Why has Fly Fishing Team USA not won any World Fly Fishing Championship?

adso4

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Hi everyone,

Let me start this thread by putting two disclaimers. First, I have no intent to bash Fly Fishing Team USA. I am asking the question just out of my long-standing curiosity. Second, since the World Fly Fishing Championship is meant to be a competitive sport, I think it is fair to evaluate Team USA's performance as such. This never diminishes the fact that we as non-competitive flyfishers enjoy fly fishing for solitude, beauty of the Nature, and other non-competitive, personal reasons.

The United States offers the best possible resources and environments that a flyfisher can ever imagine. The USA has been the world's best over the last two centuries in terms of tackle development, fly fishing theory (e.g. Gary LaFontaine's), fly casting instructions, fly tying, and public access to fisheries.

However, Team USA, whether as a team or individually, has not won any World Fly Fishing Championship (WFFC) during the last fifteen years since any American fly fisher became eligible for joining Team USA in the early 2000s. Here are the results of the past WFFCs:

World Fly Fishing Championships - Wikipedia

To date, the best achievement was at the 35th WFFC when Team USA ranked second in Bosnia in 2015. The real killer, though, was the 36th WFFC held in Team USA's home waters in Colorado, USA (!). Team USA was defeated by France and Spain. To me, Team USA's perfomance has been unimpressive, especially considering what they could have achieved with all the resources and environments that the USA offers. This is also at odds with what American athletes have been capable of doing in the Olympic Games.

So, what do you think may explain Team USA's (relatively) lackluster performance in the World Fly Fishing Championships?

Thanks a lot for sharing your thoughts (again, no offense meant to Team USA).

Cheers.
 

silver creek

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Hi everyone,

Let me start this thread by putting two disclaimers. First, I have no intent to bash Fly Fishing Team USA. I am asking the question just out of my long-standing curiosity. Second, since the World Fly Fishing Championship is meant to be a competitive sport, I think it is fair to evaluate Team USA's performance as such. This never diminishes the fact that we as non-competitive flyfishers enjoy fly fishing for solitude, beauty of the Nature, and other non-competitive, personal reasons.

The United States offers the best possible resources and environments that a flyfisher can ever imagine. The USA has been the world's best over the last two centuries in terms of tackle development, fly fishing theory (e.g. Gary LaFontaine's), fly casting instructions, fly tying, and public access to fisheries.

However, Team USA, whether as a team or individually, has not won any World Fly Fishing Championship (WFFC) during the last fifteen years since any American fly fisher became eligible for joining Team USA in the early 2000s. Here are the results of the past WFFCs:

World Fly Fishing Championships - Wikipedia

To date, the best achievement was at the 35th WFFC when Team USA ranked second in Bosnia in 2015. The real killer, though, was the 36th WFFC held in Team USA's home waters in Colorado, USA (!). Team USA was defeated by France and Spain. To me, Team USA's perfomance has been unimpressive, especially considering what they could have achieved with all the resources and environments that the USA offers. This is also at odds with what American athletes have been capable of doing in the Olympic Games.

So, what do you think may explain Team USA's (relatively) lackluster performance in the World Fly Fishing Championships?

Thanks a lot for sharing your thoughts (again, no offense meant to Team USA).

Cheers.
With all due respect, you have little historical perspective of Team USA's place in competitive fly fishing on the world stage. I hope my post does not sound to harsh, but I think my irritation is that you have made a accusation without the due diligence, that is, the research necessary to make that accusation.

I have been following the competitive fly fishing since the 1990s after Vladi introduced Polish Nymphing at the 1989 World Championships. Vladi's personal point score was higher than the next three team scores combined. That is like a single hockey player on an olympic team outscoring the combined scores of all the players on the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th place teams.

Think about that for just a second. This is probably the the greatest winning margin in any competitive sport ever. More about Vladi later but on to why I think you're belief about Team USA is incorrect.

That fact alone negates your belief that the, The USA has been the world's best over the last two centuries in terms of... terms of tackle development, fly fishing theory, .....fly tying..."

In fact the greatest leap in nymphing has been the Polish tight line nymphing, later called Czech nymphing and then the long line techniques of French and Spanish Nymphing. Notice all those are European countries and the technique is now called Euronymphing.

The latest developments in fly rods have been long low weight (10 - 13 ft, 2-4 wt rods) long rods specifically for Euronymphing. How about spey casting and spey rods? Yup European again.

