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'Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing' helps veterans find peace and quiet

ECHO, Summit County — When Dave Ferrara woke up Saturday morning, he couldn't wait to meet his buddies and go to Summit County for a day of fly fishing.

"There's just something about getting out of the city and away from all the noise,” Ferrara said.

Unlike most people, though, combat veteran Ferrara has to get away from the noise.

"You know, with (post-traumatic stress disorder) and stuff, a lot of noise and things can really be hard on a person,” said Ferrara as he cast another line in the lake.

He has heard enough noise to last a lifetime — the kind of noise that doesn’t go away by covering your ears with your hands.

“I was a combat medic and nurse during Desert Storm,” he explained.

That's why this fishing trip is so important to him.

It's a program through the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs called Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing, where those who fly fish for a living volunteer to take veterans out.

"Just seeing the change it brings to some of the veterans means more than anything,” said Clark "Cheech" Pierce, one of the volunteers who teamed up with a veteran to go fishing. "Something as simple as fishing and tying can change a life."

Ferrara knows all about that change.

"I used substances for a lot of years to numb out the pain,” he said. “Sometimes you get desensitized to stuff, but later on in life, it comes back. You could say it haunts you.”

Ferrara says he didn’t find peace until after joining this group.

"It just seemed like things clicked. It's like the lights came back on,” he said.

For these veterans, it's more about the experience than the actual catch.

"Patience, I guess as they say, is a true virtue,” said Ferrara.

So, when he finally got a bite, the smile on his face said it all.

“This is the biggest fish I’ve ever caught fly fishing,” Ferrara said with a laugh as he reeled in a 17-inch rainbow.

Then, just like the stress, he let it go. After a picture, of course.

"It's made a big difference in my life,” he said.

Email: acabrero@deseretnews.com