The 5th Annual Fly Tying Contest began on January 2 and concluded on September 15, 2017. During this time period, dozens of amazing flies were submitted by veteran participants from across the country. Each fly was judged by a fly-tying panel comprised of PHWFF volunteers, celebrity fly tiers and professionals. Out of the many incredible flies entered, a total of 5 finalists were selected. Each of the finalists are invited to attend the International Fly Tying Symposium at the  Marriott Hotel in Lancaster, PA November 11-12.  Master Sergeant Son Tao took 1st Place in the 5th Annual Fly Tying Competition.  Click here to read about it


Master Sergeant Son Viet Tao (age 43) was born in Vietnam and grew up in central Pennsylvania. He is an active duty service member with a combined 22 years of service (6 reserves, 16 active duty). Son initially entered the Army Reserves in 1993 and was honorably discharged in 1999. After the events of September 11, 2001, Son re-entered the service on active duty status as an Infantryman, MOS 11B.

During Son’s combined 22 years of service, he has deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, The Philippines and Bosnia. He has served in multiple positions to include Machine Gunner, Grenadier, Fire Team Leader, Squad Leader, Weapons Squad Leader, Platoon Sergeant, Observer Controller, and currently serves as a Headquarters and Headquarters First Sergeant.

Son is a Vietnamese immigrant. His family lived in a refugee camp in Malaysia for 18 months. The United States was the only country to offer his family political asylum. So when the nation was at war, he gave up his comfy job as an engineer and answered the call to serve for a second time. He is a Purple Heart recipient, Sergeant Audie Murphy Club awardee and an active member in the fly fishing community and Project Healing Waters.

Since Son started tying 18 months ago, his determination at the vise has led to garnering the attention of the fly fishing community. He has tied at the Sowbug Round and has a Fan Wing Ginger Quill with the Masters Fly Collection that is bequeathed to the Catskill Fly Fishing Museum.

Project Healing Waters has made a profound impact on Son’s life. He has lost many brothers in arms over the course of multiple deployments. Compound those losses with multiple service related surgeries, Son was in a dark place. With the encouragement of PHWFF volunteers, he took up tying and fly fishing. Time spent on the river and behind the vise slowly made the demons go away and afforded him with peaceful nights for the first time in years. Sharing his knowledge of tying and fishing, recruiting other active duty service members to participate in PHWFF are small ways Son is trying to give back to this amazing program for veterans.

He is married with 3 wonderful children.