A presidential visit and a look back at sport casting

Congratulations to Vince Wilcox, the owner of Wiley’s Flies, a small flyshop located in Ray Brook. Wilcox recently guided former President Barack Obama for an afternoon of fly fishing on the backwoods waters of the Adirondacks.

Historically, whenever a sitting US President is featured with a fishing rod in his hand, equipment sales jump. While Obama is no longer the sitting President, the local trout-filled waters will continue to draw anglers to the region for the scenery, as well as the solitude and the serenity of the North Woods.

While both presidents Bush 1 and GW2, have visited the region in the past, neither of them had an opportunity to fish. However, when he was in the area, GW2 did take the opportunity to enjoy a mountain bike outing on trails near Onchiota with a handful of Secret Service officers that accompanied him.

Although a majority of outdoor pursuits were primarily intended to be non-competitive in nature, there has long been an ongoing effort to bring outdoor sporting events — such as competitive rock climbing — to the Olympics. Events such as skeet, archery and target shooting attracted large crowds back in the late 1890s. While shooting sports competitions are still contested at the Olympics, the events are rarely aired during the prime time hours, if at all.

Sport casting’s heyday

Back in the 1880s through the early 1900s, sportsmen and women would gather in stadiums around the globe to watch the sport of competitive fly casting. Long distance fly casting and spin fishing are still contested, but the audiences can no longer compare with the old days.

Current day media markets now want to see the fight as an angler hauls another big bass into the live well. After putting in a full day on the water, anglers will weigh the catch and put together their strategy for the next day’s competitions. lt isn’t really prime time theatre, but it passes as outdoorsy content.

Elsewhere, hunters will gear up to compete in big buck contests, where big-racked bucks raised on private ranches are “shot” with a camera-scope that’s mounted on their rifle. The hunters harvest their trophies, which are judged by a panel of experts, with points added or deducted for non-lethal shots. At the conclusion of such competitions, the bucks return to their home range to wait for the next crop of no-kill hunters to pay them a visit.

Similar to bass fishing events, the big bucks are harvested, measured and released to be shot or harvested another day.

I mention these unique competitive events because they include the pairing of natural playing fields, waters and even in the air, where hawks and falcons are utilized rather than arrows, fishing poles or rifles. Regardless of the arena or the playing field, the pairing of humans, birds, dogs and fish is an inescapable element of the human animal and the wild one.

While such unique measures allow hunters and anglers to enjoy the thrill of the kill without spilling a drop of blood, there are others who claim the new breed of virtual hunts and catch-and-release fishing competitions signal the beginning of the end for sport hunting and big game fishing.

While it may be a while before we see such high end competitive events in the Adirondacks, the door has already been opened. While l would welcome such events, there are others who claim such events go across the grain of the of the sport.

I suppose the good old days of returning home with creel full of trout are no longer sustainable. The fish you release today may be responsible for restoring a truly wild trout fishery one day. I know of several heritage brook trout streams in the region, including the waters of my youth. Fortunately, these old fisheries have managed to survive the ravages of time, acid rain, drought and flood, and the annual predations of sea gulls, heron, kingfisher, otter and young anglers.

If we show the next generation of outdoor enthusiasts how to sustain the fur, fish and game that we have known and enjoyed for so many years, it may remain intact for their children’s children, and beyond.

I wonder what will happen when the last trout is lost, the last partridge drumming is heard and the first young boy fails to frolic upon the same lands and waters that I once called home.


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