“Mend” is an inspiring story about Joey Maxim. Joey was involved in a car crash that almost ended his life. When everything was going against him, he fell back on fly fishing and it forever changed him for the better. We had the chance to talk to Joey about his inspiring story and hear about the amazing impact that fly fishing has had on his life.
Fly Lords: Tell us a little bit about yourself:
Joey: I grew up in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, PA playing a lot of sports and doing a lot of outdoor activities. Growing up if my family wasn’t at one of my games, we were fishing or hunting or even at fishing derbies on a spinning rod. Things were looking good in high school. I was a three sport athlete having honors with distinction. The road was clear and my path was hoping to head to West Point. That all changed when my life was almost swept away in a car accident when I was sixteen. I suffered a severe brain injury that left me in a coma. My parents asked the Neurologist what my prognosis was and he said if he makes it he will probably be a vegetable. I had global shearing, bleeding all over the brain not to mention collapsed lungs and many other injuries. After being in a coma for a long period of time the doctors took me off all the machines so they could tell my parents they had to make a decision. I guess there were other plans for my life because they brought my parents back to see me not make a decision. Of course they only saw me shortly as they had to now put me in a coma state to heal. I went through months and years of rehab both inpatient and then eventually out. I graduated high school and actual still graduated with an honor cord. It has been a long journey and a whole new way of life. The journey has been hard and I learn new things all the time but with that being said I am seeing a lot of progress and a lot of miracles. I am currently a fly fishing guide in Idaho, where I am living right now and enjoy getting on the water with my buddies. I just returned from a long trip back home for the holidays which I enjoyed as I have a large extended family. But I am more than ready to get back on the water.
Fly Lords: How has fly fishing impacted you?
Joey: Fly Fishing has given me life. From aiding in the recovery of a life changing Traumatic Brain Injury, to giving me hope for a career in something I have a passion for, to being able to learn and to teach fly fishing and all that comes with it, to and from others. Fly fishing has given me a deeper connection to life and the abundance of it, when at a time life seemed merely gone. It has taught me to enjoy the moment, for the moment is about to be over and a new one is about to begin.
Fly Lords: Had you fly fished at all before the car accident?
Joey: My dad took me fishing on spin rods since I was able to walk, but fishing on the tributaries of Lake Erie and seeing people throw the line in and out interested me. Not long before the accident my father bought me my first fly rod at Cabela’s and the Tuesday before my accident my dad took me out of school and we spent day fly fishing in Erie when I caught my first huge steel head.
Fly Lords: What prompted you to pursue fly fishing/tie that first fly?
Joey: When they finally let me out of the Children’s Institute and I went home, I still spent most of my days going to the Institute for outpatient therapy but we always had time in between. So my dad and I would take rides to local creeks just to throw the line a couple times which gave me a sense of peace. Then we started thinking we need to start tying our own flies. Remember at that time my hand eye coordination was very poor, it was really hard to focus or finish a task let alone sitting down in a chair for more than five minutes. But I sat down and did it, I tied my first fly (it wasn’t the best) but I did it!!! That is when I knew I’m alive , I can do something and I felt great!! I can accomplish something and I feel at peace.
Fly Lords: What was it like to have Orvis create an entire film around your story?
Joey: For Orvis to create an entire film around my story is truly a blessing in so many different ways. There was a time when I first got back home from inpatient at the Children’s Institute where I felt very alone. With a Traumatic Brain Injury you undergo a personality change, sometimes big and very noticeable and sometimes it can be very small. With personality change, along with having to learn how to completely live life again, people/friends start to slowly but surely disappear. Orvis making this film about me introduced me to so many new people who are very accepting which has led to many new great friendships. Blessed. Mend has given me the opportunity to share what has happened to me and how fly fishing can truly aid in a better way of life. Blessed. It has enabled me to share hope with others through fly fishing. Blessed. This film has given me hope and confirmation in a new way of life. Blessed.
Fly Lords: What is your dream fly fishing destination?
Joey: My dream fly fishing destination is probably to fish and explore the roughly 3,000 miles of trout water on New Zealand’s South Island. I am anxious to try and fool some of those large brown trout you hear and see about down there.
Fly Lords: What are your plans for the future in the fishing industry?
Joey: My future plans in the fishing industry are to pursue my dreams of being a fly fishing guide for a few years and to start a foundation to take kids with TBI’s out fly fishing. To go to them and fish with them friend to friend. To share in fly fishing’s mysterious but known healing. And to one day open up a lodge/outfitter/guide service specifically designed for kids and folks with TBI’s. To have a destination that they can dream about and come stay and fish at a place where all worries of how am I going to continue life with a TBI now, or worries of what the doctor might diagnose you with next, or worries and grief of losing who you once were can be left behind. A place where whether you know how to fish or have not the slightest clue can be handled by an experienced professional. A place with 100% acceptance.
To keep up with where Joey is going next, be sure to follow him on Instagram.
This interview was conducted by Fly Lords team member Conner Grimes.