Casting call: A great time at women's fly-fishing weekend

Steve PiattI jumped at the chance to assist at a women's fly-fishing weekend in Plattsburgh, and was really looking forward to helping introduce newbies to the great sport. But a funny thing happened on the way to the June 22-23 event: work continued to pile on my desk, and I picked up a cold courtesy, I'm sure, of a long layover in Chicago's O'Hare airport a few days earlier.

So when the weekend rolled around, I was battling a 101-degree temperature and facing an early deadline with New York Outdoor News due to the looming Fourth of July holiday.

Instead of bouncing into the seminar offered by Trout Unlimited, organized thoroughly by Jan Opal and conducted with great dexterity by Lindsay Agness, I pretty much staggered. I think there were 12 or 13 eager participants, but I'm not entirely sure; I was seeing double most of the first day, which included casting and fly-tying instruction.

Lindsay, assisted by Vicky Lane and volunteers from TU's Lake Champlain chapter, did a superb job dispelling the myth that fly fishing is difficult. We worked in two shifts, one group tying their first ever fly, the time-tested Woolly Bugger, and the other hitting the field for casting instruction. What we saw was typical of beginners: a long but tentative backcast, and forward casts that didn't quite turn over. But within minutes, everyone had progressed greatly, some to the point where the veteran TU anglers were bug-eyed.

And everyone was having a blast. Even me, my Bayer, Sudafed and orange juice diet kicking in as I worked with Marcie and Trisha on their casting form.

In the afternoon on Saturday, we took the Saranac River. High water conditions made for dicey wading, especially for a beginning angler. Then the rain came, and only about half of the group had bothered to bring along their rain gear. I was one of those who left his in the truck. No worries; I was already sick.

But I looked around and listened. I saw smiles. Heard laughter. Only a few fish were caught. Most of the group caught nothing except, possibly, a cold. And they had a great time. I reminded them of that the next morning before we headed back out to the Saranac, this time where it empties into Lake Champlain. If they enjoyed themselves that much on what most anglers would consider a bad day, can they imagine how much fun this game is on the good ones?

They can now. Sunday dawned bright and beautiful. Fish were cooperative – who cared if most were chubs? But, in fact, a couple trout were landed, as well as a smallmouth bass or two.

When it was over, the volunteers vowed to connect with the participants – all of them new members of TU as part of the program – again, maybe get them out on the stream for an evening hatch sometime. Make sure they continue moving forward, get out on the water, have the gear they need, etc. The email train is in motion and I'm sure most, if not all, will get out there again. Soon.

Other similar programs will be offered in the future. Already, one is in the planning stages for central New York in mid-September. I hope I can volunteer again. I know there will be a waiting list of participants.

Categories: New York – Steve Piatt

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