High Altitude Society: Project Healing Waters visits Eagle County
Sunday was one of those picture perfect Rocky Mountain blue sky days with billowy white clouds floating slowly over the landscape and a soft breeze blowing by as anglers geared up for some fly-fishing at a private ranch in Edwards. Project Healing Waters, whose goal is healing those who serve, invited veterans and active servicemen to fish on a stretch of the Eagle River reserved solely for their event and on ponds teeming with trout.
Project Healing Waters is dedicated to the physical and emotional rehabilitation of servicemen and women through fly-fishing and related activities. Hosts OB and Julie Nelson provided the scenic setting at base camp, peace and quietude, camaraderie, delicious meals and the ponds stocked with trout for the program.
OB Nelson told the group, “Since stocking the ponds this year, we have not let anyone fish before these soldiers came with Project Healing Waters.”
And, stocked it was, as was evidenced by the many rises and tails flapping on the water’s surface.
“We told the company that stocks the pond that the veterans were coming and they put in some extra large fish for them,” Julie Nelson added.
Of course, the waters are catch and release and there was an obvious reverence for the life of the fish and the integrity of the sport and habitat.
Many local anglers volunteered their time as guides for the program. Vail Valley Anglers guide Bob Fish is passionate about the health of the trout and the environment. “We do everything that we can possibly do to ensure that the fish survives,” he said. “We want to catch that fish again. He is our future, and you want to take care of your future.”
When asked how they started with Project Healing Waters, Julie Nelson said, “We wanted to give back to the soldiers. When we first got involved, we thought that this would be a beautiful setting for people who had physical impairments because of the easy access to the ponds. But, there are many veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and they need to be able to relax. It is like any service project that you do — you get back tenfold of what you give. It is such a great feeling to be able to do something so minor compared to what these guys have done for our country.”
To learn more about their programs and opportunities to volunteer and donate, please visit http://www.project healingwaters.org.