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The 11th Annual #PHWFF2Fly Tournament took place on Sunday April 30, 2017.  This great annual event cannot be truly encapsulated by highlighting just a single day.  The experience, community and veteran competitors enjoy a full-weekend of celebration, angling and camaraderie.  The preceding days are an equal part of the celebration and the community who embrace it.   Old friends and new come together to celebrate our cause and embrace the veterans we serve.

With the veteran competitors arriving to Madison County, VA early in the week, numerous activities and occasions were planned to make this special weekend one they will not soon forget.  On Friday the competitors were welcomed to Mount Vernon Farm to ply the Thornton River for its watery inhabitants.  Generously hosted each year by the Northern Virginia Chapter of Trout Unlimited,  the annual warm-up excursion to the Thornton River has long been a favorite of both veteran competitor and volunteer alike as it provides them with a relaxing setting to get to know one another on the water while adjusting to local  angling tactics and techniques in preparation for Sundays tournament action.   It was a beautiful day with the sun standing high in the sky and temperatures soaring to the high 80s — along with it came great fishing, fun, and laughs as veteran competitors soaked in the rolling landscape and each others company.

Related: Meet the Veteran Competitors in the 11th Annual 2-Fly Tournament

GySgt (ret) Mike Doyle USMC and volunteer guide Dan Morgan

GySgt (ret) Mike Doyle USMC and volunteer guide Dan Morgan

Saturday morning dawned bright and sunny — offering a great opportunity for the veteran competitors to continue ‘warming-up” for Sunday with a fun Bluegill Tournament at the Rose River Farm ponds.   Hosted by acclaimed kayak angler Cory Routh it was an opportunity for all to gather in a causal, fun, and beautiful setting and to reacquaint themselves with their guides and volunteers while enjoying some great fishing.

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@phwff participant James Reed caught “like 63” bass on the outback today. @hobiecatcompany

A post shared by Cory Routh (@coryruthlessrouth) on

 

A Saturday lunch was generously provided by The American Legion District 13 of Virginia with Posts 157 and 74 providing support. As folks had begun arriving earlier that morning, the lunch offered the opportunity for newly arrived supporters, sponsors, volunteers, and veterans to break bread together and catch-up.  Sitting in the sunshine, sharing stories of service and days on-the-water, the lunches held the atmosphere of a family reunion. Veteran participants, volunteers, and supporters laughed and enjoyed the camaraderie of PHWFF and the beautiful surroundings.  The Bluegill Tournament concluded after lunch with SPC (ret) Randall Steiger, U.S. Army winning the top honors by catching an 11.5 inch bluegill — an impressive feat and a State of Virginia Citation sized fish!

The previous days saw a beautiful tent erected on the banks of the picturesque Rose River.  It was to be the setting for the pre-tournament Saturday night dinner and auction.  Dedicated and diligent volunteers from the #PHWFF2Fly Presenting Sponsor, CACI, worked tirelessly in-conjunction with PHWFF staff and volunteers to provide a comfortable and enjoyable setting for the evening.

After readying for dinner, the veteran competitors were escorted back to Rose River Farm by the Patriot Guard Riders.  Their arrival formally launched what was to be an unforgettable evening. Watch the great video of their arrival below:

Over 200 people attended Saturday night’s festivities and among them were numerous special guests including Keynote Speaker Judge Thomas Hogan, Master of Ceremonies Tara Wheeler, legendary fly anglers Blane Chocklett and Ed Jaworowski, Pratt & Whitney VP Dave Emmerling and representatives of their UTC-4-Vets Program, CACI CEO Ken Asbury, sporting artist Peter Corbin, and countless other special guests and supporters including esteemed members of the PHWFF Century Club.   Douglas Dear, PHWFF Chairman Emeritus and Owner of Rose River Farms, welcomed the audience with a warm greeting and kicked off the evening.  Following a lively silent auction, MC Tara Wheeler welcomed those assembled for their service, support, and volunteerism before introducing CEO Todd Desgrosselliers to begin the evenings program.

“It’s events like this and your generous support that allow us to provide our unique form of therapy in communities across America.”

“It’s events like this and your generous support that allow us to provide our unique form of therapy in communities across America.”

