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Fishing for therapy

Local Trout Unlimited chapter works with injured veterans:

Injured veterans returning from overseas are undergoing a new type of therapy. Members of Madison County's Trout Unlimited Chapter 680 have begun offering a fly tying and -fishing group out of the Veterans' Administration Medical Center in Syracuse.

TU680 members visited the VAMC for the first time this summer. With the help of hospital recreational therapist Becky Ross, they invited a number of recovering veterans to join the group. According to TU680 Secretary Bob Semian, the first session brought in a number of staff, but no veterans. In August, it was a different story.

"Nine volunteers from the Iroquois [Onondaga County] and Madison County chapters of Trout Unlimited attended," Semian said. "The staff showed up, but no vets. In August, on our second visit to the VA, five showed up."

That first visit was valuable, though, Semian said, as it gave hospital staff and volunteers an opportunity to get to know one another and share what each group might expect of the other. The men seemed to hit it off, Semian said, and September was an opportunity for the anglers to 'test the waters,' as it were: They headed off to Hullar's Spring Pond Fishery in Fayetteville.

Semian said a television news crew attended to memorialize the outing.

"Becky arranged the details," Semian said. "There was fishing and a cookout. It's interesting in the terms that we're hoping that even though we've started small, it will grow as more people find out about it. There is neat stuff going on in different parts of the country with it."

With the exception of one participant, none of the others in the group were anglers.

"One used to fish as a kid, and he's getting back into it," Semian said. "The others, as far as I know, were not fisherman, but they really seem to enjoy learning how to cast and learning how to tie flies. This is just in the infant stages, but we're really hoping it's going to expand, and we're hoping we can grow the numbers into the 20s. We are in the process of trying to reach out to people. These guys have given so much, and a lot of times they don't get a lot in return."

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