“You can’t be unhappy in the middle of a big, beautiful river,” said author Jim Harrison, and for many disabled veterans, the adage fortunately is proving true. Westview Tower maintenance supervisor James “Jim” Reeves volunteers with Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing (PHWFF,) a national non-profit organization that is dedicated to the physical and emotional rehabilitation of injured and disabled veterans through fly fishing and associated activities.
“It is one of the most gratifying things that I do,” says Jim, who turned in his saltwater tackle for freshwater gear when he moved from Florida to East Tennessee five years ago. He got involved with Trouts Unlimited to learn the sport of fly fishing which also is how he learned about PHWFF.
Project Healing Waters is much more than a one day fishing trip, Jim explains. The program provides basic fly fishing, fly casting and fly tying classes, and participants even learn how to make their own rod. The fishing equipment, gear and fishing trips are provided free of charge to participants.
The program is dependent upon charitable donations and the help of volunteers. Jim gives up an evening each week to teach fly fishing and numerous weekends to guide fishing outings. A veteran himself who served in the Army from 1986-1991, Jim says that being outdoors in a peaceful river setting and being able to share that experience with a wounded warrior is “pretty phenomenal.”
Out on the water, they focus on something other than worry and hardships they may be experiencing. Any day on the water is a good day, Jim says. “Any time we can get out there–whether we catch one fish or 50–just to be able to get them out there and to introduce them to the sport is what it is all about.”
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, programs are hosting virtual classes continuing to serve veterans. If interested in the Knoxville area programs, you can contact Jim at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on PHWFF, visit www.projecthealingwaters.org.
Westview Tower Maintenance Supervisor