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Defending champ Farneth set to fly again
By Chris Hunt
GO Games Staff — May 21, 2002

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. -- Last year's gold medal winner of the ESPN Great Outdoor Games fly fishing competition is nursing a tender hamstring, but don't count him out quite yet.

"It's not going to affect me," Chuck Farneth said. "I was just out casting, and it's going to be OK."

Farneth, who won last year's one-fish fly fishing competition after netting a 16-inch brown trout from New York's fabled AuSable River, hurt his hamstring while playing in a church softball game this spring. But the sore muscle isn't about to keep the champion angler from returning to Lake Placid, N.Y., for the Games July 11-14. The events, including the fly fishing competition, are scheduled for broadcast on ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC July 20-23. Those able to attend in person can take in the Games for free.

"Just to compete with so many great fly fisherman is incentive enough," Farneth said of his plans to defend his title. "That's a privilege in itself."

And, Farneth said, the event's unique format makes the Great Outdoor Games' fly fishing competition special.

"The fact that you only get to record one fish is pretty unique," the part-time fly-fishing guide based in Little Rock, Ark., said. "You have three hours to catch what you feel will be your largest fish. Then you just see what happens."

Farneth's 16-inch keeper that hooked the gold medal in the 2001 Great Outdoor Games wasn't the largest fish caught on the AuSable during the competition. In fact, several larger fish were brought to hand, but anglers hoping for a bigger catch opted to return the trout to the water without officially recording them. Tom Rowland, winner of the inaugural Great Outdoor Games one-fish competition in 2000, could have repeated as the winner last year, but he chose to release a 17.75-inch brown without recording it, gambling on the off chance that he might latch onto a larger fish. Instead, the Key West, Fla., angler didn't catch another fish and "zeroed" out without recording a single trout.

"A lot of them go in with a game plan, and it's good to have that, as long as you understand the circumstances," Farneth said. There are other factors, the defending champion said. Anglers need to take into account the most minute details -- weather, insect activity, water conditions and the time of day.

"You see how the fish are behaving when you're fishing," Farneth said. "If they're real active, you might turn a big fish loose and bank on catching a bigger one. If they're pretty slow, you take what you can get. When I won last year, the fishing was slow."

Farneth landed his 16-inch brown trout with about an hour left in his 3-hour fishing flight. Coaxed to the surface by an elk-hair caddis imitation, the brown turned out to be just what the angler needed to capture Great Outdoor Games gold. As he demonstrated last year, it takes just the right mix of strategy and finesse to end up standing atop the podium at the end of the competition.

Since Farneth finished atop the 12-angler field, he received an automatic invitation for the 2002 Games, along with Charles Jardine of Shrewsbury, U.K., and Carter Andrews of Crooked Island, Bahamas, who finished with silver and bronze, respectively.

Four additional anglers joined the field after a qualifying event conducted on the North Fork of the Powder River in Wyoming earlier in May. They are Michael Hatfield, Richmond, Va.; Dustin Jenkins and Nathan Rayl, both of Cheyenne, Wyo.; and Andy Fisher of Cody, Wyo., who won the qualifier.

The 12-angler field for the 2002 Games isn't quite set yet -- the final five anglers will be determined on May 25 after a weeklong competition on the world-renowned Depuy's Spring Creek near Bozeman, Mont.

According to Justin Tackett of Yellow Dog Trading Co., organizer for the Games fly-fishing competition, this final qualifying event will be unique in itself.

"The five anglers who win this event will have truly earned the right to compete in the Great Outdoor Games," said Tackett, a fly-fishing and hunting outfitter from Little Rock. Teams of anglers will be tested for casting distance and accuracy, and then assigned a "beat" stretch of the stream based on their casting performance. "We're going to throw in a few surprises, too," Tackett said. "The winners will be the most complete anglers in the competition, that's for sure."

Since its inception in 2001, ESPN Outdoors -- a multi-departmental initiative to coordinate company-wide, multi-media efforts -- has strived to inform and entertain anglers, hunters, campers and people of all ages who enjoy the outdoors. ESPN Outdoors is committed to increasing awareness of outdoor activities, a direction best exemplified by daily television programming totaling more than 1,200 hours annually on ESPN and ESPN2. Each year, ESPN Outdoors stages more than 30 marquee events including the CITGO BASS Masters Classic and the Great Outdoor Games.

ESPN Outdoors encompasses B.A.S.S., the world's largest fishing organization that sanctions more than 20,000 events through the B.A.S.S. Federation. ESPN Outdoors also features,, a weekly fishing show on ESPN Radio as well as a growing array of promotions and activities that deliver a clear message of conservation and ethical sportsmanship.

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