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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Women of SOR

        This year, the 9th annual Spey-O-Rama will take place on April 20-22. Spey-O-Rama, known as SOR, is a weekend event that began in 2004 where some of the world’s top competitive casters converge at the Golden Gate Casting Ponds in San Francisco, California. These casters challenge their abilities competing against one another in what is now widely recognized as the most demanding two handed casting competition. But really, SOR flows much deeper into the lives of the competing casters; developing not only masters of two handed casting, but forging lifelong bonds with fellow competitors as they collectively challenge the distances possible with a two handed rod. This sincere dedication to improving two handed casting, striving for longer more perfected casts, and helping one another achieve success has emerged as more than just a hobby; it’s a lifestyle.

        For the last several winters, when I rang my friend Whitney Gould just to see what she was doing, I’d likely get the response, “Oh I’m at the casting ponds"….. or, "We are heading out to do some casting"… or, “We just got back from the ponds”. While I might be at the same time heading out to go fishing or just getting home myself, I admit, it’s something I’ve had a hard time understanding, yet deeply respect. The commitment, dedication, and resolve to a sport that in my mind was not necessarily applicable to steelhead fishing left me feeling confused but wondering in complete admiration.

        You see, the rods required for SOR must not be longer than 15’1” while the line called for is a floating synthetic line, either full or shooting head and a 9 foot minimum leader (max is 15’). I’ve talked to a few people who have actually used their competition set up for summer steelhead fishing, but in general these set ups are tools used for casting great lengths. Whereas I’d say most people don’t consistently make 150 foot casts when they are out steelhead fishing, and you’re usually standing in a moving river, not a three foot deep pond as in SOR. According to the SOR website, casters can use whatever cast they choose in four different situations. Line from the right, over the right shoulder then over the left and Line from the left, over the right shoulder then over the left. You set your line up behind a marker then use a change of direction cast such as a single spey to drop the anchor in front of you, then cast straight out landing on the side of a distance marker. You are allowed three casts for each of the four required casts and the score is the total of best distances for each of the required four casts. Casters are given a two minute warm-up and then six minutes to complete the 12 required casts. Yeah, I know, I’m confused too. For the complete list of rules check out the SOR website. This video may clear things up a bit of Rauri Costello casting in the 2011 SOR: HERE.

        Flash forward to last week when I was making fishing plans with Mia Sheppard. Waiting to see what our rivers would do, I was calling just to touch base. “Oh hold on a sec” she said, “I can’t hear you over this wind, Marcy (Stone) and I are out casting.” I suddenly felt a familiar twinge of wonder for this dedication and commitment to the upcoming competition.

        In posts from 2010 and 2009, I’ve interviewed Whitney Gould leading up to the main SOR event. This year, with the solid strengthening, commitment, and impressive competition in the women’s division, I’d like to share with you thoughts from three returning veterans of SOR and two newcomers. I think you’ll see, as I have, that the dedicated lifestyle of these women is not only admirable, but extremely intriguing. And you know what I learned? These women are better fisherman because of it.

Spey-O-Rama is open to the public and admittance is free. Local, domestic and International casting masters will be offering free demonstrations and clinics each day. For more information about Spey-O-Rama please go to the Spey O Rama website.

The 2012 SOR competitors for the women’s division are as follows:

DonnaMedals As a long time member of the Golden Gate Angling and Casting Club (GGACC), Donna O’Sullivan was the first woman competitor at the first SOR. She took first place in 2004 and again in 2005. She has placed in the top three every year with the exception of 2009. When she isn’t working as an IT Project Manager in Dale City, CA, you’ll find Donna traveling the world in search of another exciting fishing opportunity…or casting. In 2010, Donna took first place in the 16 ft Spey of the World Championship of Fly Casting, as well as top three in several other competitions there. She is a member of the LTS Team and will be casting an LTS Across 15 ft 10/11 wt paired with a Loop Opti Megaloop and a Nextcast World Champ line.

close up whit
Whitney Gould has participated each year in SOR since 2007. She won first place in 2009 and again in 2011. During the summer, Whitney guides on the Kanektok River for Alaska West. The fall you’ll find her guiding on the Grande Ronde, and in the winter anywhere in the Pacific Northwest fishing or casting with her yellow lab, Willa. She is also pro-staff at CF Burkheimer Fly Rods. Whitney will be casting a CF Burkheimer competition rod, with a Loop Opti Megaloop reel, and a Nextcast World Champ line.

