Rescued by Fly Fishing

Fly Fishing VirginiaBeaver Creek

“The author on VA’s Beaver Creek” photo by Kyle LaFerriere

By Beau Beasley 

The tones went off at about 2:30 a.m., and I rolled out of my bunk at the fire station, rubbing sleep from my eyes. I stepped into my bunker gear and slid my arms into the sleeves of my coat like an automaton. The dispatcher’s voice was calm and measured despite her dire message: “Engine 427, Medic 427, EMS Supervisor 405 respond to the shooting at—”…. She continued rattling off numbers to a street address in our response area. Less than 90 seconds ago my entire station’s crew had been sound asleep; now someone needed our help.

Once seated in the engine, I pushed the “enroute” button on my computer screen, letting the dispatcher know that our units were responding. The computer chirped in response, and the glow from the screen outlined my driver’s stoic face. Without speaking, he cut on our emergency lights, turning everything around us red. As we left the station, our sirens pierced the early morning stillness and drove any remnant of sleep from my mind. A gut instinct told me this one was going to be bad, so I asked for more help. “Engine 427 to Fairfax, I’m requesting a medevac helicopter for this call. Tell them to use West Springfield High School’s football field as a landing zone.”

Moments later my crew and I were tightly huddled around our victim, who was lying on the kitchen floor of a small brick rambler in a quiet neighborhood in the suburbs of Washington, DC. A male in his mid-20s, our victim had a single large-caliber bullet wound under his left clavicle. He was pale, staring into nothingness. His mouth gaped open. Blood oozed from his chest wound. Kneeling over him, I observed a hole from the gunshot large enough to drop a quarter into. I could actually look down into his chest and see his left lung.

Two police officers were already on the scene by the time we’d arrived. One of them was holding direct pressure on the wound, and the other had secured the weapon and radioed that it was safe for us to enter. The three young men who were also occupants of the house stated that they had been drinking most of the night and that eventually someone had suggested a game of Russian roulette. The young man on the floor had recently returned from Army service in Afghanistan. He had survived a war zone only to be shot at home.

The room became a sudden blur of activity as my crew and I did what we were trained to do. We took the young man’s vital signs, administered oxygen, and placed IVs into both arms. Our cardiac monitor indicated a highly accelerated heart rate: his body’s desperate effort to compensate for his drastic blood loss. I listened to his lung sounds, and then we quickly rolled him over onto his side. Not finding an exit wound, we gently placed him on a backboard. Once secured to the board, firefighters and police officers alike struggled to hustle the motionless victim to the transport unit outside.

We soon arrived at the landing zone, and I yelled my medical report to the flight medic over the roar of the rotors. The flight medic’s badge flickered like a candle in the ghastly light coming from all the emergency equipment on the scene. The flight medic nodded and patted me on the back as if to say, “Thanks, Captain—we have it from here.” The helicopter rose, whipping up its own storm, blowing grass, dirt, and bloody bandages across the football field.  Following their lights into the night sky, I wondered if the young soldier would make it and said a silent prayer for him. None of my crew members said a word; we simply began picking up our gear and headed back to the station.

Running an emergency scene like the early morning shooting that I have just described feels as though you’re part of some grotesque and bizarre dance—and your dance partner is death itself. One wrong move, one misstep, just one missed cue, and you know the dance is over. The whole scene takes on an intensity that is incredibly fast paced, and yet you seem to be moving in slow motion. The faster you want to respond and react, the longer and more difficult it becomes.

Dealing with these kinds of high stress events—over and over again for years—takes a physical and emotional toll on first responders. Their family life is often strained because fire and police stations never close—not even for holidays. The worse a call is, the less likely a first responder is to share such graphic scenes with their loved ones, especially their children. This can lead to a sense of isolation and the belief that no one really understands them; over time this can end in despair. I remember my instructor in recruit fire training said, “Whatever you do, don’t ditch your civilian friends. You’re going to need them to help keep you sane if you stay in this line of work.”

About ten years into my career, this admonition would play itself out when I ran a call that would change my life. I responded to Burke Lake Park for an elderly gentleman who had been stung by a bee and was having difficulty breathing and irregular heartbeats. The kindly old man was initially reluctant to go to the emergency room, but I convinced him that it was better to be safe than sorry. Seeing the apprehension in his face during our transport to the hospital, I decided to exert some good old-fashioned bedside manner and asked him if he had ever fished in Burke Lake. He told me that he regularly caught bluegill and bass there on poppers that he tied himself. Later I would discover that my patient was Bob Guess, one of the best-known popping bug makers in the county. When I mentioned to him that I’d always wanted to learn how to fly fish, Bob offered to teach me on the spot. A week later Bob and I were in a jon boat back at Burke Lake, where I landed my first fish on a fly rod with a popper that Bob had tied.

