Announcements & Press
Dispatches from Atz Kilcher
In The News
PHW Spotlight
Press Releases
By Location
Georgia-South Carolina
National Capital
New England
New Jersey
New York-New Jersey
Northern New York
Rocky Mountain Northeast
Rocky Mountain Northwest
Rocky Mountain South
South Central
Southern New York
The Heartland
West Virginia
By Event
2018 2-Fly
Broadmoor Invitational
Freedom Ranch for Heroes
Healing Saturday
Hike to Heal Veterans
Holy Waters
Mossy Creek Invitational
Phil Johnson Exceptional Leadership Award

We are pleased to announce the winners of Category 3 (Advanced) of the 14th Annual PHW Fly Rod Building Competition! 

Following an exciting Public Judging Round (during which over 300 votes were cast!), six finalists proceeded to the Finals Round to be judged by an expert panel who determined 1st, 2nd & 3rd place.

Now in its 14th year, the National Fly Rod Building Competition is focused on expanding the therapeutic experience for Veterans participating in PHW programs by giving them the experience of building their own fly rods to further their physical and mental rehabilitation through the sport of fly fishing.  The program also has a fun competition component which gives participants the chance to win prizes for their rod building abilities, skills and creativity in a fun contest.


Category 3: Advanced

The focus of this category is to design, order, and build a functional fly rod while displaying advanced techniques. This category is for participants who are building their 4th fly rod or more.

3rd Place

Gary Herber | PHW Atlanta, GA

I served as part of the US Army’s 10th Mountain Division in Afghanistan. I have been a participant with PHWFF since 2016.

I built a 9’ 4piece 4weight with a brown rod blank with complementing colored thread work and ReCoil single foot guides. I built a custom birch bark and cork grip for this rod, with over 100 lawyers of bark accented by checkered cork rings.

I built this rod as a gift to one of my closest friends who taught me the art of fly fishing and is now a volunteer leader with PHWFF. The look on his face is what I enjoy most!!

Gary Herber, PHW Atlanta, GA

2nd Place

Robert Deml | PHW Tidewater, VA

I have been building fly rods for the last few years and have now taken a bigger role in teaching others what I have learned. This has been very rewarding.

This is a special 10′ 2-piece 3wt for ponds to play with pan fish. This rod was built from leftover pieces from other builds. The reel seat is an old school cork and ring system.
It was made using a new technique called a ventilated grip where individual cork rings are attached with spacers. This allows the blank to flex all the way to the reel seat. The grip is shaped after the epoxy cures using a wood lathe. The blank extended almost 4′ beyond the headstock of the lathe

There is always something new to try or learn when building a fly rod. This year it was the ventilated grip. I saw a you-tube video and thought to myself “I think I can do that.” To make the winding check I went through my wife’s button cans and found an antique mother-of-pearl button. I drilled a starter hole and then enlarged the hole until it fit.

I enjoy building new special rods, but I am getting more into teaching and passing on what I have learned. I helped many of our new participants build their first rods.

Robert Deml | PHW Tidewater, VA

1st Place

John Collins | PHW River City, TN

My name is John Collins and I have been with River City Project Healing Waters for more than 4 years. I served in three wars as a Navy combat photojournalist; Desert Storm, Iraqi Freedom, and Afghanistan where I deployed on more than 23 combat missions. My highest awards include the Defense Meritorious medal, Combat Action ribbon, Navy Commendation medal, and two Navy achievement medals. I joined Project Healing Waters to distract my mind from the constant pain three wars brought me; I found peace.

I built a 9 foot 5wt Rain shadow rod. I cut a subtle checkerboard pattern in the center of my custom cork handle. I did a modified snowflake pattern to produce cherry blossom’s. The guides are chocolate brown with pink leafing. The blossoms remind me of my families time in Japan. Japan is where my daughter was born and my son decided he was going to be an Air force pilot. He flies KC-135s for the Air Force now.

I custom cut the cork handle and shaped to my hand on my lathe. The modified snowflake pattern starts with one black thread, then two raspberry red threads, then to pink and white with a two to two ratio.

When I build rods, the emotional and physical pain take the back seat to the creative process. I escape my pain and when I finish a rod, there is no better feeling than catching a fish on a rod I made.

I love being in or on the water with a piece of functional art I made in my hand.

John Collins | PHW River City, TN

Join us in celebrating the tremendous fly rod building talents of all our PHW participants!

Fly Rod Building: A Life Saving Gift

“Fly rod building is very therapeutic for me, it is my release. It allows me to focus on something and allows me to be creative which I think is a key part of recovery and healing

Latest News