About the GSF Wounded Warrior Fly Fishing Program
Golden State Flycasters / Trout Unlimited chapter 920 has been conducting fly tying and casting classes since October of 2008 with the Wounded Warrior Battalion out at Camp Pendleton. These fine young men have rapidly soaked up every pattern, technique, and challenge we have been able to throw at them. We have tied dries, streamers, nymphs, midges, bass bugs, clousers, deceivers, we have spun deer hair, tied wings in just about every fashion, and explored the amazing expertise of each instructor involved. When it comes to fly tying, GSF lays claim to some outstanding fly tiers and instructors. With the help of our sponsors GSF began by assembling outstanding fly tying kits for the first ten Marines to participate in this program. With help from sponsoring businesses such as Eagle Creek, Griffin Vices, Dr. Slick, Danville Chenille and Bob Marriots and Meyer Farms, we were able to assemble the tools and materials necessary to jump start this program at a very reasonable cost. GSF has committed to providing tools and materials for each student in the program. Our first class was conducted on November the 5th 2008 with eight Marines and ten GSF instructors in attendance. This weekly class conducted every Wednesday night at Camp Pendleton was an immediate plus for all of the Marines involved. Once we had the fly tying well under way we added to the curriculum some casting clinics to get our Marines tuned up and ready to fish. As we wound up the last couple of fly tying classes for this session, it seemed quite timely to invite them along on one of our most enjoyable trips of the season, The Lower Owens. Little did we know that we would all be treated to some of the best fishing any of us have seen outside of some exotic location like Alaska or maybe New Zealand.
Fly Fishing on the Lower Owens in February
As far as trips go, this one sounds like it might be just a quick run up Hwy 395 towards the Sierra Nevada Mountains for a weekend of fishing. Don't be fooled. This trip had it all: fun with good friends, plenty of trout, some of them over five pounds, new fly patterns to tie, and a whole new nymphing technique to explore. Winter in Bishop never ceases to amaze me. Every year we head north prepared for a cold reception and most of the time we are blessed with spectacular conditions. This year was no exception. We had heard from our local guide and friend Mark Rosen of Upstream Guide Service to hope for a BWO hatch if even a bit of sun showed. Friday morning of the 20th proved to lend accuracy to this statement as we shifted from nymphs by the gravel pits just outside of Bishop to Blue Winged dries at about noon. The fish here, just outside of town, were plentiful yet just a little elusive, forcing us to use our imagination, which is always a good thing. Somehow the Marines were able to join us in Bishop by 9:00 am after an early 0300 hours departure from Pendleton. It was great to get these guys on the river and watch them catch fish on flies they had tied themselves. Rod Hendrickson, John Wohlfiel and I were joined by Marines Mat Ladaby, Russell Volk, Brent Miller and Aaron Castanon.
Marines Russ Volk, Aaron Castanon, Brent Miller
On Friday night one of the Marines asked that all-too-common and important question, "what are we tying - what's going to work"? The question was met with a resounding "anything small and olive". We suggested the Zebra Midge, an Olive WD40, BWO Emerger or Nymph, or my favorite, Joe's Soft Hackle BWO Flymph. Having tied up most all of those, Marine Russell Volk went for the Soft Hackle BWO Flymph. For Saturday we arranged for a guide to take car of the Marines just to make sure they had a great time and learned from the best this area had to offer. By the time we caught up with them at the end of the day it was to stories of pure excitement. High fish counts and something so large all they ever saw was a big hump back break the surface. Aaron told us he caught more fish here than on his entire trip to Montana. Russell Volk pulls out the BWO Soft Hackle Flymph he tied the night before and declares he had caught thirteen fish on the same fly. As we left, we continued to ponder this amazing day on the water and thought, "what a fitting end to our first Wounded Warrior program". To see our Marines have this much fun was a reward in itself.
Wounded Warrior Instructors and Supporters
GSF thanks our generous sponsors of the Marines Wounded Warrior Fly Fishing & Tying Program