Fly Fishing Therapy for Wounded Soldiers

By: Lisa Ferrari
By: Lisa Ferrari

October 29, 2006

A group of wounded soldiers spent Sunday in Madison County learning to fly fish. The program, hosted by "Project Healing Waters,” has helped many injured vets heal both emotionally and physically.

Taking a break from fly fishing along the shady banks of the Rose River in Madison County, National Guardsman Sgt. Russell Martin recalled the day he and his fellow guardsmen were injured in a bus accident traveling from Kuwait to Iraq.

“The bus driver was going too fast around a turn, rolled the bus on its side. I was on the side it landed on. I got de-gloved on my left arm and my hand,” said Sgt. Martin.

Thirty people were on the bus, 19 were wounded, and one man died. That was almost a year ago. Since then Martin has had 10 surgeries and the healing is not over. That's where Project Healing Waters comes in. They help recently disabled veterans learn to fly fish despite their injuries.

“It's 100% different than being in the hospital, trying to do occupational therapy,” said Martin.

Tying flies helps heal the physical wounds by developing dexterity and fine motor skills and it also helps with the emotional wounds, said project founder Retired Navy Captain Ed Nicholson

“Getting out on a nice sunny day on a river like this in a beautiful country, that's always great,” said Nicholson.

Today far away from his Walter Reed hospital bed Martin can - for a moment - forget about his injuries and just be a man fishing with his wife.

“It means a lot to spend time together,” said Martin’s wife Crystal.

“It’s kind of cool she is out here,” added Martin.

Casting a healing net over the entire family.

Sgt. Martin's wife and 7-year-old son hope to have him back home soon but doctors say it may be another 6 months before he is well enough to go home.

Project Healing Waters is funded mostly by donations. To find out more about how you can help go to

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