Veterans / Youth Outings


December 14, 2014 –

Sunday Flytying @ Soul River

This past Sunday at Soul River Inc. was awesome! Kicked it with Shane Wootan  CEO of LOOP and his wife Sarah and end the day at the soul river space teaching youth  and mom and dads how to tie their first fly in a fly tying class “Wooly bugger”. Thanks to US Fish & Wildlife Service and LOOP for making things happen within Soul River connecting youth and veterans to the outdoors through fly fishing.

Anglers Quest 2014 – Deschutes River

Thank you to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, LOOP, City of Vancouver Parks & Recreation, Korkers Footwear and all volunteers who came out to be part of this amazing experience! Youth and veterans had the opportunity yet again to get back into the nature, grow in the company of others, and learn more about being conscientious conservationists. Every opportunity that comes our way is one to sieze, capturing not just the experience of nature but inspiring a young, new mind. We intentionally set differences aside and forge on to replace the curiosity with a hands-on experience and learning tools which ultimately lends itself to smiles, laughter, play, and feeling renewed!

Throughout every outing, a common thread tends to weave itself into the initial experience for the youth – educating more than just the participating youth, but their moms, dads, grandmas, grandpas, and guardians about the value in connecting with nature. Knowledge is power and where there is no knowledge or foundation of reference, youth can end up sharing the same fears or stereotypes about being in the outdoors that have cycled over and over throughout generations. This has given me a new perspective on the statement that fear is learned. If parents or guardians cannot inspire or embrace opportunities for their child then moving forward in life turns into sharing the same fear, misconception, or misinterpretation of what nature has to offer from the parent or guardian and handed to the youth.  This was especially apparent after our Angler’s Quest in May on the Hoh River. After fitting all 17 youth in boots and waders, taking them into the water, educating them on currents and river reading, was I then told by many of them that their parents gave them strict instruction to not go in or near the river water. This was incredibly eye-opening and yet sad. The youth had learned a few survival skills as well as had the opportunity to feel river currents and decide for themselves if this was something they were going to fear uninformed or respect with wisdom. I have especially seen this in African American and Hispanic families. Pursuing the outdoors is always an unpredictable arena when you have no control over Mother Nature’s thermostat or weather changes. As outdoors-people we have to be smart and learn to always be prepared. Yes, always use common sense but when there is just the change of air flow and light rain we don’t change the course just because Mother Nature gave us rain. Part of being in nature is embracing what is there and what is around us including the rain and the mud.

As this outing neared, merely hours away, the rain in Portland and Vancouver poured demonstratively. Meanwhile, over Mount Hood and in Oregon’s high desert, I was experiencing dry, 65 degree weather with clear blue skies. It was disappointing to receive a phone call stating that once again I had the opportunity to experience parents and guardians making uninformed decisions by pulling their youth from the outing due to the rain they were witnessing right in front of them. I started to see that parents and guardians can be stuck in their own mindset of operating and not really understanding what is happening or going on in the outdoors a couple hundred miles away. Fear can drive us mad and cause us to make decisions that can be sometimes irrational and create a domino effect of consequences for others.

The pursuit of connecting urban youth to the outdoors includes also the pursuit of educating the family unit. Whether its information about weather differences in various parts of the state, how critical and empowering water safety is for youth, or what conservation is all about, it is up to us as leaders and models to show how to embrace it and be prepared.

This outing was truly an incredible experience. The youth had a wonderful time learning so much centered around how to wade in river water, how to use the buddy system when crossing the river, navigation, learning how to use a compass/making a cross reference with a digital GPS compass, to fly fishing, casting, and, most of all, being a good ambassador of conservation!


Tight lines

madison from Soul River on Vimeo.

mechai from Soul River on Vimeo.

camrron from Soul River on Vimeo.


Anglers Quest – Olympic Peninsula /Hoh River

Professional anglers from various walks of life gave a service to 18 youth and veterans in a way of exposing them to the wonder of the outdoors, teaching many facets and multiple layers of fly fishing. Participants learned and soaked up the ideals of what fly fishing is all about on many intimate levels and in an unconventional approach. Our main focus was be authentic and do our best to make change one soul at a time by being a friend and providing an equal share of learning opportunities. And that is what we have successfully done! It was an honor to be in the presence of Mother Nature’s theater (spotting bald eagles and being in the presence of a herd of elk in our camp), as well as with friends on the water and at the base camp who committed/gave their time to selflessly serve and teach new minds as ambassadors of the outdoors. There are no celebrities here, no rewards, no paycheck, and no award of the year! Just anglers, youth and veterans! Precisely what NCO by Soul River Runs Deep is all about! This outing was a huge success and there are many more to come!

New Currents, Outdoors (NCO) 2013 Expedition from Soul River on Vimeo.

We want to also give a big THANK YOU(!) to our partners and sponsors –  US Fish & Wildlife ServiceTualatin River Valley Wildlife Refuge, LOOP USA, Sierra Club, City of Vancouver Parks & Recreation, Scientific Anglers, Costa Eyewear, SKOUT Organic, Sea Run Pursuits, EvolTwin Printing & Education Recreational Adventures

Thanks, also, to all leaders and instructors – Stefanie Scovill, Brian Chou, Jeff Nelson, Jason Small, J Michelle Swope, John Hicks, Johnie Tucker and Team, and Mark Roberts!Thank you to all the youth and veterans for giving us the opportunity to share our passion with you.
And last but not least, thank you OPB (Oregon Public Broadcasting) for documenting for a future show airing later this year (October) on television. We look forward to seeing this epic experience all over again on screen and having the chance to share with the world how impactful this opportunity was!

New Currents, Outdoors (NCO) 2013 Expedition

One “iron” is U.S. veterans transitioning into society post-war in hopes that they will find peace and comfort in the healing waters. The other “iron” is community youth transitioning from a troubled past seeking alternative methods of healing by embarking into the outdoors, joining conservation efforts, and gaining a new respect for Mother Nature. Both veterans and youth have similar trials – whether it’s literal war or a war of his/her own, struggling with street life, drugs, and gangs. By merging these two groups together, they’ll have the opportunity to mentor, learn from one another, and teach through their challenges.

Sierra Club and Soul River collaborates New Currents, Outdoors as a “leadership team” – teaching and integrating fly fishing, fly tying, casting, entomology, practicing catch-and-release, white water rafting, and river navigation. Our ultimate goal is not just to teach, but to also provide opportunity for relationships to establish between a soldier and a teenager.


River Ambassador Program

The River Ambassador Program is designed to help veterans who have recently returned from a war zone develop new skills and ways of responding to the inevitable stress that accompanies returning from a war zone back to
civilian life, and help participants feel respected and valued. The various approaches outlined in the program curriculum are specifically designed to support their healing process. The participants learn about preserving wildlife and natural habitats. Although the course speaks of life found in rivers and streams through the eyes of the angler, the connection is intentionally to get the participant to integrate successfully back into civilian life and to be life-long stewards of the environment. Respect for nature and its inhabitants is our core focus. The program fosters respect for our differences yet simultaneously celebrate what we have in common as war veterans, a high regard for natural habitats, the sport of fishing and our human bond.

Created by Chad brown
Video – Time Diens