Mia Sheppard and Tegan close up
Mia Sheppard resides in Welches, Oregon with her husband, Marty, beautiful daughter, Tegan. and two crazy bird dogs. Mia and her husband own Little Creek Outfitters, a successful fly fishing guide service in Oregon. Between working as the Oregon Field Representative for Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Mia also teaches spey casting, guides steelhead fishing, and hunts birds. This year will be Mia’s fourth SOR. In 2010 she placed first. Mia will again use her 15 foot 10 weight Bruce and Walker rod and a Loop Opti Big spooled with a Carron line.
close up Marcy photo courtesy of Marcy Stone
Marcy Stone has been employed at The Fly Fishing Shop in Welches, Oregon since 2006, establishing herself as a guide and Spey casting instructor. Throughout the year, Marcy can be found chasing steelhead throughout the Pacific Northwest, although she has been spotted in Mexico casting for bonefish, Florida for Redfish, and as of recently, Russia for Atlantic Salmon. This will be Marcy’s first year at SOR and she will be casting a 15’ Carron competition rod, with a Loop Multi reel paired with a Carron fly line.

Anita close up

Anita Strand is a 33 year old Norwegian gal who lives with her boyfriend and three dogs. When she isn’t managing a store, she loves to be outside; fishing, photographing, hiking, and fly casting. Anita has participated in many competitions in Norway and Sweden. In 2011, she became a Norwegian champion in 3 of 6 events and a Nordic champion in 4 of 7. This will be her first SOR event. As a member of the Zpey team, Anita will be casting a 15` Bruce and Walker Powerlite rod with a Zpey reel and a LTS Loop Across fly line.

First off, Ladies thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. I am genuinely curious to discover what attracted you to compete in Spey-O-Rama initially? Was it someone, something, a moment, or just plain competitiveness?

Donna O’Sullivan:
Mariusz came up with the concept for Spey-O-Rama based on Jimmy Green's vision of a competition consisting of the four fishing casts: left and right single spey, left and right snake roll. We thought this would be a great event, so being friends with Mariusz, I offered to help out and found myself on the first ever SOR committee. I felt I needed to represent the women in the spey casting competition…. it was all men! And also, it was such an honor for me to cast with some of the world’s best male casters….what an awesome experience to be part of the competition!

Whitney Gould:
I joined the Golden Gate Casting Club when I was practicing with my single hand rod. It was 2006. I saw some guys practicing for the upcoming Spey-o-Rama; they put a spey rod in my hands.  Growing up fishing on the east coast I had not been exposed to two-handed rods. It was the first time I had seen a spey rod, much less casted one. Intrigued, I went to the 2006 SOR. I was shocked to see only one female competing, Donna O'Sullivan.
     And the strangest thing is the guys actually forgot about her casting! She was casting after the men’s competition and there were two men tied for first place. The scene was thick with rivalry and they kind of well, forgot about Donna casting. But with she is fierce, determined, and tough-she went out there and casted anyway. She was the only woman I knew that had competed there, and she inspired me to join.

Mia Sheppard:
Kate, thanks for taking the time to interview the ladies this year. Several things attracted me to SOR. First, I have to thank Whitney Gould and Brian Styskal for encouraging me to go the first year. I felt apprehensive because this had nothing to do with fishing, so I thought, but what a great opportunity to get better at casting and have some fun.
     The second bug boils down to my love of competition. They are straight up healthy; it pushes the sport, the product, and the individuals competing to improve. Back in the day, I competed in snowboarding border-crosses, (nothing like today’s courses). I not only enjoyed the camaraderie with other competitors, but also the adrenalin of just standing in the starting gate, and how it pushed me to get better at something that took skill. One of my best friends I met in a border-cross competition. It was the last corner before the finish line, I took the inside corner, then slid right into her. Needless to say, we both crossed the finish line, her ending up with 36 stitches in her knee. The following years, we rode together all the time, shared beers, and journeyed on road trips. We’re still friends to this day.

