By Mike Taibbi, NBC News correspondent
Editor's note - watch a preview of Mike's segment featuring Mike and Nightly News Producer Clare Duffy.
Dan Cook said to me, "99% of the enjoyment is what happens before you catch a fish." I took him at his word, because Cook, a 37-year adventurer who made a pile as an energy trader before quitting to follow his passion for fly fishing around the world, obviously knew what he was talking about.
So I learned to tie the blood knots and Albright knots needed to fashion a leader with an Atom fly at the end, got that casting motion down, and settled in to enjoy a couple of days on Utah's Green River... one of the great fly-fishing trout rivers in America.
Our story wasn't about the river or about fishing, though; it was really about Cook, and his decision to share the peaceful pleasures of his chosen passion with wounded Iraq and Afghanistan war vets still battling pain and depression. A few at a time, maybe a hundred over the next year as Cook's "Rivers of Recovery" program expands. And, the four veterans on the same weekend with us were clearly thrilled to be there, all expenses paid. They all caught a lot of fish... two guys in one boat caught 30 on the second day, and I raised a half dozen fish on dry flies and actually got two lovely rainbows to the boat, while producer Clare Duffy caught and released one of her own. Cook's been able to convince outfitters, guides and resort owners to donate services for the wounded warriors who participate and, perhaps best of all, the program isn't irretrievably locked to Cook himself or to the Green River. The model is transportable, on any river where the fish are known to bite; Cook expects the program will take hold elsewhere. And for soldiers suffering PTSD or TBI (traumatic brain injury), the experts who've monitored the program say that at least anecdotally the act of hooking into a three day experience in the zen world of fly fishing makes a measurable difference in the chances for recovery.