: