In Honor of Veteran’s Day…..A TRIBUTE TO PROJECT HEALING WATERS by Pamela Moran, Recreation Therapist, Newington Veteran’s Hospital

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“I am so grateful for all of the Project Healing Waters volunteers”.  This comment from one of the Veterans participating in the PHW program at the Newington VA is a sincere message conveying the sentiments of many.  The volunteers have partnered with the Veterans to form a wonderful alliance.   PHW members exhibit professionalism and provide camaraderie through their interactions.  They are teachers to the Veterans as well as mentors, buddies and teammates.

As a group, the Vets have been able to learn to tie flies, cast with a fly rod and understand the many elements to fly fishing.  Most of them have not been fly fishing and were not aware of the techniques of casting.  The PHW volunteers have taken the Vets under their wings to spend time in the ‘classroom’ as well as on the river and by the pond to work together in order to instill a knowledge and appreciation for the sport.  There have been a few who expressed, for one reason or another, that they did not think they could tie a fly.  However, when connected to a volunteer he/she ended up quite surprised and proudly held up that ‘first fly’ for all to view.

Jim Iannone, Program Leader for the PHW program that functions out of the Newington, CT VA writes:  “Since July 2012 the volunteers from the Farmington Valley and Candlewood Lake chapters of  Trout Unlimited have enjoyed ‘serving those that have served’ through the PHWFF program.  We particularly enjoy their reactions to tying their first fly and catching that ‘first fish’ on a fly that they have tied during our sessions.  I am pleased with the success of the program and glad I stepped up as Program Leader to get the program started.  It has been very rewarding to me and the volunteers from our chapters.”

Jim has organized a wonderful network of fly fishing enthusiasts who connect very well with the Veterans in the program.   The enthusiastic group with PHW have been very dedicated to the cause, coming in to the VA on a monthly basis to tie or meeting on the water to help Vets put into play the skills they have been working on together.

Project Healing Waters volunteers with the Newington program are also VA volunteers – they promote good will and positive experiences with their efforts.  Voluntary Service Assistant Chief Joe Canzanella worked with the processing of applications, etc to facilitate the volunteers to function within the VA system.  Joe is also a very active supporter of the program, including driving Veterans to the various locations that are used to exercise their skills.

A Veteran participant, David, wrote:

“This program has many different aspects:   First, there is the fly tying.  While there are accepted patterns of flies one can experiment with their own ideas.  One has to have a certain adeptness in order to be able to construct a fly as well as patience.  Members of the organization are there to answer questions, make suggestions, as well as encouragement.

The real proof in the pudding comes when one is able to see if their product works – does it catch fish?  But who knows, perhaps the water is cloudy, the sun is out, too hot, too cold, or there is a different hatch.  Your fly may work on a different day, or even a different fish!

But what could be better than to be out on a spring or summer day. The sun is warm, there are a few bugs, listening to water as it murmurs along the stream’s bank or chuckling as it flows over the rocks with birds singing in the trees.  What a bonus, if the fly that you tied brings in a fish!”

Another Veteran who has been enjoying the program reflected when asked if she would like to contribute any thoughts: “It helped me to realize I’m a fisherman of men.”  Not only has PHW provided the first opportunity for her to participate in fly fishing, the experience allowed her to catch a fish on her first outing.

Many Veterans have become ‘hooked’ on the program—what a wonderful thing!  And a blessing that the PHW program continues year-round.  This provides the opportunity for the Vets to remain involved throughout the cold and wintry, ‘will spring ever arrive’ weeks.  More reason to keep tying in order to get those flies ready for when it’s finally time to get back out on the water.

Here are some more messages that the Veterans would like to relate about their experience:

“Thanks to Project Healing Waters I got to experience the thrill of catching my first fish”.

“I had never had the opportunity to try fly fishing.  Thanks to the Project Healing Waters volunteers I now have a new hobby”.

“Thanks to Project Healing Waters for all of the outings.  Also for teaching us how to tie dry and wet flies”.

