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This interview will let us hear from our 3rd place anlger on the leaderboard, Austin Shoemaker. I can say because I know Austin personally he is about as humble as they come, and always looking for ways to improve. Another shining example of someone who epitomizes what the league is all about. He is currently the top angler on Team Dead Drift.
1. Ben-” How long have you been competing and what brought you to the competition scene? ” Austin- This is my second full season of competitive fly fishing, but what brought me to the competition scene is, I wanted to see how my ability was against some of the best in the nation. So, I reached out to a friend, and then I started learning the competition aspect of fly fishing.
2. Ben- “What were your goals for last season and did you accomplish them? If so what were the keys to your success?” Austin- My goals for last season was to fish to the best of my ability, but the biggest goal I had was to place in the top 10 in the league, and to be the best angler that I can be. As for meeting my goals for last season, I’m pretty content with my Proformance’s so yes, I have met my goals. The keys to my success were, probably breaking water down and using proper beat management, and a big factor for me is thinking outside the box.
3. Ben- “What are your goals for this season and how do you plan to achieve them?” Austin- My goals for this season are spend more time in the water, focus on my weak points, feel confident on all water types and over all place top three individually in the south east league, and contribute as many points to team dead drift as possible, and have as much fun as possible.
4. Ben- “Whats your favorite fly pattern?” Austin- I don’t have a favorite fly pattern, honestly I find it more of a size of the fly and the bead color, and the way its presented, but if I would have to choose id would have to go with the france fly, frenchie, and variations of walts worms
5. Ben- “What is your go to techique during a competition?” Austin- My go to technique usually depends on the water type, what time my session starts at that time of day, the weather, who fished the beat before myself, trying to hit water they missed and the places they have spooked or moved fish into. Time management, beat management, trumps technique in my opinion.
6. Ben-“For someone interested in competing or starting out, what would be your advice to them?” Austin- For someone interested or starting out the advice I have would be always believe in yourself. Never be afraid to reach out to seasoned anglers with more knowledge to get pointers, verbal techniques, when you are out on the water practice things you are not comfortable with, because you never know when you will need to put the factors into play and stay positive and never doubt yourself.
7. Ben-“Why did you choose to fish in the SEFFL?” Austin- I chose to fish the SEFFL because it’s not too far from home, they are very well organized, every angler is respectful and welcoming, we always have well-kept venues and leadership of the league is always open to new ideas and angler input! SEFFL is very well ran and I highly recommend to anyone!
8. Ben- ” You are the top angler on your team, do you believe the team aspect of competitive angling is a unique outlier that makes the sport more fun than just individual angling?” Austin- Being on a team is amazing just make sure to keep having fun and always enjoying it don’t burn yourself out its so easily just remember it’s about making memories and all the friendships you come across are priceless!
9. Ben- “Open forum anything you wish to add?” Austin- I want to give a shout out to the guy that has always believed in me and has always kept my head high, Ben Vandevender thank you for everything you do for everyone. The league wouldn’t be what it is today without you. I truly respect and thank you for everything you have done for everyone in this league…… oh yea #whiteclaw
If any of you have had the pleasure of fishing with Shawn then you are also lucky enough to know another humble great angler. Shawn along with our previous angler spotlight subject, Roger Wilson epitomize the best of this league. If we had 20 anglers with the drive, attitude, and aptitude of Roger and Shawn then we would have one of the strongest leagues of any sport in this country.
- Ben-” How long have you been competing and what brought you to the competition scene? ” Shawn- My first tournament was the Rumble in the Rhododendron in November of 2013. I had been fly fishing since March of that year, and my buddy asked me to fish it with him. I learned so much by watching other anglers compete, and I knew I wanted to get better and start competing.
- Ben- “What were your goals for last season and did you accomplish them? If so what were the keys to your success?” Shawn- I just wanted to get better and be a more rounded angler. I feel like I still have a long way to go, but I definitely have gotten better thanks to a lot of help from friends who are much better than I am.
- Ben- “What are your goals for this season and how do you plan to achieve them?” Shawn- To get better and make new friends along the way. I am going to try and fish as many competitions as I can and learn as much as possible.
- Ben- “Whats your favorite fly pattern?” Shawn- I’m not going to lie, it’s probably any junk fly. Junk works, but it also has its time and place just like any other pattern.
- Ben- “What is your go to technique when competition fishing?” Shawn-I probably use Euro nymph the most, but it varies depending on the conditions.
