I’d been in Oklahoma City for almost a week and it was time to leave town. I departed my hotel at 4:50 AM to head south for an hour plus, then east for almost another hour. The destination: The Blue River and the 5th annual Blue River Fly Fishers Classic.
This truly was a “friend-of-a-friend” who knows a guy that is in a Facebook group that is connected to this fund-raiser event. I had considered going somewhere else to fish but instead, ended up getting an invite to participate in this single fly contest.
Winding through the Oklahoma countryside and the towns of Davis, Sulphur, Mill Creek, Reagan, and Tishomingo, I arrived ten minutes prior to the check-in deadline. Having left my fly rod at the Denver Airport, I met up with event organizer and rod loaner Barry.
Paired with event co-host and local fly fishing guru Scott, we headed up the trail to several “secret spots” that Scott had scouted. Most every spot was already occupied by a fellow contestant. Apparently, all the secret spots aren’t so secret. With miles of available water to fish, we hoofed up the trail a bit further, cut through the trees, vines, and underbrush to find a good spot to fish.
Guide/Contestant/Friend Scott leading the way.
All contestants were limited to a supply of two flies. We were fishing a size 14 olive Czech Mate . Once you lost both flies you were done scoring points in the event. It didn’t take long for Scott to put me on a fish . . . and I missed the first two strikes. Persistence paid off as I landed this beauty shortly after embarrassing myself earlier.
Throughout the morning we continued to fish, move, wade, fall, wade some more, move, hike, fish, and banter with fellow contestants. Through it all we caught fish, though I was working on a 50% average of strikes to netted fish. At 9:45 (about two hours in) I lost my first fly in a limb about 15 feet overhead. A beastly rainbow had taken the fly just as I was picking it up to cast. Panic set in and I yanked the bug clean out and up into the tree.
Down to my last fly with nearly three hours to go, I worked hard not to snag up on the bottom and kept an eye out for overhanging tree limbs above and behind me. I picked up three more scoring fish, one pushing 16 inches. We had settled mid-river after hopping across barely submerged boulders. On my second cast I set the hook on another big fish. Scott saw the rainbow cut down stream and without hesitation yelled, “I’ll net him for you.” The fish bolted, looking like a great white shark as its dorsal fin cut a seam in the water. There was nothing to do but hold on to the rod. Fifteen reel-screaming yards later, the fish dove to the depths and snagged up my line and hook meanwhile, setting itself free. Scott estimated the fish in the 22-25 inch range.
Scott went above the call of duty to try and free my last fly, but it was to no avail. The fly broke off and I was out of tourney at 10:30 with four fish on my score card. Since I was out of the contest, Scott spent more time focused on his fishing. He ended up taking third place and deserved much more for all the assistance he gave me.
Lunch was an incredible smoked B-B-Q feast. After all was said and done, the event raised $4100, and since it meet the goal of state and federal funding minimums, each government entity matched the donation, so the group raised over $12,000 to be used for the Blue River public fishing area.
Weary legged and stuffed full of delicious food, I made my way back to my car and headed back to my hotel. It was an incredible day. Having met and made several new friends, I’m sure I’ll be heading back next year to compete again. But mostly, I will return to celebrate friendship and our passion of fly fishing and to support their great, grass-roots organization that helps take care of the river they love.