Rushing Waters Fisheries hosts TU’s Veterans On The Fly fishing outing

On the morning of Wednesday, August 15, volunteers from local Trout Unlimited (“TU”) Chapters showed up at Rushing Waters Fisheries, a trout farm in Palmyra, WI, and started setting the stage for a very memorable fishing outing.


These volunteers were soon joined by U.S. military veterans who are learning how to fly fish.  Fly rods were put together (they typically come in 2 or 4 pieces), lines were strung, and dry flies were tied to the end in hopes of enticing one of the many rainbow trout that inhabit the pond at Rushing Waters.


The veterans spread out around the edge of the pond along with TU volunteer fishing mentors and began fly casting.  A simple back cast, pause, then a forward flick of the rod sends about 20 feet of line out.  With hundreds of hungry trout circling around in the crystal clear water, it didn’t take long for them to notice the dry flies landing on surface.


Then the commotion begins.  First it’s a sip of the dry fly, then a hook set, and finally the pure joy of a leaping rainbow trout on the end of a tight line.  It’s an amazing feeling to hold the line and feel the power of these fish on the end – one our military veterans won’t soon forget.


These veterans have been participating in Trout Unlimited’s Veterans On The Fly programs at the VA hospitals in Milwaukee, Madison, and Green Bay.  Volunteers from Southeast WI TU (Milwaukee), Southern WI TU (Madison), and Green Bay TU have been teaching the vets the finer points of fly fishing as part of their recreational therapy.


Trout Unlimited is a non-profit organization dedicated to conserving and protecting North America’s cold water fisheries.  Here in Wisconsin, there are over 5,200 dedicated members in 21 local chapters.  Many of these conservationists are accomplished anglers and are more than willing to share their knowledge of trout fishing with our military veterans.


Peter Fritch and the staff at Rushing Waters Fisheries have been generously hosting vets participating in these TU programs since 2011.  The fish caught are quickly put on ice, taken up to the Trout House where they’re cleaned, packaged and shipped out to local restaurants and grocery stores.  It’s a win-win for everyone involved.


The volunteers and veterans know that this is more “catching” than “fishing”, but it provides a valuable opportunity to practice setting the hook and landing a fish on a fly rod.  This practice allows the vets to be prepared to set the hook and make the most of fishing opportunities on local lakes and rivers.


Camaraderie amongst the veterans and volunteers is evident during the lunch break.  TU volunteers provide a traditional Wisconsin brat fry before the veterans head back to the pond for a few more casts.


After the last casts were made, fish stories continued to fly, and it’s evident that the veteran participants are already looking forward to their next hook up on a fly rod.