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One Fish flyfishing competition is a high-stakes game
By Steve Wright
Special to GOG

Saltwater angler Tom Rowland made a splash at last year's Great Outdoor Games
LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — There's a distinct chance that an angler will release the winning trout in Friday's One Fish flyfishing competition at ESPN's Great Outdoor Games. The 12 anglers competing on the Ausable River literally have to know when to hold 'em and know when to fold 'em in this unique format.

"That's the beauty of this competition," said Tom Rowland of Key West, Fla., who won the gold medal in last year's event. "It's a strategy and you have to be thinking."

Rowland actually needed a tiebreaker (girth of the fish) to win last year, as both he and Doug Swisher landed 18.5-inch brown trout. Rowland's fish was fatter by half an inch.

Each angler is allowed to record one and only one fish in this event. If you catch a 19-inch trout on your first cast of the day, and you think that's big enough to win, you have to make the choice right then. Then you're done for the day. If you think you can catch something bigger, you let the 19-incher go and you're back at zero again.

There are two flights of six anglers each. The first flight competes from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. Friday. The second flight goes from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Special measures are taken to insure there is no communication between anglers. In other words, nobody knows what anybody's hole card is until the end of the day.

That's the beauty of this competition. It's a strategy and you have to be thinking."
2000 gold medalist Tom Rowland

A two-mile section of the Ausable is divided into six sections. Anglers choose their sections based on the seeding established in Thursday's flycasting accuracy and distance events.

Top-seeded Carter Andrews, who now calls the Bahamas home, chose the morning flight and section six of the Ausable on Friday. It had some deep water, that Andrews thought would hold some big trout that might hit a big fly stripped quickly. Obviously, the lower your seed, the less chance you have to fish to your strengths.

It's easy to out-think yourself in this format. No one wants to quit fishing, and everyone thinks there's a bigger fish just a cast or two away. That's simply the nature of fishing.

"Nobody knew what to expect last year," Rowland said. "This year everybody knows there were two 18.5-inch fish caught a year ago. I think that might result in a lot of zeroes."

But nobody will know that until all the cards are on the table at the end of the day.

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