Growing Veterans On The Fly for Tomorrow's Betterment

By Matthew Cade, Co-Chair WITU Service Partnership

We are now on the other side of the pandemic that hampered so many gatherings and functions and prevented the socialization that is needed by so many.

The Service Partnership and Veterans on the Fly (VOTF) stood vigilant during the height of the lockdowns and offered vises and rods and reels to folks to take a break from the stresses that weighed them down. But the classes and streamside gatherings took a hit and left many of us wondering when we would be able to get back together again.

At the beginning of August VOTF marked a momentous occasion by finally converging at the Dairyland Outdoors Veterans Retreat (DOVR) for what we hope can return to an annual event. Folks from across the state came together to gather around the campfire and share fishy stories.

Anglers took to drift boats and chased warm-water species. And all of this was done with the camaraderie found in serving together as soldiers, sailors and/or first responders.

It was accomplished by a team of wonderful people including Jeff Butler, Michael Johnson, Gary Gillis (Rest in peace, my friend.) and Hannah and Sam Floberg of American Heroes Outdoors, by bringing our heroes together.

I cannot thank them enough for their sacrificed time and dedication in helping to bring together an event like this. I cannot thank them enough in seeing other VOTF events coming together across the state.

But as we go forward and close 2022 out with colder weather and tying flies, I want to challenge each of the 21 chapters in Wisconsin to have their veterans and first responders step up and host an occasional night to come together and be there for our friends, our brothers and sisters in arms. I want to see more events created for our community and the betterment of Trout Unlimited as a whole.

The beauty of the VOTF program is that there is not a need of any formality of an event. It can be friends gathering for the sake of building the community of VOTF and fostering an environment that allows events like the one at DOVR to build into events across all of Wisconsin and find a growing network of like-minded folks to charge forward.

As the co-chair of the Service Partnership and a 12-year U.S. Coast Guard veteran, I want to look back next year and be able to see a considerable growth in our program and admire the love shared between our heroes in the threads of fishing and preserving our waters for tomorrow’s generations.

So please step up and invite another hero to sit next you at the vise and tie flies for next year’s streamside gatherings.

If you or any individuals in your chapters would like to discuss a vision for VOTF in your chapter, please do not hesitate to reach out

to Matt Cade at
(414) 982 9784.