Show off your holiday lights and you could win an iPad! Enter your photo by December 13. Winner will be selected by popular vote.
Courtesy Josh Williams
Josh Williams found joy in fly fishing when he lost his right arm.
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
For most anglers, losing an arm would be the end of a fly fishing career, but for Josh Williams it was the beginning. It happened this way.
Williams, who lives in Botetourt County, joined the Army after high school, serving 13 months in Iraq where he became an infantry squad leader. He returned to the states unscratched in 2006, but while at Fort Hood, Texas, on the way to guard duty, a 17 year old ran a stop sign and shattered Williams's life.
"A car pulled out in front of my motorcycle and among other injuries, I lost my right arm," he said.
He was sent to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for treatment and rehab. Like many of the wounded soldiers around him, he was depressed.
Then he met Ed Nicholson, president and founder of Project Healing Waters, and John Bass, a regional coordinator for the organization. Healing Waters is a highly successful program that uses trout fishing as a tonic to physically and emotionally rehabilitate injured military personnel.
At first, Williams wasn't interested. Fly fishing wasn't his thing when he had two arms, why try it now?
In time, he gave in and when he caught a trout his life changed.
"By teaching me how to fly fish, they introduced me to a new way of finding peace and tranquility. Fly fishing does more for me than all the medicines on the market."
Williams started fly fishing in 2008 and quickly became obsessed with the venture. It was like a curtain rising on a whole new world of promise to be explored.
As often is the case, fly fishing evolved into fly tying. He spent long hours at his tying bench, learning to grasp the dexterity necessary to turn bits of feathers, thread, fur and tinsel into miniature works of art to be paraded before the most discerning critics of all, trout in North and Stony creeks; smallmouth bass in the James and New rivers.
Before long, people wanted to buy his flies. He agreed to sell, provided buyers wanted them because they were good flies, not just to help an amputee. He called his new business Dead Drift Flies, named after a fly fishing technique. In time, he began designing his own patterns. The most successful is Josh's White Lightning.
In 2011, Orvis selected the fly as one of the patterns it sells in its stores and online. Williams gets royalties.
The attractor nymph comes in bodies of purple or bright orange. Williams prefers purple. The fly has a flash that is particularly alluring to trout in turbid conditions. It sells for $1.95 in sizes 12 to 16.
More recently, Williams has placed a second pattern with Orvis, the Josh's Wiggle Hellgrammite. He designed it for smallmouth bass but Orvis advertises it as "sure to fool even the most selective trout." It sells for $3.25
Williams markets a bunch of hand-tied flies on his website www.deaddriftflies.com. He also provides guide service, fly casting lessons and sells shirts with the Dead Drift Flies logo.
As busy as that makes him, he still finds time to work with patients at the Salem VA Medical Center, where he and some friends started a chapter of Project Healing Waters. On Sunday, Williams is scheduled to be working with Conservation Police Officer Mike Morris to conduct a fly fishing outing for military servicemen and women at Green Hill Park in Roanoke County. Participants and volunteers are welcome.
"There is nothing like catching a wild trout on a fly you have tied yourself," he said. Unless it is introducing that joy to someone else.
Your comments/questions welcome firstname.lastname@example.org
Weather Journal7 wintry scenarios for Sunday