216 x 2 = 432
Four hundred and thirty-two…that’s how many anglers registered for last week’s Cheeky SchoolieTournament. Think of it this way, between 0600hrs and 1430hrs, just from the tournament participants, there was close to three quarters of a mile of fly rods throwing approximately 8.59 miles of fly line on Cape Cod. At the buzzer over 9000 inches of striped bass were caught, recorded by photo, released and entered into the tournament. Who knows how many total fish/inches of fish were actually caught. Based on what The Beast (the other half of Team Dirt Bag) and I saw, the number blows my mind.
The rules are simple. Two anglers per team, fly rod only, wade-fishing on Cape Cod only, the largest four fish are recorded by camera with tape measure and photo puck and all are released. The tourney is billed as “a low barrier to entry, grass roots style event designed to encourage the interest and growth of saltwater fly fishing.” What does that mean? It means anyone with a fly rod can enter and stands a chance to be in the group of top rods at the end of the day. All those who fish regardless of whether they are an industry pro, guide, weekend warrior or newbie all start out from the same place, endure the same wind, weather, water and tide conditions and are all subject to the fish either being here in force or not. Off-season intel development, pre-fishing, and rolling the dice on whether to fish one spot hard or keep moving…that’s up to each team. Home-water status by being a Cape resident – that’s just life, man.
This year was the seventh running of the tournament. I’ve been at all of them. The first year there were about thirty of us standing in the dirt parking lot of a beach bar as the sun rose over the Bass River. It started out really as a group of friends going out to catch as many small fish as possible to raise a few bucks for conservation and charity groups. It has evolved into the world’s largest catch-and-release fly fishing only tournament. At this point in history, based on what science tells us, there may be an argument to be made that it has become the largest event of its kind in the universe.
But seriously, the whole thing was created to be a season opener, to bring fly anglers together for a fun day and generate some enthusiasm for our sport over a few beers while raising money and awareness to benefit our fisheries. Judging by the turnout this year, and the joint $3000.00 donation to Stripers Forever by Cheeky and the American Fly Fishing Trade Association at the end of the day, the mission was accomplished again this year and expectations exceeded.
The size of the tournament may have grown, but from the beginning, at its heart, it was about the fish and about each other.
It still is.
Cape Cod, MA
25 May 2018