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By Bill Campbell, Regional Coordinator – Virginia

The Virginia Region realized a two year dream this month when it was able to take PHWFF Participants and Volunteers into the Shenandoah National Park (SNP) to fish over wild brook trout.

Through a gracious grant provided by the National Park Foundation and with the cooperation of SNP personnel, we were able to fish in small groups for two weeks and visit many of the Parks pristine streams that hold Salvelinus Fontinalis, the wild brook trout native to the Eastern United States and the official state fish of Virginia.

The conditions for the trips could not have been more different:  The first week was perfect weather with bright sunshine and temperatures in the mid-seventies to mid-eighties. Then the second trip was plagued by six inches of snow and morning temperatures of 24 degrees. Both weeks presented significant weather challenges to the anglers since the insect hatches (aka fish food), and as a result, the fishing, can turn on or off with a five-degree temperature difference or too much sun on the water.

The focus of these trips was to challenge seasoned Participants and hone the skills of our Region’s Volunteer Guides. Generally, most of our Regional trips are conducted over stocked fish more accustomed to seeing human shadows on the stream and don’t spook as easily. Wild trout, who can see as well in water as humans see in air and can clearly distinguish colors, are extremely wary and will spook at the slightest movement or shadow. The Participants on these trips had to bring their best game and, in all cases, they did. Lessons were learned by both Participants and Volunteer Guides, fish were caught, and in the end, the smiles and the fellowship were worth all the efforts it took to put these events on.

Our goal in Virginia is to create independent fly anglers capable of fishing any stream they choose and adapting their hard-won skills to wherever they find themselves. In many cases, Participants find the best way to do that, and to give back what they’ve been freely given, is to become Volunteers themselves. 40% or better of our Volunteer Guides on these two trips were former Participants.

We are very grateful to the National Park Foundation and the Shenandoah National Park personnel for their support and partnership that helped us fulfill our mission to Heal Those who Serve and provide a wonderful, unique adventure to our folks.  Thank you. We hope this event can become an annual occurrence that future Participants look forward to as they achieve their angling goals.

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