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When Harry Murphy is fly fishing, he isn’t thinking about anything else — just reading the water, trying to figure out what kind of bugs are in the air and trying to catch a glimpse of wildlife.

That’s why he volunteers to help with the Madison Gallatin chapter of Trout Unlimited’s fishing day at DePuy Spring Creek. This year, the group took 16 veterans with Montana State University and the local Project Healing Waters chapter, the latter of which is for veterans with disabilities.

Murphy, who served in the U.S. Army for a couple of years, said he thinks fly fishing is a great way to help veterans process what they’ve seen in combat and the other experiences that come with serving in the military.

“You’re concentrating so hard on what you’re doing that all the things that bog you down disappear,” he said. “It’s nice to be able to cleanse your mind of that.”

Fly fishing has been shown to reduce stress and improve sleep quality in veterans, according to a 2009 study done by the University of Southern Maine.

Some people call fly fishing therapy or church, said Robert Allen, a fundraiser for nonprofit veterans groups who volunteers with Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing.

When the group takes veterans out fly fishing, though, he said they don’t ask them questions about their experiences in the military unless they want to talk about it. They just fish.

“It’s just nice being out here,” said Jake Finch, a U.S. Marine veteran who Murphy was helping guide.

While many of the volunteers are veterans themselves, Allen said they do it because they appreciate the sacrifices veterans have made and want to give back. The fly fishing program works well in Montana, he said, considering it has the second highest percentage of veterans per capita, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Saturday’s event, as well as other events for veterans held throughout the year, receives a lot of support from the community, Allen said. He said Montana Troutfitters contributes, Cravens Adventure Lunches donated food and Depuy, part of a private ranch, gave them a steep discount for a day of fishing. All the fly shops in town support Trout Unlimited, too, he said.

Overall, it all goes to a good cause, he said.

“The friendships are made, there’s a time out just being out on the water, there’s a camaraderie and there’s an appreciation from the veterans that we do this,” he said.

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Abby Lynes can be reached at or 406-582-2651. Follow her on Twitter @Abby_Lynes.