I met Capt. Ed Nicholson, USN (Ret.) at a DC-region fly fishing show early in 2005. He was standing next to an empty table with a hand-written poster taped onto a wastebasket. “Take a Vet Fishing” the sign said.
Truth be told, it wasn't much to look at.
The sign fell. Twice.
So I stopped to help Ed stand it back up. We fussed and fixed it, then he smiled, handed me a clipboard with a list of names, and said “Write your number here.”
He wasn't asking, and there really wasn’t any question I had just volunteered.
That May, we took a few vets out to the ponds at the Old Soldiers Home, in Northwest DC. The weather was hot and the fishing terrible – but we did catch a few fishermen. Then in June, we fished a second time on Beaver Creek, near Fredrick, Maryland. This trip we caught some fish. And I met my good friend Capt. Eivind Forseth, USA (ret.).
That year Eivind and I fished more than a few times, talked a lot, and later in the Fall I introduced a native Montanan to Chesapeake softshell crabs.
Turns out he's no fan of spider sammiches.
With Ed at the helm, I'm not surprised at all that what began with a cardboard sign has grown into an international non-profit serving thousands of disabled vets every year. There are no limits to age, service or experience for those who want to join, or help "take a vet fishing".
Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing is now a network of 212 programs across the USA, Canada, Europe, and Australia. We are a registered 501(c)3 charity, supported by thousands of volunteers and willing patrons. And beyond the thousands of veterans we serve, Healing Waters touches tens of thousands more families, friends, and others along the way.
Over the years I’ve stepped into the Healing Waters stream off-and-on as work permitted, and at every event, every meeting, and every trip Ed Nicholson has been right there. Listening, talking, and sharing the day with friends.
Ed’s been a Captain to the program, a Father to those who've needed a strong shoulder, and everyone’s Cool Uncle. He’s the Captain who launched this ship, and now after 12 years of tireless drive and support, he’s President Emeritus.
Does this mean he’s retired? I doubt it.
Thanks for putting up that sign, Ed.