The keynote address was delivered by the honorable Judge Thomas Hogan – a distinguished and well-respected Federal Judge.  He has been a fixture at the annual 2-Fly since its inception and we were honored to have him as our Keynote Speaker.  His remarks touched upon his experiences as an angler and the personal relationships,  inspiration, and motivation he garnered from important veterans in his life during his distinguished tenure as a Federal Judge.

“Peace, joy, close friends, camaraderie among great people, beautiful rivers and wonderful fish. What it really gets down to is that the essence of fly fishing takes you to healing waters. Wherever it may be, it takes you back to a place where you can heal and re-center yourself to get away from the cares and angers you have in your life.”

“Peace, joy, close friends, camaraderie among great people, beautiful rivers and wonderful fish. What it really gets down to is that the essence of fly fishing takes you to healing waters. Wherever it may be, it takes you back to a place where you can heal and re-center yourself to get away from the cares and angers you have in your life.”

Two veteran competitors GySgt (ret) Mike Doyle, USMC and SPC (ret) Joshua Gerasimof, U.S. Army addressed the crowd, courageously sharing their own inspiring stories of service, recovery, and strength.  Their remarks were powerful and inspiring.

“I do NOT consider my blindness as a disability, but rather I think of it as an inconvenience and an obstacle to overcome. I am still a novice fly fisherman but I enjoy it so much that I now wonder why I didn’t start fly fishing at an earlier age. Just think of the years I wasted NOT fly fishing.”

“I do NOT consider my blindness as a disability, but rather I think of it as an inconvenience and an obstacle to overcome. I am still a novice fly fisherman but I enjoy it so much that I now wonder why I didn’t start fly fishing at an earlier age. Just think of the years I wasted NOT fly fishing.”

 

"Just because you can't go over there doesn't mean you can't do the mission, its just that the mission has changed"

“Just because you can’t go over there doesn’t mean you can’t do the mission, its just that the mission has changed”

The dinner was also the occasion for two very special presentations. Jim Ottevaere of The U.S. Cavalry Association presented CEO Todd Desgrosseilliers with a generous grant to aide in funding our core programmatic activities.  We’re deeply honored by their tremendous support.  Following, there was a very special Patriot Award presentation made by PHWFF Chairman Bob Fitch. Mr. Fitch spoke warmly and deeply appreciatively of our Founder and President Emeritus Capt Ed Nicholson and in doing so, he bestowed our most distinguished award upon him for his consistent and unwavering commitment to the healing of our most deserving of citizens – the men and women of our Nation’s Armed Forces.  Click here to read the full citation

"One cannot overstate Ed’s contributions to the disabled veteran and fly fishing communities. His selfless service left a lasting mark and an unimpeachable model of service for all American citizens to follow."

“One cannot overstate Ed’s contributions to the disabled veteran and fly fishing communities. His selfless service left a lasting mark and an unimpeachable model of service for all American citizens to follow.”

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The pre-tournament weekend was one of celebration, patriotism, and community and all left Rose River Farm on Saturday night invigorated and inspired  The excitement and anticipation for Sundays tournament was palpable as guests departed for the evening.  The next day would bring great fun and fishing as all 12 veteran/guide teams worked in-tandem to fool and battle the watery inhabitants of the Rose River.  And the winners of the 11th Annual #PHWFF2Fly are….

Related: Meet the Guides for the 11th Annual 2-Fly Tournament

This was a weekend of memories, celebration, and patriotism, and one not soon to be forgotten.  Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing thanks all of our friends who so generously supported this annual celebration, tournament and fundraiser and the many 2-Fly Tournament and event sponsors who made it happen.   Over $175,000 was raised to directly support our programs and the thousands of veterans they serve annual across the United States.  To all who attended supported, and sponsored this great annual celebration – We thank you for embracing our cause and the veterans we serve.  We’ll be sharing even more from the weekend in the days and weeks to come, so stayed tuned to this blog!

SPECIAL THANKS:

Allegany Hearing & Balance/Spring Creek Outfitters, CACI, Rose River Farm, Silent Maid, Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, Paul Aanonsen, BecTech, Friends of PHWFF, Public Safety Corporation, Dave and Pam Rives, Temple Fork Outfitters, Carol Dear, Douglas and Jennifer Dear, Ed and Leslie Nicholson, Orvis, Salus Analytics, Chris Brown, Community Bank of the Chesapeake, James and Diane Morales Glerum, Harmon Foundation, Healing Towers, David and Barbara Roux, Tim Timer LLC, Judge Thomas Hogan, and Tara Wheeler.