Healing Through Fly Fishing

Healing Through Fly Fishing - Shackelford

After twelve years in the Marine Corps and four deployments overseas I have seen and done a lot. It was on my fourth and what would end up being my final deployment that my career in the Marines would come to an end. On January 15th 2013 I was on patrol in northern Helmand Province, Afghanistan when my tank that I was a commander on struck a very large improvised explosive device.

fly fishing

Afterword I was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury and sent to the hospital. Once I recovered I was sent back to my unit to continue on my deployment. Unfortunately it wouldn’t be the last brain injury. In the month of May, the outpost I was on was struck by a very large car bomb and I had the unfortunate luck of being in the blast zone. I was knocked out and suffered another brain injury along with spinal injuries. I was alive however and that is something to be thankful for.

fly fishing

After returning home I was put on a medical board and retired. Before that happened I was put in contact with an amazing organization called Warriors and Quiet Waters Foundation in Bozeman, Montana. The organization takes wounded warriors and their families out to Montana for a week of fly fishing. They outfit you with everything you need from waders and gear donated from Simms Fishing Company along with fly rods from Reddington. As soon as I was given that opportunity I jumped on it.

fly fishing

I grew up in central Florida fly fishing for bass, but since I joined the Marines it had been quite some time since I picked up a fly rod. I went out to Montana an unhappy man. My career that I worked so hard for was ending, my injuries were making day to day life difficult and honestly I was losing hope.
When I got to Montana I was greeted and taken care of by some amazing people who took me and my fellow warriors in with open arms and treated us like family. Soon after that we finally got on the water and started slinging flies.

It was then that all my troubles and worries melted away with each rhythmic cast. The sounds of war that filled my head were replaced with the sounds of nature and running water.

fly fishingI was in a different world a world where it was just me and the fish and nothing else at that moment mattered. It had shown me a way back from the darkness and to the light of my old passion of fly fishing.

Now that I’m retired and living in Northwest Georgia I have given my all to fly fishing and kayak fishing. They have given me hope and purpose. This and the love and support of an amazing wife as well as great family and friends have restored that hope. Another amazing nonprofit organization, the Good Will Guides here in Georgia have also played a part. I have gained the confidence to go after goals like starting my own Heroes On the Water chapter and competing in kayak fishing tournaments. Hopefully I will be able to join some pro staff teams too.

In the end though it all goes back to getting lost in a world of wonder on some river, lake, or a small creek in the mountains. Melting away my pain one rhythmic cast at a time. I’ve often said that the trout is tangible evidence of God’s artistic abilities. In the pursuit of his art I find a new lease on life.

Please follow and like us:

Chris Payne

A lifelong Texan, Chris Payne has been an outdoor enthusiast his entire life and has spent the last 15 years fishing mainly from a kayak. He is known for his thorough and helpful reviews as well as how to articles for nearly everything kayak fishing related. If you have questions or comments, you can leave them on this post or email Chris at: paynefish@gmail.com

One thought on “Healing Through Fly Fishing

  • February 26, 2016 at 5:46 am

    It was a pleasure and an honor to have had the opportunity to serve alongside you in combat.

Comments are closed.

HTML Snippets Powered By : XYZScripts.com