Fly fishing rod

Watch Now – Local Fishing Prodigy Wins National Championship

CAROLYN R. WILSON Special for the Bristol Herald Courier

A A 14-year-old boy from Smyth County catches his dreams on the end of a fishing rod.

Blake Hall, an eighth grade student at Marion Middle School, returned from North Carolina last weekend where he received the 2022 winner of the US Youth Fly Fishing National Competition, an annual sporting event that puts him in line to compete at the World Fly Fishing Contest in Bosnia next year.

The largest national competition hosted by Team USA fly fishing, the competition is the largest and most prestigious competition for young anglers.

“I’m still in shock, but I’m very proud,” said the young winner, just days after receiving the honour.

His father Brent Hall said the look on his son’s face when he won was one he had never seen before.

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“The gleam in his eyes and his smile were unforgettable,” said Brent Hall describing his son’s reaction.

The stellar achievement comes as no surprise to those who know the teenager and his keen sense of reading the water before casting his rod.

The teenager said he didn’t know why he loved the sport of fishing so much.

“It’s really peaceful coming out here on the water — just you and the trout,” Blake said.

His mother, Kellie Hall, believes her son has an innate connection to nature, especially fish.

“He always liked being outdoors. This is his peaceful place – always playing in the woods. It’s very easy for him to go to the river and spend time there,” says his mother. “He has a wicked ability to spot fish. He really understands where the fish are going to be and how many fish are there. He is very patient and persistent.

His son smiled and replied, “It’s a skill that can’t be taught. It’s just something to learn. »

The teenager could be described as a “reel” expert.

Watching videos online on You Tube, the self-taught angler learned how to make his own custom fishing flies, sometimes selling them to neighborhood anglers to earn a little extra cash for fishing supplies.

The fishing flies he learned to attach to a hook resemble the aquatic insects that serve as food for fish.

“With fly fishing, you can mimic natural things that fish like to eat in the river, like nymphs and other small insects,” Blake said.

With the help of a family friend and avid fisherman, he even built his own fly fishing rod. The shorter custom rod provides more control and maneuverability, he said, especially when fishing in tight areas with lots of trees and brush.

The teenager’s obsession with fly fishing began when he and his father came across some fly fishing tackle left behind by Blake’s late grandmother.

That’s all it took for young people to become addicted.

His father remembers that he was just a small child when he started fishing with a Spiderman rod in the river near their house.

Now he has all the professional gear for a seasoned angler – fly rods and reels, waders and fishing boots to stay dry while wading through the water, fishing flies that mimic aquatic life , and even the sunglasses that help him track fish snaking through the water.

“He’s really easy to buy for Christmas,” his dad said with a laugh. “It was a great opportunity for us to spend time together. It started as a hobby, but he built it up and took it to a whole new level.

A few years ago, the straight college student chose to put his interests in playing Little League baseball and travel basketball on the back burner so he could devote all of his free time to learning how to angle. fly.

The choice certainly paid off.

Last summer, the self-taught young angler contacted a coach in the Southeast region for the fly fishing organization, asking how to join the fishing team.

“I wanted to improve as an angler and meet new people who love the sport the same way I do,” said Blake, who enjoys the camaraderie of the fishing community. He received advice from local fly shops, attended fishing clinics, and learned from some of the best anglers in the area.

After attending a mandatory clinic offered by the organization, Blake entered the U.S. National Youth Fly Fishing Competition for the first time last year, earning third place overall.

This year’s competition took the teenager to Bakersville and Burnsville, both in North Carolina, where he competed in sessions on the South Toe River, Big Rock Creek and Little Rock Creek.

Competing with 20 youngsters between the ages of 13 and 18 from across the country, Blake took first place in all four two-hour competition sessions, catching 114 rainbow and brown trout, the largest measuring 60 centimeters in length. long. The teenager was the only young participant to place number one in all four sessions.

During the event, Blake also participated in the Casting for Hope fundraiser where he raised over $900 for the nonprofit that benefits women with gynecological cancers in Western Carolina. North. An amount of $4.25 was pledged by donors for each fish he caught.

“I am happy to be able to help by giving women the opportunity to learn to fly and spend time in nature when they are going through a difficult time in their lives,” Blake said.

As a young teenager, Blake took to the sport and quickly fell in love with everything about it.

When he wasn’t fishing, he was dying to know more. He watched videos and read books and magazines about fishing and people who mastered the sport.

While most people think of fishing as simply attaching a worm to the end of a hook, fly fishing is quite different.

Fly anglers use light bait that resembles a fly to catch fish. The fly is presented above the water so that the fish can spot it as if it were an insect that has landed on or slightly below the water.

Traditional fishing methods use bait – such as worms – which are discarded and presented to fish underwater.

The teenager said he never stopped learning the sport.

Most of the time, Blake dons his fishing gear and retreats to the river after school, some weeks fishing for over 20 hours.

“Every time I’m on the water, I learn something new. Rivers are very complex. Trout fishing is never the same. You can always find a new technique or a new bait to try or a different spot in the water.

Confident with a fishing rod in his hands, Blake demonstrated his fishing skills in the waters near his home one afternoon last week. Wearing fishing waders, he knocked over a rock in the water where he found a tiny mayfly. The young fisherman took a box of artificial fishing flies carried in a chest bag to help match the size of the native insects.

A retractable fishing net carried on his back allowed him to pull the fish out of the water to see it. He makes it a point of honor to always release native fish safe and sound.

“I like to fish when the weather is nice outside because there is better insect activity on the water,” he advised.

“You have to fish in deeper water with some current and you’ll probably eat,” said the youngster, who within minutes pulled a sizable rainbow trout out of the water.

Carolyn R. Wilson is a freelance writer in Glade Spring, Virginia. Contact her at [email protected]