Mountain Games fly-fishing a prelude to world championships
VAIL — Jeremy Sides, of Golden, is a member of Fly Fishing Team USA who dreams of one day competing at the World Championships.
The 15-member team selects it’s top five anglers to compete at worlds every year.
“Two of those guys have won Mountain Games,” Sides said on Sunday.
This year’s World Fly Fishing Championships will be held here in Eagle County in September; it will be the first time the event has taken place in the U.S. in two decades. Ordinarily, the GoPro Mountain Games fly-fishing finals take place on the same or similar waters as what the world’s best will see here in September, but raging local rivers — and the fact that a 12-year-old kid qualified for finals this year — prompted organizers to move it to the safety of private ponds nearby.
It was a move that played to Sides’ strengths.
“I fish lakes all the time so I’m used to this type of fishing, where most people who fly-fish generally fish rivers,” he said. “So that was definitely an advantage for me.”
Sides took home the win in what he said could be one of the hurdles en route attaining his dream.
“Two other guys who have won this event are now fishing on the world team,” he said. “I just feel on top of the world right now.”
12-YEAR-OLD MAKES FINALS
Sides has competed at the Mountain Games seven times. While there are several days of elimination rounds, only one day of competition actually takes place on water, as the rest of the bracket is decided by skills challenges in Vail Village. Sides has made it past the first elimination six times, but only made it to the finals twice with last year being his first time on the water at the Mountain Games.
“I think the nerves were getting me a little bit,” he said. “But after six years of doing it you get a little more relaxed with hundreds, thousands of spectators watching.”
History was made at the GoPro Mountain Games this year when 12-year-old Cameron Garcia of Ogden, Utah, qualified for finals in front of all those spectators.
“To get out of the first round you are narrowing it down from 72 to 16, so it’s huge just to make it out of the first round,” Sides said. “I was really fortunate to have Cameron with me today … he ended up catching a 20-inch fish and doing really well.”
Tournament organizer Rick Messmer said Garcia’s cast off the bridge to get the target which qualified him for finals resulted in the loudest cheer Messmer had ever heard at the Mountain Games.
“The crowd went nuts,” he said. “It was deafening.”
WORLD CHAMPS HERE THIS FALL
Garcia’s impressive performance, and the fact that second-place finisher Troy Garner is 19 years old, point to a trend Sides said can’t be ignored — the country’s best anglers are getting younger and younger.
“Two of the six flies I had today were tied by 15-year-old Jack Arnot, and they caught me probably 40 percent of my fish,” he said.
Arnot took fifth at the adult national championships earlier this month despite being a member of Youth Fly Fishing Team USA, which won the Youth Fly Fishing World Championships here in Vail in August of 2015. The event was a test event for this September’s adult World Championships.
“GoPro Mountain Games is an incredible, amazing event, but if you really want to see what it comes down to in fly-fishing, you should try to involve yourself in the World Championships in September,” Sides said. “You’ll see all the best anglers the planet here in the U.S. for the first time since 1997.”
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