I lay here in my surprisingly dry tent as the pitter-patter of the rain echoes throughout the canyon. My dry clothes are tucked into my sleeping bag and my wet waders are stashed in the vestibule in an attempt to dry overnight. It's probably about 22:30...but it's hard to be sure as I left my watch in the car four days ago. Our team of seven has turned in for the night, partially due to the rain that put the campfire out, but mostly due to exhaustion, and a belly full of a memorable Sayonara steak dinner. As most Sayonara dinners go on WQW FXs, we cleaned up, shared a meal, drinks, and stories with Warriors, Staff, Guides, and Crew. We recalled memories from the week and shared the impact that we were going to bring home with us. Unlike some of the FXs, this Sayonara dinner was lantern-lit and nestled between a 1,000-foot cliff and a roaring river. We also devoured a pineapple upside-down cake baked in a weathered cast-iron twice my age.
We've been floating the mighty Smith River for four days now. We've covered 44 miles by drift boat. And have caught at least that many fish. Tomorrow will be our last push to the take-out, approximately 15 miles through beautiful sheep country.
It's difficult for me to describe in these lines of my journal the impact that I've felt this week. I think back to five days ago when we hopped in Big Red to shuttle to the headwaters of the Smith River in White Sulpher Springs, MT. I didn't know the four Warriors I was sharing this trip with. I didn't know what they did for work, or how much they love their kids, or that they can make netting a 22-inch rainbow trout in sleeting snow look easy. I feel beyond lucky to have shared this week of laughs, stories, Salmon Flies, experiences, and, above all, companionship.
I can't go without thanking the wonderful fly-fishing guides and gear crew of Montana Fly-Fishing Connections for their incredible and gold-standard trip. Without the hard work and smiles of these guys, the rain would've been a bit wetter and the snow a bit colder. Thank you to the four Warriors that really showed up to make FX-9 a huge success. Sayonara for now!
This blog post was written by Liz Shull, Development Associate for Warriors & Quiet Waters, after she volunteered as the Assistant Team Leader for the Fishing Experience on the Smith River. Want to make this experience possible for more Warriors? Join The Mend, our newest community for monthly givers.
A special thank you goes to Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s Outdoor Fund for their partial sponsorship of this FX!
Warriors & Quiet Waters is a 501(c)3 nonprofit in its 15th year serving our nation's post-9/11 combat veterans and their loved ones through recreational fly-fishing programs.