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Young fly fisherman widens his horizons on Bighorn River trip

Adam Slavinski began fishing with his dad at an early age. He writes, “Dad told me he would put me on his back in a carrier and take me out to the creeks,” when the boy was about 6 months old.

His dad, Brian Slavinski, has a love for fly fishing that carried over to Adam long before his teen years.

Among other long-distance fly-fishing destinations, dad had a high regard for the Bighorn River, a world-famous stretch of about 25 miles of trout waters below a 500-foot-deep reservoir that averages a width of 400 feet at spring pool. The river runs through Montana and Wyoming.

A Bighorn River Alliance sponsors 12 youths to a Bighorn Youth Adventure each year. Boys and girls ages 12 to 17 from around the country are nominated and selected for a venture on this famed river.

Ron Zarnowski, program chairman for the Lake Erie Chapter of Federation of Fly Fishers, sponsored Adam for this event and the youngster was selected as the only participant from New York State for the June 16-19 gathering.

Adam, a 15-year-old honor student at Cleveland Hill High School, attended the event and returned to Western New York too late for the June meeting. But he and dad presented an interesting PowerPoint presentation during the monthly meeting this month.

After thanking the chapter for sponsoring him, Adam began by saying the accommodations were splendid at Abasorka Lodge, some 10 minutes from the river, “but I just couldn’t fall asleep, looking at those mountains out there.”

The river flowage was at about half its normal width, along a waterway that supports 8,000 to 9,000 fish per mile. Brian said Bighorn has one of the highest trout densities of any stream in North America. For example, during one six-hour session using flies down to a No. 16 or 18, the group hooked 108 trout and landed for release 58 fish.

“From the start, it was a nymphing program,” Adam said of his first day of fishing. A 16-inch brown trout was his first catch. “There are more browns than rainbows,” he said of the trout numbers; all fish in Bighorn are wild strain trout.

“These fish are wild; when hooked they do a ‘gator roll’ and head either up or down stream,” he said of these strong-fighting fish.

His skill at tying and using all kinds of flies served him well on the streams and at fly-tying sessions.

Local guides, all volunteer anglers assisting the 10 boys and two girls participating, held tying sessions at which the kids could see and tie patterns that worked on the water. Each day each youth went out with a different guide.

“We mainly went with nymphs, but on the last day I got to use dry flies,” Adam said. His biggest fish was a 23-inch rainbow trout, but he showed more pride in being able to hook trout on a sunny, 90-degree day with a dry-fly streamer; he preferred it to blue-winged olive pattern.

He was impressed with Montana fly-tying anglers who raise their own chickens specifically for tying feathers and material.

At school, one of his major goals is to start a fly-tying club.

“I have about a half dozen friends and it might be difficult, but we’re going to try,” he said of the coming school year.

Adam may have a successor as an area attendee at a future Bighorn Adventure. During the fly-tying session before the meeting, Melinda Frasier, 11, avidly tied whatever pattern dad, Chad Frasier, showed her.

Also, during the meeting, two founding members, Ray Markiewicz and Zarnowski, were presented letters of commendation from the Erie County Legislature for their many environmental contributions and efforts.

Young and older fly-angler folk showed an impressive presence during the Lake Erie Federation of Fly Fishers gathering.

For more details on this chapter, check with president David Rosner at 675-4766 or Markiewicz at 549-1977.