America’s Best Fly Fishermen Compete for Spots in National Championship Event

by on January 16th, 2011
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While the fundamentals of fly fishing remain the same in any location, the subtleties needed to lure a trout onto the end of a line certainly vary from “schizophrenic” North Carolina waters to calm New Mexico lakes to a Colorado river with the word “roaring” right in its name.

Learning how to compete in those various conditions is important for any individual attempting to become an elite fly fisherman. That is why Fly Fishing Team USA encourages competitors to participate in multiple events during its annual regional qualifying process that determines who gets to eventually attend the U.S. National Fly Fishing Championships.

“As we all know as anglers, home water fishing can be very helpful when competitions and training come to your neighborhood waters,” said Fly Fishing Team USA captain Anthony Naranja in an email interview. “However, when competing in various places whether domestic or international, there is an inherent difference that each angler must accommodate their techniques, flies and strategies. This is the reason that we request that all anglers attempt to compete in at least two regional competitions so they can adapt to the various regional venues which will give them more experience in becoming an overall more comprehensive angler.”

This year’s qualifying process started in Brevard, N.C. on Davidson River, East Fork French Broad River, and Tanasee Creek Reservoir. Robbie Robertson, sports editor of The Transylvania Times, cleverly described the conditions as having, “Schizophrenic weather. Schizophrenic water. Multiple personality trout.”

Pennsylvania resident Pat Weiss, a member of Team Freestone, won the Southeast Regional in North Carolina, which took place on Feb. 17-19, with a score of 1,066.67 that was based on the number of fish he caught and the size of the field he competed against.

“As some members of his team USA squad said it was simply a dominating finish,” according to the official Team Freestone website.

Because of being a Team USA member, Weiss was already guaranteed a spot in the U.S. National Fly Fishing Championships to be held at Bend, Ore. on October 25-28 even before the regional. He will be joined at nationals by Ken Crane, Chris Smith, Paul Bourcq, Dell Neighbors and Michael Sprouse. They qualified thanks to being the top five finishers at the Southeast Regional who were not already on Team USA.

Four more qualifying events will occur: Western Regional (March 9-11 in Reno, Nev.), Northeast Regional (March 10-12 in State College, Penna.), Southwest Regional (April 20-22 in Dulce, N.M.) and Rocky Mountain Regional (May 4-6 in Basalt, Colo.). In the future competitions, fishermen will go to Nevada’s Truckee River, and Pyramid Lake; Pennsylvania’s Penns Creek, Fishing Creek, and Spring Creek; New Mexico’s Mundo Lake, and Stone Lake; and Colorado’s Frying Pan River, Roaring Fork River, and Ruedi Reservoir.

The national event will help determine what fishermen will comprise Team USA at the 2013 FIPS-Mouche World Fly Fishing Championships in Norway. The top three place-winners will automatically qualify. The rest of the roster will be determined by “points, experience, team fit, performance in larger events and venue based skills,” according to the group’s official website, ffteamusa.com.

The squad that goes to Norway will attempt to continue the recent positive growth of American fly fishing on the international level.

“For many years, competition and fly fishing were never paired in the same sentence or conversation,” said Naranja. “However, in the most recent five years our sport has really grown from just a few interested competitors to hundreds of competitors now nationwide. With the regional and national championship system in place since 2006, the popularity in competitive fly fishing has grown exponentially. With the US Team finishing in the top 10 over the past years, more awareness has led to more people eager to try and make the team and represent the US Team.”

The United States took fifth during the 2011 international championships and sixth in 2007, leaving the team tantalizingly close to earning a Bronze Medal both times.

“The strength of the national team lies within the individual team members. These guys are spending their own time and money honing their individual skills and bringing those skills to the team to make an effort of obtaining the very common goal … reaching the podium as a team at the World Fly Fishing Championships,” said Naranja. “We have a very non-selfish group of anglers that share information to make each other better which contributes to the great success that the US Team has been experiencing the past few years.”

The 2012 world championships will take place in Slovenia from June 3-10.


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