How about bead headed nymphs - European again, first used in European Competition because the rules did not allow adding spit shot to get flies down. How about CDC for flies - yup, came from Europe; modern slim woven flies - European origin? The latest hot fly - the Perdigon nymph? European again.

Tenkara - yup, not USA, but Japan.

We North Americans tend to think the world including the fly fishing world revolves around us. It really doesn't. The truth is that fly fishing innovations occur to solve problems where fly fishing is the most difficult and NOT where fly fishing is the easiest. That is why double handed Spey Rods and spey casts were developed in Scandinavia. The rivers are wide and the river banks wooded so there is no room for back casts. Necessity is the mother of invention!

1. The USA has some of the EASIEST fly fishing in the world. The amount of fishable PUBLIC water in the USA overwhelms ALL of Europe.

2. In contrast, Europe has some of the most difficult fly fishing waters because of the laws in some countries that outlaw catch and release and the relative scarcity of water compared to the USA. There are more anglers in Europe for the amount of fishable water available.

3. The rules of International fly fishing do not allow adding items to the leader or line. Specifically, there can be no added weights or strike indicators.

4. There are few places in the USA where grayling can be caught. They are more difficult to catch nymphing than trout but graying are a more common species in Europe. So they can practice on more difficult fish.

5. The International Flyfishing Championships are run by a European Organization and they compete by European Rules and not the rules in the USA.

6. The USA has done quite well in the Championships recently. They have finishing with a second and third in the 2015 and 2016.

7. The USA Youth Team took second at the 2016 World Championships and has won the Gold in 2015.

TEAM USA YOUTH WINS SILVER – WYFFC 2016

14th FIPS Mouche World Youth Fly Fishing Championship — August 10-16, 2015

8. So you still aren't satisfied? It was not until team coach Jack Dennis brought the the great Vladi Trzebunia to help team USA in the late 2000's that the team became a real competition. It was a "gentlemen's team" until then. Now fly fishers compete to get on the team.

The Nymphing Method that Shocked the Fly-Fishing World - Orvis News

"Back to the 1989 tournament: Using the same basic method his father had taught him as a youngster (with refinements, to be sure), Vladi landed a staggering total of 60 fish. That number was more than all of the 2nd, 3rd and 4th teams combined! Wladyslaw Trzebunia won the individual title–and a dazzling gold medal—and the Polish team took the team title."

Think about how difficult the fly fishing must be if the total catch of 60 fish outscores all the fish caught by the 2nd, 3rd and 4th place teams in several days of competition. This is an example of how hard fly fishing can be in Europe. A "good" fly fisher could do that on a single day on the San Juan River.

Vladi Trzebunia - Jeff Currier

With Vladi's coaching, Currier became the first member of Team USA to ever win an individual medal. Did you notice in the article above that Jeff Currier was ASKED to be on Team USA and NOT COMPETE to be on Team USA. Now members compete to be on Team USA. Before it was a “pickup team” kind of like sandlot baseball where you gather some guys together for “Team USA”

9. So Team USA has been a real team for about 10 years and a second and third place are not good enough?

I’m actually amazed that they have done that well in such a short time. Take the ‘average” European fly fisher and the “average” USA fly fisher and have then fish side by side and I think the European would kick our behinds.
 
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adso4

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Dear Silver,

Thanks a lot for your post. It was very informative and I learned a lot from you, as always. Also, I do not feel treated harshly, not least because I have a thick skin and I am open to learning from you and others.

Truth be told, I am very much aware of the European and Japanese contributions to fly fishing, such as CDC, bead heads, Euronymphing, and spey casting. For example, few Amenrican flyfishers would know Kenshiro Shimazaki in Japan, although he is the designer of Tiemco hooks and his Japanese book, Aquatic Insects Album: A Fly Fisher's View (published by furainozasshi), would probably be the best book ever written on entomology and fly fishing strategies.

Nonetheless, I do not think my comment on American dominance in the fly fishing scene throughout the 20th and 21st centuries (especially in terms of resources and environments) was a gross exaggeration. For instance, I cannot think of an European equivalent to Gary Borger and Gary LaFontaine. Would the world's fly fishing still have been the same in the USA's absence? The bottom line is that at the minimum, the USA offers a damn superb environment for flyfishers in all aspects of the sport. It is almost the embarrassment of riches. And, this should work for competitive flyfishers, too.

To get to my initial question, I was aware of Team USA Youth's impressive performance when posting my thread. This is why my thread focused on Team USA only. In fact, Team USA Youth's performance makes me even more curious as to why Team USA has not done as well, if not better. (Am I right to assume that Team USA Youth has achieved that much in a relatively short time period?) Actually, I am amazed by Team France's continued stellar performance as I know that the fly fishing infrastructure of that country has never been great.