Bob bought me my first fly rod, and we traveled and fished together for many years. I quickly discovered that I love everything about fly fishing. I love the scenery, the sound and movement of the water that can lull you to sleep if you’re quiet enough, the thrill of catching a fish. I love the peace. Fly fishing allowed me to distance myself from the horror I saw at work, and it restored a sense of calm. Bob revealed to me that with a pair of waders and a handful of bass flies, I could escape my world of lights and sirens and enter another in which I could hear the buzzing of a passing dragonfly, witness bass chasing minnows on the shoreline, or watch the rings emanating from a rising trout. Even though Bob passed away about 20 years ago, I still have some of his popping bugs, and I think about him every time I drive by Burke Lake.

Not every first responder gets to benefit from a relationship like the one I had with Bob, but that may be about to change. For years Trout Unlimited (TU), the premier cold water conservation organization in the country with hundreds of chapters across the nation, has reached out to veterans of the armed services through its Veterans Service Program; now TU wants to expand this effort to include first responders. In 2019, Mike Banaszewski, a former Lieutenant Commander in the United States Navy, was brought on to head up this new initiative, called the TU Service Partnership. The organization believes that the groups share a crucible: operating in dangerous environments and working long hours in difficult circumstances. Hosting them on joint outings will allow veterans and first responders alike to feel appreciated and develop bonds around fly fishing. TU Service Partnership intends to host outings around the country—each one unique and tailored to the needs of the particular group and dependent upon the specifications of the hosting venue. Veterans and first responders attend at no cost thanks to the generosity of sponsors and supporters.

About a week after responding to that early-morning shooting, I received an email from a high-ranking officer at headquarters. The message was simple and forthright: “Tell your folks they did a great job at the shooting—and let them know that the soldier made it.” I called my crew into the fire station kitchen and shared the good news: My prayer had been answered.

If I were ever to see that young soldier again, I’d offer to just sit and listen to whatever he wanted to tell me (or not tell me) about what he’d seen in Afghanistan. I’d let him know that I too am haunted by what I’ve seen—and by the cries I’ve heard from those I couldn’t save. I’d tell him he’s not weak, or crazy, or broken—he’s human. And then I’d offer to take him fly fishing.

Beau Beasley is a retired career captain and spent 30 years with Fairfax County Fire & Rescue Department. He currently serves on the National Advisory Board for TU Service Partnership. His latest book about veterans and fly fishing will be released later this year.

Texas Fly & Brew Returns to Mesquite

Texas Fly Fishing & Brew FestivalLooking forward to spring fishing? Who isn’t? Fortunately for those of us still stuck in winter, the 5th annual Texas Fly Fishing & Brew Festival is headed to Mesquite on February 26-27, 2022.

Unique to the Texas Fly & Brew is a focus on microbrewery beer. With their paid admission, festival attendees 21 years and older receive tasting tickets to sample a variety of locally handcrafted brews. Breweries selected to participate in this year’s event include Four Corners Brewing Co, Hop & Sting, and Tupps. All of the participating breweries will have personnel on hand to explain what sets microbrewed beer apart, why and how certain ingredients yield different flavors, and how to brew and taste different types of beer.

New to the 2022 Texas Fly & Brew iis a series of advanced courses for experienced anglers. “We’re well-known as a safe space for complete novices–those folks who have never picked up a fly rod in their lives,” says Fly & Brew Director Beau Beasley. “Our event draws scores of children, and we have about six times the national average for women’s participation, compared to other fishing events. This year, we’re stepping up our game to draw experienced anglers, too, with unique, highly specialized courses taught by regional and national experts.”

Advanced Tactics for Fishing Tailwaters” with author and guide Pat Dorsey focuses on how to correctly fish below dams and in coldwater rivers.

Full-time saltwater guide Captain Gary Dubiel, owner of Spec Fever Guide Service and a national pro-staffer for Temple Fork Outfitters, offers his unique “How to Locate and Land Redfish ,”a class specifically designed for those who hope to land the redfish of a lifetime.

Interested in fly tying? Fiber Flies Dubbing owner Jim Bensinger will teach a “Beginner Fly Tying” class as well as a “How to Tie Wet Flies” class for intermediate to advanced fly tyers. No gear? No problem: All vises and materials will be provided by Norvise, which is sponsoring Bensinger’s classes.

