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Healing Waters Lodge is an ORVIS endorsed fly-fishing lodge located in the heart of the Ruby Valley surrounded by the Tobacco Root, Ruby and Pioneer mountain ranges. The lodge is situated between the towns of Sheridan and Twin Bridges surrounded by cattle ranches, nestled among cotton wood trees, and offers stunning views in all directions.  At Healing Waters Lodge, they believe that we have more angling choices within easy diving distance than anyone else in Montana.

Article by Justin Walter, PHWFF Augusta GA Program Lead

Six veterans were invited to visit the Healing Waters Lodge in Twin Bridges, Montana for a week of guided fly fishing in July of 2019.

Two Navy veterans hailed from the Atlanta Program.  One Air Force vet and a Navy Corpsman were from the Umpqua Program in Oregon and one Marine vet came from the Charleston, SC Program.  The trip was led by an Army vet from the Augusta Program.  Throughout the week this group of vets got to know each other through shared fly fishing activities and relaxing at the lodge over fine dining and meeting lodge staff and guests.  Several of which were veterans as well that shared similar career experiences.  

For some, the cooler Montana climate was a welcome break from the southern heat where highs averaged around 99F all week. 

Once settled in to accommodations several vets were able to assemble fly fishing equipment and test out gear on the adjacent pond.  It was a good opportunity to tune up casts and discuss strategies for the week as well as get to know each other. 

Dinner that evening provided the opportunity for the six vets to meet the lodge owners, staff and fellow guests despite a temporary power outage due to heavy winds.

The first full day was spent together at a local ranch that provided a view of a meandering stream with a background of towering mountains.  The wide slow water allowed participants to hone their skills with three local guides as mentors.  Several nice fish were landed and big smiles captured.  Lunch  was grilled on site and everyone enjoyed eating and socializing together on a cabin porch while watching ominous clouds and rain pass nearby. 

On the second day the vets were integrated amongst hotel guests and deployed to several local lakes and rivers.  Some waded up the Boulder River and others floated drift boats down local rivers or fished private ponds on nearby ranches.  A Independence day cake and heartfelt celebration was held at dinner. 

Every morning, early risers had the opportunity to practice casting and even land a rainbow on the lodge pond before breakfast. 

Day three was met with new adventures as the group of veterans and guests were mixed and matched again with guides and locations to optimize fishing potential and insure success.  Everyone came back with smiles and shared stories and encounters around the dinner table. 

The fourth day was drift boat day.  All six vets were paired with guides and their boats for drifts down several rivers including the Beaver Head, Madison, Big Hole and Jefferson.

On the fifth day several veterans were able to accomplish personal goals of catching a Rainbow, Brown, Brooke trout or even a Grayling or Montana white fish.  Personal goals were met and accomplishments made and shared around the dinner table. 

As the group of vets cleaned up, packed up and made fond farewells, all were reluctant to leave but very happy to have made a such a meaningful trip and experienced so much through the almost instantaneous camaraderie that exists among all vets and fly fishing in Montana. 

By Justin Walter
Justin D. Walter
Augusta CSRA Program Lead “Keep Casting!”
706-968-4887   justin.walter@projecthealingwaters.org