The Laishley Park Municipal Marina Community Room in Punta Gorda was transformed with rows of tables, as warriors were given the opportunity to learn a new skill – rod building.
“I think it’s fantastic,” Dan Watson, a member of Mosquito Creek Rod Crafters, said of the workshop. “The people putting it on are special people. I’m honored to be a part of it.”
Wounded Warrior Anglers (WWA) held a rod building workshop Sept. 17, through Sept. 20 in partnership with American Tackle Company International. The two full days of rod building concluded with a half-day on the water fishing using the newly constructed rods.
“There is nothing more exciting than catching a fish on the rod you built,” Don Morse, with American Tackle, said.
The nonprofit organization, Wounded Warrior Anglers, offered the first rod building workshop for its warriors earlier this year in Oviedo, Florida. Since it was a huge success, the four-day workshop has been added to the many programs the organization offers for its warriors.
Morse said the company wants to promote rod building in any way they can. When the opportunity to work with Wounded Warrior Anglers presented itself, he said there was no better group of people to share the craft with.
“I feel a strong connection with these guys,” Morse said of the warriors he has worked with.
Although Mike Kosiba has been fixing rods since the 1960s, he found a passion in 1999 when he began creating custom fishing rods. The seasoned rod builder spent time with 10 Wounded Warrior Anglers sharing secrets of his craft.
Kosiba was joined by four other instructors, all members of the group Mosquito Creek Rod Crafters.
The process of creating a custom rod takes on many steps, all of which stem from selecting a blank depending on the type of fishing one wants to do. The next step, Kosiba said is deciding the dimensions of the rod to best fit an individual’s body type, followed by choosing the rod’s handle.
Guides were then placed on the rod depending where the blank flexes to ensure its efficiency. The guides are then wrapped with thread before an epoxy finish is placed on top.
The craft of rod building, Morse said is both artistic and useful.
The warriors were carefully walked through the process step-by-step, so they could create a rod they were proud of, a rod they could put to the test out on the water.
“It’s something they can do,” Kosiba said, adding that the warriors can pursue it as much or little as possible.
This is the second workshop for Wounded Warrior Anglers’ Tony DelleDonne. “I did a dragon scale on this one.” The style used dry wall tape, and metallic thread.
The workshop was very relaxing for DelleDonne as he continued to perfect his new skill.
“You have to concentrate,” he said. “You get away for a while, while working at it.”
The 21 year Navy veteran, who retired in 2006, joined WWA a year ago after meeting founders David and Judy Souders, at the Fort Myers Boat Show.
“I like it. It’s very good,” DelleDonne said about joining WWA. “It’s veteran focused (and you) hook up with other vets and you fish and you’re good.”
The workshop was also eye opening for the instructors.
The workshops helped Jr Alvey slow down and think about what kind of impact teaching a new skill has for the warriors.
“It’s a great way to give back,” he said.
Alvey, who was also a part of the first rod building workshop, said he hopes to spend more time with the warriors in order to get to know them better.
“The guys are invited anytime to visit and get one-on-one (instruction). We are just a phone call away,” he said.
The passion for many of the instructors formed many years ago.
Alvey fell in love with rod building eight years ago. Over those years he has found his signature look – incorporating cork into the rod design.
“I cut them up and make different sizes,” he said before gluing them back together. “It helps keep my mind busy.”
For Kosiba, rod building continues because it’s all about “building the perfect rod,” which has yet been accomplished. A perfect rod, he said would consist of every joint fitting perfectly with flawless, straight guides.
Watson said he became involved with the group Mosquito Creek Rod Crafters 15 years ago. He said the group gathers once a month in the Orlando area.
“I like the people. It’s a great bunch of people,” Watson said of Mosquito Creek Rod Crafters.
Wounded Warrior Anglers is a nonprofit organization that helps rehabilitate the mind, body and soul of all service members who have been injured, wounded, or disabled in the line of duty no matter what their era of service. The organization also has a mission to actively support the wounded warrior’s caregiver and their immediate family.
All photographs are courtesy of Dorene Lowe Photography – a Southwest Florida photographer out of Punta Gorda, Florida. To view more of her photographs, visit https://www.facebook.com/dorenelowephotography, or to schedule a session, call (941) 467-5015.
Article written by Meghan McCoy, Wounded Warrior Anglers media director.