About Fly Fishing Veterans

From the front lines to fishing lines.

Fishing buddies Jeff McEnroe, Scott Lightcap, and Josh Voynick, all from the Umpqua area of Oregon, had many discussions on their fishing trips about giving back in some meaningful way to those who served our country.  Jeff remembered reading about Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing for disabled veterans and realized they could use their fishing talents to help.  Reaching out to two other fishing buddies, Jay Carlson and Bryan Deck, the five formed a steering committee.  

In 2014, the steering committee worked with the Roseburg VA Hospital Campus in Umpqua Valley to establish the Umpqua Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing Program in Roseburg to serve disabled veterans throughout the Umpqua region.

Since the inception of this form of naturally relaxing therapy in 2005 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the Veterans Administration has nationally recognized its benefits for our military personnel and veterans dealing with suicide, PTSD, TBI, Parkinson’s and physical injuries.

Our valuable volunteers mentor our participants in the five distinct activities of fly fishing: (1) fly tying; (2) rod building; (3) fly casting; (4) fly fishing education; and, (5) fishing events. These activities provide a positive distraction in a supportive environment and are the core elements of this proven therapy.

Throughout our history in the Umpqua Region, we have served over 100 military veterans through the sport of fly fishing.

Through collaboration with other veteran organizations throughout southern Oregon, as of January 2020 we successfully reduced the veteran suicide rate in the Roseburg region we serve by 75%. 

Retired emergency personnel in our organization have recognized how this means of positive therapy helped them navigate what they personally witnessed over the years.  They found that the sport of fly fishing improved their own lives by helping them deal with the traumas and tragedies they witnessed throughout their careers.  

We recognize the added stressors being placed on our first responders and healthcare personnel dealing with the Covid pandemic. This pandemic created a mental health crisis for our brethren as suicides, domestic violence, and self-medicating/substance abuse have escalated amongst their ranks as never before. This could be the single greatest crisis for them since the tremendous loss of life resulting from the terrorist attack on New York’s Twin Towers on 9-11-2001.

While recognizing our need to Serve All Who Served throughout our region, we also recognized that we were missing a lot of opportunities to help them improve their quality of life and that of their families.  Starting in 2018, we fostered an excellent relationship with Umpqua Valley Fly Fishers (UVFF) in Roseburg.  In 2021, we elected to transition into our new organization, Fly Fishing Veterans, as a veteran’s division within the Umpqua Valley Fly Fishers a non-profit 501(c)(3) and charter fly club within Fly Fishers International (FFI).  To better serve our Umpqua region and those who can benefit from the calming effects of the sport of fly fishing.  We still enjoy our collaborative relationship with Umpqua Valley Fly Fishers.

As we continue experiencing an increase of active participants and volunteers, we have continued increasing the number of meetings and activities throughout 2021 and 2022.  In September 2022, Fly Fishing Veterans incorporated as a registered charity organization with the state of Oregon.  We are a subordinate organization under Fly Fishers International.  Fly Fishing Veterans, EIN #88-1655032 qualifies as a 501(c)(3) Group Exemption (GEN#9453) under IRS Code 0f 1954.

In “Serving All Who Served”, we provide participants i.e., military active duty and veterans; first responders; and, healthcare personnel with equipment and materials needed to participate in classes and events.  We pay yearly Fly Fishers International membership fees for our active participants.  We are always looking for volunteers to help with mentoring these skill sets and/or assisting those who may have difficulty accessing fishing areas on events, including those with watercraft to take them on the water to fish, or helping in other areas with events and classes.

Fly Fishing Veterans maintains the same core values through proven positive therapy based on positive distraction

In 2019 we experienced a 300 percent growth in veteran participation, averaging 40 participants monthly in addition to a 35 percent growth in volunteers, averaging 20 monthly.  We conducted 78 activities throughout 2019, to include meetings, classes, community events and outings.  There were 125 activities planned for 2020 until the Covid pandemic drastically impacted our organization.  Our overall participation continued increasing throughout 2022 and we are starting off 2023 with a combined total of 60 activities already scheduled for the 68 people currently participating.  

Fire departments, law enforcement agencies, first responder companies and healthcare facilities working in conjunction with Roseburg VA Hospital in “Serving All Who Served”.  As a team, we work to improve the mental and physical health of our brethren, in addition to reducing the escalating suicide rate among them.