Some of the best anglers in the country are heading to Laramie this weekend to test their skills on local waters.
A regional qualifier for Fly Fishing Team USA is set for today and Sunday. Twenty-four anglers will be competing to land the most fish at four different locations during the weekend.
They’re chasing points in a quest to compete at a national competition in June 2018, from which a team will be chosen for the world championships in Wales.
Competitors will have four three-hour sessions, one each at the Laramie River near Jelm and Meeboer Lake, as well as two three-hour sessions in a boat at Twin Buttes Reservoir. Scoring is decided by the total number of trout caught, with the length of the fish serving as a tie-breaker.
“Each fish is measured and recorded,” organizer Kirk Lewis said.
Lewis, a volunteer who is also competing, said similar competitions have taken place elsewhere in Wyoming before, but not in Laramie. Organizers decided the plains lakes would be a good test for anglers ahead of the championships in Wales because they offer similar waters.
“We decided to do a competition that was mostly lakes to get everyone ready for the world championships,” he said.
Lewis, a University of Wyoming graduate originally from Casper, said competitors also like to try new venues, and he knew Laramie wouldn’t disappoint.
“There’s some great fishing there,” he said.
Anglers have already met for a drawing to see in what order each competitor will rotate through the fishing locations. On the Laramie River, competitors are assigned a stretch of beach. At Meeboer, they’ll rotate through sections of bank. At Twin Buttes, competitors will be paired up in boats.
Volunteers measure each catch before returning it to the water while also making sure anglers follow the rules.
Registration opened in early May, and the 24 slots were filled in less than a minute, with competitors coming from across the country, Lewis said.
Ed Mulhern, another organizer and competitor, said anglers aren’t allowed to fish at any of the competition venues as the date draws near. When the competition starts, they have to manage their time and trust their strategies.
“I really think you’ve got to go with methods you have confidence in,” he said.
Anglers are expecting Twin Buttes to be slow, which means even if one sits for a while without catching anything, it’s no time to panic. On the other hand, at a venue expected to have a lot of action, such as Meeboer, anglers need to know when to mix things up.
“If you’re fishing a certain way and you’re not catching anything, it’s time for a change,” he said.
Lewis started competing several years ago, and it took him a while to learn the system and hone his strategy.
“Some guys took me under their wings and showed me a lot of things,” he said. “I keep getting a little bit better every time.”
On the lakes, anglers spend their time trying to figure out how deep the fish are by trying different depths using lines that sink at different rates. They’re also hoping to figure out what might entice a hungry trout to bite.
“On the Laramie lakes, they eat more bugs,” he said. “We have to find patterns that the fish are going to eat.”
On the Laramie River, the main objective is to figure out where the fish are sitting. Lewis said top competitors might land 20 trout in three hours.
For anyone interested in watching the competition, Lewis suggested Meeboer Lake as the best destination for viewing.
Proceeds from the competition will be donated to a local conservation organization.