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Thanks to WA State Council FFF for forwarding this on. (www.WashingtonCouncilFFF.org)

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State denies request by ESPN to hold fly-fishing contest in Missoula

By DARYL GADBOW of the Missoulian

ESPN won't get to hold a fly-fishing contest in Missoula this April as part of the television network's Great Outdoor Games.

On Friday, the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks denied a request from the cable television network to grant a waiver to allow the fly-fishing contest to be held in Missoula-area rivers April 8-10.

The contest required a waiver from the agency because Montana's fishing rules prohibit contests that impact wild trout. Most streams in the state contain only wild trout and are not stocked with hatchery fish.

FWP accepted public comments on the proposed contest through Feb. 7. Officials said they received about 400 public comments, which ran 2-to-1 against granting the waiver.

"Really though," said Chris Hunter, FWP Fisheries Division administrator, "it's not a vote. It's more about the issues raised."

The number of public comments FWP received on the contest was extraordinary, said Hunter.

"It's the most comments we've gotten on anything in the 13 years I've worked here," Hunter said.

In a letter to ESPN, FWP Director Jeff Hagener explained that the network's request was denied based on the agency's "responsibility to uphold the laws and rules governing fishing contests in Montana and the voluminous and thoughtful public comment."

"Hopefully," Hagener said, "you will try to understand and respect the perspective that anglers from across Montana and from other states brought to this debate. To these anglers, fly-fishing on Montana's rivers for wild trout does not lend itself to the competition envisioned in your proposed contest."

The competition would have been a qualifying event for the ESPN Outdoor Games - a made-for-television event combining various outdoor activities - which will be held in Reno, Nev., in July. In the Missoula contest, 18 anglers would have fished separate assigned stretches of stream by drift boat, trying to catch the largest trout in three hours. The top three anglers would have won cash prizes and advanced to the Great Outdoor Games.

All trout caught during the competition would have been immediately released. When FWP originally asked for public comment on the proposed contest in January, the department listed several reasons - including the catch-and-release provision - why the event would have minimal impact on the fishery or other local recreationists.

Last October, ESPN filmed one of its Great Outdoor Games qualifying events - the Super Retriever Series, a field trial for hunting dogs and handlers - in Missoula.

Mike Dickey, director of the Missoula Chamber of Commerce Convention and Visitors Bureau, was instrumental in bringing ESPN to Missoula for the Super Retriever Series. He was working closely with Great Outdoor Games organizers to hold the fly-fishing contest here.

"We lost. It surprises a lot of people," Dickey said Friday when he got the news that FWP denied the waiver to hold the contest.

FWP's fishing contest regulations allow a decision on a contest to be appealed to the FWP Commission. But earlier this week, Dickey said that if the contest were denied, he didn't think there would be time for ESPN to appeal the decision.

In his letter to ESPN, Hagener said the public comments supported the opinion that "fly-fishing is not about competition for the biggest or most fish and that Montanans have worked hard to nurture and protect its wild trout fishery."

"The public raised other concerns," Hagener continued in the letter, "that are important to the debate, concerns about the negative impact this contest and other like it would have on Montana rivers and on the sport of fly-fishing. As it happens, April is a popular time for anglers to be out on some of the rivers in the Missoula area, so the risk of conflict with recreational users would be much greater than was originally anticipated, especially taking into consideration the time necessary to film adequate footage in addition to the time contestants spend on the water."

Public comments also expressed concern about the impact on native cutthroat and bull trout, Hagener said.

Reporter Daryl Gadbow can be reached at 523-5264 or at [email protected].
 

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MT denies ESPN request to hold FF'ing contest in Missoula

I agree, competition takes the fun out of fly fishing (at least for me). I am glad to hear Missoulans are putting the health of fish above media dollars--

what the hell do they think this is- monday night trout off?

Mcronariver
 

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MT denies ESPN request to hold FF'ing contest in Missoula

We have to keep vigilant for things like this crap.
You just know the cameramen are going to shoot and reshoot a captured trout and they will release it half dead. Other fishermen will view this debacle and release their fish incorrectly.
Time after time, I have viewed T.V. films where the trout are held out of the water longer than I can hold my breath. Curt Gowdy and his kid pull this stuff and it irritates me.
Contests stink if wild fish are involved. A casting championship would be OK or maybe even a fish deal where all the fish were plants and a big pond was used. Don't know.
Montana has already more fishing pressure than it can handle. More nation- wide publicity won't help the situation.:professor
 

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MT denies ESPN request to hold FF'ing contest in Missoula

Good to see they are willing to put the health of the fishery above money. Bass fishing tournaments are bad enough, and now they're bringing fly fishing into it. Fly fishing and competition are 2 words that should never be used in the same sentence.
 

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MT denies ESPN request to hold FF'ing contest in Missoula

What about the fly fishing clubs (TU & FFF) that have used "contests" to raise money in the name of preserving rivers? The Jackson Hole "One Fly" competition is one that comes to mind. This is a bigtime contest that costs a couple of thousand dollars per two man team, it's televised, brings in some celebritites and it funds preservation/conservation projects on the Snake River, if I'm not mistaken.

I've read about other ff clubs using this same manner of competition to raise funds! Why was the ESPN version on The Outdoor Games so bad? Or are all of the contests bad and you all just haven't had the chance to complain about the other competitions yet?

Just think it should be consistent!

In my opinion.

Greg

"In our family, there is no clear
line between religion and fly
fishing" Norman Maclean
 

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MT denies ESPN request to hold FF'ing contest in Mi...

Look up what ESPN did with the Great Outdoor Games in lake Placid New york and how they exploited that fishery and the entire area and you will agree that Montana did the right thing.

I wholeheartedly agree that competition has no place in the ethics of wild fisheries and wildlife conservation. Especially the utterly phoney brand of "competition" that ESPN has promoted in fly fishing.

Additionally, I have long been an opponant of the idea of competitions in fishing, especially "kids fishing derbies" as some kind of segway into life as fish conservationists, or as fundraisers for other so called fisheries conservation efforts.

In my opinion these events ultimately promote the notion of fish as a commodity and do little to instill any real respect or appreciation for wild fish or wildlife.

You could just as easily hold a jamboree or field day of fly fishing, demonstrating all the various fly fishing arts and related crafts, maybe have casting competitions etc, and do allot more for real education and still raise funds.
 
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