TYING INTO VETS
Well-known fly-fishing instructor, author donating books to Project Healing Waters
A person might think that after more than 40 years in the fly fishing business, Jack Dennis has done it all.
But leave it to Dennis to find something else.
There is no question the well-known fishing guide, fly innovator, author and popular speaker has done more than most of us can even imagine accomplishing in the fishing business.
Fly fishing has taken Dennis, who two years ago retired to Salt Lake City after selling his famed and highly successful fly shop in Jackson, Wyoming, around the country and the world.
He’s fished with common folks and presidents and seen most, if not all, of the world’s top fresh- and salt-water fisheries.
And now, a fly tying manual Dennis wrote in 1973, one that took the fly-tying world by storm and revolutionized how people learn to tie flies, has become the focus of Dennis’ latest adventure.
“Jack Dennis’ Western Trout Fly Tying Manual” wasn’t the first popular instructional book — some might argue that “Fly Tying” by the late Helen Shaw, known as the First Lady of fly tying, has that honor — but Dennis’ book sold more than 400,000 copies and certainly honed the skills of several generations of tiers and anglers.
Now, Dennis is donating 1,400 copies of the book’s last printing to Project Healing Waters, a nonprofit program aimed at rehabilitating disabled veterans and active military through fly tying and fly fishing.
“I’ve done about everything I truly wanted to do in fly fishing, and in my career there wasn’t a lot left to do,” Dennis said during a recent conversation. “And I had all these books, and I thought, ‘What am I going to do with them?’ “
Last year, while attending a fly fishing expo in Salt Lake City, he met some representatives from the Wounded Warriors program, and he immediately knew what do with the books.
“I put out a call to some friends, guys I’ve fished with and who have made it pretty well in life and business, and asked them to donate $20 to get these books along with some of my (fly tying) DVDs into the hands of vets,” Dennis said. “But one guy called back and said, ‘$20? I want to give you $1,000. What can we do to help other (vets)?’ “
Dennis took that $1,000, dropped the price of the book to the $8 printing cost and took off to donate books and CDs to Project Healing Waters groups around the West.
Dennis delivered 180 copies of the book to Pat and Carol Oglesby of Grand Valley Anglers, the local Trout Unlimited chapter supporting Project Healing Waters.
Navy veteran Dawn Guin, program leader for the Grand Junction Project Healing Waters, said fly tying and fly fishing offer a positive outlet for veterans facing some serious life changes.
“It’s not like therapy or focusing on past traumas or injuries,” she said. “Instead, it’s focusing on what they can do and what they can accomplish.”
She speaks with conviction and sincerity, a far cry from the extremely introverted person who began the program as a freshly returning vet.
“When I started the program I was not very talkative and had quite a few challenges, but the program has made a big difference in turning my life around,” Guin said. “I had pretty much lost everything. This (Project Healing Waters) has turned my life in a positive direction, and that’s what it’s done for a lot of vets.”
Last year, she took the position of program leader, and under her guidance the local group has rebounded.
The affordability of this classic book and the accompanying CDs will further the recovery of individual vets and the community to which they belong, she said.
“I have about 50 people on my active list, and it’s growing,” Guin said. “I’m bringing on the Gunnison Gorge Anglers (TU chapter) to work with Grand Valley Anglers and facilitate classes on the Western Slope.”
More information about Project Healing Waters Grand Junction is available at http://www.facebook.com/ProjectHealingWaters.