By Gene Milus
In partnership with the Colorado Springs Chapter of Project Healing Waters (PHW), our chapter
hosted eight disabled veterans for a day of fishing and camaraderie on August 20 at the Big Horn RV
Park in Coaldale. Rain the previous evening did not muddy the river, and rain at the start soon
ended. Although the water looked like it should hold a ton of fish, there was not a lot of interest
in our flies. Mentor Mark Tamler and vet Johnny discovered that it was possible to cross the
river and fish a run from the other side that turned out to be the honey hole. After lunch, a few
more veterans and their mentors ventured to the other side where the fish were more cooperative.
Johnny didn’t remember how many fish he caught, but “It was in the double digits”.
The veterans were scheduled to pack up for the trip home at 3:00. Rain started to fall at 2:55 as a
reminder. Those who didn’t make it back by 3:00 got pretty wet when the sky opened up. Fortunately the RV resort let us use a large, sturdy tent that kept us and our gear dry. Soon runoff
muddied the river, but we were pleased that the rain held off until we were done fishing. As we
were told in the mentor training session, “It’s not about the fish”. All the mentors felt good about
helping their vet, and all the veterans were very appreciative of the entire experience.
Each of the veterans received a box of 2 dozen flies in a customized fly box. Dave Belmont tied 80 of
the flies, Jim Impara tied a couple dozen, others were donated through Bryan Ward’s efforts and
a couple dozen were purchased to round out what Dave thought was needed.
Chris Duerksen, Chris Lamson, Dave Belmont, Mark Tamler, Don Harville, Don Schoderbek,
Jim Impara, Rick Helmick, and Tom Arnot were mentors. Patricia Helmick, Monika Milus and
Barbara Plake coordinated and served lunch that was provided by the Salida Safeway. Lisa
Maxwell, Steve Hock, Dwight Dumler and several others who volunteer with PHW were
instrumental in getting the veterans introduced to fly fishing, geared up to fish, and safely transported
to and from the outing. Aaron and Brenda Cromer, the owners of Big Horn RV Park, treated all
of us like we were old friends and invited us to come back and do it again. Thanks to everyone
who helped make this year’s veterans fishing outing a success!