That said, your post has answered much of my question. Thanks so much. And, my apologies for my post causing an irritation on you. I hope you will understand.

Cheers.
 
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westcoast

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Didn't even know such a thing existed.
I guess if the US can't field a Men's Soccer team for the World Cup, a flyfishing championship has to be a bit less important, although I for one would watch it.
 

ivory arrow

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My personal guess is that since they fish by euro rules that the European fisherman do better.

I just think that if you grew up doing something that you will be inherently better at it.

I imagine there are only a few diehard euro nymphers in the USA.

By comparison there must be thousands of fisherman who grew up knowing nothing but the euro style of nymphing, and continue to use it exclusively.

The various forms of bobbers and indicators are banned on most euro waters, and banned in the fishing tournaments. To the best of my knowledge anyway.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

fredaevans

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My office TV is tuned to channel 401, footie games all day Sat/Sunday. :worthy: To old now but Ref'ed all weekend long for years. Lady games were the best ... 'You are our Ref?' 'You have a problem with that?'

"NO NO WE FEEL SAFE with you on the field."

How do you respond to that?

fae
 
J

james w 3 3

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I think Silver's response hit the mark . . . they are better fishermen because their fishing conditions are immensely more difficult.
I've only fly fished in Europe once, in France, and I was profoundly humbled.
In a competition you can't wait for a hatch to make the fish stupid, you can't move a mile downstream to find better water. You fish when and where you are assigned. Their greater skills give them an advantage in that format.
Certainly there are lots of other factors, social/cultural and otherwise.
Perhaps a better question why isn't the level of success we've had in such a short time of taking this seriously enough?
 

mcnerney

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I think Silver's response hit the mark . . . they are better fishermen because their fishing conditions are immensely more difficult.
I've only fly fished in Europe once, in France, and I was profoundly humbled.
In a competition you can't wait for a hatch to make the fish stupid, you can't move a mile downstream to find better water. You fish when and where you are assigned. Their greater skills give them an advantage in that format.
Certainly there are lots of other factors, social/cultural and otherwise.
Perhaps a better question why isn't the level of success we've had in such a short time of taking this seriously enough?
I agree 100%. Just go back and search for the threads that JP (aka jpbfly) posts showing the water he fishes in southern France, it is crystal clear and very low, just about as difficult a fishing situation gets.
 

dr d

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hallo,


first thank you silver +james.you hit it.


perhaps there are some problems too :

1.the traditional bad reputation of this competition( i know this from a
german forum - reactions from hysterical to religious epics).there
are - as i read - traditional sights in u.s. too.

2.there is no or less opportunity to gain a lot money and therefore
you will not be famous ...like basketball, golf, etc.



you can be really proud about your senior and junior teams!!!!


best regards


thomas


p.s.:;)and yes - our rivers (here in black forest)can be tricky -
 

silver creek

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I think Silver's response hit the mark . . . they are better fishermen because their fishing conditions are immensely more difficult.
I've only fly fished in Europe once, in France, and I was profoundly humbled.
In a competition you can't wait for a hatch to make the fish stupid, you can't move a mile downstream to find better water. You fish when and where you are assigned. Their greater skills give them an advantage in that format.
Certainly there are lots of other factors, social/cultural and otherwise.
Perhaps a better question why isn't the level of success we've had in such a short time of taking this seriously enough?
Exactly. To fly fish in Europe, you HAVE to be more dedicated than in the USA. You can't add weight or indicators. You are not going to catch a lot of fish. The effort for each fish caught is so much greater and they have to fish under these conditions all the time. Americans have to then compete under these rules usually in their (European) rivers.

I just added this to my original post and it demonstrates the relative difficulty of the rivers fished in Europe:

The Nymphing Method that Shocked the Fly-Fishing World - Orvis News

"Back to the 1989 tournament: Using the same basic method his father had taught him as a youngster (with refinements, to be sure), Vladi landed a staggering total of 60 fish. That number was more than all of the 2nd, 3rd and 4th teams combined! Wladyslaw Trzebunia won the individual title–and a dazzling gold medal—and the Polish team took the team title."

Think about how difficult the fly fishing must be if the total catch of 60 fish outscores all the fish caught by the 2nd, 3rd and 4th place teams in several days of competition. This is an example of how hard fly fishing can be in Europe. A "good" fly fisher could do that on a single day on the San Juan River.


