I have to say, one of the last places I would chose to go fly fishing is Bosnia.
However, thankfully Fly Fishing Team USA (FFTUSA) went there and placed second in the World Fly Fishing Championship. I bet most of you didn’t know there is a FFTUSA, much less a world competition held every year.
The first championship was in 1981, and this is the first time a U.S team came home with a medal. Along with a team medal the U.S. had an individual medalist for only the second time. Devin Olson joined Jeff Currier with that honor. It’s hard to imagine, given the skill level of fly fishers in the U.S., not winning a team medal in past competitions.
I think one of the reasons the FFTUSA hasn’t done well in past competitions are the rules under which the championship are held. (more on that later)
As posted on their website, “The mission of FFTUSA is to educate and train men and women in the sport of competitive fly fishing on both national and international levels and to promote and educate its members in the conservation of our fisheries, lakes, rivers and streams.”
To have competition on a national and international venue a uniform set of rules was needed. This set of rules is an 18-page document called, The Fédération Internationale dê Peche Sportive Mouche. It is referred to as FIPS-Mouche. This document governs the 28 countries involved in the World Championship. If it sounds complicated, know that it is.
Of the many items the rules govern, the biggest difference from fly fishing in the U.S. is how nymphs can be used. The FIPS-Mouche states that when using nymphs you may not have a strike indicator or add weight to your leader. Use of shooting head lines is also prohibited. You can, however, use up to three nymphs. This is commonly referred to as the European Method. Try selling this to the folks on the San Juan River.
So, to compete, our teams have had to learn a new method of fly fishing, a method that most other teams grew up with. We were at a disadvantage, until now. The learning curve may have been long for FFTUSA, but world watch them now.
So how does a fly fisher qualify for FFTUSA? Similar to many competitive sports, one has to participate in regional tournaments. These tournaments are sponsored by the FFTUSA. A complicated mathematical system awards points based on the number and the size of fish caught. The men or women with the highest point total are selected for the team. If it were only that simple.
To get to the level of a FFTUSA member takes an incredible amount of practice and hard work. If you are interested in trying out for the FFTUSA, I suggest you go to their website and get a detailed explanation of what is involved.
The team is made up of 15 competitive members plus the team captain. The current captain is Bret Bishop, who supplied me with much of the information I have been writing about in this column. You also need to know that Brian Capsay, a Durango resident, is a member of the team. Once the competitive team is in place, they compete among themselves – using the same point system – for a spot on the travel team. The travel team is comprised of five fishermen, the captain and one alternate. The captain can serve as the alternate but usually doesn’t.
Since the World Fly Fishing Championship doesn’t draw the television coverage a bass tournament does, watching one becomes very difficult and expensive. That is, until now.
The 2016 Championship will be held in Vail. The exact date hasn’t been published, but it will be sometime in September 2016. I am planning on going and cheering for the FFTUSA in person. I hope to see many of you there.
Reach Don Oliver at firstname.lastname@example.org.