Our Man In Canada
December 29th, 2003

Editorial by Chris Marshall
Publisher, Canadian Fly Fisher Magazine

Chris Marshall

In September, 2003 fly fishing in Canada changed. Fly fishers from across the country gathered together in Russell, Manitoba for the first Canadian National Fly-Fishing Championships and Conservation Symposium (see Paul Marriner's feature in the Jan/March 2004 issue of Canadian Fly Fisher). While there have been a number of local and regional competitions in Canada for a number of years, the event in Manitoba was a milestone, for it was the first time that there had been any attempt to organise on a national scale.

It was an event which had been a long time in the making. It began in 1985 with a phone call from my English riverkeeper friend, Ron Holloway. He'd been asked by people from the international fly fishing crowd for Canadian fly fishing contacts, as they were interested in getting Canada involved in international competitions.

Because the competitive fly fishing scene in Britain and Europe, which was a totally catch-and-kill affair; was the utter antithesis of the conservation-focused spirit of fly fishing and Canada and the USA, I told Ron and his contact that it wouldn't work over here.

I couldn't have been more wrong.

When I dropped the ball, it was picked up by Jack Simpson, who created Fly Fishing Canada to pull together Canada's first team to compete in the world championships in England in 1987. Jack has been CEO of Fly Fishing Canada ever since, every year taking a Canadian team to compete in venues all around the world.

But he did much more than that: rather than holding his nose at the long lines of dead trout, he showed them that the mass killing wasn't really necessary and that fly fishers should be actively involved in fish habitat conservation. Consequently, since Jack and other Canadian fly fishers got involved, the World Fly Fishing Championships has been transformed into a catch-and-release event. Moreover; when the International was held in Canada for the first tine, in 1993, he insisted on adding a Conservation Symposium to the programme. This is now a permanent and valued part of the world championship.

Spring 2001 issue

Our first national championships in Manitoba this September was another quantum leap. This is a big country, and unlike Britain and Europe, there are significant obstacles in travel distances and expense for us to gather together in one place. Manitoba's Parkland was the fitting location for such an event, for besides having excellent trout lakes, it's close to the geographical centre of the country. Apart from uncooperative weather and the usual teething problems, the event was a resounding success. The organisers and the Manitoba hosts can be proud of their accomplishment. Together they've made Canadian fly fishing history.

And this was just the beginning. Already locations for the 2004 National Championships have been offered and are being explored. From now on, every year will bring the opportunity for Canadian fly fishers to gather in a different part of the country in the spirit of friendly competition and to share skills and experience. For the hosts, it will provide the opportunity to show off the fisheries in their region, and for the visitors, it will provide hands-on fly fishing experience beyond their home waters. There is a rich diversity of fly fishing across this land. It's good to read about it, but nothing can substitute for the real thing. The National Championships will make that happen. But most of all, it will enhance fly fishing in this hugely diverse country, by generating deeper understanding of what is needed to conserve and preserve our fisheries on a national level, as well as a strong, united voice to implement those needs. ~ CM

Credit: Excerpt from the January/March 2004 issue of The Canadian Fly Fisher. We appreciate use permission.

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