“Fresh air, sunshine and fishing.  What a wonderful combination”.

“Awesome fishing and the volunteers are excellent with assisting.  It is very relaxing to get close to nature and appreciate the resources.  It’s been 20 years since I fly fished – it’s great to get back to it”.

“It’s a great program.  I had a wonderful day.  Fly fishing is lots of fun and I learn something new every time”.

“The Project Healing Waters volunteers are tremendous – very nice, great people”.

Thank you Project Healing Waters for all you have been doing to enrich the lives of many.

The Veterans and staff of the Newington VA truly appreciate your efforts, encouragement, enthusiasm and commitment to this art and those you have touched with your mission.

Didymo confirmed on the West Branch

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DEEP has confirmed the presence of a bloom of didymo on the West Branch of the Farmington River  that has created a thick layer on much of the stream bottom in Riverton between the Route 20 bridge, near the former Hitchcock Chair Factory, and the confluence with the Still River (approximately 1 km downstream)  and along the eastern bank of the river for approximately 200 meters below the confluence.

The angling community should be mindful that didymo can be transported from one section of the river to another on their clothing and gear. Especially on boots and waders.

What is Didymo?

Didymo is an invasive freshwater algae. During blooms, didymo can form thick mats on the bottoms of rivers and streams.

Why is Didymo bad?

Didymo not only reduces the recreational and aesthetic value of a river, but can also be devastating to it’s ecology. The thick mats produced by this algae cover the rocks and disrupt the life cycle of insects.  No bugs = no food for trout.

What can you do?

You can do you part by following a few simple steps:

CHECK – Before leaving a section of stream, remove all obvious clumps of algae and plant material from fishing gear, waders, clothing & footwear, canoes & kayaks, and anything else that has been in the water and look for hidden clumps. Leave them at the site.

CLEAN: Soak/spray & scrub boats and all other “hard” items for at least one minute in either very hot (140°F) water, a 2% bleach solution, or a 5% dishwashing detergent solution. Absorbent materials such as clothes and felt soles on waders should be soaked for at least 40 minutes in very hot water (140°F), or 30 minutes in hot water (115°F) with 5% dishwashing detergent. Freezing thoroughly will also kill didymo.

DON’T WEAR FELT! – Didymo is harder to remove from absorbent items such as felt soles. PLEASE DO NOT WEAR FELT SOLES!

TELL YOUR FRIENDS – The word must be passed along to everyone you know who uses the river. For more information including how you can identify and report didymo blooms, you can download the following documents issued by DEEP:

2013 Didymo Update

Didymo Informational Brochure

Kensington Hatchery Funded!

Great news! The CT biannual appropriations bill HR 6350 was passed by both the House and Senate. The bill includes the item of $149,910 for Kensington Hatchery operations. Thanks to everyone who called and wrote to legislators on this issue. It made a difference!

WHAT’S THE NEWS ON STATE WIDE WATER PLANNING?

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UConn’s announcement that it was seeking additional supplies of water for its Storrs Campus in November of 2012, stirred up a bit of controversy and and outcry for better planning for our water resources in Connecticut. So what has happened? First of all, State Representative John Hampton convened a Water Summit in early November of 2013. A large panel made up of several legislators, government officials, industry representatives and conservation organizations met at the LOB to discuss state wide water planning and next steps. Sub-comittees were formed out of this Summit and met several times since the first of this year. The Summit will reconvene to discuss findings at a date TBD.

The University of Connecticut hosted the Strategic Water Resources Planning Conference and Workshop in February of 2014. The conference was attended by over 100 legistlators, government officials, industry representatives and conservation organizations. The event was extremely well facilitated and informative. It is our hope that the momentum contines and we see some progress in this year’s short legistlative session.

WHAT HAPPENS NOW?

The Water Planning Council already has the structure and involvement of necessary government agencies and stakeholders to move forward with water resource planning. However, it does not have the authoriy and resources to accomplish this. It is now up to the legislature and our Governor to grant these things to the Water Planning Council. It is up to the people of Connecticut to let them know that this is what we want.