Anita Strand:
In 2010, my boyfriend, Knut Ekelund, participated in Spey-O-Rama (SOR). He gave me the first inspiration, and then the competitiveness came along as I participated in different competitions here in Norway and Scandinavia. I’ve heard so much great things about SOR- I am really looking forward to participating. 

Marcy Stone:
Kate, I am not by nature a competitive person. The only competitions that I can recall me ever doing as an individual were the National Spelling Bees that we would have in 5th and 6th grade. They made me nervous! N-E-R-V-O-U-S! Honestly, my initial intention was not to compete in Spey-O-Rama. My draw was to learn a new skill-- how to Spey Cast for competition—farther distance, bigger rods, longer lines, and bigger reels—something that I had never used during my years of steelheading.
     My fishing buddy, Travis Johnson had been doing it for years and one day while he was out casting at the ponds, I decided to learn. I simply love to learn new skills! My only motivation for most anything I have ever done is solely just to see if I can do it. That’s why I learned how to play golf, snowboard, ice skate, fly fish, roller skate, cross-country ski, rock climb etc… just for the sake of seeing what my body can do. I spent my childhood doing nothing but learning things from a book and never really had the opportunity to do sports. I am trying to make up for lost time, I suppose!

Photos courtesy of Mia Sheppard
Mia casting in a pool of green, photo courtesy of Mia Sheppard.

From my understanding, practicing for the competition can occupy much of your time. Do you have a rigid schedule for practicing each week? How much time do you put in to your casting on a weekly basis?

I spend my weekends casting at the Golden Gate Casting Ponds when I am not fishing. I would say I put in about 6 – 8 hours per week practicing; taking breaks between 15-20 minute sessions.

I really don’t have a set schedule, I practice when I can. The other day I was in CVS paying for my items. I realized the guy behind the register was staring at me funny. It must have been a few seconds, and then I realized I was pantomining the forward cast. I looked back at the cashier wearing a shocked and slightly amused expression. Finally he smirked and asked “what are you doing?” I didn’t know what to say, so I stuttered “Uh, you know, nothing. …” I quickly grabbed my stuff, walked out, and began laughing at myself....I guess it just becomes a part of you and your thoughts.
(I recently cornered Whit on hours she puts in a week, this particular week it was around 20-25 hours, but the week before closer to 15)

I don’t have a rigid schedule! Between being a mom, wife, business partner, a full time job with a great conservation group, (TRCP: LINK) and then finding time to fish, bird hunt and/or ski, I practice when the opportunity arrives. And I seek out those times because it takes my mind off things, I find a rhythm in casting. With this comes satisfaction and a type of tranquility. Rather than a rigid schedule I approach it like a pleasurable escape from daily stresses!
(I also cornered Mia on her hours!  She says while she didn't get to practice much in the last week because she was traveling with her job, her goal is to practice around eight hours a week from now until SOR.)

Unfortunately it is winter in Norway most of the year, making it difficult to find open water and when you do, the water is very cold. This winter has been mild so we have been lucky as only a few weekends were cold weather and icy. During winter, my weekly schedule is two afternoons of physical workout, one afternoon indoor single hand fly casting practice, and spey practice during the weekends. In the summertime the days are long, and the nights are light, so we can practice whenever we like. The practice also goes on in my mind. When I go to sleep, the last thing I think about is the technical perfect spey cast. Some people may think I am crazy, but it is a good mental practice to go over the technique several times in your mind.

