The years leading up to the Championships were the best. Back when things were a little less serious. Back when I got the many kids that were involved all cracked up on skittles and lollies only to backfire on me by doubling the rowing they expected me to do. The adults were free to rummage through the boat for the bottle of whiskey they knew I had somewhere as I spied on other boats with binoculars for stripping cadence and fish counts. We had ace competitors fall out of the boat, more than once, right at shore in front of all their peers. That was more than OK. We had volunteers who had no idea how to even row a boat, let alone be able to figure out that god damn drogue thing and that was OK. More than one competitor had to row the boat back to the dock at the end of a session partly so they could count their score and partly out of polite chivalry for the poor old lady rowing the boat for the last 3 hours. Back in the day every van driver was an off duty raft guide just in case I was short a rower, which I almost always was. We had late night camp fire shenanigans that involved a lot of whiskey, great food, machetes, BB Guns, M 80's and discussions about hookers and Vegas that my son took home to my ex wife and that's just the stuff I remember.
For all the fun we had we realized just how serious some competitors took this shit, even before it was for the the World Championships and yes it was rather baffling to those of us that fly fish for different reasons. That's OK too.
I am proud to say this years Championship was rather drama free with the only act of terrorism coming from the chap who left a dead fish in boat 11 every morning as some sort of sign. Touche (that's French) my friend, well played, made me smile. Making it half way through the 36th World Fly Fishing championships and still not being assaulted or harassed by somebody who cared too much was a major accomplishment. Shit, last year during the Youth Worlds I had to deal with coaches, managers AND parents in my face every session. Some of them were there everyday working me over like their kid's life depended on it. So this year when the irate, crazy Irish woman who I later found out was actually Canadian finally searched out my bright orange jacket and official badge I thought I was prepared for it, I was sober after all. She was stout enough to take me, her hair was wild and black and styled after one of Marge Simpsons sisters. Her eyes burned right through me and the metal picnic table I was sitting on as she voiced her displeasure with some public dooda in a canoe for getting to close to some guy she must of had money on.
"They don't understand" was my the polite response.
"It's Public mum" was me justifying it.
"Who fucking cares......it makes it more interesting anyhow" was the truth that leaked from me after she had gone back to her Labatts Blue.
It made me realize I may never get this competitive fly fishing stuff and I am OK with that. No one has a gun to my head telling me I have to. America may never get it, and that's OK. It's OK to not be as passionate about something as your neighbor is and it's OK for your neighbor to be too passionate about things also. I realize it was the people who made this event fun and having as much fun as possible everyday is my score sheet.
My friend John Knight wandered into a fly shop where I was behind the counter 8 years ago and laid most of his plan for this international competitive fly fishing poop out for me.
"This sounds really stupid" I responded.
"OK, your my boy, I guess I'll help" said my friendly side
After all these years I still don't understand any of it and I realized that yet again in the final hours of my commitment to this stuff.
Sylvan Lake tried to say goodbye in the most beautiful of ways. She had all her fish rise and say good bye for the last hour of the last session and not one of those "pros" changed to a dry fly rig. There were 24 competitors on that lake and I am sure that the Tournament was over for at least 20 of them but not one chose to fish for their soul. I didn't understand, but that's OK.
Like every other guy who retires I am saying its the people I will miss the most, To the many competitors who I have become friends with over the years; To the many volunteers and officials who gave their time and service for something different and to the Knight family I say lets go fish for the love of it, without a scoring tube, every September until we can't.
THAT I understand.