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We met at AM and found ourselves launching their raft at dawn. It was warm, the wind was nonexistent and we had overcast skies. While they did a float shuttle I relaxed and took in the beauty of the James River. The bottom of the James was pure sand with scattered rocks and weeds.

The banks were lined with beautiful hardwood forest. Some trees leaned over the water while others were completely submerged. We drifted down the bank like on a trout river back home. Brian was in back stripping a small Clouser minnow. He was very accommodating in all aspects of guiding from recommending fly patterns and sizes, as well as casting and approach techniques. We stopped for lunch and headed back to the pavilion for a lunch of a mix of hot and cold sandwiches including Philly cheesesteaks, club style, and Italian hoagies, along with an assortment of chips and some homemade brownies that were superb!

There were plenty of soft drinks and water to drink.

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Fridays on the Fly: Fly Fishing for Smallmouth Bass

After lunch we drew for new guides for the afternoon and new stretches of water to fish. This is another great opportunity to learn from another very experienced guide on how he reads the water and conditions and makes his fly recommendations. My new guide has over seven years experience on this stretch of water and has tied some incredible flies just for this trip. I was able to land five fantastic fish, three larger than 18 inches and one above 20 inches, in the running for the largest of the trip. We all got back to the pavilion and begin to swap some fish stories of the day all by , and back at the hotel by 5 pm.

We meet again at 6 pm to depart for what promises to be another fine meal at a local seafood restaurant, the Cat and Owl.

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Phil greeted us again and informed us of our menu choices of either a steak or salmon dinner with a full selection of side dishes and drinks. The print is beautiful and is a nice tribute veterans integrated with an attractive selection of flies that match each of the campaign medals in the print. I was impressed with the quantity and quality of the pictures taken. Folks wandered off to bed without another round of late night tying lessons. The sun and excitement has taken a toll on everyone and breakfast will come quickly at Day 3: We eagerly rise and meet for breakfast and prepare for another great day of incredible fishing.

The weather promises to be even warmer in the upper nineties but should be a bit more overcast with a possibility of scattered showers later in the day. Breakfast is timely, filling, and tasty once again. We clear our rooms and prepare to convoy back to the Escatawba and make our final departure from there. Once back at the main guest pavilion, we again draw our guides and get our assignments along the water.

Another fabulous guide on terrific water — this trip is marvelous. I am blessed with another three wonderful fish before we break for lunch and make the final consolidation of photos of the trip. We are now up over photos! They just barely fit on one CD.

It took about minutes to burn a disk. The selfless service displayed is touching. The efforts will be remembered and enjoyed for years to come.

USGS Stream Flows – Brook Trout Fishing Guide

Thanks to all who helped, everyone on this trip and PHW benefitted from the efforts. In closing, I cannot say enough about what a wonderful opportunity the Escatawba fishing trip has been for all of the warriors and me.


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A number of us who have fished before may not have thought we would ever get back out on the water again. Others who have never experienced the beauty, relaxation and peace of fly fishing, cannot have imagined such a fantastic opportunity. I thank the owners of the Escatawba Farms and all the guides who volunteered their time and gave generously of their advice, experience and fly boxes.

Additional thanks to all the sponsors and vendors who donated an unbelievable amount of high quality equipment. It provided a super way for someone to be introduced to a wonderful and therapeutic hobby which can provide so much to the individual and the environment alike. The conservation and habitat management will serve to benefit generations of fishers and non-fishers alike. For the warriors, the peace and calm of enjoying some of the best nature has to offer grants a level of peace and serenity not easily experienced, especially on the road to recovery as a wounded warrior.

A special thanks to Mr. Phil Johnson for the countless hours spent coordinating the vast number of people and vendors to provide a once-in-a-lifetime quality event for us. His energy, passion, and enthusiasm for fly fishing, desire to help the warriors, and work ethic serves as a model worthy of emulation.

Phil, thank you for helping me take some critical steps along my road to recovery and healing. The recovering troops and disabled veterans who participted in the PHWFF program and joined the group were treated to an exceptional quality of life experience that included fly tying, fly casting and togetherness. The need to have an easy access flat grass area next to a pond full of fish was the wish of the PHWFF volunteers and recreational therapists at McGuire Center.

Fly Fishing for Smallmouth Bass on the James River

The spinal cord injury unit has many vets and warriors who are confined to wheelchairs. This limits to some degree where they can put into practice the fly fishing skill they have gained at the VA center. The back 9 of the 27 hole golf course fits the bill to a tee. We fish on the ponds right on the fairway. The club advises its members the back 9 will be closed from PM. During each session the volunteers work with each caster to improve their skills and help then land Bluegills and Bass. PHWFF provides all the rods and flies.

Sometimes Vets fish their own flies they tied during the regular tying session. These sessions are held on the off nights when we are not fly fishing at the club. We are now working with the club on setting up the schedule for Salisbury, by allowing us to use their ponds are really supporting PHWFF and helping us supporting our great service men and women who have given so much to their country. But, this year the forecast of thundershowers never materialized.

There were a total of 8 boats with guides to assist the 11 warriors from the Ft. Each boat was supplied with drinks and box lunches as well as 9ft 8 wt rods with full sinking lines. Without these lines the results would have been a lot fewer shad to the net. We had one vet take shad on flies he tied so that was very special.

At the end of the day, all hands agreed we need to plan on doing this trip next spring when the shad return to the fall line on the James at Richmond, VA. The eroding streambank on the outside turn of the stream was stabilized and a floodplain bench was created forming a deep fish holding pool and reducing the sediment pollution to the stream. This will improve wild trout habitat — and fishing — throughout the area. There is still more to do to sustain and improve brook trout in Virginia, but projects like these lay the foundation for additional work, stronger partnerships, angler and community engagement.

We look back on with an eye on the future, knowing the work we do enhances resiliency of these coldwater systems, increases angling opportunities, and improves water quality. This not only benefits the fish but the communities of people that love and call these watersheds home. Sixty winners in all!

How to Fly Fish for Shad - American and Hickory Shad in the James River

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