By ZAC SEXTON
Anglers from around the country will be fishing local waters in Cherokee to qualify for Fly-Fishing Team USA from Jan. 13-14. The Southeast regional tournament is the last regional event in which people will be able to prove their fish-catching skills are the best in the country. Volunteers from around the area will be helping to measure and score the fish caught, as well as make sure anglers are competing according to the rules. Those that qualify to travel with FFTUSA will represent the U.S. at the 2018 World Fly Fishing Championship in Comano Terme, Trentino, Italy.
The World Championship is effectively the Olympics of fly-fishing, with competitors from about 30 different countries participating. Regional tournaments, help anglers improve their skills, to catch more and bigger fish in all waters. The public is welcome to attend the Southeast qualifier and watch tense fly-fishing action. Viewers can learn new skills and improve their angling abilities by paying close attention to the techniques used in each 3-hour session.
Michael Bradley, the tournament organizer, FFTUSA member and EBCI tribal member, says the public is invited to attend all Team USA events. “Usually, if a competitor has a crowd, he or she will ask people watching to not walk ahead (upstream) of where they are fishing, so no potential fish are spooked. The best way to learn from the event is to volunteer as a judge.”
Six competitors will be chosen to represent FFTUSA after scores are added from previous regional qualifiers, like the one in Cherokee, as well as the U.S. National Championships which will take place on May 31 through June 2 near Bend, Ore. this year. It takes a lot of patience, planning, and timely decision-making to place at the top. Anglers fish randomly-assigned beats on rivers, and they do not always get the best section. The best anglers, however make the most of their assigned beat and will always catch fish.
“Team USA members need to be effective at finding fish on any water they are assigned,” says Bret Bishop, Team Captain. “They need to be able to vary their techniques for different water types and conditions on both lakes and rivers. To compete at the World Championships, competitors need to be versatile. I look forward to seeing how everyone does at this regional tournament.”
The Raven Fork will be the river venue with two different locations, one in a section regulated as trophy water and another on water regulated by general fishing rules. The Happy Holiday Campground will host the lake fishing sessions on their private pond stocked with rainbow trout.
“The water is crystal clear and requires very technical drifts to target wild rainbows, and browns and stocked rainbows and brookies,” says Bradley. “The trophy section has mostly nice pools in it while the general water has more pockets and fewer pools.”
The technical water may make fishing tricky but it is not the only aspect of competing for a spot on the team that can be stressful. “It is difficult to be competing at a high level in a consistent fashion,” says Ken Crane Team USA and leadership committee member. “You personally might be having a bad day, but every fish you catch matters. So, grinding it out for the benefit of the team is the most important. It’s an intense three hours of fishing. Mentally it can be draining on bad days, and euphoric on good days.”
Info: Bret Bishop after 4 p.m. MST, weekdays by phone: (208) 867-8038, or email anytime: email@example.com. More information on FFTUSA can be found online at https://flyfishingteamusa.com, Facebook or Instagram.
Sexton is the Fly Fishing Team USA media director in Butte, Mont.