For some, the term Fly Fishing inflicts a casual passion, and for others, a lifelong pursuit. For some, it means throwing size 18 flies on 6x and for others, it means throwing 12 lb leader with a mess of feathers and fur on the end. One thing that this word does inspire though, is community.
This weekend I had the privilege to be a part of one of these communities, as I attended the TU Costa 5 Rivers Northeast Rally. This is a gathering of northeastern colleges and the members of their fly fishing clubs for a weekend of hanging out and talking about fishing. Oh, and beer drinking of course. More eloquently put by Tyler Waltenbaugh, president of Edinboro College 5 Rivers club “These events are great because they allow anglers of different niches to come together and collaborate, share techniques, and form relations around a common calling.”
Students began arriving Friday night at the West Branch Angler, an Orvis-endorsed lodge located along the West Branch of the Delaware River in southern New York. Upon arrival, we checked in, picked up our bags full of “swag” which included stickers and a hat from Costa and RepYourWater. Then we all stopped in at the tent to grab dinner and get to know each other. There were around 40 kids attending this year, with each college bringing between 2-10 kids, all equally stoked to get after it on the water. We spent the rest of that night around a bonfire talking about how we should mouse the river, until eventually going to bed. That night we were all talk, but we knew the fishing would happen tomorrow.
The next day, we all woke up early and made our way up to the patio for breakfast and to hear what the day held for us. We learned from Andrew Loffredo, the head of the Trout Unlimited 5 Rivers program, that we would be running a “Get Trashed” event for most of the day. This event is a contest based who can rack up the most points throughout the day. The majority of points can be earned by helping new fly anglers catch their first fish on the fly! The rest of the points primarily come from cleaning up streamside trash, including cans and bottles from beverages consumed by the group. The group with the most full trash bags gets the most points, and the winners were gifted some more sweet gear!
After a day full of fishing, we all came back and got ready for that night’s activities.
The activities before dinner included the fly-fishing Olympics and raffling off some more goodies. For the fly fishing Olympics, we formed teams of 5 and each person had a specific task in the relay. First was to put on waders, next was to tie a fly, then to rig up a rod. The relay ended with team members casting to targets and taking part in a good ole beer chug. The team with the fastest time took the win at this event.
There was cheering and jeering from all sides, as this event was a huge success (even though my team took 3rd out of 4 teams). Next came the raffle where we got some new fly guys into some sick gear – including new reels, boxes, and flies.
That night the conversation around the bonfire was dominated by how many hot dogs we could fit into the rod vault on Flylord’s very own – Jared’s jeep. After arguing longer than we would like to admit, the group was able to determine a number ranging around 380. After clearing that up, and putting 2 out of 7 hot dogs we had into the vault when Jared went to bed, we brought the conversation back to fishing. Not only to the stoke of hooking fish and of course, old embellished stories – we also talked about the troubles facing our fishing waters. We spoke on pollution, and the pressure put on the Clean Water Act currently, and how we as the younger generation could do something about this.
As I looked around, a campfire with empties slowly piling around it, and eager conversation filling the air, I realized how large this event was. I came to see that this was about more than fishing and clowning around, that this program and these events continue to provide an avenue for stewards of the environment to make their voice heard. I saw budding young environmentalists discussing their career plans and endeavors and in which ways we could positively impact the environment, whether we were biology majors or accounting majors.
As Garrett Brown, the president at the University of Buffalo club, said, “At my first 5 Rivers rally, I was immediately reminded how much of a family the entire fly-fishing community is. This trip has encouraged me to continue to bring new people into the community, and share our passion for conservation and the outdoors.” This program is all about continuing to groom this younger generation to step into the boots of what Trout Unlimited is aiming to accomplish, and overall make a difference to better our environment.
That’s why as I left early that next morning after eating breakfast, I looked back in sadness, knowing that as I complete my senior year, this is the last of these gatherings that I will be attending. I also looked back with pride, though, knowing that my efforts would soon be replaced by the new generations coming in, and this would be an unceasing cycle.
As long as we have fly fishing to continue to connect with others, but more importantly connect with nature, we will continue to have a generation that wants to make a difference and protect these wild places. So, I look forward to keeping up with the 5 Rivers program for years to come and watching these events continue to influence the lives of young anglers.
A big thank you to everyone who made this event possible. Some specific people I would like to thank are Jared Zissu from FlyLords, Andrew Loffredo from TU Costa 5 Rivers, and Hayden Dobbins from Costa. These three did a phenomenal job of putting up with all of us college kids for the weekend, and instilling ethical fly-fishing values in all, especially for those new to the sport who attended this weekend. Thank you also to Costa and Trout Unlimited for putting us in such nice digs, and to the West Branch Angler for being those nice digs.
Article by Ben Weber who is the president and founder of the 5 Rivers Club at Messiah College and is currently a senior studying ecological biology. If you are interested in attending one of these events, be sure to check out @tucosta5rivers on Instagram to follow along with new events.