Article by Ron Bloomquist, PHWFF Deputy Regional Coordinator – Florida
Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing Special Event—Fish with a Hero, two days of guided fishing either in the “back country”, or off-shore in the Florida Keys. Fifteen participants, from afar away as Alaska joined together in the middle keys. This is one of only a couple saltwater fly fishing events at this time, and participants arrived ready to take full advantage of it.
Base of operations was Worldwide Sportsman in Islamorada, Florida. From there, guides provided opportunities to fish Everglades National Park, Florida Bay or local off-shore reefs. Attendees arrived on Tuesday, September 10th, fished Wednesday and Thursday—headed home Friday with great memories.
As a Deputy Regional Coordinator it was great watching the participants arrive. Many had their own gear with them. It was obvious they had prepared and were looking forward to fishing salt water—some for their first time.
Weather, wind in particular, was a distraction. It caused two guides to cancel on Wednesday. Fish with a Hero staff scrambled and all fifteen participants were on the water. Not only were they on the water, some were catching salt water fish on fly! A participant that caught a bonefish on Wednesday hadn’t lost his smile on Friday! He said “I blinked, looked down and I was already into my backing!!”
Those that fished off-shore scored big also. Too windy (NE 25-30) for fly fishing, they caught mahi-mahi, snapper, a sail fish, tarpon, king mackerel, jacks, trout and reds and sharks. An eight foot, one hundred and fifty pound Lemon Shark was caught on Wednesday. Thursday, on fly, a thirty inch, thirteen pound bonefish was caught by the same participant. An observer watching the boats come in and hearing about the action said “I’ve learned fish can be caught on fly even in bad weather”.
The middle keys community came together to support PHWFF participants. Fish with a Hero , Worldwide Sportsman, Islamorada Fish Company, Mangrove Mike’s, Islamorada Moose Lodge helped make this an event that these deserving veterans will never forget.