Fairbanks veterans find healing in learning to tie flies

By  | 

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) Fairbanks veterans learn how to tie flies through the program Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing. A local program has recently started back up to bring this national nonprofit’s mission to Fairbanks.

Fairbanks veterans learn how to tie flies through the program Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing. A local program has recently started back up to bring this national nonprofit’s mission to Fairbanks. (Sara Tewksbury/KTVF)

“You can slow down in your stressful day, come down right here at the Vet Center, and be amongst other veterans, and just slow everything down and enjoy that moment of fly tying,” said Veteran Brad Bunnell.

Fil Martinez is the Fairbanks program lead and starts by teaching veterans how to tie flies, that in the spring they will get to test while also learning how to fly fish.

“We’re gonna test all these flies that we’re doing, no matter how bad they look or how good they look, we’ll see if they hook, we’re pretty sure they’re gonna work,” said Bunnell.

Martinez says Project Healing Waters is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to the physical and emotional rehabilitation of disabled active duty soldiers and veterans through fly fishing and fly fishing related activities.

Martinez said when he was in Germany he was volunteering with the program, and then moved to Alaska and was asked to restart the program in Fairbanks after the program became inactive over the years.

The Fairbanks program started back up in September and the classes have been held weekly on Thursday nights from 6 to 7 p.m.

Martinez says the program is open to active duty service members who are ill or injured or a veteran with a VA rating, even if that rating is zero.

Participants will learn fly tying and rod building through the winter, and then how to cast fly rods when it’s warmer and then how to fly fish once the ice thaws.

Over time, changes can be seen in Veterans who participate in the program. “It’s not an immediate you come to one session, they have to be invested into the program, they have to want to do it, and over time, you slowly see changes in moods and behaviors, and people healing through whatever thing they had to go through,” said Martinez.

Big into fishing himself, Martinez says he likes being able to share that with others and what it provides for the participants, “the comradery, it’s a group working together sitting working on fishing stuff.”

Copyright 2019 KTVF. All rights reserved.