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Conservation Alliance Partner - Warriors on the Fly

Conservation Alliance Partner - Warriors on the Fly

We love turning the page on a new calendar year for a few reasons, including that we begin a new set of Conservation Alliance Partner (CAP) relationships. We started Angler’s to connect the fly fishing community with a great cup of coffee and just as importantly to give back where we can. For each partnership, our selected CAP receives a percentage of our total revenue during their featured time.

It was a welcome respite to conclude 2021 with the levity and community focus of the Redband Rally Campaign, which brings together the Spokane Indians Baseball Team, the Spokane Tribe of Indians, the City of Spokane, and the people of Spokane to honor the Redband trout—all while having quite a lot of fun both on and off the baseball diamond.

More somber but with just as much warmth of spirit is 2022’s first CAP, Warriors on the Fly. We met these folks through some online engagement on Instagram last year, and we are glad that what started as a donation of coffee to their holiday fundraiser has grown into a CAP relationship. 

This organization uses fly fishing to support combat veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress (PTS) and/or traumatic brain injury (TBI). While Warriors on the Fly is not the only organization that employs fly fishing as a healing tool, it stands out for focusing on the Special Operations community, a group particularly difficult to reach and one extra hesitant to ask for help. Warriors on the Fly is also unique in striving to answer the question “An outing to the water is great, but what happens for the veteran after the rods are packed up and they’ve returned home?”

It is said that since only another warrior can hope to understand someone’s combat experience, a fellow warrior is also the best person to help a veteran heal after combat. Rob Watson, United States Marine Corps combat veteran, and Carlos De Jesús, United States Army combat veteran, learned that firsthand as they built their own friendship while fishing. Their families, friends, and medical teams have been instrumental in their return to health after their military service, but together, Watson and De Jesús have helped each other through their post-combat challenges like no civilian has been able to. 

Realizing their distinct ability to home in on exactly what’s wrong and what solution is needed, they founded Warriors on the Fly to do this for other combat veterans. And just as Watson and De Jesús have benefitted from their long-term commitment to each other, their organizational programs also focus on nurturing ongoing relationships—in Watson’s words, on providing or reenergizing the same kind of “brotherhood experience” that sustains members of the military when they’re overseas. 

Take, for example, the last Warriors on the Fly outing of 2021. Watson and De Jesús accompanied Scott to the Little Red River in Arkansas. Scott, a United States Special Forces veteran, was deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan and received a Purple Heart during one of his numerous missions. Personalized trips allow the focus to remain on the returning warrior. Everything on that Arkansas trip was centered around Scott—and it worked. “I can share with no reservation that it was a very successful trip. While Scott was able to catch many fish, it was the dinners, laughs, and environment in general that brought a sense of peace to his being,” Watson explained. “His life was changed.”

But that, of course, is not the end of the story when it comes to a Warriors on the Fly program. “In keeping true to our ‘follow-up’ concept,” Watson said, “we continue to communicate with Scott on a frequent basis.” This includes inviting him to join Warrior on the Fly’s next outing, coming up in April, with two more Special Forces combat veterans. While that trip will focus on the two new warriors, as Scott’s trip did him, Scott’s presence will help demonstrate—for them as well as for him—the chain that links them all together. “Our goal is for the renewed relationships to run in parallel to our follow-up strategy,” Watson said, “ultimately giving someone more tools to reach out if they find themselves in a position of needing help.”

This is important for all military veterans at all times but is especially so with Special Forces veterans and especially so now. Those from Special Forces are “usually the last ones to ask for help,” Watson explained. And now is no time to delay reaching out. Medical resources are overtaxed, and veterans organizations are underfunded. It could take a while for veterans in crisis to get help. Watson said, “While we don’t have all the answers, we can certainly be an ear while ensuring a veteran gets help sooner than later.”

In chatting for this piece, Watson gave us a little inspiration for the next fishing trip. Watson told us his favorite place to fish is the Iliamna River in Alaska. It looks incredible, there at the head of the Bristol Bay watershed. A unique aquamarine-turquoise color, the river is renowned for its Arctic char, rainbow trout, and sockeye salmon. De Jesús’s favorite fishing trip was when he caught golden dorado in Bolivia. That’s every angler’s dream, to fish such a remote, pristine location. Together, Watson and De Jesús travel to the Florida Keys every spring to chase tarpon and other salt game species. 

They’re also both “die-hard coffee lovers,” Watson told us. Try his current favorite, our Muddler’s Bend, which has hints of single-malt scotch, and De Jesús’s, our smoky Coachman’s Blend. Remember, every purchase this quarter becomes part of our donation to Warriors on the Fly.

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