The eleventh FIPS-Mouche World Youth Fly Fishing Championships ended last Friday with Team USA bringing home two medals for the second year in a row. This years competition was held in the Lozére region of southeastern France and involved teams from 11 countries fishing three streams and one lake.
Headquartered in State College, the USAs travel team consisted of six teens. Team members hail from California, Colorado, Texas and Pennsylvania. Only five anglers can fish at a given time while one serves as an alternate. The alternates fish if needed or at the coachs discretion. A seventh team member, Hunter Hoffler, also traveled to Europe, but was only there for observation purposes and did not fish competitively.
Three of the 2012 traveling team members live here in the Keystone State. They include team captain Aston Boone of State College, Austen Randecker of Mill Hall, and Lewistown native Owen Welch, who served as the alternate.
At the competition, the 55 young anglers from 11 countries were divided by lottery into five groups of 11 contestants one from each of the 11 international teams. Each group of 11 fished a different water during the five 3-hour sessions that make up the world competition. All anglers are assigned a beat that consists of 300-350 meters of stream, monitored by a judge, called a controller. With each trout and grayling (or other fish at the lake venue) caught, the contestant takes it to the controller to measure, record and then release the fish back into the water.
Points are awarded for the number and length of fish. Salmonids shorter than 20 cm (about 8 inches) do not count towards scoring. On Charpal Lake, fishing was done from boats and the eligible species were perch, pike and roach. At the end of a session, scores are totaled within each group of 11 anglers.
Based on reports from those who were lucky enough to attend, France provided challenging fishing an exciting contest from beginning to end. Team USA jumped out to a good start during session one and placed second with a score of 25, well behind the Czech Republic team that earned only 10 placement points (see sidebar for scoring protocol). Youths from Poland held third with 27 points, followed by teams from England, Spain and France which all scored 31.
Reporting from France via Face-book, coach Paul Bourcq wrote, We are second place right now behind the Czech team. They have taken a lot of firsts and seconds in the first session, but they had one blank this afternoon. Our boys have fished hard and used their athleticism to save the blank today. No wins, but our kids just demonstrated good, tough in-the-trench fishing middle of the pack, but consistency is king.
Team USA competed particularly well during session two and closed the gap with the Czech Republic to five points. Ireland passed Poland, Slovakia and England to move into third place. Austen Randecker of Mill Hall finished first in his group and moved into fourth place in the individual rankings.
A super performance in sessions three and four allowed Team USA to tie the Czech team and then move ahead by five points at the end of session four. The team from Ireland remained in third place, but fell 28 points behind the Czech Republic, and 33 points behindTeamUSA. Randeckerfinished first within his group in both sessions and took the lead for a potential individual gold medal.
The water in the rivers, particularly the upper Lot and Cologne, was very low and clear and the fish were extremely spooky, commented Bourcq. Our game plan was to fish 20-foot-long leaders ending with an 8X tippet. To keep from spooking the trout and grayling, much of our teams stream fishing was done while on their hands and knees. The kids literally crawled up the stream. The plan worked through four sessions.
As luck would have it in this case bad luck Team USA members only caught four fish during the fifth session. A Czech team member caught a fish during the final five minutes, which allowed them to edge the USA and win the gold medal. Team USA earned the silver medal.
We were getting better every session, and just by the luck of the draw, we got very tough beats during the final session, noted Bourcq during a telephone interview.
We drew tough, pressured water on very difficult beats.
Eighteen-year-old Austen Randecker, a graduate of Central Mountain High School, finished in third place in the individual standings and took home a bronze medal. He also won the 2012 US Nationals, which were held June 22-23, in Cherokee, N.C. During the 2011 Nationals held in central Pennsylvania he finished tenth. Randecker will enter Penn State this fall to major in chemical engineering.
Austen fished like a champion, commented coach Bourcq. He possesses a tremendous skill set and ability and he never needed to be watched. I knew that he would stick to our game plan and do well.
Cody Burgdorff, who placed eighth, caught the largest fish of any USA anglers a 20-inch European grayling. Burgdorff, who hails from Lafayette, Colo., also won the America Cup Loch Tournament, which was held June 17, near Avon, Colo. Robbie Wirth, from Moraga, Calif., finished at No. 10 and was the third USA angler to place in the top ten in the individual standings.
Seventeen-year-old Noah Thompson, from Austin, Texas, placed 25th. This was Thompsons third world competition. He placed eighth when Team USA won the gold medal last year in Italy and distinguished himself in 2010, when at age 15, he was the youngest angler to ever win an individual medal in world competition. It was also the first medal ever earned by a Team USA member.
Aston Boone, who placed third in the 2011 US Nationals and 11th in the 2011 World Championships, caught only 16 fish this year and finished out of the top 25.
Aston blanked a session, but had the motivation to come back strong, coach Bourcq said. His work ethic is very high a real team player. Even though he didnt finish in the top 25, his contribution was very instrumental in the team winning a medal.
According to Bourcq, although Indian Valley High School graduate Owen Welch did not fish, he provided a valuable contribution by watching other teams and relaying reconinformation back to the team.
Medal-winning performances the past three years individual silver and two bronze medals, as well as a team gold medal in 2011 and a silver team medal this year have certainly proven that Team USA has come of age and is producing results.
In 2007, John Wilson (Team USA coach at the time) commented that it was tough for our youths to go up against teens from England, France and the Czech Republic where they live and competitive fly fish from a very young age.
It was tough, but team organization and a plan that starts youths earlier have given Team USA members the skills and experience to compete on a world stage. Aston Boone, Noah Thompson and Hunter Hoffler hope to be back next year to help bring yet another medal home for the USA. I wish the team continued success.
Mark Nale, who lives in the Bald Eagle Valley, is a member of the PA Outdoor Writers Association. He can be reached at MarkAngler@aol.com.