Outdoors Blog

Explorer of the Month: Boisean captains U.S. fly-fishing team to medal

The U.S. fly fishing team has finished on the podium at the past two world championships with Boise’s Bret Bishop (fourth from left) as captain.
The U.S. fly fishing team has finished on the podium at the past two world championships with Boise’s Bret Bishop (fourth from left) as captain. Courtesy of Bret Bishop

Capital High teacher and fly-fishing guide Bret Bishop, 48, captained the U.S. team at the World Fly Fishing Championships earlier this month in Vail, Colo.

It was Bishop’s second year as captain (a non-competitive role) — he competed for the team in 2006 and 2008 — and the Americans’ second time finishing on the podium in the event traditionally dominated by Europeans. The five-man team took bronze this year and silver last year.

We spoke to Bishop about the experience.

Q: What is your role as captain?

A: The captain’s role is a lot of making sure these guys are 100 percent ready to compete. In a lot of ways, I’m a facilitator. I’m helping organize practices, making sure that they’re communicating. I make sure no one feels they don’t have the right information, don’t have the right flies, don’t have the right techniques. I’m also the only one who can talk to the competitors during the competition. Sometimes you’re helping as a collaborator, someone they can bounce ideas off.

Q: Is there anything different about what a competitive fly angler does compared to the average angler?

A: These guys have to be very diverse in their skills. They have to be able to fish rivers and lakes and all types of conditions. They can’t be specialists in any way. Also, there are certain rules in competitive fly fishing ... and certain rigging restrictions. We can’t add lead, so all their ties have to have weight built into them. All these guys are expert tiers.

Q: What was it like watching versus fishing?

A: It’s much more like the stress of a parent than anything else. You’re watching these guys you helped prepare. You hope when they’re out there on the water they’re as ready as they possibly can be. ... It’s a different kind of stress because I’m worried about all five of them rather than just my particular piece of water and what I can do with that water.

Q: How much did you guys practice?

A: We got together about 365 days before in Vail. We knew our only chance to fish (that water) in conditions like the championship would be the year before. Sixty days before the championship, they closed it to all competitors. We went out again at the end of August and met as a team (on practice areas near Vail). And then we went out about five days before the competition started. We developed patterns and techniques well in advance and had a lot of time to tie flies.

Q: How close is the U.S. to contending for gold?

A: The last two years, going into the final sessions, we had the gold medal in our sights. We really felt like we had a chance. Although in retrospect we’re always pleased to be on the podium ... as this team keeps growing and improving and learning, I think that we have a really good chance every time we go to the world championships to be a threat.