Williams’ Anglers Nudge Coterra at ‘Fish For the Fallen’ Event

Team Coterra member Chad Gorman (above) casts his line into Beaver Run during the Fish for the Fallen tournament held on May 26. Taking first place in the event at Patriots Cove this year was Team Williams, represented by (below, from left) Aaron Rockwell and Mark Ivey and assisted by guide Brad Zeiders.

Staff and volunteers of Patriots Cove, near Noxen in Wyoming County, continued their Memorial Day Weekend tradition of hosting the annual Fish For the Fallen tournament on May 26. Seven teams of two anglers each cast their lines into Beaver Run in memory of military personnel who had been killed in action serving their country and communities, as well as Marine Corps veteran and long-time Patriots Cove volunteer who passed away since last year’s event.

Patriots Cove provides recreational opportunities and retreats for veterans and first responders who live with PTSD and other injuries and for their families. Lodging, meeting and office space, flower beds and miles of trails are the result of thousands of volunteer hours by individuals and those representing local companies and regional corporations.

Williams Companies and Coterra Energy have routinely served as advocates of Fish For the Fallen, providing monetary support that helps with Patriots Cove’s operating costs and sending employees to participate in the tournament. This year, anglers on teams sponsored by long-time partners in the natural gas industry found themselves neck-in-neck again in the friendly competition.

Chad Gorman of GasSearch Drilling Services – a wholly-owned subsidiary of Coterra – and Ed Kozlowski of Kozlowski Oilfield Services fished as Team Coterra, moving through five stations – or beats – down the shoreline of Beaver Run along with mentor and guide Chad Johnson.

Johnson works for Williams Companies, which was also represented by a team comprised of Aaron Rockwell and Mark Ivey and led by guide Brad Zeiders of Duncanville.

Ivey cited the enthusiasm of Patriots Cove co-founder Jeff Swire as a big reason for his continued involvement with the facility. “Jeff and his committee run this event flawlessly every year,” Ivey stated. “His leadership and dedication to the mission of Patriots Cove are apparent as soon as you arrive and shake his hand.” Ivey has also volunteered with his co-workers to help with the annual spring cleanup and sprucing up of the grounds.

Mentors and teams are paired randomly prior to the start of the tournament, and both Johnson and John Pittenger of Williams have served as guides for their own teams and others. Pittenger served as a guide on May 26 for Team Quality Collision.

The participants are no strangers to each other, having worked together in various combinations over the years and regularly participating in charitable events. Weather conditions have ranged from high heat to pouring rain, but the anglers were greeted this year with brilliant sunshine on a crisp morning. “You can’t ask for a better day than this,” Gorman remarked. The biggest challenge they faced was low water from a lack of recent rains. As midday approached, Johnson suggested to the men that they switch from flies to nymphs, as that’s what the trout would naturally be looking for at that time of the day.

At lunch time, local civic leaders, and a color guard contingent conducted a ceremony to remember those who had passed away and to share the significance of Patriots Cove. Elected officials and families who had become familiar with the venue over time were among those in the audience.

According to Ivey, Swire read the biographies of the service members being honored at this year’s tournament. “The ceremony is always very moving for everyone attending,” said Ivey. “It is very humbling, and everyone seems to leave more appreciative of the reason we celebrate Memorial Day.”

The winners of the day were also announced, with Team Williams pulling ahead of Team Coterra, which has won in previous years. After Williams and Coterra in the top two spots, the winners were Fehlinger Construction, The Lutz Family, Quality Collision, The Ruark Foundation, and Earth Armor.

Participants maintain that the camaraderie and the opportunity to spend the day along the peaceful stream meandering through the 18-acre site is much more gratifying to them than the competition itself.

I love giving back and changing people’s lives,” said Jeff “Bunga” Roberts, participating for a fourth year as the guide for Team Ruark Foundation. Roberts was introduced to fly fishing by two uncles when they returned from their tours in Vietnam, so he has a solid understanding of the importance of the event. “A lot of people need help,” he remarked.

A retired 24-year Army veteran, Swire purchased and founded the facility with his wife, Melissa. He expressed gratitude for the outpouring of support from the sponsoring companies, whose ongoing monetary support helps Patriots Cove continue to expand.

Every year, I see incremental improvements from communications pre-event to upgrades to the trails and accessing the fishing spots,” Gorman related. “It’s not hard to see all of the work that everyone puts in at Patriots Cove and the positive changes year over year.”

We’re always growing in a responsible way,” said Swire, who was happy to announce that 10 additional acres and another bridge would soon be added to the site to tie together new amenities like a six-bed ADA-compliant bunkhouse for mentors and a Caregiver Center constructed since last year.

Close behind Williams, in second place, was Team Coterra, comprised of (above, from left) mentor Chad Johnson and anglers Chad Gorman and Ed Kozlowski.

Fishing guide Brad Snyder (left) gives Team Lutz Family member Dani Lutz some fly fishing tips during the tournament. Dani remarked that “any day in the woods is a good day.” Brad has 35 years of experience as a fishing guide.

Fish For the Fallen mentor Mike Lopatka (left) helped guide Team Fehlinger members Ben Chamberlain (center) and Rick Cussins to a third place finish.

Ed Kozlowski enjoys the calm of a spring morning as a participant in the Fish For the Fallen tournament held at Patriots Cove. He was a member of Team Coterra, which finished second for the day.

Dave Burget (left) of Hughesville gets help measuring one of his catches from Team Ruark Foundation guide Jeff “Bunga” Roberts.

It wasn’t the biggest trout that Kari Spencer (right) of Noxen had ever caught, but it was the first score-able fish for Team Quality Collision, guided by John Pittenger.

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