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Our first outing at Lake In The Dunes PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 15 May 2011 08:41

How do you put a value on bringing a new activity like fly fishing into someone's life who has spent the better part of their formative years learning to survive in the remote areas of the world as a soldier?  What can you do to help these veterans who have bled with their brothers in service to our country in far away lands?  Central Oregon Project Healing Waters discovered the answer to both of these questions on Wednesday April 11th by bringing a group of veteran's out to Lake In The Dunes to meet our host Steve Scott at his wonderful lakes to bring the smile you can see on the face of our new friend to the left.

While I have been helping this organization from its beginning here in Central Oregon, I have often wondered what would happen when we finally got some of our vets out fishing on the fly.  Would they take to it? Would they get frustrated? Could we even make a difference in their lives?  I think every day about the smiles we generated that day, and all the work it took us to put it together dissolves into the mist.  You can't put a price on that look when they get their first hook up and land a fish.  I can only compare it to when you see a kid at his/her first birthday or christmas when they open their first present and the look of surprise and joy you can feel like a warm blanket surrounding you.

With veterans from the conflicts we have been involved with over the past 40 years being part of the caravan out to our destination and such diverse backgrounds and lifestyles being represented - there was no guarantee of success.  Within the first hour of our arrival, we had guys lined up in front of the cabin with gear and getting their casting tuned up.  Some of them never having any experience with a fly rod, but most having experience with terminal tackle - we knew the learning curve would be steep.  The forecast called for partly cloudy with increasing SSW winds into the 15-20mph range and I cringed with the thoughts of tangles, wind knots, and little fishing. We got everyone into waders supplied by the local Orvis store and Tye Krueger (a Marine Corps vet himself), and set out into the great unknown of Lake In The Dunes with our group in tow.

 

Steve Scott broke us up into groups, and we made sure that every vet has a mentor with them as we started picking our spots along the bank to get that first cast in the water. So there we were, in one of the most spectacular local private lakes in Central Oregon, the fish rising and chasing emerging bugs boiling on the water, and I couldn't help myself - I broke out an emerging pattern and started casting.  Using a roll cast with the wind at my back, I slowly started stripping it back in, and WHAM first fish of the day for me was a beauty of a rainbow in the 14 inch range.  I looked up the bank & there was another hook up, and brought in my fish for a closer look.

To my left and right I am flanked by a couple of our vets and their mentors giving them some guidance on casting technique and how to play the line a little as they strip it back in to imitate how these bugs are acting.  Before I knew it, everybody in our area was hooking and landing fish.  You could hear the click and ping of digital cameras going off everywhere around me, along with the splash and giggles coming from the vets as they started hooking and landing fish for the first time on the fly.

As it happens, I had the fly of the day worked out pretty well it seems.  So the word gets around quick, and we bring people in to get them on the right system and just let them get ready to move around the lakes with emerging and even some dry fly action throughout the waters edge.  Let me tell you, when the fish are rising no more than 20 feet off the bank and you have a little wind in your back cast - teaching the roll cast is really easy to do.  The fun really started when yours truly started getting the business from the other anglers and mentors about me hooking all the fish in the lake and not letting anyone else have any fun.  How do you create a great relationship with a total stranger and new fly angler? Start busting on each other and let the jokes start to fly.  I think I made some new friends this day.

After we all started hooking up and landing fish we started moving around the banks and giving a little direction on identifying the right area to cast with some insight into what was going on under the water.  Identifying the right technique and habitat for the conditions is an art form, and while they were listening - sometimes its just better to let them cast and get into their zone and just let er rip.

Gone were any thoughts of what the purpose of this group was all about.  Yes, we are an organization focused on giving our vets an opportunity for some much needed relaxation with fishing as a means for them to reconnect with other vets in a therapeutic environment.  But at this point, it didn't even enter our minds.  We were just a bunch of friends out on a glorious adventure in the high desert catching fish and enjoying each others company.  This is what it's all about for our group of volunteers and veterans - period.

Having the opportunity to reach out to our community of veterans and give them some support for the sacrifices they have made personally, professionally, physically and mentally is something you just have to do.  Giving back to them in some way, either by taking them fishing, hunting, or just helping them by listening is the least we can do as the beneficiaries of their actions.

So we break for some lunch cooked up by Steve Martin of burgers and dogs with some salads, sodas, and normal camping fare back at the cabin.  Slowly but surely the conversations that I overhear are of fishing tales from around the world, but mostly about what a great time this is and how much fun everyone is having.  Gone are any thoughts of sharing the wounds of the memories of service, and the scars they all share.  These are replaced with questions about what gear they should start looking at to continue fly fishing, and what the differences are in the types of line, leader, reels and rod weights.  Sharing the stories of each catch so far today, and what the afternoon was going to hold for us was on the tip of every tongue in the group.

After taking a couple more group shots in front of the cabin, and enjoying some sweet treats provided by Brad Emery's wife and getting our gear back together, back we went onto another stretch of these lakes for some more fun.  We were immediately greeted with a hatch of emerging Callibaetis and fish rising in all directions.

At one point I think we had a triple along the banks. Just as surprising to me, was to see folks who had never picked up a fly rod in their life were getting so comfortable with their gear, and they started exploring on their own looking for new places to toss their line and try to catch some fish.  Not needing any more help, and starting to pick our brains about different flies to try and different techniques to use for the conditions.  With the initial pressure of catching fish resolved and having some food in our bellies, the afternoon was shaping up to be great.

