Fly fishing provides escape, therapy
August 18, 2011
FORT CARSON, Colo. -- Standing in the rushing water, Jerry Hensley cast his line into the cool waters of the Blue River. Dressed in beige waders, fishing vest and baseball hat, he let the fly float downstream, attempting to attract the fish that were collecting in the deeper parts of the river to escape the day's heat. The shallow water flowed over the rocks, carving its way through the Rockies as Hensley jerked his arm back, casting the line backward then forward for another attempt.
"Got one," said Larry Lunceford from the shoreline.
Hensley reeled in the line revealing his catch -- a 5-inch baby trout.
"Cradle robber," said Noreen Galaba, laughing.
Hensley smiled as he released the tiny fish, holding it in the water a moment so it could catch its breath after its battle.
A retired chief warrant officer four from Fort Carson, Hensley was one of 10 servicemembers and veterans fishing the Blue as part of Project Healing Waters, a nonprofit in Colorado Springs that sponsors fly-fishing trips for Soldiers and veterans.
"This is my fourth trip," Hensley said, standing in the water again. "I'm here for the tranquility."
"He's caught 10 fish today," said Lunceford, a volunteer guide.
Lunceford and Galaba were two of a dozen guides volunteering their time for the weekend trip for wounded servicemembers and veterans to Summit County.
"We're just giving back," said Scott Carver, a volunteer guide with 35 years of experience.
"I appreciate what these guys do."
"I think everyone is really enjoying their time here," said Staff Sgt. Rob Abbott, cadre for the Warrior Transition Battalion. "I grew up in Colorado lure fishing. Fly-fishing is much more technical."
Abbott said he caught his biggest fish on the trip, a 25-inch rainbow trout he estimated at 10 pounds.
At another fishing spot, "Boston" George Souhlaris instructed Tom Sterle, an Air Force veteran, on how to catch one of the 12-pound trout swimming deep in the hole.
"Here fishy, fishy," Souhlaris said as he tied a fly onto Sterle's line.
Souhlaris said Sterle caught two 12-pounders the first day.
"I fished a lot as a kid," Sterle said. "I've been coming out with (Project) Healing Waters the last couple years."
"Coming out on these excursions, you feel like a kid again," said Val Roberts, an Air Force veteran from Denver. "It puts me in the mindset of when I was really young. Whenever I leave the river, I'm smiling."
Back on the Blue, Hensley cast his line up the river. As the line drifted down the river, it jerked. Hensley pulled up on his rod, calmly reeling in line and walking to shore. The trout on the end of his line splashed, fighting capture.
Without speaking, Hensley brought the fish closer and closer to the riverbank where Galaba waited with a net. She scooped up the catch, relieving the weight from Hensley's rod. The prize: a foot-long rainbow trout.
Before he could snap a picture posing with his catch, the fish slipped through Hensley's fingers.
The veteran shrugged and waded back into the river.