Project Healing Waters

Project Healing Waters

First lieutenant Eivind Forseth grew up fly-fishing on the Yellowstone River. But while serving with the Army's 82nd Airborne Division in Iraq, he was

First lieutenant Eivind Forseth grew up fly-fishing on the Yellowstone River. But while serving with the Army's 82nd Airborne Division in Iraq, he was hit by an IED that shattered the bones in his right arm and paralyzed his right hand.

Following a medical evacuation to Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Forseth fell into a depression because of his injuries. "I thought my fly-fishing days were done," he says. "I never really considered trying it again."

Fortunately, the staff at the hospital knew about Forseth's passion for fly-fishing and connected him with retired Navy captain Ed Nicholson, who was putting together a program to take wounded servicemen fly-fishing.

After overcoming concerns that he might "embarrass himself" on the river, Forseth went fishing with Nicholson, and he credits that day for turning his life around. "Once I got out on the water and realized that I could still fish," Forseth says, "things really began picking up for me. It was very emotionally healing for me."

Nicholson's program, Project Healing Waters, is entering its second year, and its goal is to facilitate recovery for other wounded servicemen.

Project Healing Waters has taken about 30 servicemen on outings from Maine's Kennebec River to the Yellowstone River in Montana.

Fly-fishing, it appears, is the perfect sport for servicemen learning to live with a missing limb or prosthesis. "Anybody who fly-fishes knows you're using all your limbs," Forseth says, and fly-fishing after an amputation or injury "forces you to use what you've got."

Along with the strictly physical rehabilitation that results from learning to fly-fish, a day on the water helps people with a variety of illness and injury to heal emotionally. Organizations such as Casting for Recovery and Reel Recovery work with cancer patients and survivors, and Project Healing Waters founder Nicholson hopes his organization will expand to help all wounded veterans--not just the recently wounded--experience the healing aspects of fly-fishing.

As for Forseth, he hopes to work with Project Healing Waters as it grows. "I would like to medically retire from the Army," he says, "and take on the project full time."

Project Healing Waters has worked with the Federation of Fly Fishers and the National Capital Chapter of Trout Unlimited in Washington, DC, to secure funding and sponsors. Their biggest operation expense is transportation for the participants; manufacturers such as Simms, R.L. Winston, Orvis and many others have donated gear for the servicemen.

Visit projecthealingwaters.org to find out more information on how to help out.