Seven individuals from the Long Beach program spent a week in Boise, Idaho at the Fly Fishers International Fair, August 5-12.
Five participants and one volunteer fished the Owyhee River on Monday and Tuesday. It was challenging but they caught some very large fish. Check out the photos! Wednesday, they attended two workshops. The first was an interesting classroom session entitled “Where Are They and What Are They Doing?” This was followed by an on-the water “Czech Nymphing” clinic in the afternoon. One of the unique aspects of the FFI Fair is the wealth of casting, tying and fishing information that is available through workshops, clinics, lectures and local fishing opportunities.
Everyone from the Long Beach program helped set up the casting course for practice all day Thursday. The heat above 100 was brutal but they made things go smoothly. Twelve regional casting champions were present to practice for the national competition featuring the Modified 5 Wt Combination Game. Head judge Mark Tsunawaki did an overview of the competition, equipment check and offered pointers on request.
Thursday night we all went to the President’s Award Dinner. Medal of Honor Recipient Don Ballard, who is a PHWFF participant in the Heartland Region, was introduced. He served in Vietnam with Mike Escarcida, a Long Beach participant who was at the Fair. Their reunion was touching.
Friday morning was the Inaugural National Casting Competition, starting with a preliminary round of all twelve regional casters. That was followed with a final round of the top five casters to determine the three with the highest scores. Third place went to Val Roberts of Rocky Mountain South with 2280 points and second was Henry Stockman of Tennessee Valley with 2620 points. First place went to Lawrence Diggins of Long Beach with 2740 points. The longest cast was 75 feet by Henry Stockman. Lawrence and Rod MacLean of North Carolina both hit the pie plate center target, a notable achievement. Many of the casters challenged each other to meet again at next year’s event.
Thanks go to all those who helped with the competition. Head judge Mark Tsunawaki, with judges Ted Bounds, Jason Willoughby and Carole Katz. Scorekeepers Lisa Ornelas and Mona Brewer, and tabulator Jan Schnorr. Overseer Richard Jones. Distance measurement team of Jesse Garza, Jim Graham, Mike Escarcida, and Dave Widby, and all the Long Beach veterans who helped with course setup and take down both days. It was a great team.
Saturday afternoon a few Master Certified Casting Instructors introduced the Casting Skills Challenge. Long Beach participants Jesse Garza, Lawrence Diggins and Lisa Ornelas took the challenge. Lisa earned the Bronze Level and then became the first person in the country to earn the Silver Level pin. She missed getting the Gold Level by just one skill and she intends to complete it soon. She said afterward “I cannot express in words the amount of confidence and sheer joy I feel in regard to my performance in the fly Casting Skills Challenge Program. I am feeling so good about myself and that doesn’t happen often with my PTSD issues.” We were very proud that a PHWFF participant was the first to achieve this in an event that is open to all fly fishers.
Saturday evening was the closing BBQ dinner that included the Casting Competition Awards Ceremony. Certificates, pins and Orvis gift certificates were presented by CEO Todd Desgrosseilliers and Medal of Honor Recipient Don Ballard. It was a great end to the week.
The Long Beach program does a lot of casting practice year-round and tries to create ways of making casting practice interesting. We think the results of the casting competition and the Casting Skills Challenge demonstrate that the practice is worth the effort.