Fly fishing program helps veterans cope

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SUMMIT COUNTY — Blue sky sunny days are meant to be outside.

So, when Dave Ferrara woke up Saturday morning, he couldn't wait to get with his buddies and go to Summit County for a day of fly fishing.

"There's just something about getting out of the city and away from all the noise,” said Ferrara.

Unlike most people, though, Ferrara has to get away from the noise.

"You know, with PTSD and stuff, a lot of noise and things can really be hard on a person,” Ferrara said as he cast another line onto the lake.

He has heard enough noise to last a lifetime… the kind of noise that doesn’t go away by covering your ears.

“I was a combat medic and nurse during Desert Storm,” said Ferrara.

That's why this fishing trip is so important to him. The VA facilitates the trips with a program called Project Healing Waters, where those who fly fish for a living volunteer to take veterans fishing.

"Just seeing the change it brings to some of the veterans means more than anything,” said Clark "Cheech" Pierce, one of the volunteers who teamed up with a veteran to go fishing. "Something as simple as fishing and tying can change a life."

Ferrara knows all about that change.

"I used substances for a lot of years to numb out the pain,” said Ferrara. “Sometimes you get de-sensitized to stuff, but later on in life, it comes back. You could say it haunts you.”

Ferrara says he didn’t find peace until after joining this group.

"It just seemed like things clicked. It's like the lights came back on,” he said.

The thing about fishing is you can't rush, thinking you'll spend a few minutes at a lake, catch one, and go home. Besides, for these veterans, it's more about the experience than the actual catch.

"Patience, I guess as they say, is a true virtue,” said Ferrara.

When Ferrara finally got a bite, the smile on his face said it all.

“This is the biggest fish I’ve ever caught fly fishing,” said Ferrara with a laugh as he reeled in a 17-inch rainbow trout.

Then, just like the stress, he let it go. After a picture, of course.

For information on Utah's chapter of Project Healing Waters, you can visit their website.

Contributing: Mike Debernardo

Mike Debernardo/KSL-TV


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