Healed By Fly Fishing And The Owyhee
Originally published July 27, 2017. Updated November 10, 2019.
We met U.S. Navy Veteran Chad Brown three years ago while working on the Wild Owyhee film series, and his organization, Soul River Inc., has become one of our KEEN Effect Youth Grantees. In honor of Veterans Day, we just raised tens of thousands of dollars to support more Soul River deployments through our annual warehouse sale. Like those seen earlier this year on the Umpqua River and in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Soul River partners U.S. combat veterans with disconnected youth for healing through backcountry fly-fishing adventures on threatened and sensitive public lands.
For Chad Brown, fly fishing is more than a passion, it’s a path to healing.
“Wild spaces equals healing spaces. It’s pretty freaking awesome, the transformation you see on wild land,” says Chad, founder of Soul River Inc., a nonprofit organization connecting inner city youth and U.S. military veterans with the outdoors.
After losing everything when he got out of the U.S. Navy, and dealing with anxiety attacks and depression, he now often retreats to the vast landscape of Oregon’s Owyhee Canyonlands — the largest stretch of unprotected public land in the lower 48 states — to connect with nature and hopefully some brown trout.
Wild spaces equals healing spaces.
– Chad Brown
“Coming out of the hospital, a buddy of mine put a rod in my hand, took me to the water, and said, ‘This is where I used to come dealing with my issues fly fishing,’” he said. “It was like medicine for my soul.”
In the 3-minute film posted above, part of the Wild Owyhee film series produced by KEEN, Ibex Outdoor Clothing, and Osprey Packs, Chad reflects on how the outdoors have reshaped his life, and how the Owyhee can positively impact the lives of others.
In the heart of the West lives a vast, untouched, and priceless gem. The Owyhee. A wild place where those who visit leave with something more than they arrived with, whether a connection to a simpler time, youthful memories reignited, or a source of hope and strength. It has been here as long as time, raw and perfect, but its uncertain future now lies in our hands. You can watch the full-length Wild Owyhee film here, and help keep the Owyhee wild by signing the petition to permanently protect Owyhee Canyonlands.