Mark Nale: Afield | United States world youth fly fishing team brings home two gold medals

The 12th FIPS-Mouche World Youth Fly Fishing Championships ended July 25, with Team USA bringing home two medals for the third year in a row. This year’s competition was held in Ireland and involved 9 teams from 8 countries fishing two rivers, two lakes and a two-acre pond.

Erie County youth Jonathan Dietz greatly assisted his team by earning two session first-places and finishing 11th out of 49 anglers. Cam Chioffi, a Massachusetts youth, earned three session-firsts, as well as a second and a third place to win an individual gold medal in the three-day competition. Team USA also won a gold medal, with South Africa earning a bronze medal and one of the two Irish teams winning a silver.

Dietz’s parents, Gary and Amy, of Corry, accompanied Jonathan to Ireland and had nothing but praise for the country and the way the event was organized.

“Ireland is just the friendliest place. The people would go out of their way to help you in any way that they could,” Gary Dietz remarked. “I’d go back tomorrow.”

Headquartered in State College, the USA’s 2013 traveling team members, all new to world competition, included Dietz, Chioffi, and North Carolina teen Hunter Enloe. Remaining team members Gabriel Wittosch, Hunter Hoffler, and alternate Andrew Brown, all come from Georgia.

At the competition, the young anglers were divided by lottery into five groups of nine contestants one from each of the nine international teams. Each group of nine fished a different water during the five 3-hour sessions that make up the world competition. On streams, all anglers were assigned a “beat” that consists of 300-350 meters of stream, monitored by a judge, called a controller.

With each trout caught, the contestant took it to the controller to measure, record and then release the fish back into the water. Points were awarded for the number and length of fish. Salmonids shorter than 18 cm (about 7 inches) did not count towards scoring. On the lake venues — Eskragh Lough and Loughmacrory — fishing was done from small boats, with two youth anglers and a controller per boat. On the smaller Woodford Fishery, anglers were assigned a short section of shore. All fishing was done from the bank, with anglers rotating clockwise to a new beat every 20 minutes. At the end of a session, scores were totaled within each group of nine anglers.

Ireland’s streams provided a challenge to fishing because of the region’s drought conditions. Lakes are usually tough for American anglers because they do not typically fly-fish lakes. However, the team — coached by well-known North Carolina competitive fly fisherman Paul Bourcq — was able to overcome these challenges.

The competition

A first place from Chioffi and a second place from Enloe helped Team USA place fifth at the end of session one, with 25 placement points (see sidebar for scoring protocol). They were behind teams from Ireland (17 points), France (20), Canada (21) and the Czech Republic (23).

Team USA competed well during session two, with Dietz and Chioffi taking first in their respective sessions. Although this moved them into third place behind Ireland and France, they were still 16 points out of first place. Chioffi strengthened his individual number one position.

“For Jon Dietz to take a first on Eskragh Lough in session two was nothing short of remarkable,” commented coach Bourcq. “I knew when I first met Jon that he would be something special. He combines the Pennsylvania work ethic with his 100 percent natural fishing instinct.”

Bourcq added, “It was great to see the smile on his face when he came off of the lake and said, ‘I won.’”

Enloe caught 14 trout on the River Fane to take a first in session three, which helped move USA into the second spot — passing France. An all-out team performance ensued in session four, with Chioffi taking another first place on Eskragh Lough and the other four team members all catching trout and ranking in the top four of their respective groups. Team USA closed the gap with Ireland to 11 placement points, with France another 11 points behind the US and 22 points out of first.

The individual and team competition came down to the fifth and final session on the third day.

“I knew that I just had to catch one trout to win the individual gold medal,” the 16-year-old Chioffi said. “And I knew that our team needed me to place.” However, he also realized that fishing comes with no guarantees. The pressure was on.

In fact, the “fishing gods” demonstrated their might — with only 15 minutes left in the 3-hour session, Chioffi still had not landed a single trout from Loughmacrory.

Relief arrived in the nick of time, when he caught a chunky 38 cm (15-inch) rainbow in the final minutes.

“I was so happy to release that trout — and it was a release for me because I knew that I had done what I needed to do,” Chioffi remarked.

That single trout earned a second place for Chioffi within his group, which really helped the team. Enloe took a third on a lake venue and Dietz excelled by catching 9 scoring trout on the River Fane to earn the team’s only first place in session five.

“I drew a decent beat on the River Fane,” commented Dietz, a 17-year-old senior at Corry High School. “Using Walt’s worm and small olive dry flies, I was able to capitalize on the good draw.”

The team effort on the final session enabled them to pass Ireland and earn a gold medal by only eight placement points.

Team manager Rich Reedinger of McAlveys Fort shared a side note regarding a 15-year-old Georgia youth who could be a rising star for Team USA.

“Mason Sims traveled with the team to observe and ended up gaining experience by filling in as a non-counting member of another country’s team. If his fish would have counted, he would have earned an individual silver medal. Obviously, we have high hopes for Sims in future years.”

Medal-winning performances the past four years – individual silver, a gold and two bronze medals, as well as a silver team medal in 2012 and team gold medals in 2011 and again this year — have certainly proven that Team USA has come of age and is producing results.

Both Dietz and Chioffi are looking forward to being part of next summer’s world competition in Poland.

Congratulations to the team, coaches and managers for their accomplishment and making us proud.


World Youth Scoring

The angler with the highest score during each session is assigned one placement point; the second highest angler receives two points and so forth, depending on the angler’s rank within the group. All anglers catching zero fish are given 11 points. A perfect performance for the competition would be five placement points – which is earned by ranking first place in each of the five 3-hour sessions. Team scores are computed by adding all team members’ individual rankings for each individual session. A perfect team score for the entire event would be 25.