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Veterans from Bay Pines VA Medical Center and members of Suncoast Fly Fishers (SFF), an International Federation of Fly Fishers Charter Club, had an outing at Fort DeSoto to fly fish, fly cast and kayak on March 16th.

This is a very active program at the VA Medical Center which has biweekly programs with members of Suncoast Fly Fishers who share their interests in fly tying, rod building, casting and outings.

“SFF members and PHWFF volunteers Jim Bandhauer, John Craig, George Haseltime, Ted Rich, Alan Sewell, and Tom Gadacz were kept busy getting veterans in and out of the kayaks, giving casting instructions, and trying our hand at catching.  Got lots of casting practice that day.  Peter Jonsson, VA Recreational Specialist, organized the outing, transportation and an excellent lunch.

This time we had better luck catching which included a fighting large trout which Al not only fought very well but also landed and released.  Michael practiced casting and slowed his cast and saved his shoulder.  He was casting 40 feet.  We also caught a jack and a flounder.  There were additional hookups and some missed strikes.

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This time we had better luck catching which included a fighting large trout which Al not only fought very well but also landed and released.  Michael practiced casting and slowed his cast and saved his shoulder.  He was casting 40 feet.  We also caught a jack and a flounder.  There were additional hookups and some missed strikes.

 

We enjoyed lunch, traded fish stories (lied a lot) and some continued fishing into the afternoon.  It was a very interesting day with good weather and no significant tidal movement.

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We enjoyed lunch, traded fish stories (lied a lot) and some continued fishing into the afternoon.  It was a very interesting day with good weather and no significant tidal movement.

 

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The prior day the area was covered by a dense fog and the bridge to Bradenton was closed for 6 hours because of poor visibility.  It was a special day for our veterans and a pleasure for fly fishers to support the men and women to whom we owe so much!

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The next day SFF had its monthly membership meeting and three special guests from PHWFF, David Folkerts, PHWFF Chief Operations Officer, Daniel Morgan, Director of Communications and Ira Strouse, Social Media Assistant and Veteran Ambassador were in attendance.

 

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They just finished attending the PHWFF National Program Rendezvous in Orlando. They were introduced and met members of the club.  David expressed their appreciation for the effort and support that Suncoast members provide for our veterans through PHWFF.

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We shared our experiences with David, Daniel and Ira. SFF members Terry Kirkpatrick and John Craig received recognition for leading our efforts with the veterans at Bay Pines; and SFF member Alan Sewell has helped many veterans build a fly rod and two veterans have received national and state recognition for their artistic design. David told us that this year almost 700 fly rods have been built by veterans. They select the type fly rod they want and it is theirs when finished.

“I really enjoyed the opportunity to speak with and thank the Suncoast Fly Fishers for their support of PHWFF! SFF members Terry Kirkpatrick, John Craig and Alan Sewell are doing a great job in executing our PHWFF program with the disabled veterans at the Bay Pines VA facility.” – David Folkerts, COO

While enjoying a short vacation, David, Daniel and Ira had an opportunity to fish with Captain Pat Damico for 2 days, who initiated the PHWFF programs in Florida.”.  – Tom Gadacz, Member of Board of Directors, SFF and President, IFFF Florida Council

“Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing relies on great organizations and clubs like the Federation of Fly Fishers to conduct our program at DoD and VA facilities across the nation. It was an incredible honor to be invited to spend an evening with just such a club — the vibrant and active members of the Suncoast Fly Fishers.. It is through their great efforts, and clubs like them, that PHWFF serves thousands of injured and disabled veterans each year.  My deepest thanks to the Suncoast Fly Fishers for their great hospitality and for the work they continue to do serving the injured and disabled veterans in the greater Tampa area – Daniel Morgan, PHWFF Director of Communications.