Youth cast their fishing lines into local rivers and lakes last weekend, with the hopes of landing more than a few big ones.
The B.C. provincial youth fly fishing championships took place Saturday and Sunday, with 15 teens between the ages of 13 and 18 testing their skills on lakes and rivers in rural Maple Ridge.
For each competitor, the ultimate goal was the opportunity to qualify for a spot on the Canadian national youth fly fishing team, which travels abroad to represent Canada at a series of regional, national, and international fly fishing events, as well as at the youth world fly fishing championships and conservation symposium.
Last weekend's event was organized by Todd Oishi, head coach of the Canadian national youth fly fishing team's West Coast division.
While the majority of the competitors call the Fraser Valley and Lower Mainland home, some travelled from as far away as Squamish, Kamloops, Fraser Lake, and Quebec to take part.
They fished from boats on Mike Lake and Rolley Lake for two sessions on Saturday and along sections of the Stave and Alouette rivers on Sunday, for the river portion of the championships.
The fishing was done on a strictly enforced catchand-release basis, with flies that were dressed on single, barbless hooks, and the fish handled with the utmost of care, according to Oishi.
"Competitors rotated between the four venues, so everybody fished equal water throughout the competition," Oishi said, adding that conditions were perfect, including summer-like temperatures on Sunday.
"That [weather] is always a challenge with any outdoor event," Oishi said. "The beautiful
weather made it really enjoyable for the majority of the competitors who enjoyed sitting out in the lakes and rivers."
There were also lots of helping hands over the weekend, with 27 volunteers lending their talents to the championships.
Most of the competitors, as well as the volunteers, have already indicated that they plan on returning for next year's event.
Alex Baumiester, from Hudson Heights, Que., caught the most fish within a single lake
session, with 18 rainbow trout over a three-hour period.
Tyler Wilkinson of Abbotsford held the record on the river portion of the competition, reeling in 15 fish over a single threehour session.
A total of 165 fish were caught and released by the competitors, which included several cutthroat, rainbow trout and whitefish that measured in the 40-to-50 centimetre category.
At the end of the weekend, Max Cohen of Abbotsford had captured the individual gold medal.
Baumiester came away with the silver medal with Maple Ridge's Jordan Vivieros garnering the bronze medal.
Oishi said the event made fly fishing history, nationally.
"This is the first youth provincial championship ever held in Canada," he said.
"My hope is that other provinces will follow my lead and work to the point where we'll have a national youth championships. Part of my role is to promote fly fishing nationally."
A member of the board of Fly Fishing Canada, and the board member in charge of national competitions and youth programs (a role he's held for the past seven years), Oishi champions fly fishing in B.C., running a series of competitions over the course of the year.
Oishi runs one competition each month throughout the year, and in some cases two or three in a month.
"It's all done by volunteer, and all competitions are free of charge," he said. "I want to promote the sport and give kids an avenue to go outdoors to have fun."
Not all youth are built to play high school or team sports, Oishi said.
He noted that for some young people, fly fishing offers an opportunity to qualify for a
spot on a national youth fly fishing team that travels to events across the world.
In fact, three local youth have competed at the world championships in France and Ireland over the past two years.
There has been a decline in the number of youth taking part in fly fishing and angling and Oishi is determined to change that.
"I'm trying to get teenagers out and involved, having fun and making new friendships, and fishing and learning at the same time," Oishi said.
Oishi is an accomplished fly fisherman in his own right.
He's an active member of the national fly fishing team that represents Canada at the world and Commonwealth championships.
Oishi has competed at six world championships, two Commonwealth events, eight Canadian nationals, two Lexus European fly fishing championships, three North American Loch-Style fly fishing championships, two U.S. nationals, and two America Cup international fly fishing tournaments over the past nine years.
Just prior to his local team's recent gold medal performance at nationals, Oishi competed for Canada's national team at the world championships in Norway for the better part of August.
@ Copyright 2013