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Inaugural state trout festival set

John McCoy
West Virginia's trout anglers will gather at Snowshoe in early June for the first-ever celebration of the state's trout-fishing heritage. The gathering, dubbed the Mountain State Trout Festival, will focus on the fun and camaraderie of the pastime.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It's no coincidence that the inaugural Mountain State Trout Festival will occur at the pinnacle of West Virginia's trout-fishing season.

The two-day event, scheduled for June 1-2 at Snowshoe Mountain Resort, will come just one day after the state's final springtime trout stockings, and during the week when trout tend to feed most eagerly.

Phil Smith, the event's coordinator, called the festival "a celebration of our sportsman's heritage and the trout waters of the state."

More than 1,200 miles of trout streams course through West Virginia's tree-lined valleys, from tiny unnamed brook-trout rivulets to roaring whitewater rivers. Smith said it's about time someone threw a party for them, and for the wholesome recreation they represent.

"This will be an opportunity for anglers to talk trout, maybe talk a little smack, and get out and fish a creek together," he said.

The West Virginia Council of Trout Unlimited is sponsoring the event, but Smith said it "isn't a TU party."

"At TU, sometimes we get a little too focused on our mission of preserving, protecting and enhancing [trout fishing], and we forget to have fun," he added. "This festival is all about the fun."

The idea for the event was born two years ago as a group of trout-fishing friends sat around a campfire at the Monongahela National Forest's Day Run Campground.

"A bunch of guys who knew each other through the wvangler.com website had a campout, and in the midst of all the talk around the campfire someone said it would be a good idea to hold a rendezvous where sportsmen could get together and celebrate our trout-fishing heritage," Smith said.

The festival's first-day activities will take place at Snowshoe between 9 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. All activities are open to the public, and many of them are free.

"We'll have several presentations by trout-fishing experts during the day," Smith said. "Our keynote speaker will be Ed Engle, an author from Colorado, who will give two talks. One is on the trout-fishing experience as a whole, which will include a lot of neat stories. The other one is on tactics to catch wary trout."

Two well-known West Virginia anglers will handle the other presentations. Jack Bell, an expert fly caster, will demonstrate fly-rod techniques and Joe Messinger, a famous fly tier, will demonstrate tying techniques.

"Weather permitting, we'll also have contests at various times of the day," Smith said.

"Some of the contests include fly casting, spin casting, and speed fly tying. The contests will have $5 entry fees, and the winners will get prizes."

Another contest -- a rather unusual one, at that -- will involve the resort's zip line thrill ride.

"The Snowshoe Mountain zip line runs through Snowshoe Village. From 4 to 6 p.m., we'll hold a 'trout bombing' competition on it. People will be able to ride the zip line and try to drop a big stuffed salmon into a bucket. There might be a charge for that, but right now we're not sure," Smith said.

People who attend the festival's 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Trout Fishing Expo won't need to worry about the weather. Smith said that portion of the day's proceedings will be held indoors.

"That part will be like a regular hunting or fishing show," he explained. "It will feature vendors and groups who will have their wares on display. There will be a $10 fee to attend the expo."

From 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., festival attendees in the village will be able to listen to free live music. At 8:30, the Fly Fishing Film Tour will begin.

"That will be held in the village, too," Smith said. "It features films about fly fishing from prominent filmmakers all across the country.

"This year, we'll get to see the western version of the tour, primarily because it has more trout-related stuff than the eastern version. During the hours of the film tour, we'll also be selling beer and raffling off some fishing gear."

The festival's second day will be held at the nearby Elk Springs Resort near Monterville.

"We're going to have a one-fly trout-fishing tournament on the Elk River," Smith said. "For those not familiar with the concept, it's a fishing version of a golf scramble.

"The tournament will be open to two-man teams. The two men will pick out a fly each, and they'll work together to see which team catches the most and biggest fish. The entry fee for the tournament is $100 a team."

Smith said Trout Unlimited would apply 100 percent of the profits from the festival to trout conservation programs in West Virginia.

"TU doesn't operate like some other conservation organizations," he said. "Any money raised by [the organization's] grassroots members stay inside the state to be used for grassroots projects."

Smith said Snowshoe Resort is offering discounted room rates for the weekend, and will have restaurants open during the event.

Additional information is available on the West Virginia TU website, http://www.wvtu.org.

Reach John McCoy at johnmccoy@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1231.

 


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