Gone (Fly) Fishing
There are more benefits to fly fishing than a day spent on the water, away from the world. It’s a time to strategize, then relax; catch a fish and then clear your mind while letting go of stress and, for veterans experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder, the memories of war.

Members of Moscow, Idaho, Lodge No. 249 have gone fishin’ using an Impact Grant to primarily help returning Iraqi and Afghan veterans with PTSD who attend nearby University of Idaho and Washington State University. Seven Elks set up fly fishing lessons, which the Lodge supplements with a high-quality rod, reel and line for each of the 16 veterans who participate in the program. Each veteran was recommended by liaisons between the universities and the Lodge. In addition to the lessons, the Lodge also holds casting practice on a golf range and organized outings to local fishing spots.

“We are most proud that we can give back to the men and women who have served our country and give them a life-long hobby,” says Dr. George Paris, the project manager.

The Lodge holds four weekly lessons on the essentials of fly fishing: fly casting, insect morphology and stream reading. Fly fishing is different from traditional fishing because it lures the fish using natural bait on the line such as an insect. The bait is light and therefore must be cast using a different method from traditional fishing. It requires more thought and technique, and has more benefits on the bodies and minds of participants.

A dozen Lodge members were happy to volunteer their time to help teach the veterans about the sport, which they hope will change their lives.

“This project will give them a life-long hobby that they can relax with and enjoy with friends and family,” Paris says.

In 2009, researchers from the University of Southern Maine, the University of Utah, and the V.A. in Salt Lake City found that combat veterans who participated in a fly fishing study had significant reductions in stress and PTSD symptoms and improvements in their sleep quality after just one fly fishing retreat.

By teaching the veterans in their community how to fly fish, the Lodge has effectively instilled a skill that will help veterans experiencing PTSD return to a sense of normalcy and calm whenever they need it.

“The Lodge and the community has been very proud of our project and has been behind it 100 percent,” Paris says.

According to bimonthly progress reports from the participants and volunteers, the project has been successful across for the board for participants. After the project is complete, the Lodge plans to gather feedback from participants and volunteers to continue improving the experience. The Lodge hopes to eventually expand the program from 16 to 24 veterans to continue serving the veterans of their community.

The Elks National Foundation helps Lodges serve their communities in significant and ongoing ways by awarding Impact Grants of up to $10,000. To find out more about Impact Grants and the Community Investments Program, visit enf.elks.org/ImpactGrants.

Back to top
ENF Donor Bill of Rights