Americans are a bit late to the competition fly-fishing party, but they’re catching on fast.
The adult national team still hasn’t won a medal at the world championships, but finished a respectable fifth this year and last.
The U.S. youth team is another story. A squad of five teenaged anglers last week won the team and individual gold medals at the 13th World Youth Fly Fishing Championship in Nowy Sacz, Poland.
Three of the American anglers finished in the individual top five, and all five finished in the top 10. The U.S. squad outfished teams from the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Ireland, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa and Spain.
Youth Team USA also won the team and individual gold in Ireland last year and the team gold in Italy in 2011. At the world championship in France in 2012, the team won the silver.
Pretty impressive, especially considering that many of the other teams come from countries with long traditions of competitive fishing, fly and otherwise. But the U.S. is developing a tradition of competition fishing, too, and that’s exactly why our youth team is doing so well.
All of the youth team’s members — gold medalist Gabriel Wittosch of Duluth, Ga.; silver medalist Cam Chioffi of Weston, Mass.; Hunter Enloe of Hudson, N.C.; Hunter Hoffler of Moreland, Ga.; and Mason Sims of Chickamauga, Ga. — compete in the TroutLegend fly-fishing league, which organizes weekend competitions on local rivers in the eastern states.
In fact, being in the top 10 on the TroutLegend leader board is now a requirement for making the national youth team’s roster, formalizing a relationship that has existed for several years.
Practice, after all, makes perfect.
Competition fly-fishing under the rules of FIPS-Mouche (the Federation Internationale de Peche Sportive Mouche, or International Federation of Sport Fly Fishing) is somewhat specialized. It’s mostly nymphing, and since no weight or strike indicators are allowed, competitors have developed a style of tight-line nymphing that uses long rods and 20-foot leaders.
Intently and intensely, they flick simple bead-head nymphs into every nook and cranny of the stream. They catch a lot of fish that recreational anglers would never have guessed were there.
It’s fascinating to watch, and looks like fun. Of course, not everyone has the resources to traipse up and down the eastern seaboard for fishing tournaments every weekend, let alone to fly to Europe for two weeks for the world championships. (The anglers pay their own way).
This core group of anglers will soon age out of the youth category and be ready for slots on the adult team. Once that happens, expect to start seeing the American grownups winning gold medals, too.
Remembering Carl Bradley
Carl Bradley specialized in a challenging form of fly-tying: sculpting floating and diving flies from tightly packed deer hair. It’s become a popular genre today, but when Bradley was learning his craft, he was one of just a few pioneers.
Bradley, who died July 17 at age 79, was born in Wisconsin, moved to Schenectady as a youth and lived in both places as an adult. He fished a lot, in the Rockies, the upper Midwest and here in New York.
He became an expert in tightly lashing bundles of deer body hair to a hook so that the hair flares, packing it tightly together, then sculpting it into a fly, usually a floating pattern like a bass bug.
“Carl’s flies were so tight you could use sandpaper on them, or a Dremel tool,” said Bob Mead of Glenville, himself a nationally renowned tier who specializes in ultra-realistic flies. “They looked like they were made of balsa wood.”
One of today’s most prominent deer-hair specialists, Pat Cohen of Cobleskill, founder of Superfly, whose streamers and bugs catch all kinds of fish for customers worldwide, credited Bradley with advancing the genre.
“I think he was a super-talented tyer, and helped pave the way for solid, artistic deer hair flies, and helped create an interest in that form of fly tying,” Cohen said.