- Ben-“For someone interested in competing or starting out, what would be your advice to them?” Shawn- Practice…Practice…Practice, and fish with others that are always pushing you to get better!
- Ben-“Why did you choose to fish in the SEFFL?” It’s fun! I also feel like some of the best anglers in the world compete in these events. The league is a great place to have fun and make new friends!
- Ben- ” You are the top angler on your team, do you believe the team aspect of competitive angling is a unique outlier that makes the sport more fun than just individual angling?” Shawn- I wish!!! I’m probably not even in the top 5! We have some great anglers on the team! The team aspect definitely adds another dimension to the competition that I like. It makes you work together to make each other better.
- Ben- “Open Forum, anything you would like to add for the readers…” Shawn- Thanks to everyone who has helped me get better and also become some of my best friends as well. Thank you Ben for all you do for this league! It’s not an easy task, and I am grateful for all you do! Let’s all get out there and have fun, learn and make new friends!
With updates to the leaderboard after the Helen Classic Roger Wilson made a large jump and is now our number 1 ranked angler, followed closely in second by his team mate Shawn Isaacs! Let’s hear from Roger on his take of competitive angling.
- Ben-” How long have you been competing and what brought you to the competition scene? Roger- My first tournament was the 2018 Gold Cup, so I guess I’ve been competing about a year and half or so. I got into competitions because I just love competing. I feel like competition brings out your best. I also wanted to get my step son Peyton into competitions. He’s had a fly rod in his hands since he was like 9 years old and I wanted to compete with him and to see how he would do.
- Ben- “What were your goals for last season and did you accomplish them? If so what were the keys to your success?” Roger- Last year I didn’t really have any goals other than to just get used to the competition formats. I have fly fished my entire life, but wasn’t used to being timed. Catching fish has never been an issue, but learning how to manage your time was the big thing. Competitors call it “Beat Management”, but I think it’s more about time management.
- Ben- “What are your goals for this season and how do you plan to achieve them?” Roger- My goals for this year were to meet as many people as I could that love this sport like I do, and just enjoy hanging out with them in different towns and fishing different waters. If I can help them to enjoy their time on the water by teaching them some new things or if they can teach me a few things, then I think we can all call it a good day. People have always been more important to me than medals.
- Ben- “Do you have a favorite fly pattern?” Roger- My favorite fly pattern is the one that the fish are eating! I don’t have a lot of different fly patterns, and think a lot of people over think their fly boxes. All my stuff is pretty plain and simple and I think most people would look at my fly box and not be overly impressed. But unlike fly shops and commercial fly tiers, it’s not the approval of the fisherman that I am after.
- Ben- “What is your go to technique when competing?” Roger- There is no “go to technique” in my opinion. If you plan on catching fish in all conditions, you better have plenty of techniques in your arsenal and then use the one that the fish respond to. I believe a lot of people think that as long as they are “tight lining” or “Euro Nymphing” as opposed to some of the older, more thought to be antiquated techniques, that they are good. Although true in some conditions, it’s pretty rare to be the case in general.
- Ben-“For someone interested in competing or starting out, what would be your advice to them?” Roger- For anyone that wants to get better in any sport or activity, my advice would be to shadow someone better than you. Most people want to share their knowledge with others. To me, there is no advantage to having the knowledge if not to share it with others. Competitors have worked long and hard to obtain the knowledge and skills they have, and a lot of them guide full time or part time. Call them up and go on a trip with them. You will gain ten times the fish catching abilities paying a good guide for a weekend than purchasing the latest and greatest fly rod or equipment.
- Ben- “Why did you choose to compete in the SEFFL and after its first year what do you think about the league in general?” Roger- I fish the SEFFL because I enjoy their format, the laid back atmosphere, and the people that compete in the league. They do their best to provide a neutral playing field, and really take input from their participants and try to make improvements. It’s not stifled and suffocated with heavy regulation and fees and is more suited to the angler that wants to have fun, meet people, and test their mettle against the fish.
- Ben- ” You are the top angler on your team, do you believe the team aspect of competitive angling is a unique outlier that makes the sport more fun than just individual angling?” Roger- Definitely being on a team will make competing more enjoyable. Not only will you meet new people and develop new relationships, but the information that is shared during tournaments is invaluable and also unavailable if you’re not a part of one. Finding a good fit is very important and a lot of teams hold open practices or even tryouts so I would encourage a new person to competition fly angling to not be shy and reach out to the teams that you’re interested in.