My schedule for practicing has been to find out how much daylight I have left in my day to practice! As I only began this seriously in the late summer and fall months last year, I have been dealing with nasty weather and shorter days. As a fisherman, wind, rain and snow never make me flinch, but it’s not easy to cast in the dark. There are no lights at the pond. As I have to be at the fly shop early in the morning, my only chances to practice have been after work, at 4pm. I used to have only one hour’s time, until recently, I am now blessed with two!
     I keep two pairs of waders, a spare pair of socks, a pair of fleece pants, and two rods and a reel in my car at all times so I am ready to go immediately after work. On my days off, I usually film myself casting so I can observe my errors and see my progress. It’s a hard go when there’s no one to yell at you or coach you along when you make a mistake.
    I would say that I put in roughly 16 hours a week casting, with one day off completely when I don’t do any physical casting. Rather, I go over it in my head and watch whatever casting footage I can find on You Tube. It helps to watch others cast, too.
     Once in a while I get lucky and am able to get some help from someone--recently, it’s been Mia, which is awesome because 1) she won SOR in 2010, 2) she is left handed (I am not), and 3) she’s better at this than I am!

SFCARRON by Mia Sheppard
It's not always paradise, Marcy Stone looks on through the rain as a member of the Carron team casts, Mia Sheppard photo

How does your family, significant other, or friends react to this type of time commitment?

My parents, siblings and friends are really happy that I enjoy the sport of fly casting and fishing so much.

 Anyone who knows me already thinks I’m a little crazy, my commitment to this is just another notch in the books!

My family is 100% supportive. The year I took first place, 2010, Marty was my coach. I practiced solely with him on a water hazard at our local golf course. Although it was extremely valuable to receive so much quality advice the previous year, in 2010, I found it was equally valuable to be less distracted with the plethora of different styles and pointers. Marty really helped me learn to cast short properly and even though we would have crazy arguments (ever heard that saying, don’t teach your wife to fish? Well, it applies to coaching as well!!!! Ha Ha!) because of this short casting emphasis, in the end, it helped my distance significantly! Between the yelling and encouragement, the most important advice he gave me was, remember to have fun. And our daughter, Tegan, has also watched me so much that she will pick up a single hand rod and you can catch her making double speys and such! But these days I frequently cast alone. Tegan is busy learning at school, Marty guiding on the river, and on my lunch break, I will seize the opportunity to hit the local Beaver pond for casting practice.

My boyfriend shares the same passion, so I am really lucky in that way. My father also shares it too, but he prefers fishing during the summer, so he does not spend as much time practicing as we do. I hope that my mother isn’t sad that I do not share her interests, and I am not sure she understands our commitment. I know she is proud when I do well in competitions. My friends have for fun started to book time with me a rather long way in advance, because they know that I am occupied with competitions or practice most weekends along the year! Ha Ha!

Well…I haven’t told my family yet and most of my friends don’t fish so it’s basically only been my co-workers who know what I am doing. I will probably tell my family what I am doing after I call them from my hotel room in San Francisco!

Anita casting, courtesy of Anita Strand
Anita Strand casting with power.  Photo courtesy of Anita Strand

I’m also under the impression that many of you have been encouraged, helped, even mentored by others. Who are these key players in your casting progression and how have they helped you better your skills?

I was really lucky to be taught by Mariusz Wroblewski from the Golden Gate Angling & Casting Club when I first started to learn spey casting. He is one of the best spey casters from GGACC and tied 1st place with Gordon Armstrong in Spey-O-Rama 2006. Mariusz could cast the underhand and conventional style of spey casting, and he gave me a really good foundation on the Scandinavian underhand style.
     I met the twin brothers, Trond and Knut Syrstad at Spey-O-Rama 2004 and was completely impressed with their underhand casting. I went to Norway in July 2004 and took an underhand casting clinic with Trond Syrstad. After the clinic, Trond told me that he thought I was the best woman caster in the world…what an incredible compliment for a beginner!! I knew that I was far from the best in 2004, although I did make some very good casts. It was this high praise that made me want to be the best women caster in the world to make them proud. Since that time Knut Syrstad helped train me in the competition cast over several years.
     The other key players who helped me improve each year are Jay Clark, one of the smoothest spey casters at GGACC; Frank Chen, member of GGACC, who made me competition lines and helped me with my casts so generously. Many of the top spey casters from around the world have also helped me, most notably James Chalmers with Carron Rod & Line Co., Gordon Armstrong who won Spey-O-Rama and many other championships for 6 years, Simon Hsieh who won Spey-O-Rama twice, Knut Ekelund, Greg Bencivenga, and Gene Oswald.

