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Farneth wins fly fishing contest
By Steve Wright
Special to GOG

Lori Ann Murphy
Lori Ann Murphy casts on the water at the GO Games.
LAKE PLACID, N.Y. - Last year Tom Rowland caught the biggest fish and won the gold medal in the One Fish fly fishing competition at ESPN's Great Outdoor Games. This year Rowland caught the biggest fish and finished eighth.

"That's the beauty of this format," said Rowland, a fly fishing guide who lives in Key West, Fla. "It's a thinking man's game. I may have out-fished some people (Friday) but I didn't out-think them."

Rowland, who won with an 18.5-inch brown trout last year, landed a 17.75-inch brown Friday morning. He released it and kept fishing because he didn't think that would be long enough to win the tournament.

Chuck Farneth of Little Rock zeroed in last year's tournament. He lost a 20-inch fish after a three-minute battle and released a 14.5-inch fish so he could try for something bigger. However, when Farneth caught a 16-inch brown trout Friday morning with 50 minutes left in his three-hour flight, he knew he was done for the day. He caught it on a size 14 Elk Hair Caddis.

"I really had no confidence in the spot where I caught that fish," Farneth said. "After I caught it, I wasn't going to take any more chances."

Farneth wasn't thinking about winning, just about not zeroing like he did the year before. But when Friday was done, Farneth's 16-inch fish hadn't been topped.

Lori Ann Murphy
Lori Ann Murphy plies her skills during the Fly Fishing competition.
"I'm kind of in shock," said Farneth, who won $3,700 for first place. "I can't believe a 16-inch fish won a tournament with the caliber of anglers here. But it all comes down to strategy."

Rowland's strategy was to defend his title. When he caught the 17.75-inch Friday, he said, "That's a third place fish and I'm not fishing for third place."

No one thought a 16-inch fish would take first place among 12 world class fly fishers with three hours each on the Ausable River. But there is always room for surprises in this format, where no angler knows what the others have caught and you can only count one fish, at which point you must quit for the day,

Farneth owes a special debt to this son, Chad, a college freshman to be, who served as his rod caddie and noticed the rising fish where Dad caught the winner. As happy as he was, Chad couldn't believe a 16-inch fish took first place.

"Before this tournament I'd say 16 inches would be fifth place at best," Chad Farneth said. "I guess this was just meant to be."

Charles Jardine of Great Britain felt the same way about his second place finish - that it was meant to be. After a poor performance in the casting competition, he received one of the lower seeds and was stuck on a one-third-mile section of the Ausable that had the least big fish holding cover.

Jardine spotted one 15-inch trout in his section, cast to it, and didn't hook it. He left it alone until the last 15 minutes Friday morning, then caught it on a size 8 Realistic Stonefly.

"I honestly can't believe I finished second," Jardine said.

Carter Andrews of Crooked Island, Bahamas, took the bronze medal with a 14.75-inch brown trout.

Tom Rowland
Tom Rowland targets promising waters during the Fly Fishing event.
Brent Taylor of Dillon, Mont., finished in sixth place with a 13.25-inch brown. He decided to let that fish count with 40 minutes left in Friday afternoon's flight. After the fish was official, Taylor continued to fish, knowing anything he caught wouldn't count. He landed three fish on his last four casts, including a 17.5-inch brown.

"I've never had so much fun in my life while being tortured," laughed Taylor as he landed the last fish.

Hold 'em or fold 'em? That's the toughest part of this One Fish competition, the decisions you have to make. Rowland refused to second guess himself for releasing what would have been the biggest fish of this year's tournament. You have to make a decision, then live with it.

"There were several indications early that I should have lowered my expectations," Rowland said. "That's what I learned (Friday)."

That figures to be an important lesson for One Fish competitors in the future.

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