My name is James Jordan, I joined the U.S. Army in July 2008 after graduating from high school. I completed Infantry and Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia and then was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 2-508 Parachute Infantry Regiment, Bravo Company at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. We trained together for nine months at Fort Bragg and Fort Polk, Louisiana and then we deployed to Afghanistan from September 2009 to September 2010. Our deployment was one of the roughest many of us would ever experience, we suffered casualties week by week as we encountered land mines and IED’s with the enemy watching ever so closely to our tactics so that they could attack us. For a long time through the summer it felt like every other week, one of the paratroopers in our company would lose a leg to stepping on a land mine.
On July 20, 2010, while on a foot patrol, my interpreter stepped on a land mine roughly two feet away from me. The blast threw me into a mud wall and I suffered 24 shrapnel wounds spread throughout both of my legs, my left arm, and my left hand. I also suffered a TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury), a blown left ear drum, and severe PTSD. I stayed in Afghanistan for the remainder of the deployment and was even exposed to another land mine attack just one week before returning back to U.S. territory. When we returned from deployment in September 2010, I had spent a year in a war zone, been awarded the Purple Heart, and I was only 19 years old. I began the long arduous journey of recovery which is still ongoing to this day. But due to the injuries I suffered, I was medically retired from the U.S. Army in March 2013 at the rank of SGT and moved back to my home state of Maine.
I started fly fishing when I was a young kid because I saw my father fly fishing and we would watch “A River Runs Through It” together. Through my military career I lost touch with a lot of my hunting and fishing roots, but when I moved back home to Maine I found that fly fishing was actually the greatest form of therapy and relief for me since being wounded. It took me a few trips out before I finally caught a fish but from that first take and landing that first brook trout, I was absolutely hooked. I would fish every morning that I could, I would study more and more every night to help me learn how to be a better fisherman. I started adventuring to different places and even started saltwater fly fishing for Stripers. It’s taken over so much of my life that I even started tying my own flies and became addicted with that as well.
My first big accomplishment as a Fly Fisherman was catching a 20” Land Locked Salmon on a Golden Retriever that I tied. The next really great accomplishment was catching a 21” Cutbow in Montana using my Midnight Special 8’6” 4wt with 5x tippet while on a trip with Team Semper Fi Fund. But by far my biggest accomplishment to date was passing the test and becoming a Registered Maine Fishing Guide in December 2019. I’m planning on attending a guide school in Montana this spring to help prepare me more as a guide so I can start leading other veteran fly fisherman and clients on adventures so they can experience the therapeutic value that the river holds.
Henry David Thoreau said, “Many go fishing all their lives without knowing that it is not fishing they are after”. I went fly fishing after being wounded, hoping to catch fish but in those first few days of getting skunked, I found what it was that I was really looking for and that was peace. Fly Fishing has provided me a way to let go of my PTSD and just be in the moment on the river, in the boat, or fighting a fish. Thanks to fly fishing, I have a new purpose and direction in life. I know my job is to help others recover through fly fishing and find the same peace I’ve found.