Erickson pulls gold from an unlikely spot in One Fish final
By Steve Wright
Great Outdoor Games staff
LAKE PLACID, NY Pete Erickson admitted he was in a "rotten mood" when he first surveyed his fishing hole on the Ausable River on Thursday.
The more he noticed how little fish-holding habitat there was in his section of the river, the more nervous Erickson became.
"I was thinking, 'Oh, God, I'm going to finish last,'" said the Boise, Idaho, resident, who works as a junior high English teacher and flyfishing guide. "I'm thinking, 'I can't do this. I've got sponsors who are never going to talk to me again.'"
There was one hole of water in Erickson's section that looked good enough to hold a decent trout.
That proved to be the place that sent Erickson's spirits soaring. He caught an 18½-inch brown trout, which proved plenty big enough to earn Erickson the gold medal in the One Fish Fly Fishing event.
Andy Fisher of Cody, Wyo., took the silver with a 16¾-inch brown. Chuck Farneth, last year's gold medalist and a bronze medalist in 2000, added another bronze medal this year with a 16.25-inch brown trout.
For the past two years, the Ausable River has been sectioned the same way. And the consensus among anglers both years was that section No. 2 was the least desirable of the six. It's why Erickson started off in a bad mood Thursday.
"It's not even a decent hole," said Erikson at the time. "It's about half a hole. I decided I was going to work that section for the last 30 minutes. But the fish hit in the first five minutes."
The fish then took Erikson on a wild ride, jumping out of the water three times before he could land it. The fish hit a size No. 12 hare's ear nymph fished on 5X tippet under a small strike indicator.
"It was obvious this fish had been in the river for awhile," Erickson said.
"He was all scarred up. He probably would have measured 19 inches, but his tail fin was all messed up."
Early in the three-hour fishing session he'd noticed Fisher one section above him leave the river after landing a fish. That made Erickson feel even more pressure.
"When he came out early, I just felt like I was done," Erickson said.
"That's as nervous as I've ever been on the water. I wasn't nervous at all when our team won the (ESPN) Fly Fishing Challenge in Livingston, Mont. But this turned out to be a great experience."
You would think after winning a gold medal last year and a bronze in 2000, Farneth would be beyond nervous. But with only 10 minutes left before contest's end, Farneth had caught four fish, but none big enough to measure.
That's when a big trout swirled at the strike indicator Farneth was using to fish a nymph pattern. Farneth immediately switched to a size No. 14 elkhair caddis.
"There were six minutes left when that fish came out of nowhere and hit the caddis," Farneth said. "I had slack in my line. He totally caught me off guard."
But Farneth was able to land the fish with only minutes to spare.
"I'm not coming back if he gets to come back," said Farneth's son, Chad, who served as his rod caddie the past two years. "This is just too hard on me."
Mike Atwell might have had the most difficult transition of any angler in the field. This past Monday night he discovered he had been added to the flyfishing field as a late replacement. By Tuesday evening he was in Lake Placid.
"Two days ago I was in Bozeman, Mont., riding a mountain bike," Atwell said.
Thursday with 20 minutes left in his session on the Ausable, Atwell landed a 14½-inch brown. He thought hard about continuing to fish, as Atwell had seen a couple of large trout rising in an eddy area of his river section.
But Atwell didn't see them rise again in the final minutes and decided to stick with his catch, which was good enough for fourth place.
Dustin Jacobson of Cheyenne, Wyo., was fifth with a 14-inch fish. Lori Ann Murphy of Jackson, Wyo., placed sixth with a 13½-inch catch.Send this story to a friend | Most sent stories