Professional guide Karlie Roland will offer a women-only “Becoming an Independent Angler”class designed to help women hone their angling skills and meet their outdoor goals. Don’t miss the “Women Angler’s Meet & Greet Breakfast” sponsored by  Take Me Fishing with Roland and other female anglers, which is open to the public but limited to the first 50 women who sign up. Request a reservation by clicking here.

The Texas Fly & Brew has partnered with Chris Johnson, owner of Living Waters Fly Shop, to offer a variety of classes specific to the Lone Star State.

Here are a few courses available to all general admission attendees:

A Man, a Fly Rod & a Kayak,” taught by experienced fly fishing guide Jerry Hamon, owner of River Crossing Fly Fishing Guide Service, is for all who hope to fish safely from a kayak. Don’t have a kayak yet but looking for pointers on what to buy? Hamon will cover kayak purchasing as well.

At the “Women’s Panel: Ask an Expert” class, Dana Williams, former president of Texas Women Fly Fishers, will answer questions from the audience. Cybil Jones of Dagon Apparel Company will discuss how the right clothing will keep you on the water longer and make your fishing experience more enjoyable. Other guest speakers may participate.

New Mexico-based Ron Kless, competitive angler and a Hardy pro-staffer, will be presenting “Euro Nymphing: The Do’s & Don’ts.” He will also be teaching a paid specialty class called Reading Water Critically.

Looking for just the right kayak? Check out regional pro-staffers from Dallas-based Mariner-Sails.

“This is our 5th annual Texas Fly Fishing & Brew Festival, but actually anglers and vendors come from across the entire country,” says Beasley. “Mesquite has done all it can to make us feel welcome and we look forward to partnering with them again. The spacious Mesquite Convention Center provides more room for vendors and sponsors and even allows specialty food trucks. A wide variety of specialty fly tyers will also be participating.”

The Texas Fly Fishing & Brew Festival was honored to receive several first-place awards in various categories from the 2021 meeting of the Texas Festival & Events Association this past November. “Our strong showing is thanks in large part to support from the City of Mesquite, our amazing event team, and our excellent social media manager, Cece Liekar of The League Lady,” says Beasley. “I accepted the awards on behalf of the Texas Fly & Brew team, but it was definitely a group labor of love to hold the first in-person fly-fishing event in the country since the pandemic. We had a very strong turnout in February 2021, and we expect to set a new record for vendors and attendance in 2022.”

Major sponsors of the 5th Annual Texas Fly & Brew include the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation, Gangler’s North Seal River Lodge, Temple Fork Outfitters, City of Mesquite, Trout Unlimited, Norvise and Fly Tyer. For more information, visit www.txflyfishingfestival.org or call 703-402-8338.

Texas Fly Fishing & Brew Festival Awarded The Best In Texas

Texas Fly Fishing & Brew Festival

Beau Beasley at the 27th Annual TFEA Conference with three Gold Awards for the Kaliff Insurance Best In Texas Marketing Competition.


The Texas Fly Fishing & Brew Festival received gold and silver awards as “The Best In Texas” at the 27th Annual Texas Festivals & Events Association Conference and Trade Show. The 2021 Kaliff Insurance “The Best In Texas” Awards ceremony was held on November 13 and hosted by the City of San Antonio. The entries submitted were for TFEA member events held between April 1, 2020 and September 20, 2021; and the marketing competition includes a total of 69 categories.

“While I was honored to receive the five awards on behalf of the festival, they represent a team effort. Our sponsors, vendors, staff and volunteers truly make the event possible,” stated Beau Beasley, Executive Director of the Texas Fly Fishing & Brew Festival. “I’m especially thankful to the City of Mesquite as our host and partner with an extraordinary venue; and to Cece Liekar of The League Lady for the creative marketing and social media. It’s gratifying to know our fly fishing festival that began only a few years ago, has become so popular that it draws fly anglers from as far away as Kentucky. The 5th annual festival is coming up February 26-27, 2022 and includes an outstanding list of speakers and classes for fly anglers to experience.”

