WILMINGTON - For the past three years, Beverly Perkins has been greeted with cool and sometimes windy conditions for the Two-Fly Challenge on the West Branch of the AuSable River.
"Last three years I've been all bundled up," said Perkins, of Milford, Conn. "I've had clothes on, and I've had gloves on."
Not this year. This Saturday, for the 11th annual fishing contest, conditions were much different. The sun was out, temperatures were in the 70s and the insect life on the river was ahead of schedule because spring arrived early.
A fisherman casts in the Flume Pool on the West Branch of the AuSable River Saturday during the annual Two-Fly Challenge.
(Enterprise photo — Mike Lynch)
"The conditions on the river today are what you'd expect to find in mid-June," said Hungry Trout fishing guide Bill O'Brien, who organized the event's fishing competition. "There's hatches of caddis, Hendricksons, march browns, gray foxes. You've got nymphs working. You've got dry flies working. The river is on fire right now."
Perkins agreed that the insect life was active and that helped her land several fish, including a 16-inch brown trout in the High Falls Gorge section of the river. For the day, she caught three trout totaling 41 inches.
"There's a lot going on," Perkins said. "A lot of people are nymphing, but I've been having better luck with dries."
Perkins was one of 54 people who participated in the Two-Fly, which celebrates fishing on the AuSable while simultaneously raising money for the river. Trout Unlimited, the AuSable River Association and the Wild Trout Fund, which is used to stock the river, all receive proceeds from the Two-Fly.
"Every penny that we (get over the cost of the contest) goes back to the river, and that's the heart of the matter right there," O'Brien said. "That's what it's all about."
The event, whose numbers were down a bit this year, started on Friday night with a welcome reception at McDougall's Pub in Wilmington. That night several professionals gave fly-tying demonstrations. Saturday, anglers hit the water; then that night retired forest ranger Gary Hodgson talked about wilderness survival.
The fishing contest is broken up into several categories, with the bulk of the people falling into the adult and competitive ones. The objective is to land as many fish 12 inches or larger as possible. The length of those fish is then added together for a total tally. The person with the most inches wins. Anglers are only allowed to used two flies.
Philip Short, of Kirkland, Quebec, took the top spot in the competitive category by reeling in 201 inches of trout. He was followed by Don Clute, of Scotia, who had 90 inches. Rob Both, of Wells, took third with 38.5 inches.
In the adult division, first place went to Chris Takacs, of Lafayette, N.J., who caught 184.65 inches of trout. Two men from Newton N.J. took second and third. Joe Falotico caught 100 inches worth of fish, and Shane Edwards caught 98.5.
Jacob Landis, a 13-year-old from Clifton Park, took first in the children's category. He caught a 13-inch fish. He also landed 10- and 11-inch fish, but they didn't count.
The largest fish on the day went to Charles Oat, who landed a 19.75-inch trout, earning the Fran Betters Award, named after the legendary Wilmington fisherman who died last fall.
But the contest isn't meant to be competitive. Fishermen must return all fish to the water and are expected to play by an honor system. The fishermen - who spread out over the river - measure their own fish and submit their totals to organizers.
"Realistically, this contest is for the average Joe," said Tom Conway, one of the founders. "You want them to come up here and have a good time. Start creating experiences where, even if they don't win, they have camaraderie with their friends and have a great experience. That's what the Adirondacks is about."
Conway himself just opened up a fly-fishing shop in Wilmington called the Two-Fly, playing off the name of the fishing contest. The Two-Fly name is a play off the one-fly contests held in the western United States.
But regardless of the name, the goal is to provide an enjoyable experience fishing on the AuSable.
"I really feel it gives us exposure," said organizer Michelle Burns, of the Whiteface Mountain Regional Visitors Bureau. "It brings a lot of anglers into town and lets them enjoy the beauty of what we have to offer."
Contact Mike Lynch at 891-2600 ext. 28 or firstname.lastname@example.org.