Two-Fly fishing derby expands in 20th year

A fisherman casts into the West Branch of the AuSable River at the Flume waterfall in Wilmington during the Two-Fly Challenge in May 2017. (Enterprise photo — Justin A. Levine)

WILMINGTON — The 20th annual Two-Fly Challenge is set for the middle of May with an expanded lineup of activities for both anglers and the general public.

The fishing tournament, which raises money for protection of the AuSable River and its fisheries, is slated to begin on Thursday, May 16 at the Wilmington Town Beach with a barbecue, bonfire and live music. This is open to the public.

Fishing will take place all day Friday and into Saturday, with a comedy show featuring Louis Ramey — who has been featured in Comedy Central specials — on Friday night. The event wraps up with a banquet at Whiteface Mountain on Saturday, May 18, where awards will be presented.

Michelle Preston works for the Whiteface Visitors Bureau and has organized the tournament for about a dozen years. She said the Two-Fly has been expanded largely due to popular demand.

“Every year I try to get feedback from the fishermen, and originally it was a one-day event,” she said. “And then a few years ago we expanded to two days. And this year, because it’s the 20th, we decided that we’d add a third night. The guys are here anyways, so we thought we’d have a welcome night that’s a little more laid back and casual.

“It’s just kind of a nice, welcoming atmosphere.”

Preston explained that with the addition of Thursday night activities, fishing can begin earlier on Friday and offer more time for anglers to hit the AuSable River. She said the tournament draws people back year after year for a number of reasons.

“I think because of the camaraderie, and the fact that it’s just an average Joe event,” she said. “I think that it’s just for fun. Yes, there’s some competition, but it’s mainly just a time to get away and have some fun, win some prizes and support some local causes as well.

“It’s kind of like a guys’ getaway for the weekend. It’s the one time a year they can just get away and get away with it,” she laughed.

Preston said many of the non-fishing events are open to the public, including the opening night festivities and the comedy show.

The Two-Fly Challenge is a catch-and-release tournament, and winners are determined by the cumulative number of inches of fish they catch. There are junior, men’s, women’s and professional categories to compete in.

For more information, including a full schedule and registration information, go to www.whitefaceregion.com/do/events/two-fly-challenge.