The 2021 Kaliff Insurance “The Best In Texas” Awards Ceremony announced the following for the 4th Annual Texas Fly Fishing & Brew Festival in the category of events with a budget under $75k:

1 – Gold 1st Place Best Social Media Site

2 – Gold 1st Place Best T-Shirt Design

3 – Gold 1st Place Best Event Program

4 – Silver 2nd Place Single Digital Social Ad

5 – Bronze 3rd Place Misc Merchandise – Face Mask

This year the Texas Festivals & Events Association welcomed many new members from across the Lone Star State; and it was wonderful to meet them in person at the 27th Annual Conference. The Kaliff Insurance The Best In Texas competition received hundreds of entries representing festivals of all sizes. Congratulations to Beau Beasley with the Texas Fly Fishing & Brew Festival on his outstanding marketing accomplishments,” states Kay Wolf, Executive Director of TFEA.

The Kaliff Insurance The Best In Texas Marketing Awards recognizes and encourages excellence in festival promotional campaigns. The Texas Festivals & Events Association is a professional trade association for festival and event planners, volunteers, and suppliers. The TFEA is official affiliated with the International Festivals & Events Association, the premier professional association supporting festivals and event leaders worldwide.

Meet Festival Director Beau Beasley at Hop & Sting Brewery Tuesday, Nov. 16th

dfw pint night novemberInterested in all things fly fishing while enjoying a good hand crafted Texas Brew? Come meet Texas Fly Fishing & Brew Festival Director Beau Beasley as a Guest Speaker at Texas-BCHA Pint Night. Beau is a nationally known outdoor writer who has written for multiple state and regional publications as well as nearly every national fly fishing publication. He’s the author of two fly fishing guide books, and his work on saltwater species like menhaden management and bonefish regulations in the Bahamas have run in multiple newspapers. Beau’s work on river bottom ownership and angler/hunter public access issues has brought him the admiration of not only anglers and hunters, but private land owners who appreciate his straight forward research and impartiality

Find out what’s new in the way of class offerings and new vendors at this year’s festival, and about recent access opportunities for duck hunters and anglers in the Lone Star State. Jerrod Mahon of Texas-BCHA will also be on hand to discuss their latest project with the Army Corps of Engineers which will open 700 acers of new access for Texas sportsman. To get a cool snapshot about the event click here, for more information about the 2022 Texas Fly Fishing & Brew Festival click here.

Not a member of BCHA, then by all means after meeting Beau at this month’s “Pint Night” sing up to become a BCHA member. Our gather will occur at Hop & Sting Brewery in Grapevine, Texas. Besides Beau, members can speak with Mike Tulowitzki owner of of Grape Vine Fly Fishing, and Greg Welander of Thomas & Thomas rods.  Folks can start gathering unofficially about 5:00 PM on Tuesday November 16th, but be going full tilt at 7.00 PM. Don’t miss it !

 

Grapevine Fly Fishing hosts Fall Shindig Oct. 10

Mike Tulowski, Owner Grapevine Fly Fishing

Grapevine Fly Fishing is ending the season with a Fall Shindig on October 10 starting at 11 a.m. in their parking lot area. Their original old chuck wagon is being rolled in to grill up burgers and hot dogs. Grab a cold local brew provided by Hop and Sting and chat with reps from your local brands. There will be fly rods to demo and casting challenges for those who think they’ve got more skill and grace than the rest of us.

If you’re feeling lucky be sure to get in on the raffle for a chance to win a guided trip for two donated by Upstream on the Fly.  This prize was generously donated by owner Greg Welander, the former Fly Fishing Manager for Sportsman’s Finest in Austin. Greg’s website bio states he’s been holding a fishing pole since 1976 and finally decided to fly rods exclusively in 1998. Anyone who wins this trip will get a Texas sized spring fed experience on the waters within the scenic Hill Country.

This shindig promises other giveaways and the kind of swag we’d all like to take home. The new shop is open Tuesday – Friday from 3:00 – 7:00 p.m., Saturday 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m., and closed on Sunday and Monday. Follow Grapevine Fly Fishing on Instagram or visit their website for more info.

“The direction I hope to take the shop in is introducing new people to the sport. It always has bothered me when I mentioned that I fly fish that there were always two responses. One; Oh, that is supposed to be so difficult I could never do it. And, two; I would love to do that but I hear it is so expensive. I really want to be the shop known for our hospitality and for a customer to always feel comfortable whether it’s the first time they ever stepped into a fly fishing shop, or they are long-time fishermen.”  Michael Tulowitzki interview (02/20)

“He [Mike Tulowitzki] emphasized personal service, brands that are lesser known and brands he likes, but that are rarely found in brick-and-mortar fly shops in the Dallas Fort Worth area. His emphasis is on fly tying materials – on easy-to-find online materials, but he wants tiers to be able to be “hands-on” just as most of us fly tiers do.” Texas Fly Caster

Meet Kristian Cole

Originally from Dallas, Kristian Cole attended Texas A&M Corpus Christi, where he did a lot of poling the flats around Port Aransas for redfish and fishing the jetties for Texas tarpon, jacks, Spanish mackerel, and king mackerel. He also spent time offshore working as a deck hand and fishing all over the Gulf of Mexico. Now back in Dallas, Cole is a critical part of the sales and education teams at Tailwaters Fly Fishing Company.

