New President, New Column

By Bill Wheeler


This is my first column as the new President of the Washington State Council (WSC) of Fly Fishers International (FFI) and the first thing I want to do is thank Carl Johnson for his 12 years of service as president, plus the time he donated to the council before that. Boy, does he deserve a break. Carl has been assisted by his wonderful wife, Maura, in so many things and I thank them both. Carl assembled an effective board of directors, but Carl did an incredible amount of council work in the background.  Although there will be some changes at the board level as people rotate off, there is a very strong contingent to continue the great work WSC has done.  Carl is going to stay involved with the board and the Fly Fishing Fair to provide continuity as we move along.  You’ll learn more about our board as time progresses.


We will be changing the name of this column to a term I have commandeered from Gary Borger, Prime Lies. Although that refers to a spot where fish can rest from the current, be protected from predators and allow ample flow of potential food; I like it because it allows me a little flexibility with the truth.  I am a fisherman, after all.


Let me introduce myself before we get too far.  I was initially an interventional cardiologist (doing balloons and stents) before delving into drug development until I retired a few years ago.  I have been a fly fisher for only about 14 years, but like so many of you, I quickly became addicted to the sport.  The Overlake Fly Fishing Club is my home club and I served as President in 2012.


Although fishing is a major interest, my true love is teaching fly casting.  I’ve been an FFI Master Certified Casting Instructor since 2015 and am currently on the FFI Casting Board of Governors (CBOG).  For what its worth, I am also an avid drone pilot/photographer and mediocre video editor.


As the council moves forward you will notice some things staying the same and some changing.  We intend to continue the Fly Fishing Fair, which will be in Ellensburg again this year on May 3rd and 4th.  In addition to the fair, TU is sponsoring the International Fly Fishing Film Festival at the fairgrounds Saturday evening right after the fair.  This should increase participation in both events. 


Gary Borger will be this year’s celebrity guest sharing his deep knowledge of the sport both days of the fair. Gary is an outstanding teacher and author with multiple books to his credit, including the one I think many people feel is the best overall book on fly fishing, Presentation.  Our plan is to have Gary lead casting classes and demonstrations, fly tying classes and demonstrations, and seminars on various aspects of fly fishing.  He is an exceptional speaker and teacher.  Come see him and learn.


Look for fair registration to go online over the next few months.  We will have a more aggressive social media presence and hope to develop a more diverse membership. Don’t forget to renew your membership!


New this year will be video presentation of the featured tyers so everyone can see what the experts are doing. You will still be able to sit in front of individual tyers and watch them at work. Adding video will allow multiple people to see the nuances various featured tyers add to the art of fly tying.  We will send out invitations soon to tyers for the event.  If you don’t hear from us, contact Carl Johnson about being a tyer at the show.


We will continue to have casting lessons by certified casting instructors.  This is a rare opportunity to get excellent instruction at a very reasonable price in a small group.  There are always interesting casting techniques taught that will improve your fishing.  This year we won’t have certification testing for casting instructors, so more instructors will be available for a greater variety of casting classes. 


As usual, we will have seminars on various trips and techniques. Gary Borger will be presenting some of those seminars.


Finally, there is a free dinner for the volunteers on Thursday and the ever-popular dessert auction where tables pool their money to get first shot at the best desserts.  There are always some dynamite desserts.  Tickets will be available for purchase for Friday’s dinner, after which Will Godfrey will return as our auctioneer.  The IF4will be in the same space on Saturday night.


In addition, WSC will have a booth at Sportsman Show in Puyallup in January, and the Fly Fishing Show in Lynwood in February.  Come by and say hello and get some tickets for our fly rod/reel/line raffle and reel raffles.


See you on the water,

Bill Wheeler