 I’ve been very fortunate throughout the years to have spent time with some amazing casters and teachers, people such as Greg Bencivenga, Al Buhr, and  Dwight Klemin. The Golden Gate Angling and Casting Club has had a significant and positive influence on my casting.  The individual members, too many to mention, but as a whole have been instrumental in my casting. But a special thanks to GGACC speyman, Burt.  GGACC is a truly special place, I encourage everyone to go visit.
     But really, the list of people who have been key players would take up this whole page!   I always turn to thank Kerry Burkheimer who has always encouraged, supported, and believed in me. Each year he has provided me with a rod for SOR, and as I did last year, I'll cast the Burkheimer Competition Rod. I find it a reliable easy to cast rod. I certainly must recognize Aaron Reimer, Mary Ann Dozer,  and Poppy of the Red Shed for their help throughout the years. Although she is not competing, I often call Adrienne Comeau looking for casting advice (and maybe some girlfriend talk too!). We’ll discuss things like what does it mean when your leader goes wonky, or how do you approach the forward cast, and so on. In my mind I find her to be one of the best casters out there. She always has a great suggestion and I appreciate a female perspective.

The first year I practiced a lot with Dwight Klem, Bryan Styskal and Whitney Gould. I also received lessons and advice from Al Burr, Mariusz Wroblewski, Mike Kinney, Ed Ward, Gene Oswald, Brian Silvey, Lee Davidson and Marty. Last year I practiced mostly with Travis Johnson, but Marty would also show up to time us as well as yell obscenities. Last year James Chalmer of Carron took me under his wing and I became part of the Carron team. The Carron guys are next level! Ruairi Costello, Bruce Kruk, Gerard Downey and Travis are all amazing, good people, and I am so thrilled to be a part of a team that thrives on good sportsmanship and having fun!

  It first started with my Dad’s interest of fishing; he taught me when I was just a little girl. A few years ago he began competition casting. I thought it looked like fun and tried it myself. Now it is my boyfriend who is my personal trainer; mentally and physically. He is an incredibly patient person: tolerates all my frustrations when I do not understand what he means, shares the joy when I do well, works with details on my technique to improve small defects, and never gives up. At times, it must have been difficult to be my coach! All respect to him, and I am truly grateful that he has spent so much time coaching me. I think he has almost forgotten about his own practicing!

My first mentor in this type of casting was my friend, Travis Johnson, whom I mentioned earlier. He not only showed me the parts to the cast but also inspired confidence in my ability and strength. However, the bulk of my coaching comes via text from the Carron team who live in Ireland and Scotland. We do a lot of texting! They have basically taken me under their wing and helped me develop my casting skills. They are a great bunch of guys and always kick ass in the men’s division, not only in SOR, but also in casting comps around the globe! James Chalmers, Gerard Downey, Ruairi Costello—class guys with an immeasurable talent for Spey casting. Go Carron blue!! Closer to home, a special thank you goes to a guy whom I only met late last year, Bruce Kruk. He lives in Canada and has also been a large part of helping me via text and email coaching.
Whitney Gould, photo courtesy of Whit
Whitney Gould setting up her cast while fishing.  Photo courtesy of Whitney Gould.

How is the women’s division growing in numbers and casting strengths? To what do you attribute this growth?

 Since I was the only woman competitor in 2004, I tried to encourage more women to learn spey casting and participate. I think the fact that I always participated in the competition interested other women to start. SOR became known in the USA and around the world over the years. So, through the local fly shops, rod makers, the Syrstads, and the Japanese Casting Association, more women found out about the competition and the numbers grew from one to five or six women who would compete. Whitney Gould is a member of GGACC and she learned how to spey cast here. I remember I gave her some spey casting instruction some years back when she got started. I am really happy that she started to compete and has won 2 competitions so far.

