published Thursday, February 27th, 2014

Fly-fishing squad seeks new members

Chickamauga, Ga., resident Mason Sims fishes in the youth fly-fishing world championships
last July in Ireland. Sims is on the USA team that hopes to start building for the future with a
clinic in western North Carolina in April.
Chickamauga, Ga., resident Mason Sims fishes in the youth fly-fishing world championships last July in Ireland. Sims is on the USA team that hopes to start building for the future with a clinic in western North Carolina in April.
Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Uncle Sam wants you — if you're a teenager with an interest in fly-fishing.

The United States youth national team has won the last three world championships -- in Italy, France and Ireland -- and should be in pretty good shape for the next two. Those are set for Poland this July and Vail, Colo., in 2015.

"We've got a little dynasty going. No one's done three in a row before. And our adult team never has won worlds," said Paul Bourcq, coach of the U.S. youth team and a member of that 15-man adult team.

But the run could be over after 2015 if more quality American teen anglers don't come along to join Gordon Lee High School sophomore Mason Sims. That year Bourcq will lose six members of the dynastic group as they turn 18.

That means there's some urgency for the youth clinic being hosted by the North Carolina fly-fishing team April 4-6 at the Nantahala Outdoor Center. It's for boys and girls ages 13-18, and so far "17 or 18" have signed up, Bourcq said Wednesday by phone.

"We could handle 30 easily; I'd like to see another 10 or 12," he said.

The clinic's purpose is not to identify 2014 USA representatives but to start developing some for the world competition in Spain in 2016 and beyond.

As a member of the national youth team, the 16-year-old Sims will be helping teach the clinic. He has participated in one before.

He has, he said, done some recruiting for the clinic "through some social networks" — primarily of young people he's met while fishing or learned of through competition.

"What I would say," he noted, "is definitely to go to the clinic if you're interested in competing. But even if you're not, you will get a wealth of information that will help you catch more fish when you go fly-fishing."

Last year he qualified to be part of the 12-member national team, but he was too new to the squad to be among the six chosen to compete in Ireland. He was there, though, and filled an open spot for Scotland.

Had his scores been official, he would have tied for second individually. As it was, he was part of the official world champions and cemented his spot for this year as one of the U.S. competitors in Poland.

"When Mason came to us two years ago he was 14 and very raw, but we saw that he had talent," Bourcq said, "and he worked hard and learned fast. Now he's an extremely, extremely good angler -- one of the best in the world."

Maybe another of the world's potential best is in the Chattanooga area like Sims.

Anyone interested in the three-day clinic should contact Bourcq at pbourcq@gmail.com. The cost is $150, and that covers instruction, lodging and meals.

Contact Ron Bush at rbush@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6291.

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