Conservationists win One Fly title

(JHnewsandguide)-For an event so dedicated to conservation it was fitting that this year’s Jackson Hole One Fly was won by a team centered around just that.  The FUDR Avengers took both the amateur and pro team titles at this year’s tournament with a slim margin of 13 points over the Colorado Casters. The FUDR — Friends of the Upper Delaware River — Avengers needed each and every fish to get the top prize, something they didn’t think would happen with their score of 2,580.  They’d put together similar scores throughout their 15 years of competing in the tournament and were just hoping they eclipsed their previous best finish of sixth, said team member Dan Plummer. “I think we did the same, everybody else just kind of sucked,” Plummer said as his teammates burst into laughter. “I just think everybody else had kind of a rough time.”  Plummer is a Trout Unlimited board member. Teammate Chris Wood is the president and CEO of Trout Unlimited. Michael Sutton is a longtime conservation leader, having worked with a variety of nonprofits and foundations. Guido Rahr is the head of the Wild Salmon Center in Portland, Oregon. Krystyna Wolniakowski leads the Columbia Gorge Commission.  Bud “Chat” Chatham of The Boys team was the overall amateur winner in the 2018 Jackson Hole One Fly. 

Sutton said the team has fished the tournament for so long in large part due to the tournament’s dedication to funding projects and education programs that benefit the future of trout and fly fishing.  “We’ve been focused, all of us, on conservation for a long time,” Sutton said. “We just love seeing the One Fly focus so much attention on conservation and raising so much money for river and stream restoration all over the region.”  The conservationists had success on all types of flies. They fished foam, they fished nymphs, and Plummer, who finished fourth individually, fished a streamer.  “I filled my card every day,” Plummer said. “We all filled our cards. We didn’t get anything over 20, but it was enough to pull it off.”  Plummer’s streamer helped him to 910 points, 378 behind top individual Brian Byerly on team Colorado Casters. Byerly took the individual title by 204 points over runner-up Bud Chatham of team The Boys. Tocqueville Trout Tanglers’ fisherman John Wilson placed third.  Wood placed 17th, Rahr finished 29th and Sutton placed 31st among the 172 individual scores.  Sutton was excited that his team finally out-fished the locals.  “They fish these waters every day, every month, week in week out,” he said. “They know where the fish are. They know what to use. We are truly amateurs. Some of us fish more than others, but it’s a miracle we all came together and won this.”  

Top guides of the tournament included Idaho guide Mike Bean and Wyoming guide Mike Janssen, who fished West Table to Sheep Gulch. The winning fly was a Sanchez Mayfly used by Greg Case of Team Skwala. Case tallied 671 points with the fly.  The Carlsberg-Crosby Award was won by Eric Dobkin of team AR Anglers Fund. The Carmichael-Cohen Award was had by Josh Cohn who guides for Snake River Angler. The Vern Bressler Top Gun Award was won by Byerly.  One Fly guide Jason Moore navigates the Snake River Canyon on Saturday with competitors during the 2018 event.  Spencer Morton landed some of the biggest prizes of the weekend. Morton won the guide’s drift boat at Sunday’s awards banquet at Snow King Hotel and then won the raffle, which brought him another drift boat. Morton donated the second boat back to the One Fly Foundation. There was a redraw and Mississippi’s Stephen Hedges won the boat.  “Never in my life did I expect to get so lucky,” said Morton, who won top Wyoming guide honors in 2012 and 2013. “There are so many hard working guides in this valley that deserve a drift boat. Hopefully whomever won the boat is a good person and gives it to a local guide who needs one.”  The One Fly Foundation has provided more than $2 million to support habitat restoration projects in the region.

The tournament has leveraged an additional $14 million in resources from state and federal agencies, foundations and private philanthropy. Wood, who wrote a Guest Shot in last week’s News&Guide praising the tournament’s philanthropy, said the protection of resources is what makes the annual tournament so unique. “I think anglers really appreciate the idea of giving something back,” Wood said, “and the One Fly is maybe one of the best examples in the country.”

This article first appeared in the JH News and Guide's September 12th, 2018 weekly paper 'Sports and Features' column.