Over the course of just two years, the fly fishing program at Carihi has gone from a small after-school club to two official, for-credit classes and a competitive team.
And now, after their recent performances at the national championship in Maple Ridge, members of that competitve team also make up half of the Canadian Youth National Fly Fishing Team.
“We showed up eager and excited,” says coach Nick Pisterzi. “Some of us were fairly confident in our skills, while some were maybe a little over-confident and were humbled by the end of the weekend, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. In fly fishing, as in life, it’s all about learning. When you take a passion like that and put a competitve twist to it, there’s always going to be winners and losers, and I’m trying to show the kids that you have to handle losing with grace and growth, asking yourself what you need to work on to improve, just like with anything in life. And the ones who win, I just ask that they win with humility and respect.
“As they say, it’s called fishing, not catching, after all. Everyone has good days and not so good days, and it’s important for them to remember that.”
The two day event, Pisterzi says, was a bit of a whirlwind. With two teams of participants spread over four venues, it was impossible to tell of how well everyone was doing as the tournament progressed.
“It’s hard to keep track of what’s going on in terms of scoring at these things,” Pisterzi says. “There are two different lake venues and two different spots on the river, so there are different controllers monitoring the numbers of fish being caught by each competitor, but there wasn’t really a centralized place to communicate all that. All that information was brought together at the end of the day, and they put it all together and tabulate the standings.”
At the end of day one, things looked promising, but anything could happen on day two. After all, it’s not called “catching,” remember.
“All our kids were doing pretty decently on the first day of the competition,” Pisterzi says, “but on the second day, some started scoring blanks (catching no fish during the alotted time) and some were just lighting it up on the river – particularly Rochelle (Helstrom), who has now been acclaimed the third best youth fly fisher in Canada.”
In the end, Carihi’s Luke Dirom, Finnley Goodlife, Seth Bisson and Walker Kitts all finished in the top-10 and were named to Team Canada alongside third-place finisher Helstrom.
While Pisterzi was impressed with the kids’ fishing performances, he was even more proud of how they behaved off the water.
“They were excellent ambassadors for the school,” Pisterzi says. “I had a ton of coaches and parents come up and pull me aside and tell me they were a great group of students and how respectful they were. To hear that was really cool, because they are good kids and they put a lot of effort and dedication into this.”
In terms of what’s next for the kids, Pisterzi says, that’s kind of up to them.
“I feel like I’ve done my part in getting them to this level at the national stage and now my journey with them – well, it isn’t over, but it kind of ends in terms of the school’s involvement, and if they want to pursue it further, they’ll be in contact with the organization that will be putting on the competitions.”
Upcoming competitions they could be off to include one in Quebec, another in Bolivia and one in the Czech Republic, “so there are some really exciting opportunities for them to travel the world sharing the passion for fly fishing with people all over the globe.”