We’re delighted to have Cole speak on effective patterns at this year’s festival at our first ever, Bourbon & Bass Bugs Class. Customers in this class will learn from Cole what bass bugs to fish, and where and how. Seating is quite limited so don’t miss your chance to take advantage of this cool class.

NEW CLASS! Master’s Class: Fishing Tailwaters (Limit 16)

pat dorseyTailwater fisheries provide anglers with a dependable four-season fishery that affords anglers with consistent flows, clear water, large populations of trout, and reliable hatches. Learn the tactics and techniques to successfully master these year-round waters. A detailed discussion on dams, tailwater benefits, entomology, matching the hatch, fly selection, rigging rods, reading the water, presentation and much more are included in this class. Taught by author and full time guide Pat Dorsey, this class is designed for more experienced anglers, however new fly anglers would also benefit. All materials for the course will be provided, and no fly casting is involved. Students will meet at the Specialty Instruction Lecture Area. This class has limited seating to ensure social distancing, and once purchased no refunds will be offered.  Please print out your receipt and bring it to the festival. Only 16 spots are available.

Class held: 10:00 AM-12:00PM Saturday & Sunday in the Specialty Lecture Room. This class is held indoors. You can check for remaining availability here.

New Class!  Hunt for Trophy Trout with Landon Mayer 

Landon MayerThis two-hour-long, small-group intensive taught by author and full time guide Landon Mayer is ideally suited for anglers with a passion for trout. While geared with trout anglers in mind, the information in this course can also be applied to many other species that wading anglers may encounter Guiding clients on trout water more than 200 days a year, Mayer knows every tip and trick to bring finicky trout to hand. Students will learn everything they need to know to begin trout fishing, including:

(1)  where to enter a waterway and how to wade;

(2)  how any fly angler can successfully approach any cold water fishing situation, from large rivers to shallow water lakes;

(3)  what NOT to do when fishing for trout; and

(4)  how to select the appropriate fly.

Class held: 2:00-3:50 PM Saturday & Sunday: Check availability by clicking here.

Bourbon and Bass Bugs class

Does anything beat bourbon and bass fishing? We didn’t think so. That’s why we’ve brought our two passions together in a unique Bourbon & Bass Bugs class!

Jamie Biel from Treaty Oaks Distilling will teach registered students all about distilled spirits and allow them to taste three Texas bourbons during the class.

Then Kristian Cole, resident fly expert at Tailwaters Fly Fishing Co. will introduce students to the specialty bass bugs that Southwestern anglers find eminently effective.

Best of all? Class SWAG! Students will take home three Treaty Oak Glencairn tasting glasses and several bugs to “test” on their local waters from Flymen Fishing Company will be available for purchase after the class.

Meet Jerry Hamon

Jerry HamonJerry Hamon is an avid fly angler, fly tyer, and dedicated kayaker as well as the past president of both the Texas Council of Fly Fishers International and the Mariner-Sails Kayak Fishing Club. Hamon is serving his second term on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Freshwater Fisheries Advisory Committee and was recently appointed to serve as its chairman. He’s also a certified Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Angler Education Area Chief/Instructor. Hamon’s wildly popular class “A Man, A Fly & A Kayak” will be offered both days of the festival in cooperation with Mariner-Sails. Hamon runs River Crossing Fly Fishing School and Guide Service out of his home on the beautiful Brazos River in Central Texas. So many people have asked Hamon and his wife Patty how they spend quality time in the wild with their nine grandchildren that they created a unique outdoor education curriculum: Grandparents and their grandkids spend 24 hours together at the Hamons’ riverside ranch camping in a tent; starting a campfire; preparing and cooking campfire meals; identifying outdoor plants and wildlife; and learning the basics of fishing, kayaking, and canoeing. This year our festival attendees will benefit from the Hamons’ wealth of outdoor grandparent experience in their “Becoming an Outdoor Grandparent” class!

 

 

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For more information contact Festival Director Beau Beasley at Fishutopia@comcast.net, or call 703-402-8338.