- Ben- “Open forum, anything you would like to add for the subscribers?” Roger-Thank you Ben VanDevender for what you do for this sport. I really appreciate all the hard work that he puts into competition fly angling, and would hate to think of what the opportunities for it would be with out him.
This interview is focused on Daniel Levi Ladlee, one of the top 3 for the 2019 season and a consistent top 3 at the last 2 events of the 2019 season! He is an up and coming top angler and one to watch as the season progresses!
Ben- “How long have you been competing?”
Daniel- ”I starting competing about three years ago, didn’t really get serious about it till a year and a half ago. I was curious about the competition scene after meeting a competitor during the Rumble in the Rhododendron. I knew nothing of Euro nymphing techniques. After seeing the success they were having, I had to give it a try. Which lead way to competitions.”
Ben- “What were your goals for last season and how did you go about achieving those goals?”
Daniel- ”My goals for last season were fairly simple. Dial in my game. Lose flies that I didn’t have faith in, get my leader building game tight, beat management, fish with folks that are better than I am, ask dumb questions and time on the water. This last one was huge for me. You can be told a million things, but time on the water is what’s gonna make it all come together.”
Ben- ”What are your goals for this season and how you do you plan to achieve those?” Daniel- “For this season, just more of the same. Continuously trying to polish areas of my game that need it. Fishing with folks that have more experience than yourself is tremendously helpful in this area.”
Ben- ” What is your favorite fly pattern?”
Daniel- “A well tied mayfly dry is probably my favorite fly. Tossing dries is a great way to spend a summer day in the park! ”
Ben- ”What is your go to technique when competing?”
Daniel- ”Primarily Euro, either single or double nymphs. But I will abandon that immediately if conditions dictate dry dropper. I’m not really a streamer guy, yet. ”
Ben- “What advice do you have for someone looking to try competitive fly fishing?”
Daniel- ”Just starting to compete, I would recommend trying to join a team. It’s a great way to get the knowledge you need in an expedited manner. Other than that, books and YouTube were extremely helpful to me.”
Ben- “What do you think of the SEFFL after its first year?
Daniel- “I feel the league is doing a great job. Some of these events can be a nightmare. I applaud anyone who puts them together.”
Ben- ”Do you think the team angling aspect of competitive fly fishing is a unique outlier that improves anglers and makes events more fun?”
Daniel- “Team angling is a great way to build relationships and help grow the sport. I do feel like individual tournaments have their place as well.”
Ben- “Open forum, anything you would like to add for those reading?”
Daniel- ”I feel blessed to be in a section of the country that has so many great anglers and a competition scene that is, strong, to say the least. I look forward to the friends I haven’t met yet, and am thankful to the ones I’ve made along the way so far. See you in the water, cheers!”
Let’s dive into the other spectrum of the league, the individual or “free agent” angler. I interviewed Joseph Kwolek to get his take on competitive fly fishing, the league and more.
Ben- “How long have you been competing and what brought you to the competition scene?
Joseph- “I started competitive fly fishing in early 2018. I wanted to learn more about Euro Nymphing and thought that this would be a great way to learn and a cool way to catch big fish at some of the events.”
Ben- ” What were your goals for last season and did you accomplish them? If so what were the keys to your success.?”
Joseph- “When I started comp fishing in early 2018 I was still uncomfortable with the Euro technique. I was still dry-dropping and soon realized that I needed to advance my skills. I set a goal to start Euro Nymphing 100% of the time in order to get better. It was not until the summer of 2018 that I really felt I had a good grasp of the technique and was able to catch fish consistently.”
Ben- ” What are your goals for this season and how do you plan to achieve them?
Joseph- “Goals are pretty much the same. Improve my small stream abilities while continuing to work on presentation and landing skills. I plan on fishing as many events as possible in 2019, as well as hitting the smaller streams in N GA/N Carolina.”
Ben- ” Do you have a favorite fly Pattern?”
Joseph- “Just depends on the stream and time of year. The Pats(Girdle Bug) is my favorite anchor fly though…”
Ben- ” What is your go to technique when competing? ”
Joseph- “Finding the seems and pockets. I learned about the seems and pockets growing up fishing and it is a tried and true way to find the fish.”
Ben- ” For someone interested in competing or starting out, what would be your advice to them?”
Joseph- “Ask questions and observe all the competitors. I learned a ton this past year at various clinics and comps by watching other folks and their techniques”
Ben- ” Why did you choose to compete in the SEFFL and after its first year what do you think about the league in general?”
