Fishing festival to take over

out troutA deluge of fly fishermen will soon descend on Western Carolina University. It’s the annual Southeastern Fly Fishing Festival, and for the second year in a row, it’s happening in Cullowhee. 

“The tenor of the festival is not serious,” said David Diaz, chairmen of the International Federation of Fly Fishers’ Board of Governors. “It’s not seriousness at all. It’s recreation. We like to attract people who are interested and don’t know very much and think, ‘I’d like to know about that.’”

The festival, May 16-17, is expected to draw 600 people — though event co-chair Marvin Cash is hoping for 1,000 — and will feature a dozen fishing-related programs, a full lineup of top-notch casting instructors including Steve Rajeff and Leslie Holmes and at least 40 exhibitors, including local fly shops and nonprofits. People looking to earn instructor certifications will have an opportunity as well, with casting instructor certification classes being given and the newly certified instructors wrapping up the weekend by teaching a class of their own.

“About half the revenue for the festival comes from the casting classes,” Diaz said. 

Tickets are $5 for adults and $10 for families, with Boy Scouts in uniform and disabled veterans allowed in free. Many of the programs are free, and a casting lesson from a newly certified instructor is just $25. 

On May 16, the Southeastern Council will partner with Little River Trout Unlimited to host a barbeque dinner, with proceeds to support restoration of brook trout in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The council’s annual awards dinner and auction will take place on May 17. Anglers will also have the chance to donate exhibits or funds toward the not-yet-open Fly Fishing Museum of the Southern Appalachians in Cherokee. 

The event is expected to draw fishermen from all over the country. While here, they’ll have an opportunity to explore the fly fishing opportunities that grow thick around the region. 

“If you draw a circle of where you can get to in an hour,” Cash said, “it’s pretty dense.”

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