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Volunteer extraordinaire Chris Thompson penned a great article about the recent Cape Lookout Albacore and Redfish Festival and we’re pleased to share it with you below.  Chris serves as the volunteer Program Lead of our Camp Lejeune, NC Program and was the trip leader for this special annual event.

October 18-20, 2018, Atlantic Beach, NC – Hurricane Florence descended upon Eastern NC leaving a swath of destruction in its path. This led to the Cape Lookout Albacore and Redfish Festival being cancelled. However, the Board of Directors, sponsors, and local community were determined to ensure the Day on the Water for Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing (PHWFF) occurred. All the boat captains involved with the 10 National Destination Outing Participants were equally enthusiastic about ensuring their Participants were able to fish as planned. Additionally, the Palm Suites in Atlantic Beach maintained our reservations despite nearly every local hotel being either significantly damaged, or full housing clean-up and utility crews. Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing provided us the chance to see the silver lining in a very dark cloud.

The National Participants arrived on 17 Oct 2018 without incident. They were all excited despite being road weary. We didn’t have everyone on site until around 1900, so decided a relaxed evening was in order. We brought pizza into the hotel, everyone socialized and got to know one another, and those interested tied fies. The remainder of the evening was spent tackle bagging in preparation for 3 days of fishing. The next morning started early with casting lessons before boarding the boats, so everyone went to bed early.

At the casting lessons our National Participants met the other regional Participants that would be fishing on the Thursday Day on the Water. It was a cold and windy morning, but the wind direction made it possible to head out for Albies, so after casting was complete we headed to the Anchorage Marina for a dockside breakfast and boat assignments. Within an hour everyone had eaten, been given boat lunches, and boarded boats. It was a hard day fishing with wind driven swells and cool weather. However, we found fish willing to play and everyone had a successful day. All the National Participants hooked up, including on the boat I was on. The smiles, cheering, and astonishment at the power of the Albies sent the hurricane damage to deep recesses in my mind. It was a great day that we all desperately needed.

By day’s end over 40 Participants were sent on the water, and it was a day to remember! At the end of the day everyone came together for a dockside dinner. BBQ, fried chicken, hush puppies, baked beans, potato salad, banana pudding and tea was eaten in abundance. Since we were in Eastern NC, naturally the BBQ was chopped pork in vinegar based sauce. All the out of towners were pleasantly surprised! We decided to early on to hold a “for fun” tournament amongst all the anglers. The winners were happy to receive rods and reels. Perhaps the highlight was the award of a rod with a reel once owned by Chris Lutz, a former Participant who passed away. His wife donated the reel and asked it go to a Participant. The sharing of that story wet the eye of everyone attending.

On Friday our day began at a local diner for breakfast. Once everyone’s belly was full, we went to the marina, distributed boat lunches, and launched for the day. Once again, our National Participants were out in less than desirable conditions. However, not one complaint was heard, and the Captains all found fish. Each Participant was able to land several more Albies and there were smiles for miles! We finished the day and had dinner at a local seafood restaurant. The meal was requested by the Participants and we were happy to oblige. We worked with an eatery that had been shut down since the hurricane and was only able to reopen the very day of our dinner. They accepted our group although they normally don’t accept reservations on the weekends as soon as they learned who were bringing to dinner. The food was exceptional, the camaraderie even better, and it was the perfect way to end the day.

Saturday was not good weather to chase Albies. The day started with another diner breakfast, this time at a pier diner. Bellies full, we then did what we do best: improved, adapted, and overcame. The Captains transitioned to inshore tactics and the Participants were able to experience another facet of life on the Crystal Coast of North Carolina. Small boats hit the creeks in the marshes and speckled trout, flounder, and more than their fair share of lizardfish came over the gunwales. It may not have been Albies, but everyone was grateful for the experience and seeing another part of an angler’s life at the beach. We finished the day with dinner at another local establishment and everyone went to bed satisfied.

Departure went without a hitch. The outing was a complete success!