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By Dean A. Millard – Major, USMC, Retired

The nine winners of the 2019 Rod Building Competition were invited to attend the International Custom Rod Building Exposition in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and then to participate in a two-day Guided Fly Fishing Trip in Cherokee, North Carolina. Two were not able to attend so there were seven of us veterans along with Larry Braswell serving as Trip Lead. On Saturday, Feb 22nd , we attended the Expo, and on Sunday, Feb 23rd and Monday, Feb 24th , we fished.

Meet the Winners of the 11th Annual Rod Building Competition >

It was great to share this trip with a couple of other novice rod builders along with several more experienced rod builders.  The camaraderie was outstanding as it usually is on PHWFF trips. It was also a little bit colder than I expected. Fortunately, our Trip Lead, Larry Braswell, told us to bring multiple layers of clothing.  This advice saved the day. 

During this trip, we were able to share tips and experiences on rod building.  While I was initially very intimidated by those with much more experience at rod building, I found that they were very willing to share information and greatly encouraged me in continuing with rod building.  Because of their support, I came back home wanting even more to develop my skills in rod building which I had initially received through Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing.  

I would like to thank PacBay for sponsoring the 2019 Rod Building Competition.  Fortunately, PacBay had a booth at the International Custom Rod Building Exposition and I was able to meet and personally thank a couple of the PacBay employees who at the Expo and who even had participated in the Judging for the Competition.  I would also like to thank Pat Higgins from the Denver Program. As the Volunteer Leader in the Denver Rod Building efforts, he not only gave me the opportunity to participate in the 2019 Rod Building Competition but offered a tremendous amount of advice and encouragement as I built my prize winning rod.  And finally, I would like to thank Larry Braswell, our Trip Lead. He not only took great care of us, but we always knew that he “had our backs.”

Editors Note: In the 11th Annual PHWFF Rod Building Competition Dean Millard (author) placed first in the Beginners Category. You can view his rod below. The 12th Annual PHWFF Rod Building Program and Competition is currently underway! Click here to read about the 12th Annual Rod Building Program and Competition – it’s currently underway!

Category 1: Beginners

This category is for PHWFF participants new to fly rod building who have not built a fly rod before.

1st Place -Dean Millard-Denver, Colorado Program