Good Life

Teen angler hooks spot on United States Youth Fly Fishing Team

Port Matilda teen Holden Price is a member of the United States Youth Fly Fishing Team.
Port Matilda teen Holden Price is a member of the United States Youth Fly Fishing Team.

For up-and-coming sports stars, proud grandparents are an effective substitute for a seasoned public relations team.

The video that 17-year-old Holden Price’s grandfather had excavated from some distant corner of the memory cache on his cellphone was shot with a steady hand and a clear lens.

It was not, as so many of these things tend to be, a random interlude into idle conversation. This is a video intended to instruct and inform, a moving picture worth a thousand words on the humble art of fly fishing and how to do it best.

“You learn so much just from watching,” Price said.

He’s not talking specifically about himself, of course, although he absolutely could be. The teenage fisherman had just returned to Port Matilda from a fly-fishing competition held in upstate New York, where he caught 26 fish in two hours, coming in second out of 20 competitors.

No, Price is referring to his new teammates, the lineup of 16 young anglers who fill out the roster of the U.S. Youth Fly Fishing Team, a group that throughout the years has consisted of men and women who have competed across the globe.

Price first became acquainted with the group almost three years ago, when he attended one of the many clinics that the team holds each year in locations across the country.

Something clicked.

“They saw that I could improve myself, and so I went to the next one,” Price said.

His parents had been taking him fishing since he was 6 years old, giving him the running start that is more or less required by a highly competitive program like the USYFFT.

They’ll mold the clay, sure, but they don’t necessarily want to have to make it themselves.

“We’re not here to show somebody the end of a rod. We’re here to give them some serious instruction,” said John Ford, president of the USYFFT.

Team members are selected from their performance at clinics and tournaments, evaluated as much for their ability to act as an ambassador for their country as for their ability to cast a line.

At any given time, five anglers and two alternates comprise the team’s traveling squad, like the one that will compete in the 2016 World Youth Fly Fishing Competition in Spain this week.

Character counts here, a notion that is reinforced by community service projects like the one they’ll be undertaking at Thompson Run in State College.

In conjunction with the state chapter of Trout Unlimited, members of the team will help add mud sills and single log vane deflectors to the stream to increase sinuosity.

“We firmly believe that these kids have to believe that they are not just fishers. They are stewards of these waters,” Ford said.

Still, this is a numbers game and performance counts for something.

The right technique, like the kind that is about to unfold in this cellphone video, is the result of many sessions worth of a coaching and instruction.

This, it has been decided, is the next best thing to a proper demonstration, which would have required Price to lace his rubber boots and adjourn to Spring Creek or some other neighboring stream that would have been be visually stunning but far less conducive to a conversation about fly fishing.

That’s actually the first misconception that might have been in need of a quick clearing up — the guileless assumption that the talking about fishing wouldn’t distract from the actual fishing.

In a fly-fishing competition there isn’t really much time for chit-chat, much in the same way that a point guard wouldn’t interrupt a drive to the basket to ask the referee how his weekend went.

“You see people who are around you catching fish left and right,” Price said.

Panic is not the answer, though.

In the video, Price strides calmly through a babbling stream, rapidly casting his line to several remote corners of the screen before pushing forward to the next spot.

Even at this angle, where the distance between angler and observer is measured in many pixels, it was easy to spot the concentration hanging off of every syllable in his body language.

He was looking for proof of life — a tug, a ripple, anything that would indicate that there were fish hunkering down somewhere underneath the surface of the water.

There was a base of knowledge at work there, practice made at least some degree of perfect.

Price attends approximately 12 fly-fishing competitions per year and continues to participate clinics with the USYFFT. His goal is to make the team’s travel squad before he ages out of the program upon turning 19.

It seems as though with the support of his teammates — and maybe even his competition — he might stand a chance.

“Everyone knows different things. You can learn from everyone,” Price said.

Frank Ready: 814-231-4620, @fjready