Fly Fishing Festival draws crowd to AMFF

LAUREN ADLER - reformer correspondentAmerican Museum of Fly Fishing ambassador Drew Chicone demonstrates techniques for saltwater fly fishing during the Fly Fishing Festival in Manchester.

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MANCHESTER — Despite the drizzle, there was a great turnout Saturday, Aug. 11 at the American Museum of Fly Fishing's eleventh annual Fly Fishing Festival. Though, of course, many attendees were used to getting a bit wet.

"Despite the rainy forecast we had a great turn out with over 650 visitors. There was a really good energy on the grounds," said Sarah Foster, the museum's executive director. "Turnout is really good this year it's definitely more this year than last," agreed Cheryl Wilcox, a volunteer at the festival along with her husband Ron. "Someone even drove down from Maine for this."

"It's a very wide, diversified group of people," added Wilcox. "People from all over like to enjoy the ambiance, but it brings out the locals, too."

Attendees Alan and Penny Yefto were among the many non-locals at the festival, having traveled from New York for the event. Yefto, who is originally from Manchester, believes that the town benefits from the festival because "it's not just coming and shopping inside, you're being exposed to nature and history and learning." She also mentioned that the event was "very dog-friendly"—a plus for the couple's three-month-old yellow lab, Jackson.

Festival-goers were also lured by fly tying instruction, casting demonstrations featuring Scott Fly Rods and Patagonia pro Rachel Finn and AMFF Ambassador and celebrated author, fly designer, and instructor Drew Chicone, and more than three dozen representatives from various vendors and organizations such as the Battenkill Water Alliance, Trout Unlimited Teens National Leadership Council, and Orvis.

"[The festival] is really cool ... it's a great spread of different organizations and people," said Matt Saunders, a first-time attendee and volunteer instructor with Vermont's Let's Go Fishing program. Though Saunders and Let's Go Fishing employee Corey Hart were only displaying basic instruction and knot tying at the festival, their program also educates young fly fishers about water ecology; ethical, appreciative, and responsible fishing; and environmental stewardship and preserving Vermont's fish population.

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Another organization represented at the festival was Casting for Recovery, a nonprofit that, according to its website, aims to "enhance the quality of life of women with breast cancer through a unique retreat program that combines breast cancer education and peer support with the therapeutic sport of fly fishing."

Retreats are offered free of charge to women of all ages and in all stages of breast cancer treatment or recovery.

"We come [to the festival] annually," said regional program manager Wendy Gawlik, who was representing the organization along with volunteer and program coordinator Nicole Paquette. "It's always great."

In addition to the festival, the museum was also celebrating several other achievements. "Celebrating our 50th anniversary (a milestone that any organization would be proud of, and we certainly are!), coupled with the launch of our 'On Fly in the Salt: American Saltwater Fly Fishing from the Surf to the Flats' exhibition and the opening of the Selch-Bakwin Fly Room, certainly made for an exciting weekend," Foster said.

Lauren Adler is a summer Manchester resident.