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As a fellow disabled veteran and volunteer of PHWFF, Sweetwater Guide school was able to break down fly fishing guiding and give me confidence when working with my fellow comrades. This course equipped me with the knowledge and skill to work with my team of volunteers back with my PHWFF program. – Joshua Gerasimof: Green Mountain (Burlington, VT) program volunteer

Eleven PHWFF volunteers from across the nation attended a week-long “train-the-trainer” course for guides in early September at the Sweetwater Guide School near Big Timber, MT.  The course was taught by the professional instructors of the Sweetwater Travel Company Guide School.  The course provided training and instruction on fly tying, knot tying, fly casting, CPR/AED/First Aid, drift boat rowing and guiding, wade fish guiding, entomology, and fly fishing skills, techniques and strategies.

The PHWFF volunteers that were selected to attend this course were required to have a track record of being highly dedicated to volunteering with their local PHWFF program and a commitment to passing on the skills and instruction they learned at the guide school to other PHWFF volunteers and participants.  Most of the PHWFF volunteers that were selected to attend this course were disabled veterans who had started out in PHWFF as participants in the program and were now giving back as volunteers.

On Saturday September 1 all the volunteers arrived at the school and got settled into their lodging accommodations at the Harrison House and the Lewis & Clark lodge near Big Timber, MT.

The first day of instruction started on Sunday September 2nd and consisted of a general introduction to the course and the school’s instructors. Instruction continued with fly tying and  knot tying.


On Monday September 3rd the instruction started out with certification in First Aid, CPR & AED in the morning and then familiarization with drift boats and drift boat fishing techniques on the Yellowstone River in the afternoon.


On Tuesday September 4th the day consisted of instruction on spring creek wade fishing techniques on DePuy Spring Creek near Livingston, MT.



On Wednesday September 5th the instruction focused on freestone river wade fishing techniques on the Boulder River in the morning and then fly casting instruction in the afternoon.


The training on Thursday September 6th focused on stillwater techniques on a large private ranch pond near Big Timber, MT.


The final day of training on Friday September 7th consisted of both drift boat fishing and wade fishing instruction on the Yellowstone River.


On Saturday September 8th the Sweetwater Guide School staff conducted exit interviews and presented a certificate of completion to all the PHWFF volunteers that attended the course. All then said their farewells and then headed back home.

The eleven PHWFF volunteers that attended this course are all excited to return to their local PHWFF programs and pass on all the knowledge, instruction and skills they obtained through this course. Here are some of their testimonials of their attendance of this course:

The experiences and knowledge I obtained at Sweetwater Guide School was outstanding and I am certain will be helpful in the training of the volunteers in my program. The professional and knowledgeable staff provided a tremendous level of fly fishing techniques, drift boat skills and other important parts of these activities to assist in the training of volunteers. The staff of guides and guest instructors provided training accumulated in a lifetime of fly fishing experiences and were able to share this information with students. Held in one of the best fly fishing locales in Montana the atmosphere of the fly fishing experiences able to be gained here permeates this course. If you are afforded the opportunity to attend this tremendous school go-you will not be disappointed.

  • Mike May: Charlotte, NC PHWFF program volunteer

This week was an absolute delight! Thanks to the Sweetwater Guide School staff for providing outstanding instruction in multiple aspects of fly fishing. I am a better fly fisher and mentor as a result of attending this school. Course modules were tailored to provide PHWFF volunteer students teaching methods proven to be effective when working with inexperienced fly fishers. The acquired knowledge and skills to be shared with other PHWFF volunteers and participants will definitely support the organizations mission. It was a privilege to meet fellow program volunteers from around the country and to be part of this inaugural class.

  • Kent Chavet: Grand Junction, CO program volunteer

I was fortunate to be nominated and selected to attend the Sweetwater Fly Fishing Guide School in Livingston, MT. Realizing that I have only been fly fishing for a little over three years, this opportunity to learn from professionals is an experience I will remember for the rest of my life. The classes were great and the fishing was even better. All the guides were excellent and they too were great teachers. Just as important was the opportunity to meet other PHWFF volunteers from across the nation and a chance to network and learn from others what works or does not work in their PHWFF programs. The exchange of information with other volunteers occurred every night and I have personally returned to Charleston with some great ideas to implement in our program. Overall, this is an experience I will never forget and I am excited to share what I learned with our Participants.

– Gerald Minett: Charleston, SC program volunteer

The Sweetwater Guide School provided PHWFF volunteers with a very educational train the trainer course that allows students to take fly fishing guide skills back to home programs in order to pass on to volunteers and participants. The experience and education gained in this course and passed on to PHWFF volunteers builds confidence and skills needed to insure both volunteers and participants of PHWFF share a safe, enjoyable and healing fly fishing experience. Students attending this course of all fly fishing skill levels learned new techniques and procedures for several different types of fly fishing from a very knowledgeable staff in a perfect location where guided fly fishing trips are a part of the local economy and culture. The time spent together with fellow volunteers and experienced guide staff led to everyone learning from one another. I highly recommend continuing this course for more volunteers since the content of the course can be taken home and shared with new volunteers and assist participants in making the transition to the next stage of healing from participant to volunteer.

– Justin Walter: Augusta, GA program volunteer

All I can say is WOW what an amazing week and experience this was. I’ve finally figured out what they mean when they say “it’s not about the fish”. A huge Thank You goes out to Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing for giving me this opportunity to better my skills to help heal those that serve. I’m coming back with A LOT of new skills, and tricks that I’m looking forward to start passing on.

– Bradley Tutt: St. Louis, MO program volunteer

I really enjoyed the training and felt it was well taught. The Sweetwater staff was excellent. I would suggest we continue this training in the future, it would be very helpful for all PLs to have this training so they can train their volunteers.

– Glenn Klinger: Harrisonburg, PA program volunteer