Hundreds of teens compete in the World Youth Fly Fishing Championships in Vail this week
EAGLE COUNTY — More than 200 teens are trying to fish their way to a world championship this week.
The World Youth Fly Fishing Championships are taking place in Eagle and Summit counties, with more than 200 fly fishers ages 14-18 from 10 countries.
This is a true world championship, said John Knight with the America Cup, the local group that organized the event.
To get here, competitors worked their way up through national rankings at local and regional qualifiers around the globe and earned a spot on their nation’s team.
They brought with them parents, grandparents, siblings, coaches and chaperones.
That doesn’t include the 80 people a day in town paying their own way to volunteer or the senior staff that will be in town all week.
“It’s great for the valley,” Knight said.
The United States is the two-time defending world team champion, and they’ve won three of the last four. They were the team silver medalist in the one they didn’t win. Cam Chioffi won the world title in 2013. He won the silver in 2014. U.S. teammate Gabe Wittosch won the gold. Wittosch aged out of the youth team. This is Chioffi’s last year.
“It’s a big deal to be defending the world title on home waters,” Chioffi said.
Vail Valley native Jack Arnot fished his way onto the U.S. team. He will be a freshman at Vail Christian High School.
How to win worlds
You win a World Youth Fly Fishing championship by catching the most fish. There aren’t style points, and it’s not subjective.
Competitors earn 100 points per fish and 20 points per centimeter for the length of each fish. The minimum length is 20 centimeters, about 8 inches.
“You want to catch a bunch of normal size fish, not just a few big ones,” Knight said.
The kid who can go into water and catch fish after other people have fished it for four or five days, that’s the kid who’ll win a world title this week, Knight explained.
“It’s truly something that showcases the area, as well as the watershed,” Knight said.
Practice and competition venues are our local rivers and lakes, ranging in elevation from 7,000 feet to 10,000 feet. Competitors will fish the Colorado River, Blue River, Eagle River, Sylvan Lake and Dillon Reservoir.
“The water is perfect, and the planets are aligning,” Knight said. “The Eagle is so nice we’re fishing it twice.”
The event has been a little under the radar, which is fine, Knight said. The organizers have had plenty to do.
“It took 28 permits to put this thing on. That’s a lot of ‘yes’ to get to this,” Knight said.
People at local farmers markets spent the weekend asking Knight and others where they could sign up their kids to fish.
You can fish and should, Knight explained patiently over and over, just not in these World Championships.
The event officially opened with Monday’s Parade of Teams beginning at Vail’s Evergreen Lodge, following the path along Gore Creek and winding through Lionshead Village. They rode the gondola up to Eagle’s Nest, where they were welcomed, fed and given the opportunity to ride the zipline. They started fishing Tuesday.
The medal ceremony and closing ceremonies are at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at Vail Mountain Plaza. Team medals and individual medals will be awarded. Each winner’s national anthem will be played, and there’s a humongous team trophy.
This is the 14th annual World Youth Fly Fishing Championships. The 36th annual men’s world championships are here next summer.
In 2011, Knight and some others from the America Cup went to Portugal to bid. They got it, and have been working toward this week ever since.
“After years of preparation, it’s on!” Knight said smiling.
The event in a different country every year. Last year the youth event was in Poland.
The event was last in the U.S. 12 years ago.
Next summer’s men’s world championships will bring to the area teams from 25 to 30 countries, maybe more, Knight said.
“One of our goals is to put on such a great event this week that the countries trying to decide whether to come next year can’t wait to come back,” Knight said.
On Saturday there’s a Conservation Symposium at Camp Hale’s Nova Guides Lodge. It’ll cover watershed conservation, invasive species and fishery management.
Colorado Trout Unlimited will teach about casting and fly tying and host bug stations to help guests learn more about the area. Participants will be able to fish the private lake of Nova Guides — catch and release, of course.
Buy tickets (to cover the cost of lunch) at the Colorado Trout Unlimited website, http://www.coloradotu.org.
About the America Cup
The America Cup is a nonprofit that promotes competitive and amateur fly fishing in the state, nation and world. The money they raise goes to Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing, which is dedicated to the physical and emotional rehabilitation of disabled, active duty military personnel and veterans through fly-fishing outings and fly-tying education.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
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