Dear Silver,

To get to my initial question, I was aware of Team USA Youth's impressive performance when posting my thread. This is why my thread focused on Team USA only. In fact, Team USA Youth's performance makes me even more curious as to why Team USA has not done as well, if not better. (Am I right to assume that Team USA Youth has achieved that much in a relatively short time period?) Actually, I am amazed by Team France's continued stellar performance as I know that the fly fishing infrastructure of that country has never been great.

Cheers.
Why have the USA youth done so well? Because we now have a youth program to develop young fly fishers using the European fishing methods. Whereas the adult team members are adults learning the Euro methods, the Youth team were brought up with the Euro method of fly fishing.

The fact is that only youth that are dedicated and single minded will go through that training. Fortunately, the USA Youth Team has developed young fly fishers willing to do the hard work needed to succeed at the highest levels.

I think if members of the youth team have the finances and grit to continue they will improve the adult team. But this is the rub isn’t it? We all have to make a living. A competitive fly fisher must be able to support himself and his family AND train to get better. This is not like Olympic skiing where Team USA and equipment manufactures supports the team members.

I happen to know Devin Olsen who is on Team USA and won a medal in 2015. He recently moved to Salt Lake City and works as a fly fishing guide to support his family and he runs Tactical Fly Fisher out of his home. http://www.tacticalflyfisher.com/

Devin made a Euro Nymphing DVD with Lance Egan, another team member. If I recall correctly, Lance works at a Cabelas. I was given an advance copy of the DVD by Devin and I suggest it to everyone who wants an introduction to Euronymphing.

http://www.tacticalflyfisher.com/mo...ues-dvd-featuring-devin-olsen-and-lance-egan/

Team members are regular “Working Joe’s” that are on the team because of the love of the sport.
 

irideaduck

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I found Devon's competition trip reports very interesting and provide a good insight into the world of competition fishing ... being lucky to draw out a good beat plays out in the competition. Check out

http://www.tacticalflyfisher.com/blog/lessons-from-bosnia-session-1/

and

http://www.tacticalflyfisher.com/bl...6-in-vail-colordo-session-1-upper-eagle-river

I was at a fly tying event last Dec and Lance Egan also a member of the USA team was telling a story about "never having crawled around on his hands and knees" so much during the fourth session after having the Polish (?) Jedi slayed the fish. In session 1 and 2, 8-10 fish were caught each, the Jedi caught 34 (?) in session 3, and then Lance was up to bat in session 4 later that afternoon on that same beat ... Lance landed 34 (?).
 

markfrid

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To me, competitive fly fishing is a similar idea to competitive sex or competitive eating. I don't get it. These things are all so pleasureful - to turn them into a competitive activity seems absurd.

But that's just me. Getting back to the OP, I think maybe we enjoy fly fishing too much to care about competitions? I'm going with that as my hypothesis!

Mark
 

pnc

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Can't see declaring anyone as better.fishermen. Better at what one does more often than another is only natural. Understand point of bobber vs none. Yet that is a personal choice. Yes, I believe also shortcutting ones skills. But is only one aspect of fishing.
I to was unaware of such competitions taking place. Curious as to venues advertising such. Who has privy to this info ? In whats getting close to 40 yrs I have never seen such advertised in any fly shop.
As stated if more than a handfull here cared. Think you'd see more about it.
What I see as surprising is the youth team or however called. Often see kids at shows. Club does free casting clinics. And half the people at tying classes are youngsters. A number under 10 yrs. There is a middle age lacking. Starting in the early teens. When cell phones are more important than cars. Wonder how fly rods came into that picture.

Kudos to the kids on team !

....... pc
 

Lewis Chessman

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My thanks to adso4 for a thought-provoking thread and to silver creek, particularly, for his erudite reply.

My first thoughts, having looked at the past 10 year's top 5 WFFC results was, ''Where's the problem!?" :confused:

From 2011, USA have placed 5th, 0, 5th, 5th, 2nd, 3rd, 0 in the finals, successively. Is that really so bad? Given that we're discussing a niche area in a niche sport, little practised by the majority of American fly fishers, I don't think so. Consider, too, the minute number of anglers who wish to compete and can afford to compete and the gene pool diminishes further.

