A tranquil landscape that can only be found in nature. A peaceful mountain river rich in sea bass and trout. And the easy pace of a fly fishing rod. The cadence – ten o’clock, two o’clock, ten o’clock – runs through the heads of new fly fishermen as they attempt to get the perfect cast. âIt takes a lot of focus and frees you from everything else,â said Steven Tegtmeyer, director of the business integrated training systems portfolio of the Dam Neck Division of the Naval Surface Warfare Center and a volunteer with the Healing Waters Fly Fishing project ( PHWFF).
Tegtmeyer, a naval veteran and wounded warrior, had fished before, but never fly-fished. A colleague was bringing a new chapter of PHWFF to the Tidewater area and invited Tegtmeyer to join. It took him a year of thinking before he took the bait and witnessed it. And then he got hooked.
Tegtmeyer attended a workshop and learned how to build his own fly rod and tie a fly. From there he took part in outings to local lakes, day and weekend trips to the mountain streams of the Shenandoah Valley, and a breathtaking trip to Montana, all funded by PHWFF. . He discovered a sense of friendship and camaraderie that cannot be found anywhere else. âFamily members can help you physically, but they can’t always emotionally understand what you’re going through in war,â he said. Other PHWFF participants have had similar experiences – and it brings a sense of normalcy and tacit understanding.
Tegtmeyer decided to start volunteering so that he could share the fun and healing with others. âI enjoyed it so much and really wanted to be able to share this with other Vets and Wounded Warriors,â Tegtmeyer said. âSo I decided to volunteer and help others and teach them the things I learned, and build that friendship and camaraderie that the program is all about. Tegtmeyer stepped in and began giving workshops on fly rod building and fly tying, as well as guiding many trips to local waters for group members.
PHWFF is a non-profit group dedicated to supporting disabled veterans and active-duty military personnel, guided by the motto “Heal Those Who Serve.” There are 14 chapters of PHWFF in Virginia alone, and many more across the country. Workshops and outings provide an outlet for the Veteran and Wounded Warrior community that brings a peace that is a gift beyond measure.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, in-person events have come to a standstill. The PHWFF groups were still active, however, and held virtual meetings, classes, and live events showing how to tie a fly while viewers followed home with material sent by PHWFF. With the lifting of restrictions, groups will return to healing waters.
âIt’s not necessarily about fishing as much as it is fishing. It is finding peace and forgetting the world around you. You have nothing else to fear, âTegtmeyer said. âIt’s kind of our unspoken motto – it’s great to fish, but it’s more about getting together and socializing, making friendships and camaraderie.
Tegtmeyer received the Distinguished Community Service Award at the annual NSWCDD Honors Awards Ceremony and is one of 105 individual employees and 36 teams honored with 22 different awards.