Sun Lakes Fly Fishing Club Takes Disabled Veterans Fishing

George Abernathy

Dec. 7, 2019, was an honorable day for the Sun Lakes Fly Fishing Club when the following club members, Randy Smith, Dan Roberts, Fred Smith, Bob Ludwig and Sonny Williams, hosted 15 disabled veterans and volunteers from Project Healing Waters for some trout fishing at the Veterans Oasis Lake in Chandler. Even though the catching was slow, the fishing and camaraderie was exceptional, according to Rich Simmons, PHW’s point man for the Phoenix region, and our club’s team lead Dan Roberts. After three and a half hours of fishing, everyone enjoyed BBQed hamburgers, brats, side salads, and desserts prepared by our club’s executive chief Bob Ludwig.

In 2008, Randy Smith started fly fishing when his son introduced him to this sport on a father/son fishing trip and has fly-fished since. Shortly after I started the club in 2014, Randy was either the first or second member to join the club and has been a positive force within the club since. In December 2018, Randy took over my position as the club’s president and has been greatly responsible for the continuing success of our club today, including personal efforts to support the disabled veterans by helping raise over $1000 for Project Healing Waters in 2019. Fortunately for the club, Randy has also volunteered to be the president through 2020.

In October 2019, 17 members from our club drove to the San Juan River in New Mexico for our annual fly-fishing competition, and Rich Vale easily won the trophy and bragging rights until October 2020, by landing a real hefty 21.5-inch rainbow. Coordinating trips involving this many attendees is never easy, nor simple. I attribute the success of this trip to Fred Smith, whom I now refer to as a “Senior Kitty Cat Herder.” God willing and the river doesn’t rise, Fred will be coordinating the 2020 trip as well.

In addition to the San Juan trip, members from our club went on multiple trout and bass fishing trips statewide. Three of our members, Carl Smith, Elaine Drakulich, and Rich Vale, also managed to do a four-day trip to Alaska.

Another fishing event that really resonated in 2019 was when IronOaks General Manager John Reyhons supported our club in hosting volunteers from PHW to fly fish for carp in the lakes that border golf fairways. Let me just say that landing carp that weigh 15 to 25 pounds with a fly rod isn’t just extremely changeling, it’s just down right exciting.

Over the years, our club has grown to 63 members and is open to anyone interested in fly fishing. The club’s philosophy is to bring people together who want to fly fish; no red tape, no politics, catch and release, just wet your lines and go hunting. Be an experienced caster or new to fly fishing, you’re welcome to our club.

Fish On! Fish On!