“I hear the call of the River and Lake this morning,
Although I cannot answer it.
A peacefulness is upon me,
Knowing the serenity of time well spent
In a place which cleanses the heart and soul.”
On the first morning after coming home from a seven-day fly fishing school with four other veterans, a disabled Vietnam-era veteran spoke the heartfelt words above.
The fly fishing school where this transformation took place was held at Lemolo Lake Resort from September 23 through 29, 2017.
The school was established by Source One Serenity, a 1½-years-old organization from Roseburg. Its founder, Rusty Lininger, a post-9/11 combat veteran, has experienced firsthand how fly fishing literally saved his life, and became an outlet and source of peace after he had attempted suicide.
Now he shares that healing experience with our local veterans, and this week-long fly fishing school at Lemolo, located on the North Umpqua River, became the first-ever school of its kind in our area. Our thanks go to the funding from Earle B. Stewart American Legion Post 16, the US Navy Fleet Reserve Association Branch 328, and several individual donors. There was also support from other veterans. One post-9/11 veteran cooked homemade Argentinian meals and fresh bread. Another local veteran brought his boat for the whole week to add an important element to the overall experience.
The week was a complete immersion into all aspects of fly fishing for beginners. The curriculum was based on profound personal experience of Source One Serenity’s founder, which enabled him to teach all the necessary fundamentals that the attending veterans needed to know. Once the school ended, they could continue to practice fly fishing on their own.
A post-9/11 Army veteran said at the end of the school, “I do feel I have enough knowledge that I feel confident I can pass it on. The skills acquired this last week on how to tie flies, tie knots, and how to use them when fishing the fly rod, is something that, while it is a lifetime learning process, I have enough knowledge to teach my friends and my kid.” To witness him cradle a wild brook trout, his first fish ever, on the first fly he tied, almost made Rusty cry. He got it! This magic, which is almost impossible to pass on in an hour or even a couple of days, shows the need for such schools. This is the solution: To detach from the past and be immersed in the moment.
This vet also added, “Fly fishing gave me hope. My mind (usually) deals with racing thoughts, PTSD, and night terrors. Fly fishing made my mind calm, and all my thoughts became nothing, and that is something that hasn’t happened in a long time. My sleep has never been better, and I’ve had no night terrors while up here.”
Fly fishing has healed the lives of many veterans. The best example is Frank Moore, a World War II veteran. Healed by fly fishing, he became a legendary steward of the North Umpqua River.
While working in Outdoor Recreation for the US Army in Germany, Rusty met Frank Moore in Luxembourg in 2013. Frank inspired Rusty to relocate from Europe to Roseburg to start this endeavor and to share the healing he achieved through fly fishing with other veterans.
Fly fishing has been known as a therapeutic support for a wide variety of ailments, as well as for general health promotion. Fly fishing aids health and well-being through the trance-like, repetitive motions of casting, the calming sound of moving water, and the serenity of being in natural surroundings. These calm-inducing qualities provide a healthy distraction from the torment of traumatic experiences. It is also the type of activity that quickly brings people together through a shared, positive experience. None of the participants of this fly fishing school knew each other, but after the third day, they were exchanging contact information!
This school was definitely more than just fly fishing. The vets were given an inside look at Soda Springs Dam. It recently went through massive reconstruction to restore the native salmon and steelhead runs, opening several miles of new spawning habitat.
Richard Grost, the aquatic scientist from PacifiCorp, North Umpqua Hydro, showed the vets a group of actively spawning chinook salmon and described in detail what they were doing, and why. Being so close to the immensity of the fish passage facilities, and the intensity of the salmons’ spawning drive, were very humbling experiences. Rusty said, “You’d think with Pacific Power it would only be about energy. Boy, was I wrong!” The outing with Richard Grost was one of the highlights of the fly fishing school, including the visit to a salmon spawning habitat. Richard said, “I’m happy to have been a part of the inaugural Source One Serenity retreat.”
Samuel Moyer from Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife took the guys out on an evening date and into the night to enjoy Lemolo Reservoir and its “fishy locals.” The mission was to catch, measure, weigh, and record the number of fish in a region of the North Umpqua. A concern for the past couple of years was the absence of spawning kokanee (land-locked sockeye). Capturing one and spotting many others spawning brought comfort, and promises a bright future for this fishery. Samuel also went into detail on the various local fish species and feeding habits. This was an inspiring opportunity for our participants.
On the last day of the school, no one wanted to leave. The serene place, the bonding with other vets, and the entire fly fishing experience had all contributed to the positive effects of healing.
This first fly fishing school was proof for this growing organization that it completely fulfills its mission to empower our veterans to reclaim their sense of purpose.
Source One Serenity is already raising money for fly fishing programs in 2018. We also welcome our veterans to get in touch with us and become part of our community.