Program helping veterans and wild brook trout recover through fishing

By Tom Venesky - [email protected]
Jeff Swire, president of Patriot’s Cove, explains the extensive habitat work he and volunteers conducted on Beaver Run in Noxen to benefit native brook trout. - Tom Venesky | Times Leader
Since he purchased an 18-acre property in Noxen last year, Jeff Swire has worked to install numerous habitat improvements benefiting wild trout in Beaver Run. - Tom Venesky | Times Leader
Jeff Swire, center, speaks with Gary Gronkowski, right, and Ron Keiner, left, of the Nanticoke Conservation Club. The club recently made a donation to Patriot’s Cove to honor two recently-deceased members: World War II Army Veteran Pete Slota and Andy Yanchick Jr., a Marine veteran. - Tom Venesky | Times Leader

When it comes to showcasing the fishing paradise he helped create, Jeff Swire is eager to do all the talking.

But when it comes time to fish, he lets the water do the healing.

Nestled in the mountains of Noxen sits Swire’s dream, dubbed Patriot’s Cove. It’s a wooded respite with towering hemlocks shading the pools of Beaver Run, a tributary to Bowman’s Creek. The site is situated on 18 acres and nearly one mile of Beaver Run flows quietly through the property. Swire, who is a military veteran, had a vision for the place when he acquired it last year. He wanted to create a trout fishing mecca and share it with injured veterans, first responders and their caregivers as a way to find peace through nature.

In April, that vision became a reality when Patriot’s Cove held its grand opening. So far, 25 veterans and first responders have participated in fishing events at the Patriot’s Cove this year.

“The fishing is the catalyst to the healing part that we do,” Swire said. “Fishing allows them to get engaged in something different and shut the world off.

“We let the water and the tranquility speak to them.”

The site also features a lodge and pavilion with an enormous handmade table crafted with cherry and curly maple — a place where participants gather to eat, relax and share stories.

But it’s the stream, and the trout, that serve as the primary draw.

Swire and his crew have worked tirelessly to improve the stretch of Beaver Run into a pristine, catch-and-release native brook trout fishery. Wild brown trout are also present throughout the stretch, which has been improved with plunge pools, log vanes and other habitat work.

Swire said the stream had issues before the work began. The flow was slow and dissolved oxygen levels were alarmingly low, down to 1.9 mg/L, far below the optimum levels of 7 to 9 mg/L for trout.

The log vanes and plunge pools installed on the stream created more fast water throughout the stretch, increasing the dissolved oxygen level to an average of 8.25 mg/L.

“We worked on the habitat first to create a fishery,” Swire said.

The group at Patriot’s Cove has utilized 34 hemlock logs for various structures that not only create trout habitat but double as bank stabilizers to reduce erosion. Swire said hemlock logs are preferable because insects are able to bore into the soft wood, creating a food source for trout as well. Root balls from dead trees have even been used, and at one spot on the stream they have been pinned to a bank that was deteriorating over the years. The root balls, Swire said, deflect water away from the bank and contain a lot of voids for young fish to hide.

“If a tree falls on this property, it’s getting used,” he said. “What we’ve done is working. One person caught a 13-inch native brook trout here and it was absolutely breath-taking.”

Trout are stocked on occasion for fishing events, but Swire hopes to build the native trout fishery to a point where it’s sustainable enough that hatchery fish don’t need to be released.

“We’re balancing conservation with a humanitarian side,” he said.

Patriot’s Cove currently offers one-day events, but they plan on expanding to three-day events next year. There are plans to construct a range for skeet shooting and caregiver’s center, which will give spouses of veterans and first responders a place to stay and learn job skills.

And, of course, the habitat work and access improvements will continue as there are plans to build a wheelchair platform that extends over the stream for injured veterans and first responders to fish.

“If that freedom has been taken away, we want to give it back,” Swire said. “I don’t care how bad their injuries are. We can get them on fish here.”

Jeff Swire, president of Patriot’s Cove, explains the extensive habitat work he and volunteers conducted on Beaver Run in Noxen to benefit native brook trout.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/web1_OTD1.jpgJeff Swire, president of Patriot’s Cove, explains the extensive habitat work he and volunteers conducted on Beaver Run in Noxen to benefit native brook trout. Tom Venesky | Times Leader

Since he purchased an 18-acre property in Noxen last year, Jeff Swire has worked to install numerous habitat improvements benefiting wild trout in Beaver Run.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/web1_OTD3.jpgSince he purchased an 18-acre property in Noxen last year, Jeff Swire has worked to install numerous habitat improvements benefiting wild trout in Beaver Run. Tom Venesky | Times Leader

Jeff Swire, center, speaks with Gary Gronkowski, right, and Ron Keiner, left, of the Nanticoke Conservation Club. The club recently made a donation to Patriot’s Cove to honor two recently-deceased members: World War II Army Veteran Pete Slota and Andy Yanchick Jr., a Marine veteran.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/web1_OTD2.jpgJeff Swire, center, speaks with Gary Gronkowski, right, and Ron Keiner, left, of the Nanticoke Conservation Club. The club recently made a donation to Patriot’s Cove to honor two recently-deceased members: World War II Army Veteran Pete Slota and Andy Yanchick Jr., a Marine veteran. Tom Venesky | Times Leader
Patriot’s Cove helping veterans and wild brook trout recover through fishing

By Tom Venesky

[email protected]

Patriot’s Cove is a program of Hunts For Healing, a 501(c)3 charity and is supported entirely by private donations that cover lodging, meals, fishing gear and other items for veterans and first responders during their events. Donations can be sent to: Patriots Cove of the Luzerne Foundation, 140 Main Street, 2nd Floor, Luzerne, PA 18709, or www.luzfdn.org/funds/patriots-cove/.

For more information or to register for a fishing event, visit www.patriotscove.org or email [email protected]

Reach Tom Venesky at 570-991-6395 or on Twitter @TomVenesky

Reach Tom Venesky at 570-991-6395 or on Twitter @TomVenesky