I have to hand it to Cheeky Fishing. They threw together a great weekend. I had a number of spin anglers on the water say to me that weekend “What’s going on? I’ve never seen so many people fly fishing here before.” The answer was the Cheeky Schoolie Tournament, the world’s largest fly fishing only tournament. The tournament had 215 teams of two, so 430 people scattered around Cape Cod searching for big striped bass on the fly. It was so much fun! There were men and women from all over on the Cape that weekend. Most, if not all, were good sportsmen. The rules were simple: fly fishing only from 6am-2:30pm, wading only (no boats), largest 4 fish count, no fish under 15 inches, and catch and photo, release only.
We don’t have the luxury of local knowledge to go by so homework needed to be done. Mike spent countless hours scouring google maps looking for all the “fishy” spots on the Cape prior to heading out. He arrived Wednesday night and scouted for a day before I arrived on Thursday night. Some of the spots that looked promising on google maps turned out to be private roads that we couldn’t access, but we found a few spots that produced fish and weren’t too crowded. He got into some bass Thursday, and we both did Friday, but most importantly, we had a plan for the big day.
The day of the tournament was a long one. Up at 3:30, coffee, breakfast, and to the beach by 5am to meet all the other 428 fisherman. Cheeky threw a party Friday night, but Mike and I decided to skip it in lieu of sleep. We arrived Saturday morning at the beach to a beautiful sunrise that predicted rain. We were there right at 5:00 and there were already cars lined up, ready to head out and start fishing. After checking in and picking up our bag with the swag, measuring tape and photo puck that had to be in each picture, it was time to wait. As the parking lot grew denser with cars and people in waders, we got to know a few other anglers. There were representatives from Montana, Maine, Pennsylvania, New York, and everywhere in between. I even met someone from my town. Just before 6:00, the MC climbed on to the top of a Uhaul and started welcoming us, going over the rules and what not. It was nice that the contest had a low to no pressure vibe to it, even though there were a few that sprinted off at the air horn. Most of us just got in our cars and headed out in a semi-orderly fashion.
5:00AM, ready to go!
Almost time for the 6am air horn.
We started the tournament at a spot that looked really fishy, perfect flows and drop offs where the fish would be feasting on bait fish, but nothing! I saw one spin fisherman catch one little guy, but that was it. The beaches were littered with fly fisherman with the same experience. With the day starting off empty-handed, it was time to head to a spot that was a good producer the day before. One problem though, the wind. By this time the wind had really picked up and was blowing pretty heavy, right at us. We had to do some serious adjustments to our casting to avoid getting hit with the fly. These 3/0, 2/0 clousers with weighted eyes are big flies to get stuck in you, not to mention hurting when they smack you in the back of the head. Between the wind, the occasional light rain, and the 54 degree temperatures, it wasn’t the most pleasant of days, but once we started catching fish, it made it all worth it.
These were the most productive flies of the day.
Once we started getting into fish, it was time to start measuring. All I kept catching were 15-16 inchers, a lot of them, but we needed bigger fish if we were going to score anything. Luckily, Mike came to the rescue with a 20+ incher and a couple 18’s to boot. As a matter of fact, it was all his fish on the scorecard. By the time we had enough fish to score, it was almost 1:00. Time to head in, pick up the scorecard, fill it out and submit it by 2:30. We were cold, wet, tired, and still had to sit through hours of scoring, presenting of awards, and announcements. Here’s a couple of the scoreable fish. I now understand why it is a team event. You can’t hold the puck, measure and photo yourself; it takes two.
We ended up scoring 91st with our 73.25 inches of fish. Out of 215 teams, that’s not too shabby for our first time! We had a blast and are looking forward to next year. Over 9,000 inches of striped bass were caught and released at the tournament. There were dozens of teams that were skunked, but Cheeky and American Fly Fishing Trade Association donated $3,000 to Stripers Forever as a result of the turnout. They also had great gear to give away from tons of big name outfitters, and really cool prize categories. My favorite was the spin reels given to a random team that got skunked. There was also the most miles driven award, largest fish and then the dozens of raffle prizes, not to mention the top 3 places got thousands of dollars in prize packages. It really was a lot of fun! Cheeky did a great job of putting together this event and it went really smoothly. Best of all though was catching all the striped bass. There were moments where you would catch a fish every few casts. It’s a great feeling for any angler. It’s what we dream of!