The first year of the National Fly Fishing Championship concluded June 4, 2006 with the Awards Banquet and the naming of Team USA 2006. The process started 12 months ago with a proposal to the Board of Directors of Fly Fishing Team USA. Since October of last year it’s been a steady and unrelenting grind. The contribution of time and energy by hundreds of volunteers was extraordinary. Colorado Trout Unlimited steering committee members, event coordinators, fishing venue administrators judges, van drivers, loading coordinators and general volunteers put 8,000 hours into this program for Colorado. The Department of Wildlife, the US Forest Service, Denver Water Board, non-profit conservation organizations and public companies all worked together to make it happen.
As I think about the last week, so many great stories come to mind.
1. The oldest competitor from Ashville, NC who came to this competition a week after chemotherapy treatments and made the 15 member team despite the grueling schedule that wore down competitors half his age.
2. The Gold Medal winner who intentionally waded into a lake so far that his waders filled up with ice cold water. From this point his casts were able to reach cruising fish that secured his gold medal.
3. A Team Captain who lost his net and continued to land fish in his hat.
4. The spectator who said "In 30 years of fly fishing I’ve never seen people wade across rivers this aggressively or work as hard for fish.”
5. The publisher who told me prior to the event that tournament fishing was not his cup of tea and came up to me later and said “I get it - this is about promoting our sport and putting conservation issues on the front burner.”
6. After a 12 hour day the volunteer who said “Count me in for next year and every year thereafter”
7. The Colorado Team which won the Bronze medal and their Captain who worked extremely hard on assembling a group of accomplished fishermen. He finished in fourth place winning a spot on Team USA.
8. The young British Army Captain who came up through the ranks and finished fourteenth. His fishing partner was unable to make the journey because he was called to duty in Afghanistan.
9. The Boulder fishing guide who was to be compensated for helping an international team get ready and subsequently said “I don’t want any money, this was an honor.”
10. The daughter of one of the steering committee members who traveled to all the fishing venues and cleaned out the inside of the transport vehicles.
12. Members of the Colorado Women Flyfishers organization who did whatever was asked of them no matter how time consuming or inconvenient.
13. The confident fishing guide who told me at the beginning of the week that he would finish in the top ten, and then said on day two that this was the hardest fishing he had ever experienced and his new objective was to stay out of the bottom 1/3 of competitors.
14. The controller (judge) that told me how one of his anglers who was exhausted gave him several dozen flies and a short lesson on European Nymphing while they were waiting for the day to end.