June 09, 2023
More than 200 people attended a special advance screening of Mending the Line at the Allenberry Playhouse in Boiling Springs on June 3. The event planned and produced by Fly Fisherman magazine was a fundraiser for the nonprofit Warriors and Quiet Waters Foundation, and raised nearly $10,000.
Many in crowd were veterans of wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq, and when director and producer Joshua Caldwell introduced the film, he warned that the battle scenes at the beginning could be “triggering.”
The film tells the story of a wounded Marine named Colter who ends up in VA Hospital in Montana, and gets paired with another vet—grouchy old Fletcher (Brian Cox)—to cope with PTSD. They find a common bond through fly fishing and together they learn to leave war and their struggles behind them.
"Mending the Line is a deeply personal project for me, a film that weaves together themes of healing, nature, and the transformative power of fly fishing,” said Caldwell. “My hope is that people will experience this in theaters and that they connect deeply with our characters' journeys—because these are more than just fictional stories, they echo real-life experiences of many veterans and others experiencing PTSD.”
After the film there was a panel discussion with Caldwell and four combat veterans including Col. Sean McNamara, who was wounded in combat in Afghanistan and is still on active duty with the U.S. Air Force, and Marine Frank Kancir who was injured in combat in Iraq and medically retired. Both of them are alumni of the Warriors and Quiet Waters program, which brings wounded vets to a ranch in Montana for a week of therapy and therapeutic fly fishing.
“Mending the Line's ability to capture the unfortunate aspects of war yet project the therapeutic benefits of nature and more specifically, fly-fishing, resonated deeply with my experience,” McNamara said. “The film's conclusion offers a glimpse of Warriors and Quiet Waters, an organization which utilizes fly-fishing and other nature-based opportunities to enable post 9-11 combat veterans and their loved one to thrive, provides a reminder of the exceptional organizations that continue to support those with enduring struggles.”
Local angler David Bowerman also joined the panel. He retired after 27 years as a chaplain with the U.S. Army. He deployed two times to Iraq and provided ministry to Wounded Warriors at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany and Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. He is a member of the Cumberland Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited, and has taken on a role of a liaison to local veterans.
Chris Holden also joined the panel, he was deployed to the Middle East many times with the U.S. Army or as a contractor from 2006 through 2018 and today still serves with the National Guard. He drove 12 hours to be in one of the first audiences to see the film and share his thoughts on how fly fishing can help service members.
The 30-minute panel discussion was poignant and thoughtful, with participation from vets like Heli Woodall who shared parts of her recovery story that so far has involved 12 reconstructive surgeries. Vietnam veteran Richard Olsen—commander of VFW Post 477 in Carlisle—also said he was inspired by the film, and the event, and any activity that brings vets together to support each other.
“It was an incredible experience to share this film with such a warm and engaged community,” Caldwell said after the event. “Their reactions, their stories, and their openness to our message of healing, reinforces why we made this film. It's inspiring and humbling, and drives home the importance of these narratives.”
After the film there was also a raffle with prizes from Simms Fishing Products, Abel Reels, Sage, RIO, Breeo, Yeti, and many others. Local fly shops Precision Fly Fishing and TCO Fly Shop also donated gift cards and prizes like a Skwala jacket and Winston fly rod.
The raffle and ticket sales to the event raised $9,650 for Warriors and Quiet Waters Foundation, money that will be used to help bring veterans to the WQW ranch for healing and recovery. The Allenberry resort and restaurant right on the banks of the Yellow Breeches has played a large role in south-central Pennsylvania fly fishing for decades, and donated use of the facility to support local vets. Without their participation, the event would not have happened.
“As anglers, we understand the vast benefits that fishing has on our physical and mental well-being,” Simms Vice President of Community & Culture Diane Bristol said. “That is why Simms immediately partnered with WQW in 2007 and why we feel that Mending the Line will resonate.”
“Mending The Line is a masterpiece of filmmaking; powerful, emotional, and rewarding, and the fact that it highlights the magic of fly fishing is a massive plus,” Simon Gawesworth, who was a technical advisor on the film and taught the actors how to cast, said. “Anglers will watch this film with a critical eye, and to see how authentic it is, and will leave with a nod of their heads—impressed by the direction and script, and satisfied that the fly casting and fishing skills are genuinely good. They will also leave with a tear in their eye and a feeling of sadness at the tragedy that can befall one in life. There is no doubt that this film will inspire many non-anglers to pick up a fly rod for the first time, and seek comfort, beauty and solace in an idyllic trout stream, and with hopes they can also find peace with a 9-foot, 5-weight rod in their hands. Though it’s an ‘indie’ film, this low-budget, small-town movie deserves to hit the mainstream and be seen by the masses. It is just too good to miss.”
Added former Trout Unlimited Doc Fritchey Chapter President Richard DiStanislao: “I have been fly fishing for nearly 50 years, and yet nothing else can better describe ‘why we fly fish’ than Mending the Line. It shows the inner peace and healing we all can achieve, not only those who are wounded and hurt, but for anyone who has ventured on the water to seek a calmer quietness to their lives. To me, it is something to heal the soul.”
The film opened in theatres nationwide on June 9. Find tickets and showtimes by clicking here.