How far can you fling a bit of pink fluff in a headwind?
Jamie Rogers whipped one 85 feet across the University of Montana Oval with a 5-pound fly rod. It wasn't quite enough, however, to win a trip to the World Varsity Trout Fly Fishing Competition in Ireland next August.
Rogers and five fellow UM students put their angling skills to the test on Tuesday afternoon, a day that felt better for ice fishing than fly-tying. At stake was a seat on the UM team in the first-of-its-kind international collegiate fish fight.
Two-person teams from Duke University, University of Virginia, Elon University and Case Western Reserve University will also be heading for Lough Corrib, Ireland, this summer. They will face 20 European college teams under host Limerick Institute of Technology.
"That's the second largest lake in Ireland - about 44,000 square acres," said Tony Tomsu, UM's associate director of institutional research and faculty member of the university's fly-fishing team. "It's reputed to be best wild brown trout fishery in Ireland."
Tomsu took a job at UM in part to be close to good fishing and runs a fly-tying business in his free time. His task on Tuesday was to gauge Rogers against Peter Picetti, Dax Guetz, Jessie Filingo, Matt Miller and Melissa Thomasma for competitive prowess.
In addition to standing distance casting, the students had to tie knots, cast from a sitting position and shoot for accuracy. They also had a written application listing their fishing experience (no fish tales allowed).
The swirling Oval winds brutalized casting egos. Sophomore Filingo would send the pink feather soaring 60 feet down the course, only to watch an invisible hand wad his line and slap it 20 feet back: Denied.
"See the way he turns his wrist?" asked David Baker of the Grizzly Hackle fly-fishing shop. "That's a total salt-water cast."
In contrast, Guetz kept his index finger pointed down his rod. That sacrificed some sending power, but increased his accuracy in shorter casts.
In the end Filingo won the contest, with Thomasma earning runner-up rights. One or the other will head to Ireland on Aug. 28 and 29 to uphold the honor of Montana anglers. They've already beaten its winds.
Reporter Rob Chaney can be reached at 523-5382 or at email@example.com.