Joseph- ” I think the league has a lot to offer both the experienced angler and the new comer to the sport. I like the group of folks that fish in the league and enjoy our time together.”
Ben- ” You are fairly new to competition. What are your thoughts on how it affects the sport, positive or negative?”
Joseph- “I do not dwell on negative feedback on competition fishing. Man has always competed in one sport or another. I think it helps make better fishermen, and it helps in the organizations that put on the events or are donated to by the events.”
Ben- ” What was your favorite event so far and why?”
Joseph- “Any event that is not affected by the rain… Seriously though, my first comp early in 2018 was my favorite. Even though I did not finish well it was a great learning experience. Since about mid-2018 I started fishing with my son so they are all my favorite no matter where we finish.”
Ben- “Have you been able to apply what you learned competing to be a more succesfull angler outside of competition? ”
Joseph- “Most definitely. When I started Euro Nymphing I was still fishing way too far away from where I stood. I did not realize how close you can get to some of the fish and still catch them. In stocker streams, this technique really lands the fish consistently.”
Ben- “Open forum, anything you want to add, you can add below.”
Joseph- “I would be interested in events outside of fishing like fly tying nights. I started tying my own stuff this year and really like it but still have to learn a bunch.”
Recently I had the pleasure of watching Peyton and his step father Roger Wilson at the Championship event. These 2 anglers are in the top 5 of the 2019 leaderboard and it is well earned. They both have a good skill set and drive to do compete. Although this interview is with Peyton, our top youth angler this year, I commend Roger for all he has done to bring Peyton to the sport.
Ben- How long have you been competing and what brought you to the competition scene?
Peyton- I have been fly fishing for 5 years. I started in 3rd grade. I have been competitively fly fishing for about 2 years. My step dad Roger Wilson introduced me to fly fishing and the competitive world.
Ben- What were your goals for last season and did you accomplish them? If so what were the keys to your success.
Peyton- My goals for last season were to compete as much as possible to learn how it works, learn to fish under pressure and being timed, to participate in a Team USA youth clinic, and compete in youth nationals.
I did accomplish these goals. Last season I competed in about 8 or 9 competitions. I placed second in the Battle of Gatlinburg one fly tournament. I attended a youth clinic and also competed in youth nationals. I also learned that fishing while being timed means you have to figure the fish out fast.
The keys to my success were going out and practicing fishing, participating in competitions, and the strong support of my family.
Ben- What are your goals for this season and how do you plan to achieve them?
Peyton- My goals for this season are to help my team, Team Nymphmaster to bring home the gold cup, to earn a spot on the youth world team, and to win nationals.
To achieve my goals, I plan to compete in several more tournaments in order to gain more experience. I also plan to practice what I know and figure out what I need to work on.
Ben- Do you have a favorite fly Pattern?
Peyton- I don’t have a favorite fly. I have confidence flies for different types of waters.
Ben- What is your go to technique when competing?
Peyton- I don’t have a go to technique. My technique and style of fishing depends on fish activity and the environment around me.
Ben- For someone interested in competing or starting out, what would be your advice to them?
Peyton- Join a team and compete in as many comps as possible.
Ben- Why did you choose to compete in the SEFFL and after its first year what do you think about the league in general?]
Peyton- The reason I fish in the SEFFL is because I live in the area. I think it is very organized and it is great for the sport.
Ben- You were the top angler on your team, do you believe the team aspect of competitive angling is a unique outlier that makes the sport more fun than just individual angling?
Peyton- Being part of a team helps build relationships and you can learn from people better than you.
Ben- Open forum, anything you want to add, you can add below.
Peyton- In fly fishing you can be creative. You can create your own flies and techniques. You can also create your own style. That is one reason why I love the sport. It gives me an opportunity to create flies and see if they work when fishing. Also in competitive fly fishing I have made friends from all over USA. I also would really like to thank my stepdad Roger Wilson for introducing me into the competitive fly fishing world and for my family being very supportive of what I do and love.
Our next angler interview goes to Richard Carbon of Team Georgia. Richard has not been on the scene long, and I have personally been lucky to judge him at two events this past season. Read below for his interview.
Ben- “How long have you been competing and what brought you to the competition scene?”
Richard- “The 2018 season was my first year fishing competitively so I’ve been competing for about 8 months so far. When I began to get serious about fly fishing, particularly tight line nymphing some friends I met on the river mainly Scott Brown told me I should consider competition fishing after fishing together a few times. Before this I really didn’t know much about the competitive fishing scene except a few bits and pieces I came across on the internet by mistake. A friend told me about the team he was on called Team Georgia, so after a bit I tried out for the team and made it. I competed in my first comp, the Helen Classic held in late June on the Chattahoochee River in Helen hosted by Team Dead Drift, in which I placed 5th. After this event I really caught the bug for fishing competitions and started really locking in trying to see how far I could go.”
