From: Gene Dufrene, Volunteer, Biloxi Program, Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing
Subject: Healing Towers #1 Outing August 25-31
I linked up with Isaac Long in Seattle and eventually linked up with Dan Snelling in Ketchikan. Duke was at the airport in Ketchikan to greet us. From the moment that we landed in Ketchikan the cool air was very welcoming and the scenery was amazing. We took the ferry to Revillagigedo Island (Ketchikan) and made our rounds around the local area to get the appropriate licenses for the week ahead.
The next morning Duke took us on a great adventure to the Bering Sea Crab Fisherman’s Tour. We were able to tour the Aleutian Ballad a Deadliest Catch crab boat. The story and tour were a great way to get the guys prepared for what was to come. The crew of the Aleutian Ballad has been offering these tours to the Healing Towers crew for many years due to their support for disabled veterans and even have a plaque on the wall, for the late Brian Mancini who was an inspiration to many of us. More information about the tour can be found here. That afternoon we received a personal tour of the Herring Cove fish hatchery and were able to see how the Ketcikan Salmon Fishery is managed. The folks at the hatchery were top notch and went out of their way to make this a great learning experience for participants and myself. We walked away from the hatchery with a better understanding of how the Kethikan has come to be known as the salmon capital of the world.
After a great supper at the Towers, our excursion aboard the 42-foot Sail Trawling Vessel “Hot Ruddered Bum” began. Captains Garry and Duke took us on an 80-mile round trip excursion. Offering us some of the best fly fishing on the planet. Then very next morning, we were able to catch many of the 34 species of rockfish that reside in Southeastern Alaska and experience the ferocious fight that they can bring when reeling them in. We then made our way to the famed Yes Bay known in the 1940’s for its great trout and salmon fishing and were able to catch many salmon on the fly.
The outing continued to take us deeper into the untouched terrain and led us to see tons of wildlife, from grizzlies to black bears and humpback whales. Suddenly you felt small in Alaska after seeing this. Before anchor we were able to help Garry and Duke set Shrimp traps, and all took a guess as to how many we would catch the next morning. As morning came, we made our way up the next stream catching over a dozen silver and pink salmon on the fly. When the tides were at the point, we could no longer fish the stream, we excitedly helped retrieve the shrimp traps. We were all amazed at how large the shrimp were when the traps surfaced.
We pulled anchor and continued our excursion catching many fish and even had the opportunity to assist with setting crab traps. This was a first for the two participants and they were amazed at how the Alaska fishery was so diverse and was basically a grocery store with so many different edible species of fish and crabs. That night we had a crab feast fit for a king.
The trip continued and eventually led us back to the Healing Towers where we were able to do much more fishing. The fish count continued to climb throughout the duration of the trip all the way to the last morning. Something that I noticed during the outing was fishing was at everyone’s lowest priority. Everyone on the trip was truly amazed at the ability to just unwind from the daily stressors of their injuries and everyday life. It was nice to see participants walk away with a new direction and a ready to establish a new battle rhythm for their new direction on life. It is safe to say that this trip has saved many lives and will continue to do so for years to come. Thank you for this opportunity to lead two great men on this wonderful excursion.