Sunday, June 10, 2012

Spruce Pine Veterans Outing

Last Friday afternoon our special guests began arriving at our lodging place in Spruce Pine, North Carolina, a repurposed schoolhouse from the 1930’s now known as the Pinebridge Inn. We were to greet vets from our TU VSP/Project Healing Waters programs from the Carolinas, and Tennessee.

A few weeks earlier, Ryan Harman, a PHW Board Member, Pisgah TU member, and the Program Lead of the Asheville PHW program put the word out that a select few veterans from the area were to be invited to spend a day on Rock Creek, a beautiful little stream hiding in the shadows of Roan Mountain in western North Carolina and managed by the guys at River's Edge Outfitters in Spruce Pine. As most of the vets had heard of the place from the reports of prior outings, filling the nine veteran quota was easy and quick.

Friday night’s creek side dinner was spoiled when we received a call from the caterer that due to a quickly passing thunderstorm her set-up on the stream was being threatened by rising waters. No problem. We’ll eat at the Inn. And as it turned out, those rising waters were a blessing in disguise.

When we arrived at the creek early Saturday morning the well drained grounds were fine, and due to the slight coloration of the water, the creek was even finer. That little touch of color should have put the normally leader shy trout on warning . . these fishermen meant business and with the ability to be armed with 3x tippets . . . landing a few of the creek’s bruisers was a certainty.

But turning our vets loose on those big guys would have to wait until the completion of the three seminars that we had planned - Jesse Connor from Trout Dancer Rod Company conducting a dry/dropper seminar, Dick Engelhardt sharing his expertise on streamer fishing, and Paul Bourcq from the NC Fly Fishing Team, passing along his line management techniques. Each veteran had the opportunity to sit in on each seminar and when it came time to practice their new skills it wasn’t long before the words, “Fish on!” were heard up and down the stream. By days end each of our vets had landed his share of rainbows – most of them in the 18 to 24 inch range. The smallest fish landed (not counting a horny head or two) measured twelve inches.

Paul Bourcq's line management seminar

Dick Engelhardt's streamer fishing seminar

Jesse Connor's dry/dropper seminar...and the results

We all had a fantastic time. The weather finally cooperated and the fishing was great. Best of all - that "winding down" time at the end of the day and the fish stories that were shared. The ones caught and the ones that got away. The memories, the camaraderie, the sharing.

Special thanks to the Pinebridge Inn for their great hospitality, and to Joe Street and Steve Mingle from River’s Edge Outfitters for making the water available. Our thanks to the seminar leaders who so freely shared their skills with our veterans, and the TU volunteer guides and mentors that made possible our one-to-one ration of guides to participants.

Outings just like this one are taking place across the country nearly every week. With over seventy of our TU chapters involved in the Veterans Service Program now, you can be sure that hundreds of our deserving veterans are experiencing the thrill of landing trout as they enjoy a holiday from their ongoing recoveries.