Fly fishing with my brothers

George Abernathy

Forty-five years ago, while flying on a scouting mission in Nam with Apache Troop One, Ninth Cavalry, we came upon a river and, being somewhat bored from the two previous hours of flight, my pilot and I opted to do some fishing. Without notifying our Cobra-Gunship cover bird of our intentions, which was protocol, I toss out a fragmentation grenade with the anticipation of doing some aerial fishing. As soon as the water erupted from the explosion, several fish floated to the surface. Thinking we were receiving enemy gunfire and thus on the verge of rolling in with rockets and the mini-gun firing, the Cobra AC first contacted my pilot. Without hesitation my pilot immediately informed him that we had just killed six NVA dressed in silver fatigues and his aerial artillery support wasn’t necessary. Needless to say, the perturbed Cobra A/C reminded my pilot that my hand grenades and other munitions were to be used for more meaningful purposes and to cut out the horse play.

This past August I attended a reunion with about 50 of my fellow brothers from Apache Troop in Albuquerque. A few days prior to the reunion Dan Reinhauer, a SLFFC member, drove in for the day to float the San Juan River with me from our personal watercraft. The following day five of my brothers from Apache Troop joined me for a two night stay at the Fish Heads Motel and one day of floating the river with their guides. Fly fishing was some of the best I’ve ever experienced and reminiscing of our flying exploits over drinks with three pilots and two other door-gunners went on for two nights. Yes, there was conversation about us previously using grenades but, at this gathering, we all used fly rods and barbless size 24 and 26 flies to catch numerous sizeable trout, including one that weighed about five pounds. Catch and release is the philosophy of most fly fishermen as it was on this trip. Even though it had been nearly half a century, the bond between us troopers was as strong as if we were still in Nam preparing our helicopters for another sortie. We just all had bigger bellies, less hair for some and lots of grey. Very few events are better than bonding over drinks after a successful day of fly fishing, especially when you’re with your brothers from an earlier era.

Earlier this year with the support from the IronOaks and Cottonwood/Palo Verde HOA’s, the Sun Lakes Fly Fishing Club hosted disabled veterans from Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing. The club members overwhelming volunteered to assist the disabled veterans at both events and enjoyed bonding with them over lunch. Hosting the veterans gives all of us a deep gratification of knowing that we support our veterans and we look forward to hosting them six times in the forthcoming months.

Fish On! Fish On!