Ben- ” What were your goals for last season and did you accomplish them? If so what were the keys to your success.”
Richard- “I’d have to say my main goals for 2018 were just to perform well, learn as much as possible, and win an event. I wasn’t fortunate enough to win an event this season but achieving top angler on my team is something that I’m very proud of, as well as the team taking a third overall in the league. I spent a lot of time on the water practicing techniques, experimenting, reading water, and just trying to piece it all together which I think definitely contributed to my success in my first season.”
Ben-” What are your goals for this season and how do you plan to achieve them?”
For the 2019 season I plan to pick up where I left off in 2018 and keep grinding and striving to learn, win a comp, and maybe repeat as the team top angler. I plan to spend as much time as I can on the water practicing and doing as many comps as I can in the coming year. I also want to fish different bodies of water outside Georgia to experience some different water types. I’ve begun to notice what my weaknesses are as an angler and what I need to work on to become better, so I want to turn my weaknesses into positives this year.
Ben- “Do you have a favorite fly Pattern?”
Richard- “I’d have to say I have 2 favorite patterns, first is a walt’s worm. When I first started fly-fishing another angler, Pat Brechbill showed me the walt’s worm while teaching me how to euro nymph and I did well with them. From that day on they became one of my confidence patterns and I carry them in a bunch of variations with me on the water still. My other favorite is a micro wolly bugger, I can fish it in numerous ways when I really need a bite and they nearly always produce for me.”
Ben-” What is your go to technique when competing?”
Richard- “My go to technique would have to be euro-nymphing when in a competition and for my regular fishing as well. It has proven to be a great technique to catch fish especially when numbers of fish matter like in competitions.”
Ben- ” For someone interested in competing or starting out, what would be your advice to them?”
Richard- “For someone starting out I would say the best thing you can do is put time in on the water, there is nothing that can beat that in the beginning. Read internet forums, jump in ask questions on the boards and read old threads. I spent many nights at work reading through old posts when I first got started looking for information on comp techniques, rigs, flies, and anything else I could find out there. After that just find the nearest comp, sign up and do your best.”
Ben- “Why did you choose to compete in the SEFFL and after its first year what do you think about the league in general?”
Richard- “The SEFFL gives anglers in the south a place to get started competing without having to travel far, which was perfect for me. One thing I like about the SEFFL is that there’s some pretty strong competition to gauge yourself against which is great. The competition can range from the new guy doing his first comp to members of both adult and youth Team USA at any event. Also the friends I’ve met who fish competitively all compete in the SEFFL so I’m able to compete with them and see them at events which is cool.”
Ben- “You were the top angler on your team, do you believe the team aspect of competitive angling is a unique outlier that makes the sport more fun than just individual angling?”
Richard- “Yes it makes it more unique in that the team aspect brings comraderie and ability to learn from others, that if you’re going about it solo you would never get to experience fully. You always have other people to fish with and exchange tips with which is what we do a lot of on my team to all grow. I’ve built friendships on my team as well as with members of other teams that compete in the SEFFL that I probably would not have made otherwise.”
Ben- “Open forum, anything you want to add, you can add below.”
Richard- “Want to say thanks to Ben and the other guys behind the scenes that started the SEFFL and are keeping it going. I haven’t been on the competitive scene for long but it seemed like it was starting to die off here in the south, but you guys have turned it around. I don’t know how much goes into running the league, planning events, gathering sponsors and all the other involvement but thanks for all you guys do to keep competitive fishing alive in the south.”
Out of the gate into the 2019 season the Gold Cup was off to a great start. Sadly the event was cut short due to the new Georgia Winter Monsoon season we have dealt with since November. The total rainfall Saturday accounted for .5 inches of rain and the sessions finished just as the river reached the max safe level. Then another 2 inches of rain that night, washed us out for any fishing on Sunday. Anglers did fish both venues, and scores were finalized with sessions on each venue.
Ricky Ozmar and Alex Boyer took 1st after taking a close 2nd last year. Austin Shoemaker and Elijah Ellis took 2nd, and Daniel Levi Ladlee and Chase Turner took 3rd. It was a tight race for the top 4. Richard Carbon won Big Fish with a 64cm Rainbow!