Brett, Scotty, Kelly, Mike and Reed are out exploring the lakes and casting about - and I finally take the time to look around and just be amazed at what our group is accomplishing.  I can hear conversations about the next time we plan on coming out, folks asking for help between now and then with their casting technique and what a great time this is.  Some of them can't believe they haven't tried this in the past due to the "elitism" that sometimes get associated with this sport.  I think we did our part to smash that misconception into oblivion today, and I feel proud to have shared in their experience.

With such a wonderful day with this group of anglers and the representation from not only our organization, but Trout Unlimited, and Central Oregon Flyfishers being there to show support, we all new this is a program that is going to grow and grow in the future.  I want to share this photo at the left to let everyone know that even though we think Lee Ann Ross might be one of the best anglers in Central Oregon, she doesn't always get the mention she deserves in her efforts to make everyones day a little brighter by taking the time she does as a volunteer and leader with Central Oregon Flyfishers.  Her attitude on the water and her willingness to give of herself is second to none.  BTW, the fish in this picture is considered one of the biggest of the day, and again the smiles this wonderful lake produce are almost as big as they are.  Thank you Lee Ann for your support, and continued devotion to all the fly fishing activities here in the Deschutes Basin.

I need to mention Brad Emery, our devoted leader and who is single handedly making a huge impact in the lives of veterans around Central Oregon. He's the one letting us know the size of the last fish he caught at left. Whether he is setting up and organizing this group, or is out at the homeless camps offering up help - his devotion is something that takes my breath away. Brad did get a couple fish today as well, so don't fret if you thought he just works the whole time!!  Both he and his wife's devotion to our vets is something I cannot put accurately into words, and thanks for letting me do my part to help.  You can't tell from this picture, but Brad's heart is nearly as big as the distance between his hands.  That also goes for his devotion, patience, and positive attitude with this program.

 

Another person I would like to thank at this point is Tye Krueger and the Orvis Company for making sure that the group was set up with all the waders we needed and the blind support they continue to give us, Trout Unlimited, and the rest of the flyfishing and conservation groups here in Central Oregon.  The simple fact is without the support they continue to offer our groups by donating their time, volunteering their shop for meetings, and volunteering their time to help in whatever way they can brings all our groups a benefit and success that cannot be easily measured or quantified.  As it happens, Tye is also a veteran of the Military, having served in the Marine Corps for our country.  Tye moved here recently from back east where he was the fishing manager of one of the Orvis stores back there and also offered up his time for the hospitals where this program initially started.  If you get a chance to come by his shop, make sure to thank him for his service, and also to our group.  He is a good friend of mine now, and one helluva fisherman.

Finally to our host Steve Scott who took a couple minutes to catch a few himself today. He's the one at left standing behind one of our vets giving encouragement and guidance. Thank you for letting us come out and take advantage of Lake In The Dunes.  From giving guidance and support to each angler this day, and being a warm and refreshing host - to having the patience and desire to help our group have a successful first outing, we cannot thank you enough.  Steve and his family have been here in the Basin for generations it seems, and you can't walk more than 10 feet or have a conversation with any locals about him and his family and not hear a positive comment on how they love this area and the communities they help.  Your efforts have given us a shot in the arm, and put our group on a path of success with those we reached this day.  I hope we can thank you somehow and bring you the same luck and kindness you showed us this day.

As the afternoon was winding up and the group started getting a bit weary, a few in the group decided it might be time to pack it up and start making the drive back to town.  With about 5-6 hours fishing their first day on the fly, I can't say I blame them - I was starting to feel the effects myself.  Steve Scott came back through after the majority of our group had packed it up and started the treck back to town, he let us know we could stay as long as we like and not to worry about locking anything up on our way out.  So Mike, Tye and myself kept on fishing and taking breaks to share some flies and just relax along the bank between catching fish.

So did I answer my initial questions of whether or not this was going to be a successful outing? Most emphatically yes.  Does it replenish my soul when a plan comes together like this?  Of course it does.  What did I take most from this experience? That is simple.  There is no greater service we can give as volunteers to our veterans than giving them our time to help however we can.  When those who have given so much of their lives to ensure our way of life continues, the very least you can do is give something back to them.  I thank you for your sacrifice, and all that you have done anonymously to ensure I can give this back to you.  There are no words that can accurately explain it or encompass how dramatically your efforts change all our lives.  That is what I take from this experience - all these people, as individuals, or businesses who are devoted to these heroes and bringing a smile to their faces is what it is all about.  Offering them a day to forget about all the troubles and life altering experiences they have had by taking them flyfishing, enjoying the outdoors, and sharing in some good times with each other is the least we can do.

The art of fly-fishing, and the calm it can bring anyone - veteran or otherwise I think can be best described by the photo below.  There is just something about the solitude and concentration it takes to be part of this activity that cannot be described.  It takes you to a place of calm, removes all the troubles of work, personal issues and problems we might be having, and takes you to a place of wonder in the outdoors where the beauty of your surroundings and connection to the land and fish takes over.  Thank you to all veterans everywhere involved with this program, and especially to Brad Emery for letting me be part of this amazing group.  I can't wait to go on the next outing and continue giving whatever I can to help make this program a success in the future. - Gabe Parr

Last Updated on Sunday, 15 May 2011 13:11
 

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