“I had to find something to do until I got healed up,” Smith said. “I’ve been swinging a hammer for 35 years; it’s all I knew how to do.”
To fill some of that time, he began tying flies, becoming so proficient at the intricate hobby that he turned it into a side business. He started a website, Under the Bridge Ties, to sell his wares. He also began to donate some of his flies to Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing, an organization that began in 2005 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. The primary purpose of the organization is to provide therapeutic outdoor recreation for disabled veterans, usually in the form of fly fishing. Intrigued by the idea of helping veterans, Smith thought he would volunteer his expertise in fly tying instruction to the organization’s local chapter.
The only problem? There wasn’t one.
“I would have [had] to go all the way to Casper or up to Bozeman in order to tie flies for two hours,” Smith recalled. “One of the biggest fly fishing places in the country, and we don’t have one? Ridiculous.”
Smith placed a call to the group’s headquarters to inquire as to why there wasn’t a chapter in Park County. The answer he got was simple.
“No one ever wanted to put one there,” he said. “That’s what they told me. So I told them, ‘Well, I do!’”
Things moved quickly after that, with Smith filling out all the necessary paperwork to start the local chapter, appropriately named Cody-Powell Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing. The group had been hosting two fly-tying meetings a month, one in Cody and one in Powell, as well as scheduling fishing trips…
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