“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,” a disabled Vietnam-era veteran said on the first morning after coming home from a seven-day fly fishing school with four other veterans at Lemolo Lake Resort from Sept. 23-29.
The school was implemented by Source One Serenity, a 1 1/2-year-old organization from Roseburg. Its founder, Rusty Lininger, a post-9/11 combat veteran, has experienced himself how fly fishing literally saved his life and became an outlet and source of peace after he tried to commit suicide.
Now he shares his healing with our local veterans, and the weeklong fly fishing school at Lemolo on the North Umpqua became the first school, thanks 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 veteran, post 9/11, cooked homemade Argentinian meals and fresh bread. Another local veteran brought his boat for the whole week to add an important part to the experience.
The week was a complete immersion into all aspects of fly fishing for beginners. The curriculum was based on the profound personal experience of Source One Serenity’s founder to teach all the necessary fundamentals that enable veterans to practice fly fishing after the school 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 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, the detachment from the past and immersing into the moment.
This vet also added: “Fly fishing gave me hope. My mind 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. He has been healed by fly fishing and became a legendary steward of the North Umpqua River. Rusty, while working for outdoor recreation of the U.S. Army in Germany, met Frank Moore in Luxembourg in 2013, and he inspired Rusty to relocate from Europe to Roseburg to start this endeavor and to share his healing with other veterans.
Fly fishing has been known as a therapeutic support for a wide variety of ailments and general health promotion. Fly-fishing aids health and well-being through the trance-like repetitive motions of casting, the calming sound of moving water, the serenity of the natural surroundings and healthy distraction from the torment of traumatic experiences. It is the type of activity that quickly brings people together through a uniform, positive experience. None of the participants of this fly fishing school knew each other. And 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 spawning habitat. Richard Grost, the aquatic scientist from PacifiCorp, North Umpqua Hydroelectric Project guided the vets to actively spawning Chinook salmon and described in detail what they were doing and why. A very humbling experience that is open to the public by a simple request.
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, especially seeing salmon spawning habitat. Richard added, “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 (landlocked sockeye). Capturing one and spotting many others spawning brought comfort in a bright future for this fishery. Samuel also went into detail of the various local fish species and feeding habits. This was an inspiring opportunity for our participants.
On the last day of the school, nobody wanted to leave. The serene place, the bonding with other vets and this fly fishing experience has left positive effect and 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 the fly fishing programs in 2018.