I recently had one of the most memorable experiences in my 20+ year fishing career and I thought today would be an appropriate time to share the story. As many of you may know, I'm an armed forces veteran and so is my right hand man, David Hudson. We are passionate about giving back to our brothers and sisters who protect this country. It's something we're very passionate about, which is why we jumped at the chance to host a Project Healing Waters fishing tournament here on the Little Red River last week.
For those who don't know about Project Healing Waters, it's a program dedicated to the physical and emotional rehabilitation of disabled active military service personnel and disabled veterans through fly fishing and associated activities including education and outings. We invited the River City group to join us at here at Lobo Landing Resort for a few days to fish and relax. On this trip, we had combat wounded vets from the Army, Navy and Marines.
On my first day with the crew, I had the pleasure of hosting John and Vincent. We made fast friends and wasted no time before heading out to try and land the big one. We started fishing - with only fly rods, no spin fishing - and we fished all day long to only catch a few. The water was low, we couldn't hit some of my favorite spots and that means very stressful day for a guide. And in this situation, the stress was even higher. I really wanted these guys to catch a ton of fish. The fish counter didn't matter to my group, we got to know each other and exchange some old military stories. I shared a few stories of my own, but my stories didn't compare. These boys were all combat wounded vets and I'm blessed to have never been sent into combat.
The following day was the fishing tournament and the rules were simple:
- You only count the five largest fish
- Brown Trout counted as double size
I wanted to take my guys after the Browns. Thankfully we had some water generation the night before and we could hit a couple of my favorite spots. We started a little slow that morning but the nets started warming up pretty quickly. Vincent stuck with me on day two and he started reeling them in. We parked the boat and spent most of our time wading in the river. At one point he said Beau, I like this wade fishing.
Vincent was the hero that day, in more ways than one. My buddy netted three Browns and two Rainbows, giving him a total of 106 inches of fish! When we were done fishing, we headed back to Lobo Landing for the awards ceremony and photos. I kept telling Vincent that he had a very good chance of winning this tournament, and when they got to first place, they called out his name! I gave him a huge hug afterwards and congratulated him. The expression on his face was priceless and I will never forget it.
In some ways, I struggle with calling myself a veteran because I never served time in combat. My time in the Army is one of the best memories in my life and I met some great men and women. I know in my heart that my experience in the Army made me the man I am today. It taught me courage, honor and integrity. It's there that I learned to push myself to reach my goals in life. I'm grateful for the time I spent with these gentlemen. They brought back a lot of memories for me and helped remind me why it's so important to give back to our veterans.
Vincent, William, Tim, John, JT; I'm already looking forward to next year!
Special thanks to the other two guides. David Hudson, Beau's Guide Service and Phil Landry, Arkansas Trout Fishing Guide.