Text and photos provided by Andre Baril.
The Project Healing Waters involvement in Petawawa was initially planned at the end of 2012 with the help of Bruce Philips, then Petawawa OSISS coordinator, who subsequently moved to Ottawa. Unfortunately, the project was not launched until Fall 2013 for various administrative reasons.
Bruce and I launched the Ottawa project in Fall 2013 by providing fly casting and fly tying clinics to forty veterans. If it is true that fly fishing is very relaxing, the pleasure is double when we are tying flies. By doing so, not only are we concentrating on the skills necessary to attach various materials on what seems to the neophyte as very small hooks, but also we are dreaming of being with nature and of preparing the next trip. We are also imagining the many fishes we are going to catch, and with something we have created on our own. This is the beauty of fly tying.
Following the success of the Ottawa project, we quickly heard that the veterans of the Petawawa base were very eager to embark on this new journey and, thanks to the support of Captain John Harju, newly-based Petawawa OSISS coordinator, we were able to put something together to start early in the new year 2014: the plan was to reverse the Ottawa process and learn the tying first and the casting after.
We then put together a calendar of five distinct sessions, looked for volunteers to assist as mentors, and we succeeded with the help of the Algonkin Fly Fishers’ Club and Sgt Chris from Petawawa.
The winter tying at Petawawa started on January 14 and ended on February 18. We were surprised by the numbers who showed up the first day and the majority stayed until the end. Given the numbers, we divided in two groups and each group learned the basic skills and tied two different flies at each of the sessions.
The mentoring staff agreed that those 19 veterans not only showed up to the clinics, but also demonstrated throughout a keen interest in the skills, and a very high motivation to learn and practice on their own.
The project was designed to show as many fly tying techniques as possible to cover almost all species that can be fished from the Atlantic to the Pacific, with an escapade in the North. Numerous fly patterns were tied by the Petawawa veterans throughout the clinics.
Again, a big thank you to Wounded Warriors for providing the necessary funds for the fly tying project, to the OSISS personnel for coordinating with the veterans, and for all volunteers who did an excellent job.