Fly-fishing is a small part of the overall fishing world. Fly-fishing in salt water is even smaller, a niche within a niche.
To remedy that, Art Webb and John Fall created Legends of the Fly. It started in 2014 with a one-day indoor event designed to increase awareness of saltwater fly-fishing in southeastern Virginia. The initial event featured fly-fishing legend and world record holder Stu Apt, numerous fly-fishing films, and prizes. The event attracted 175 attendees and raised $7,500 for charities.
A fly-fishing only tournament was added in 2016. 34 individuals participated. The tournament was a success, and continued each fall until the pandemic shut it down in 2020. Virginia’s only saltwater fly-fishing tournament is back for 2021.
The tournament will be held on Saturday, October 9. It is designed for two-person teams, but individuals can also participate. Anglers can fish any salt water they choose. Most participants fish the Lynnhaven River in Virginia Beach, but others fish in Norfolk, Hampton, and even the Eastern Shore. To win, you need to catch a redfish, speckled trout, and striper on fly between first light and check-in at 4:30 p.m. that day. The fishing is strictly catch-and-release, and anglers use photos to record their catches. Whoever gets the longest total length of the combined three fish is the winner. There are also prizes for the largest individual redfish, trout, and striper.
But it’s not about the prizes. Proceeds from the tournament go to Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing (PHWFF) and SEALKIDS. SEALKIDS provides academic support to children of Navy Seals, while PHWFF uses fly-fishing and related events to rehabilitate disabled active duty personnel and veterans.
During the tournament, volunteers take disabled vets out to compete in the tournament at no cost. In 2018, two PHWFF vets won the tournament after fishing in Norfolk’s Lafayette River. Watching the smiles on the vets’ faces as they land a fish on a fly is reward enough for most participants. Both organizations, as well as Legends of the Fly, are 501c charitable organizations.
There is a captains meeting the night before, and an awards dinner in Virginia Beach after the fishing. The meetings will also be streamed online. There will be additional prizes given at the dinner, such as fishing tackle, trips, and other gear. The tournament, and the fish stories it generates, are a load of fun for this author, a past guide for PHWFF veterans. And, it is rewarding for fly anglers to give back to our local military communities. There is a discount for early registration, and you can buy a ticket even if you don’t intend to fish. You can find out more at legendsofthefly.com.