At Moonshine, we firmly believe that fly fishing is about so much more than fly fishing. It’s a sport of obsession, passion, healing, and maybe even a few fish, and more than a few veterans have discovered this first-hand. As a way to show thanks to our active and retired military personnel, we’re highlighting some of their most memorable experiences on the water. Next up: Army pilot and fly angler Kevin Danis.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a fisherman. From trout in the Eastern Sierras of California as a child, peacock bass in Miami as a teenager, and chasing yellowtail and other larger species on charter boats as an adult, something has always drawn me to the water.
The same is true of the sky. My fascination with flying started young; going to airshows and Reno air races with my uncle, eventually leading me to pursue a career in army aviation and getting my civilian pilot license. Both of my grandfathers were military aviators and avid fly fishermen, and my father and uncle both have pilot licenses and have fished their entire lives, so I attribute it to something genetic. It’s in our blood. When I’m out on the water with a rod bent over or in the air flying over a beautiful landscape, I can’t help but smile and feel it's what I’m meant to do.
Recently, I've fallen back in love with the art of fly fishing and everything that goes along with it. I’m currently mobilized as a UH-60 crew chief providing medevac coverage, which entails a lot of 25-hour shifts waiting for a call and days off, away from my usual routine and loved ones back home. As a way to fill that time and continue to expand my love of the sport, I decided to take up fly fishing again after a long break and took a fly tying class to get back into it. Fly tying has been a great way to pass the time on those long shifts and an outlet to distract myself from the fact that I’m so far away from home and the people I care about.
Once I’d tied up all those flies and got hold of a cheap rod to re-learn how to cast, naturally I needed to see if what I had created would catch fish. I started researching and planning a fly fishing trip for trout in the Southern Appalachians, put in my leave request, and started counting down the days until departure.
I was met by a torrential downpour on the first night which, along with the excitement of the fishing ahead, kept me awake while trying to sleep in the back of my truck. Daylight finally came and, with a quick coffee stop en route, I was pulling up to the first spot ready to test my flies. I had to fish higher elevation small streams while I waited for the water below to clear from the rain—and brook trout seemed the natural target for the conditions. Walking up to that first stream came with its usual buzz of anticipation and admiration of the surroundings that typically accompany any fishing adventure. Those feelings alone could continue to draw me back time and time again, but when they are accompanied by the rush of a line going tight and a fish in the net—a full-blown addiction would be an understatement.
That first stream produced a steady flow of quality brook trout pool after pool as I hiked up farther with the early morning light filtering through the trees. Once I ran out of accessible water and enough time had passed, I decided to move back down the mountain and check if the bigger rivers had cleared. After some hunting for clear enough water and finding a suitable spot, brown trout were the next customers to enjoy my home-tied fly buffet and I found five of them along the river before deciding to move to one last spot. The goal there would be to complete the Appalachian grand slam. After some quick scouting on my phone, a drive up and over a mountain then down a questionably steep dirt backroad, I found a bridge for parking and got back to wading upstream. Running out of daylight, I finally found exactly what I had been looking for and ended up with three nice rainbows to close out the slam. Another epic trip in the books and a passion for fly fishing reignited.
Days like that out in nature have always been my reprieve. When things get stressful at work or life gets overwhelming, I load up the truck with a rod and some camping gear and get a weekend out in nature, coming back recharged and revitalized. Flying does the same thing providing a much-needed break and a new view of a beautiful landscape that helps recenter me. I’m fortunate to have discovered both of these things as I’ve been able to make one into a career, and one into a pursuit of passion. Both are lifelong endeavours that are deeply embedded in who I am. My hope after my military days are done is to transition to running a fly shop or guide service and continuing to enjoy my two great passions: Flight and flies.
A huge thanks to Kevin for sharing his story. If you’re a current or former member of the military with your own story to share, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.