Sunriver fly-fishing fair builds on past

The inaugural Fly Fishing Festival at Sunriver is a new event inspired by an old event.
When fishing guide John Olschewsky found out that the Metolius River Fly Fishing and Bamboo Rod Fair was not returning to Camp Sherman after a 10-year run, he wanted to continue the tradition started by Camp Sherman store owner Roger White.

Olschewsky knew many of the bamboo rod-makers and enthusiasts who had taken part in the rod fair over the years.

The Fly Fishing Festival at Sunriver

What: Vendors, equipment, guides, outfitters, fly tiers, rod-casting area, boats, raffles, and a kids' area. Admission is free.

When: Saturday, Sept. 29, 10 a.m.- 6 p.m.

Where: Village Mall in Sunriver.

Contact: The Hook Fly Shop at 541-593-2358; email srflyfest@gmail.com.

“The idea was to save (the rod fair), but also make it bigger and better,” Olschewsky said. “So we've included a lot more modern tackle: graphite rod-makers, modern stuff. And we've also broadened the scope. We've got more artists, wood carving, and wooden drift boats. We've tried to keep what Roger had going, but make it bigger and broader with more appeal.”

The result is the Fly Fishing Festival at Sunriver, set for Saturday, Sept. 29, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Village Mall courtyard and pavilion.

The festival will include more than 25 vendors, as well as equipment, guides, outfitters, fly tiers, rod-casting demonstrations, boats, raffles, and a kids' area. Admission is free.

The fly-tying theater at the festival will showcase more than 20 volunteer fly tiers from across the Northwest, according to Olschewsky. A master certified casting instructor will conduct demonstrations on a casting pond inside the pavilion, and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife will provide fishing-related games for kids.

“We want families and kids,” Olschewsky said. “Kids are the next generation of conservationists. If we don't get them out fishing, I hate to think what things will look like in 40 years. It's real important to get the kids involved.”

Olschewsky, who guides for the Hook Fly Shop in Sunriver, enlisted the help of the shop's owner, Fred Foisset, in securing sponsors and organizing the festival.

“All the local businesses have been really behind it,” Olschewsky said. “I'm incredibly gratified by the way people have just reached out to us. We're on the right track for sure.”

Any proceeds from the event will go to the Deschutes River Conservancy and Three Rivers School in Sunriver, according to Olschewsky.

The bamboo rods will still be a significant part of the festival. Fishing history books note that bamboo fly rods were first used in the late 1800s, then were nearly phased out when fiberglass rods came along in the 1950s. Nowadays, graphite is the material used to build most fly rods.

The allure of bamboo rods is similar to that of black-powder rifles or recurve hunting bows — a nod to the past and a way of keeping traditions. The Metolius Rod Fair developed quite a following among hard-core bamboo rod collectors and anglers who were simply curious about the rods.

“Oregon has the finest bamboo rod-makers in the world,” Olschewsky said. “There's a real, real passion for that in Oregon, and there's some great reel-makers. There's a lot of that going on in dusty little shops in Oregon.”

The Fly Fishing Festival at Sunriver will also feature modern rods constructed out of graphite, including rods from Hardy Bros., Scientific Anglers and Temple Fork Outfitters.

While late September might seem like odd timing for a fly-fishing festival, myriad fly-fishing opportunities are available in the fall in Central Oregon. Most rivers and lakes in the area remain open to angling through the end of October, and the weather remains perfect for a day on the water.

“There's a lot of great fishing available still,” Olschewsky said. “Next year we might move (the festival) closer to Labor Day and do a two-day show. My hope is we get enough people to come and visit that we can do it again. Ultimately, I'd like to look back five years from now and really look at something spectacular.”

Mark Morical is outdoors writer for The Bulletin. Reach him at mmorical@bendbulletin.com or
541-383-0318


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