Bend Fly Fishing Festival - This is why we do what we do...

As most of you who know me understand, I tend to tangent into various efforts throughout the spheres of conservation of natural resources throughout Oregon for my own reasons. Events and programs like this are few and far between when it comes to the various legislative, political, and policy meetings I stay aware of and engage with. The Bend Fly Fishing Festival allowed me to bring that information to the public in some way, touching people and giving them an opportunity to also foster the camaraderie associated with the activity of fly fishing.

This day, we had around 300 people come through the doors of Wille Hall at COCC, showing them that even though our focus is mainly the social atmosphere, this event was going to be something special. We offered films, presenters, casting instruction and fly tying to each and every person through the doors.

Central Oregon Project Healing Waters, a local group focused on veteran's in our community to help them engage with the activity of fly fishing and fly tying was there. Trout Unlimited, a National organization with a local staffer and local Chapter that focuses on conserving and protecting our coldwater fisheries here in Central Oregon. The Deschutes River Conservancy is an organization that focuses on increasing streamflows and improving water quality.

But those are only a few of the things we showcased this day. The purpose was to also show the public the art and beauty associated with the sport and lifestyle of fly fishing. Most of us realize that fly fishing lends itself to a great deal of creativity, but were you aware that someone would be so inspired by the activity that they would take their passion to a level of industry? Some of the artists there today showing their illustrations, films, and sculptures are world class in their own right.

Tye Krueger of Confluence Fly Shop in Bend is a phenomenal pencil artist who renders the fish he chases into vibrant and precise portrayals. Brad Emery of La Pine carves trout out of wood giving them a realistic look and feel with no detail missed. Beau Price and his crew at Mountain Made Media spend countless hours honing their skills behind cameras and in editing rooms putting together images to bring you the experience found throughout Oregon. Brian O'Keefe and Todd Moen of Catch Magazine travel the continents doing much the same, and their keen sense of grasping the culture of the sport is world renown and some say the standard by which most others are measured.

It would be simple to say this is all we accomplished - showing you the groups and businesses who make a living being part of our community focused on fly fishing and conserving our fisheries, but it wouldn't be true. Friends from the other side of the mountains at H&H Outfitters were here screening shirts for our event for anyone who couldn't pass up the opportunity to walk away with a great memento from the event.

When it comes to being a fly fisherman/woman there are things we learn. We learn those things by asking questions and observing others. Whether that's casting, wading, tying flies, or educating ourselves through books, movies, and hands on presentations - this activity lends itself to a tangible and visual experience.

Standing there watching and asking questions of Caleb Reider, Phil Fischer, and Jeremiah Houle while they were demonstrating tying various flies - people also learned WHY these flies work the way they do.

Teaching people why we should pay attention to the bugs we see when we are out on the water fiddling with our flies trying to pick the right pattern. Describing in detail the reason the fly is tied the way it is to sit in the water just so, or why it behaves the way it does when it's under the water as well. The learning never stops when you pick up fly fishing. It is something you can never know with any degree of certainty. But that is what makes it so fun, challenging, and when the hatch, timing, and presentation comes together just right - the thrill and satisfaction of knowing you succeeded. It may not happen every time you get out on the water - but we keep doing it because the experience is well worth the effort.

Being the end of the line, the fly is very important - but let's not forget you have to deliver that weightless little bug into or onto the water in a way to increase your odds of hooking a fish. That is where experts in casting and instruction like Jeff Perin of The Fly Fisher's Place in Sisters and Jeremiah Houle of Confluence Fly Shop come in handy. Splitting up responsibilities this day, Jeff worked with single handed rods for the public and Jeremiah showed people the fundamentals of the spey rod.

Jeff worked two shift this day with about 9 people in the morning session and about 10 in the afternoon session. While Jeremiah had about a half dozen people throughout both shifts to show the ins and outs of the two handed specialty. As I have observed many times with them, it takes a special kind of patience to teach even the most fundamental cast. Both of these gentlemen have this patience in spades, and often bring their unique sensibilities and humor to teaching that makes every student a success by the end of the session.

Your cast may not be the "perfect loop" you envisioned in your mind, or watched in A River Runs Through It - but that's not the point. The point is to get your comfortable in using the rod, bringing you closer to understanding the mechanics of your own body and the rod and encouraging you to keep practicing. Jeff and Jeremiah wanted each and every person they came to know this day to realize this, and I must say - I heard from more than one person that is exactly what they did.

Lest I forget, it is important to note that we also showcased a little of the history of fly fishing here in Central Oregon as well. Thanks to The Hook Fly Shop in Sunriver, we were able to borrow gear that was used over 50 years ago! Who would have thought that silk was used as floating line back then? Or that catgut was used as a leader? How about the steel rimmed nets, and steel reels that were used? Leather pouches to hold your flies, and instead of a GPS - you carried a compass to figure it all out.

Next to that display we showed how far the technology has come. We had state-of-the-art carbon fiber rods next to fiberglass ones, along with ultralight reels with modern plastics used for lines. Even gear bags, waders and apparel were shown as well. I did a little test just to see how much weight we have dropped in the gear we use, and it comes out to pounds people - POUNDS.

What more can I say? It was truly an honor and a blessing to help Kyle Schenk put this event together this year. I am sure there are things I am forgetting to mention, but that's why we have a blog I suppose!! Thanks again for all the support and consideration you have shown our group.

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