Every year in April, the City of Waynesboro Virginia hosts a Fly-Fishing and Wine Tasting Festival. Nearly all of Virginia's wineries--the good and not-so-good--set up tasting booths for the festival. Fly tiers, fishing shops, and guides from the East Coast gather under one tent to hawk the latest gear, fly patterns, and travel destinations. However, various conservation groups are well represented, including Trout Unlimited and the Coastal Conservation Association.
After three straight years of attending the event, I have discovered that most of the fly-fishermen come on the first day to browse the latest fly patterns and work out casting kings. Most of them--including myself--ooh and ah at the presentation of the Alaska Voyage, but blanch at the price of $5,000 per-week. The second day is filled almost entirely people attracted to the wine-tasting, some to enjoy the wine, others to get drunk. All in all, a pretty good time.
This year, a good friend and I attended a casting clinic by Bob Clouser. For those unaware, Mr. Clouser is the inventor of the Clouser minnow, a yellow and green minnow pattern used for everything from bass to sailfish. The method of casting he teaches emphasizes linking the shoulder and arm together when casting to develop more power with ease. To me, it seemed more suitable for salt water, but watching Clouser cast 100 feet in less than 10 seconds was pretty amazing. He also has become a bit of a celebrity amongst fly fishermen. One of the students in our class exclaimed, "Bob is just so amazing, this class has changed my life." My friend said, "well, the class was nice, but this guy must have not done much previously."
Waynesboro's goal with all these activities is to make the local South River a major fly-fishing destination. Unfortunately there are a number of problems with this idea. First, to put it mildly, the South River is an "urban fishery." There is a DuPont Chemical Plant on the river responsible for mercury contamination. The water also has a disgusting smell to it that stays on your waders and boots for weeks. Second, the local population is decidedly hostile to fly fishers. People yell shit at you from the bridges. There are also homeless people under the bridges who have been known to chase fly-fishermen into the water. One guy I know who fishes there claims that the "hobos don't like to swim." Third, and most disturbing, Aryan Nation and Klan graffiti decorate concrete walls near the river. After seeing these, I decided to never fish there again. While its a noble idea to turn a post-industrial town into a fly-fishing destination, I just do not see it happening.