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Fireland's Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing, Sheffield and Cleveland Programs

Cleveland previously had a PHWFF program at the Lewis E. Stokes VA for several years, lead by North Coast Flyfishers volunteers until Monte Casey was contacted by PHWFF and asked if he would take over the VA's program, because the Program Lead had to step down for personal reasons. The current PHW program at time was 1-hour fly tying class, 1-time month. 


Lewis E. Stokes VA is the 2nd largest inpatient Hospital in the US. The current PHW program at that time did not fit Headquarter's model, which participants had to attend on a regular basis and participate in at least two PHWFF programs, the rule has been modified since. 


Monte didn't know how he would be able to fit in leading PHW with his family responsibilities, work at Cleveland Clinic full time, plus and his Steelhead Guide Service. After several weeks he decided; if Cleveland was to have a PHW program, it would be up to him. Monte's decision was influenced by a veteran named Andrew, who he meet at an Ohio Central Basin Steelhead fish outing at Pine Lake Trout Club. Andrew shared his story and how he became disabled. He was married and have two young daughters and how he was medically discharged from the military.  And at the end of his story he said, "and nobody can help Me". Everytime Monte said to himself, I can't do this, he would hear Andrew's echo, "and nobody can help Me".

Long story short, Monte took on the PHW program thanks to Andrew. Richard Fox found out Monte was doing the program and joined him as well as a hand full of volunteers. At the VA the team implemented 2-hour fly tying classes twice monthly and fish outings for Neck and Spine Injury, Impaired Vision and Blind and Amputee groups, which was made possible by Marty Kilbane, VA Supervisor Neck and Spine Therapy. After several months of success we decided to expand our classes West. Monte and Richard implemented classes in Rocky River, Lead by Dan Zukie and the VA CBOC (outpatient VA) in Sheffield, lead by Perry Demming. Both Classes grew fast, both in volunteers and veteran participants. Eventually the CBOC program moves next door to LCCC

Headquarters found out we had classes in Rocky River and the CBOC (VA Outpatient) in Sheffield and Monte was told they had to be their own PHW programs, because they were in city other than Cleveland. With that said, in order to have a program, you had to have a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with a fly Fishing Club, which changed later.  So, Monte ask Steve Smith, Firelands President if he would sign a MOA (Memorandum of Agreement) for the Sheffield program which he did without hesitation. The CBOC Program Lead is a Firelands member, Gray Kader.


Monte couldn't find a club that would sign the MOA for the Rocky River program. After being turned down by two local fishing clubs, he finds out the VA's MOA was not valid. Again Steve Smith stepped up and signed the MOA for the VA. In the meantime, PHW worked out a deal with FFI called a FFI Affiliate Club. Monte setup an FFI Affiliated Club which was under PHW for PHWFF Rocky River.


In order to have the name PHWFF Rocky River, he had move his class from Cleveland Metroparks Nature Center, Rocky River Reservation in North Olmsted to Rocky River, which was made possible with help from Pamela E. Bobst, Mayor, Rocky River. Monte was the Program Lead and Richard Fox was the Assistant Program Lead. We recruited a new volunteer, Diane Wantz, who is the wife of Joe Wantz, President, North Coast Flyfishers. Diane setup the final program in Willoughby, completing Monte's goals Greater Cleveland. Soon after, she became the PHWFF MidWest Deputy Regional Coordinator as well.


In the background of all of this, Monte and Richard setup several fishing outings at premiere trout clubs and private waters. Many videos of these outings were created by Rocky River volunteer, Dan Zukie. Dan is an amiture videographer and his wife Debbie is a amiture photographer. Dan spent many hours piecing video clips and pictures together to create his videos. You can view Dan's videos by clicking Here. Dan's video's played a very important role in making Greater Cleveland's PHWFF programs what it is today.

With exception of the VA, all program's classes do all PHWFF Core programs which are; fly tying, rod building, casting and fishing. The VA program is now run by Program Lead, Hal Shapiro and Assist Program Lead, Firelands member Lou Toth. Since Covid, Hal's program has been on hold. The VA's PHW leadership plans to do all PHWFF classes in the future.


All veteran have opportunity to compete in PHWFF National Fly Tying, Rod Building and Casting Competitions. These competitions are extremely difficult to place in, little lone win. Firelands Congratulates Sheffield's Program Lead, Gary Kader and his veteran participant, Larry Stevanus who placed 3rd in the 2021 National Rod Building Competition! Larry is a Marine Viet Nam veteran.  His rod was wraps of the Viet Nam and Purple Heart ribbons. Larry also won honorable mention in the fly tying competition as well. His rod is picture in the background of this page. Again Congratulations Larry!!!

Monte has since departed Project Healing Waters leaving behind sustainable programs. He's retired from his day job now and wants to take on new projects, which are to get more women involved in fly fishing, fishing clubs and recruiting veteran participants and volunteers into one or more of  the Greater Cleveland PHWFF programs. You can help him by sharing this website and our Facebook page with your friends. 


The past few years he's had small groups of women fly fishing and he's ready to grown it in numbers. The women have successfully caught steelhead with their fly rods on Rocky River. Stay tuned for the Firelands Lady Flyfishers project as in unfolds.  Click here to See Lady Monte's Flyfishers pictures here Note! The pictures and videos by no means are Zukie quality, but it gives you a flavor as to what it could be.

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