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Fly Fishing Heals

Adaptive equipment and volunteer support are making a big difference in the lives of some fly fishers.

Kevin Gorby has a mission: Bring the joy of fly fishing to injured combat veterans, and find the enabling tools to help them pursue the sport.

Kevin is Program Lead for Project Healing Waters chapters in Pensacola and Ft. Walton Beach. He has organized monthly meetings at local VA hospitals that mix fly casting instruction and fly tying.

“We'd love to get to a point where we can do this once a week,” he said. “This is a rehabilitative program—we are trying to get them back into society.” Kevin has seen victims of IED explosions and sometimes unimaginable horror of conflict experience the therapeutic power of fly fishing. But fellowship

alone doesn't necessarily get the job done. A range of adaptive equipment has been developed, some of it solely for the purpose of providing fishing access for these folks.

The Evergreen Hand, for example, is a fly tying station designed to allow precision and function with only one hand. The base is metal, and clamps and other gadgets are attached to strong magnets which can be positioned to hold lines and materials. A flexible arm with a simple clamp at the end can be positioned over top. Corks can be twisted and locked to grasp the end of a feather.

“When I finally got hold of one, my vets had a heyday!” Kevin explained, adding that most of these are made by Project Healing Waters volunteers. He

believes the engineering will continue to improve as the therapeutic applications are being realized by more veterans.

Even simple pieces of equipment can have a large impact. The 20/20 Magnetic Tippet Threader is a small, handheld device that stands a hook on its head and lines the eye up with a groove. This makes it easier for those who have visual impairments or fine motor control trouble.

The Receive-All is an arm brace and an adaptor that attaches to different things like paint brushes, garden hoses, and of course fly rods. “It is cheesy looking, and actually uses zip ties. But man it works. It is just a piece of molded plastic that looks sort of like a capital ‘I' and has velcro and a clip device,” Gorby said. “We took it to the VA and got it ready for a vet who hadn't been able to cast a fly rod in 10 years. It is unbelievable how well this thing works.”

The Panhandle Fly fishers and Pensacola Fly Fishers of Northwest Florida ( are two of the groups that supply volunteers for Project Healing Waters monthly meetings.

Project Healing Waters is a not-for-profit organization with chapters around the U.S. Contributions are always welcome, said Gorby, adding that he's been grateful to local fishing clubs and equipment sponsors, including Temple Fork Outfitters, Hook & Tackle and Orvis. To get involved or learn more, contact Kevin Gorby at (850) 218-4235 or - FS

First Published Florida Sportsman May 2012

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