BY Marshall Bissett
Competition was keen as nine teams from the Southwest Council of the FFF battled for the winner's plaque in the second annual Kern River Fly Fishing Tournament. The welcome addition of two ladies’ and one co-ed team brought a welcome touch of glamour and laid to rest concerns that competitive rivalries might dampen the fun of this event. All of the teams left town on Sunday with a firm resolve to mark their calendars for next year and set aside some weekends for practice.
The weekend kicked off with a leader building session in the Kernville Fly Shop hosted by Guy Jeans and Freddy Ramirez. from the Fresno Fly Fishers. Guy then took the group streamside where he demonstrated the effectiveness of the Czech nymphing system. The teams then headed upstream for an afternoon of pre-fishing, carefully avoiding the forty five competition beats, from Hospital Flats to Golden Trout Lodge. The skies were bright blue, the water clear but early reports suggested that the fish were hunkering down ahead of a cold front. Then it was over to Ewing’s restaurant for a night of poker that raised over a thousand dollars for the Southern Sierra Fly Fishers Kid's Academy. Many of the teams also attempted to break the beer drinking records set in the previous year.
It is said that the rules will set you free, and there was no shortage of rules to ensure fairness on a river that can change from gentle, shallow runs to raging rapids within the seventy five yard length of an assigned beat. The beats could not be closed to the public adding an extra variable to this challenging event. This year it was agreed that controllers and anglers could switch roles after the morning session and many teams took advantage of this to increase their chances and give the controllers an added incentive.
Following a modified version of French International rules, Guy Jeans and his team did a superb job of organizing the twenty mile stretch of river above Kernville into forty five "beats" monitored by a controller who measured the fish (20 centimeters minimum) and checked that contestants were barbless, free from split shot, indicators and flies attached directly to other flies. Each angler was assigned a two hour morning and afternoon session on two separate beats. Beats were drawn at random from three general areas in the twenty mile stretch above Kernville.. A break for lunch gave teams a chance to compare notes and techniques before the afternoon session. Organizer and owner of Kern River Fly Fisher, Guy Jeans stressed, "The rules are designed to make everyone a better fly fisherman - the idea is to make everyone think about new techniques to meet the changing conditions." These included Czech nymphing, modified hopper/dropper combos and dry fly single and dual rigs. In a pre competition meeting with the team captains, Guy suggested that anglers divide their beat into zones and to fish slowly and thoroughly, despite the two hour deadline. At the same time he added, "Two hours go by really fast."
The organizers must have ordered clear, sunny skies with light breezes and water flows that averaged around 350 to 400 cfs. While not producing any major hatches, anglers found fish in the deepest runs of any beat, although Lou Riffle of the Santa Barbara Club took a nice fish at the end of the second session with a Hail Mary cast with a BWO.
Ewings was again the site of the Saturday night awards dinner, the dining room bursting at the seams with the added anglers. Guy and Southwest Council President Michael Schweit thanked the teams and clubs for their participation and announced the results. Once again the local favorites (Southern Sierra Fly Fishers) edged out runners up ( Fresno Fly Fishers) but only by a very a small margin. The individual big fish award at 44 centimeters went to Norb Spitzer of the San Diego team. The winners were presented with a plaque that will be circulated for the next ten years. The runners up received gag gifts chosen by MC and President of SWCFFF Michael Schweit. He even had the nerve to auction off a remote controlled inflatable blue shark – you had to be there!
Congratulations and kudos are in order to Guy Jeans, Freddy Ramirez, the staff of the fly shop and the forty five controllers who sat in enforced chilly silence while the contestants fished their beats. The smiles and hilarity at the awards banquet told the story of just how much the teams enjoyed getting together for this friendly competition. There is no doubt that a new annual special event has been created, and is likely to produce even more teams in 2012.
On Sunday the teams woke up to a couple of inches of snow on car roofs. That was the cue to head out for breakfast at Cheryl’s and think about the event next year.
Liam Haselhorst, captain of the Southern Sierra team summed it up well, “The fishing is important but the best part is the chance to meet the other teams.”
The participating teams and captains were
SIERRA PACIFIC FLY FISHERS / Marshall Bissett
SOUTHERN SIERRA FLY FISHING CLUB (A Team) / Liam Haselhorst
SIERRA PACIFIC DAMSELS LADIES TEAM / Rosemary Ecker
SANTA BARBARA FLY FISHERS (A team of two with a heart of five!) Lew Riffle
GOLDEN STATE FLY FISHERS / Steve Piper (He caught a nice one!)
KERN RIVER NYMPHS (LADIES) / Amy Kileen
SOUTHERN SIERRA FLY FISHING CLUB (B Team) / Chiaki Harami
FRESNO FLY FISHERS / Todd Tyler
DEEP CREEK FLY FISHERS (CO-ED) / Mike Brown
Hope to see more teams next year.