I attribute this growth to our development as fisherman, casters, and our female camaraderie. Rogue Angels is an example. I have met most of the women I fish with as an outcome of this site. It’s this kind of dedication and similar passion that strengthens the bond between women who fish and encourages the growth in the sport. As far as SOR is concerned, early dedication from people like Donna O’ Sullivan made the women’s division possible. I mentioned before the 2006 SOR where Donna O'Sullivan was the sole female competitor....... Being the brave and tough gal that she is, Donna marched out there, casted with grace, and made it happen. She has been an inspiration to us all.

Donna O’Sullivan is responsible for creating and promoting the women’s division; she is such a go-getter, great sport, and always trying to get women to enter. It takes a competitive spirit and time commitment but the casting ability has gotten better ever year. I would love to see more women attend. There are so many talented casters from all over and this competition is not about winning or losing, but rather fellowship and fun. If you come to SOR you have won just for showing up. I promise you will have a blast!

 In Norway it is growing slowly, but seems to be more popular now than it was in earlier years. I contribute by showing girls that there is possible to beat some of the guys in competitions! And I try to convince them that this is actually a lot of fun, not only the competition, but also the fishing.

 I am not sure about the numbers, as they have grown and shrunken over the years in the competition—last year only 3 women competed, whereas they have had up to 7. This is what also helped me decide to do the competition—the more women there are to compete, the more a competition there will be. The hope is to push us to make us all better as individuals AND as a group!

Donna casting in the casting pool at GGAAC.  Photo courtesy of Donna O'Sullivan.

Having fished with both Whitney and Mia, I can attribute that you are both not only beautiful casters, but impressively versatile. I know that both of you target steelhead using two-handed rods primarily, so how do all of you feel this competition has made you a better fisherman in general?

I fish for Atlantic Salmon and Steelhead with a two handed rod. I use a single hand rod for trout. Competitive casting in both single and two-hand has enabled me to place the fly (where the fish lie) with distance and accuracy. I use single hand spey casting when there is not enough back cast room, so I can still make the cast to the fish.

I love to cast, it is one of my favorite things to do when I'm not fishing. Fishing has become a way of life for me found through casting. I started out casting a two handed rod while living in SF; I had no idea where it would lead me. Now, 5 years later, I guide for steelhead and salmon and teach casting. Casting and working on my casting with friends and mentors has given me the skills and confidence to be a better and more versatile fisherman and guide.

Practicing for SOR has most definitely made me a better fisherman, being a good caster will increase ones odds of catching fish. When you start catching fish behind Marty Sheppard and Ed Ward, well then I must be doing something right!

You can enjoy your fishing, without thinking about your casting.

I can’t really answer this as I have been casting too much to actually go fishing!! Damn you, short Skagit lines!!

marcy casting in the rain,photo  courtesy of Marcy Stone
Marcy Stone fishing in the rain.  Photo courtesy of Marcy Stone.

Any words of wisdom you can pass on to the beginner, or a gal who is interested in potentially competing?

  If I can do it, any woman can! I am only 5ft 1/2in and not strong physically. I am competing against all these women who are taller, stronger and younger than me. So it is ultimately technique, with the best combination of rod and line that enabled me to be competitive. I have realized the dream that Trond and Knut Syrstad had put in my head back in 2004, by winning a gold medal at the World Championship of Fly Casting in the 16ft Spey Distance competition, held in Fagernes, Norway in August 2010.
     Congratulations! Will you be going back to compete in this competition again?
 Absolutely, I am planning to compete in the World Championship of Fly Casting at Fagernes, Noway in August 24-25, 2012. I hope that Mia, Whitney, and Takako Inoue from Japan will participate as well….we need more women in this competition!

Practice, ask for help and enjoy yourself. It’s a long, fun journey.

If you decide to compete go practice with a lot of different people your first year, there is so much to learn. Also, think “smooth and easy,” have fun, and remember to breath.

Watch out, you will get hooked! It is so much fun that you can’t stop when you first get started. Get yourself a good trainer; it takes a lot longer time to figure it out by yourself. Practice regularly to keep hold of the technique.

My wisdom? Do it--especially if it scares the crap out of you! It is one of the only ways to really know what you are made of.

favorite of Marcy, photo courtesy of Marcy Stone
Definitely not a rookie with steelhead, my favorite hero shot of Marcy.  Photo courtesy of Marcy Stone.

