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Fly Fishing with Veterans

Last winter, John Piacquadio, a case manager in Vinland’s outpatient chemical health program, began voluteering with Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing (PHWFF), a national organization that teaches veterans about fly fishing. Many of the individuals who participate in PHWFF are dealing with substance abuse, mental illness, and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Thanks to his background in working with individuals facing similar issues, John was recently asked to take over the role of Program Lead for the Twin Cities chapter after the current lead retires.

“There’s something special about the whole process – from learning fly tying to catching fish,” John said. “The process helps people by indirectly working on mental health issues; it helps people talk when they wouldn’t before.”

Before joining Project Healing Waters, John was already fly tying with clients at Vinland’s outpatient chemical health program. Fly tying helps people with traumatic brain injuries work on their fine motor skills and executive planning (by following directions).

“Recreation therapy is so important. People need exposure to alternatives for drugs and alcohol. Fly fishing is great because it is not something you can win. You can never be perfect at fly fishing, but you can see progress.”

According to the organization’s website, the Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing program provides basic fly fishing, fly casting, fly tying and rod building classes, along with clinic participants ranging from beginners who have never fished before, to those with prior fly fishing and tying experience who are adapting their skills to their new abilities. All fly fishing and tying equipment is provided to the participants at no cost. Fishing trips are also provided free of charge to participants.

Project Healing Waters’ St. Cloud chapter was featured on KARE 11’s Land of 10,000 Stories last year. You can watch the video below.