Take a quick look at the rankings for England and Scotland over the past decade ...... A Third for England on Czech waters in '14 and 1st in Scotland in '09, where the Scots placed 3rd on their home waters, their only ranking in this period.
I think that's relevant because, in the UK, the vast majority fish stocked stillwaters and rivers for 'bows and browns, almost all the rest fish lochs and rivers for brownies, sea trout and salmon. Sure, some love their grayling fishing but they are a tiny percentage of the whole. It doesn't surprise me that both teams did their best on, essentially, home waters, but not elsewhere.

Something worth considering when looking at Continental Europe's dominance is that travel within Europe today is as easy as within the States. A few hours drive will enable many Euro-anglers to experience and practice on waters in the countries around them. It's a bit more expensive for you and for us!

I've known two Scots Internationals, one Youth, and was amazed at the degree to which they were self-funding. There was, I think, some tackle sponsorship but travel & accom. was down to them.
My Scotland Youth chum gave it up because the 'must win' attitude was destroying his love of the sport.

It takes, I think, a very particular kind of person who also has deep pockets to fish these competitions, and a well-organised governing body to unite them.

adso4 wrote:
I cannot think of an European equivalent to Gary Borger and Gary LaFontaine. Would the world's fly fishing still have been the same in the USA's absence?
adso4, I've fished for over 50 years and sit here now with over 300 fly fishing books in front of me but, to my shame, I've never heard of Gary Borger. LaFontaine rang a distant bell but I had to Google him (funny man! :) ).

I don't wish to seem rude or dismissive but the UK has been muddling along fine with tackle, literature and innovation since the mid-19th century, periodically exchanging and adopting with our European neighbours and with North America - as our circumstances dictate. For every Borger, LaFontaine, Kreh, etc., you have we have Halford, Skues, Kingsmill Moore, Falkus, Spencer, etc., .... each writing beautifully about the specific issues we face in our particular branches of the sport.
The fact that our quarry and entomology can differ also limits the influence of American writers in Britain. We don't have bass, steelhead, cutthroat or Pacific salmon over here, nor do we have sufficient numbers of grasshoppers, for instance, to make them a viable fly to fish, so the cross-over in ideas is limited. It usually takes someone a bit special to see the gem in an idea and adapt it to our specific conditions, whichever side of the Atlantic you are on.

Thankfully, once in a while an innovative soul will take a foreign-born idea and run with it, e.g. Sidney Spencer introduced the UK to 'Pike on the Plug', a new-fangled American idea, circa 1937; the first carbon fibre (graphite) fly rods were made in England in 1968, but it took Fenwick and Gary Loomis to make them commercially viable.
We English-speaking nations must have a great advantage over the 'continentals' as knowledge is exchanged between us so easily. In comparison, the many languages of Europe can't be advantageous and must slow progress to some degree?

silver creek: I agreed with your post almost in its entirety but must question this:
That is why double handed Spey Rods and spey casts were developed in Scandinavia. The rivers are wide and the river banks wooded so there is no room for back casts. Necessity is the mother of invention!
To the best of my knowledge, please correct me if I'm wrong, the Spey cast was developed on the River Spey in Scotland - and for precisely the reasons you say.
Scandi lines, of course, are a Scandinavian invention. Over a full Spey line, what you loose in presentation you gain in distance - Not great in a quiet pool on a middle-sized river in Scotland as the heavy head's noisy landing may put fish down, but on a big, fast Norwegian river the line's splash is lost in the tumult and irrelevant .... and you've managed to reach the fish!
It's horses for courses in our game and, as you so rightly say, ''Necessity ....''.

Oh, and almost nobody cares about competition fishing in the UK unless they're involved in it themselves. An England WFFC win would be lucky to make the pages of any British daily. Given that more people in the UK fish than attend football matches it's a little bizarre. Non-fishers are oblivious and for the majority who do fish the competition ethos is, I believe, unappealing.
'There's more to fishing than catching fish' is the motto of the Fly Fishers Club of Great Britain, after all. :)
 

ddb

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When US fly fishing becomes a major sport/attraction , it will get very ugly very fast and I will take up knitting.

The ensuing Yabo-ization of the sport is predicttable -- with industrial sponsors running the show; photogenic fly fishing 'pros' at weigh-ins; hired adoring crowds pretending they are not bored to tears; and cash prizes that convince guys to give up their careers in medicine, astrophysics, and wall street to 'hit the fly fishing trail'. Talk about a gag reflex.

Plus they will hit your favorite stream in a gaggle over a long weekend, derrick out each trout as fast as possible to get their flies back in the water, and sling back the rejects w/o a nod to long term survivability.

Doubt it? Watch a BASS contest on TV.

ddb
 
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