This question is directed to Marcy and Anita as the “rookies” in this year’s competition. You are both well seasoned with the two handed rod…. what are your feelings about casting in a competition with people watching as opposed to casting on a river with just yourself? Are you nervous, anxious, excited? What are your goals in the upcoming competition?

I am terrified! My goal is not to throw up in the pool… Just kidding….. I think… ;) My goal is to do my best. I get very nervous when people are watching my casting, but participating in SOR will be a lifetime experience. I’m excited to be a part of this famous competition, and I think I’m going to learn a lot from participating. I am grateful that I have the opportunity to compete against the best women in the world. What an honor!

I am actually not even sure about casting in the competition—I have no idea as I have never done anything like it before. However, I do know that when I am out casting, I become so focused that nothing else around me seems to exist. It will be interesting to find the balance between losing myself in my casting yet being aware that a clock is counting the seconds while I cast 12 precisely executed and measured casts. It makes me laugh when I think about it! It still seems a bit bizarre to me.
      I remember being that person who thought about how silly it was to spend all of this time casting a line not to fish but just to see how far it would go. Now I am the one doing it! We’re all a bit crazy, I suppose! But as they say that about steelhead fishermen anyway, no one is a bit surprised that I am doing this now. I am all of the above: nervous, anxious, and excited! As this is my first casting competition and my first competition in anything since I was 12 years old, my goal is to step out into that pond and cast my best. To find out where I stand and to gauge how strong I am, knowing that I am a rookie amidst a bunch of pros! I think it takes guts to do this and I am curious as to how my body and brain will compete! This year for me is basically a test of where I will be for next year’s competition.

Photos courtesy of Mia Sheppard
Mia concentrating on executing the cast.  Photo courtesy of Mia Sheppard.

And lastly, I saw Mia’s gorgeous Saracione reel when we fished the other day. I mean c’mon, who’s honest enough to say they want to win just for that prize???!!!!

I won one last year and as beautiful as they are, I gave it to the guys who coached me towards winning the competition. Now those lucky dawgs are fishing in style.

Heck yeah, who doesn’t want a Sarcione, I hear this year Saracione is donating a Deluxe II Salmon reel. Retails for $3k! Come on Kate are you in??

It is a beautiful reel, but in the future my goal is to win in honor of my late brother who died of cancer last autumn, and for my dear Knut who has spent so much time coaching me.

If I win it, I’m giving it to Kate.

You heard it here folks!

Anita Norwegian champ
Celebrating a successful competition, Anita takes Norwegian champion! Photo courtesy of Anita Strand.

The Women of SOR and Rogue Angels would like to thank all the vendors for their generous donations, the Golden Gate Casting Club for hosting such a wonderful event, and all the people and competitors who make this event such a huge success!

Spey-O-Rama is open to the public and admittance is free. Local, domestic and International casting masters will be offering free demonstrations and clinics each day. For more information about Spey-O-Rama, please go to

Women who have won Spey-O-Rama in the past:
2004 Donna O'Sullivan
2005 Donna O'Sullivan
2006 Donna O'Sullivan
2007 Kateri Clay
2008 Takako Inoue
2009 Whitney Gould
2010 Mia Sheppard
2011 Whitney Gould 

Best of luck to all of you ladies in the upcoming SOR, I admire all of you and appreciate your participation in this interview!  -k8

Donna makes us all jealous with her first gorgeous Scottish Salmon on the River Dee, June 2011. Photo courtesy of Donna O'Sullivan.
Whitney Gould, photo courtesy of Whit
Whitney Gould with a beautiful Kanektok King from last summer.  Photo courtesy of Andrea Warner.
Photos courtesy of Mia Sheppard
Mia with a great Eastern Oregon steelhead from last fall.  Photo courtesy of Mia Sheppard.
Anita big fish
Anita with a beautiful and HUGE Atlantic Salmon!  Photo courtesy of Anita Strand.

photo courtesy of Marcy Stone
Marcy Stone with a chromer steelhead.  Photo courtesy of Marcy Stone.