After a prolonged covid break, the Washington Council held its first in-person event in August at Lake Ballinger in north Seattle and it was good to see so many smiling faces. And there were a lot of faces. About 300 people joined us over the 7 hours. The Casting Classes were full to capacity. The Walk-in-Clinic was busy all day long. So was the The Skills Development Course. Brief waits were common to get into either venue. In short, the day was a big success.
We can’t wait to do it again. The Washington Council board is already at work on events for 2023 that build on August’s success. Several participants said the classes were excellent and some of the classes would have been better with fewer students. We hear you. Molly Semenik, Tom Cammarata and Ryan Smith were excellent instructors. They each drew on the help of assistants to keep classes moving. In 2023 we want to make sure we limit class sizes to make sure there is one instructor or assistant for every four students. Our goal is to make sure every participant gets one-on-one help from a skilled instructor.
Several participants also said they wanted an easier way to see the calendar of the day’s events and reserve and pay for classes. Once again, we hear you loud and clear. The Council is at work now reviewing software that can provide a clear online view of what we’re offering and the ability to reserve and pay for classes and clinics in one site. We will select a software and have it operating before our next event.
Lots of people also wanted classes in spey casting. We want to offer them as well. Our first event in 2023 will be designed to make sure we have adequate space on the water to offer spey classes.
Several participants said the event was laid out well. After registering, people could find their way into the Lakeview Room to watch fly tying and engage with FFI displays and then onto the casting fields. There the classes and clinics were clearly marked and easy to reach. Thanks for that goes to Washington Council Directors Don Simonson and Neal Hoffberg who laid out the grounds and organized a great team of FFI Certified Casting Instructors for the day. Besides Molly, Tom and Ryan who led classes, Pat Peterman led the Walk-in-Clinic team and Jim Black was the lead CI for the Skills Development Course. Other CIs that contributed to the success of the event were Aaron Culley, Robert Gerlach, Chris Madison and Todd Somsel. Thanks to all of these instructors.
Thanks as well to the excellent team of fly tiers who engaged with guests throughout the day at the tying tables in the Lakeview Room. FFI director Sam Matalone gathered the tying team that included Kuni Masuda, Jim Ferguson, Dareld Thompson, Amanda Winklemen, Marcie Kindinger, Greg Sisson, Steve Ruppert and John Wendt.
One thing that worked extremely well at the August event was the partnership with the Washington Fly Fishing Club and the Olympic Fly Fishers of Edmunds. The Washington State Council picked the venue, established the program and covered the costs. We asked WFFC to provide the volunteers needed to set up and dismantle the day-long event. WFFC then reached out to the Olympic club to fill all the jobs needed to be done. The Council also asked the Overlake Fly Fishing Club to set up and run the Skills Development Course. We thank those clubs for their partnership with the Council.
Special thanks goes to Jim Goedhart, former president of WFFC and a newly elected director of the Washington Council. He rallied his colleagues at WFFC and Olympic for the job. Thanks goes to the morning set up crew in the Lakeview Room including Jerry Kindinger, John Townsell, Rob Kettner and Deb Katz of WFFC and Rolf Mogster and John Wendt of the Olympic club.
Out on the casting fields the set-up team included Stephan Fjelstad and Danferd Henke of WFFC and Tom Bradish, Tom Langley and Tim Bennett of the Olympic club.
During the day Shelley Scheff, Kris Draper and Adair Dammann of WFFC and Linda Masuda of Clark-Skamania Flyfishers helped with registration support and guiding participants to their classes.
Several volunteers were lending a hand all day or joining classes themselves. At the end of the day Richard Williams of WFFC, Kuni Masuda of Clark-Skamania and Bill Lundin of the Olympic club joined the crew to disassemble the displays and tying benches in the Lakeview Room. Dave Skaar and Dennis Potter of Olympic and Jim Beck of WFFC joined the team to take down the casting fields.
One of the most satisfying outcomes of the day was that more than half of the participants were new to FFI; fathers and sons, couples, new comers to the sport. Ryan Smith, who taught two sessions of the Beginning Fly Casting class, told me that most of the novice casters brought their own rods. Acquiring equipment tells me these beginners have real interest in the sport. They want to develop a good cast along with other fishing skills. I hope offering them expert and engaging instruction serving a variety of skill levels all set in an organized outdoor setting generates interest in FFI as well.
Nine people who attended the Casting Fair also joined FFI, some of them buying three-year memberships. Members sustain an organization. They are the volunteers that set up casting fields and skills development courses. They are the people who set up the displays, tie the flies and teach the classes. They are the people who make the FFI mission of education, conservation and community successful. Thanks to all the volunteers who made the August Casting Fair a success. We look forward to working with you again. And to help in that effort, please ask a friend to join FFI and help you. As your numbers grow the task gets easier for all of us.
Thank you and I look forward to seeing you at FFI events in 2023.