Project Healing Waters

Overflowing the banks of Smith Creek: PHWFF & MTU


PHWFF supplies rods sit awaiting the veterans.

This being my first opportunity to photograph a Project Healing Waters event, I came with my camera, lenses and a little bit of apprehension in tow. Would I miss a winning shot? Would I get in the way? Would I cause someone to lose their best trout? To boot, it was starting to rain.

I showed up at Susie Q Farm earlier than the vets and guides to share the field with some regulars, who swapped war stories and joked in the way only old hands at this sort of thing could. In retrospect, I guess I felt much like any new veteran would feel stepping into this fray. Strange faces, places, lingo and gear is enough to put anyone in a defensive posture, not to mention being unpracticed at fly fishing.

But all that melted away with every warm smile and handshake. Eventually, we were all reduced to people united in a single purpose—enjoying fly fishing, enjoying the company of others and staying dry.

Bill Cartwright PHWFF program coordinator and MTU member addresses the group.

Bill Cartwright PHWFF program coordinator and MTU member addresses the group.

Vets took their pick of the ample guides that showed up. It was impressive and flattering to see so many eager to help. Pairs spread out across the mile or so stretch of Susie Q to try their hand at landing some large trout. But not before a group shot.


Massanutten TU members, Project Healing Waters volunteers and veterans.

Recent improvements to the banks made accessing some holes easier. Water levels were lower than I’d seen all year, but that’s typical for a September that’s seen little rain. Spooky trout could be lured out of the shelter of shadows with typical streamers but takes were light and difficult to set. With some determination and some know how, several vets were given ample opportunities to land some beautiful trout.

The smiles, laughter and memories made overflowed the banks of Smith Creek that day. Afterward as some vets took their leave, guides joined in and spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying the sunbathed waters and uncharacteristically cool September winds.

I very much look forward to any PHWFF I can be a part of or attend. If you’d like to also please contact Bill Cartwright. Phone: (540) 432-0607 or Email: 

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