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Wild Women of the Water member Liz Jones catches a large Brook Trout wading in the Deschutes River near the Deschutes River Trail.

Featured Article

Adventures in Flyfishing

Local Organization Offers Opportunities to Learn New Skills

Article by Lynette Confer

Photography by Miguel Edwards

Originally published in Bend Lifestyle

Central Oregon is undeniably a year-round Mecca for outdoor recreation enthusiasts. For many locals and visitors alike, flyfishing is a favorite pastime and passion. “Some people might not realize that we live in a flyfishing paradise,” notes current Central Oregon Flyfishers (COF) President Fred Cholick. “There are 50 places to fish in a 90-minute circle around Bend, so you have tremendous opportunities for fishing, and most are suitable for flyfishing.”

Flyfishing is an ancient form of angling, or fishing, that has been around since the second century A.D. and was brought to North America by Europeans in the 1600’s. Flyfishing uses a special rod, reel, line and an ultra-lightweight artificial fly that mimics small flying or aquatic insects. “Flyfishing is challenging in many aspects, but in my opinion, it’s the purest form of fishing,” states Cholick.

If you are exploring ways to slow down, enjoy the outdoors and keep your mind engaged in learning new skills, flyfishing might be the key. “It’s very self-rewarding,” Cholick notes. “Peace, tranquility, challenge, joy . . . it’s what drew me to flyfishing.”

Central Oregon Flyfishers (COF) / Fred Cholick, President

A local nonprofit organization founded in 1989, Central Oregon Flyfishers (COF) is committed to the sport of flyfishing and “broadening the public’s knowledge and understanding of Oregon’s aquatic resources.” With almost 250 members, COF is an active group of men, women and youth that works hard to fulfill their mission of promoting “preservation and conservation, for future generations, of Central Oregon’s watersheds and its fisheries through education, the practice of stewardship and the art of flyfishing.”

Cholick recalls his first time flyfishing with his dad along the Deschutes River when he was 14 years old. “I always say I hooked my first fish – and the fish hooked me on flyfishing.” It was this experience that led Cholick to dedicate a great deal of time in retirement to passing on his passion for flyfishing to younger generations. “I think it’s our responsibility to develop the next generation . . .  we have to instill that love of the outdoors and environment and I happen to use flyfishing as a tool,” states Cholick, who serves as co-coordinator for the Kokanee Karnival and coordinator for the Next Cast program, working with local youth in middle and high school.

“The joy of seeing the excitement and watching these kids catch their first fish is incredible. Just like you learn in leadership, that it’s the responsibility of the leader to develop the next leader, I believe it’s up to us to develop the next generation that loves the outdoors, and perhaps loves to flyfish,” Cholick says.

To find out more about flyfishing, Cholick recommends visiting a local fly shop to ask questions and find gear. He notes that YouTube is also an excellent resource as well.  

“People think it’s expensive to get into flyfishing, but it doesn’t have to be. All you need is a rod, reel and line, flies, a net, a hook removal device, waders, and boots.” In the summer, Cholick says he wears shorts and shoes and “wet wades” to fish. As a reminder, just don’t forget the insect repellant and sunscreen, essentials for flyfishing in the high lakes and streams.

“One word that might describe what this sport offers is ‘fellowship,’” remarks Cholick. “One of the keys to fellowship is having a common denominator, and with COF, it’s that we all love to fish and that creates an environment for fellowship, friendship and community.”

COF’s Wild Women of the Water / Sue Coyle, Head of Wild Women of the Water

A member of COF for about ten years now, Sue Coyle heads up COF’s subgroup, Wild Women of the Water (WWW). “I joined COF before I even moved to Bend in 2015,” noted Coyle, who worked in end of life care with St. Charles for ten years.  “I knew my move would mean a big life change for me, so when I found COF and Wild Women of the Water, I called one of the women, we talked for a bit and I joined right away.”

There are currently 74 women in WWW, which began about 15 years ago. “Women are the fastest growing demographic in many outdoor activities right now, the fastest growing for COF and, according to 2022 statistics, women from mid-20’s to 30’s are the fastest growing demographic for flyfishing,” states Coyle.

Coyle has always enjoyed the outdoors and was introduced to flyfishing over 15 years ago by her son. “For me, flyfishing is restorative. Working in end-of-life care, I found the sport to be a form of self-care. Even if I don’t catch a fish, a day flyfishing is a spectacular one.”

WWW members stay busy gathering socially, fishing and camping together, visiting local fly shops, volunteering and even traveling together. Coyle also organizes regular outings and educational opportunities for the women.

“When I drive out to my favorite flyfishing spot on the Metolius River, my blood pressure lowers, my breathing slows, everything shifts,” Coyle explains. “It’s the anticipation of it, the rhythm of it all . . .  it’s that first step down into the river, you breathe deep, pause, look around . . . your whole body responds to that. If you are lucky, you catch a fish, you are always careful to release it well. It’s a magnificent experience that I now share with my grandkids. We fish and we talk about everything without knowing we are  – you are  –  introducing them to nature and having a wonderful generational experience.”

“Central Oregon Flyfishers, including Wild Women of the Water, are delightfully inclusive and very collaborative clubs with an amazing group of people who really put their efforts where they matter,” states Coyle. “If someone is feeling like this might be something they want to do, they should reach out to local clubs or visit local flyshops and ‘stick their toe in the water.’ They might find that it opens a whole world they never knew existed.”

Central Oregon Flyfishers

COF participates in and supports ongoing conservation efforts such as habitat restoration projects, waterway cleanup efforts, and more. The club also offers classes teaching fly tying, rod building, net building and casting.

Meetings: Monthly, third Wednesday 

Location: Bend Elks Lodge

Time: 5 p.m. (educational program, business meeting and guest presentation)   

Membership: $75 – family; $50 – individual; Youth to 24 years – free.  

Kokanee Karnival / Next Cast

Through a partnership with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), COF helps facilitate the Kokanee Karnival, which began in 1996 and is geared toward fourth and fifth grade students across 30 Central Oregon schools reaching over 1,000 students, teachers, and parents annually. Topics and classes include caring for fish eggs through hatch and release, water quality and conservation, outdoor safety, and hands-on fishing experiences like tie flying, casting, and more.  

Next Cast is a three-day flyfishing camp offered in cooperation with the Redmond Area Park & Recreation District. Youth ages 10-17 receive instruction on outdoor and water safety, bug identification, knot and fly-tying, casting and fishing to prepare youth to become proficient in flyfishing.

“It’s very self-rewarding. Peace, tranquility, challenge, joy… it’s what drew me to flyfishing,”

—Fred Cholick, President of Central Oregon Flyfishers

They might find that flyfishing opens a whole world they never knew existed,”

—Sue Coyle, Head of COF's Wild Women of the Water 

  • Wild Women of the Water member Liz Jones catches a large Brook Trout wading in the Deschutes River near the Deschutes River Trail.
  • Liz Jones (l) and Linda Greiner (r) pause for a celebratory moment after Jones' big catch.
  • COF teaches "care of the catch" so fish that are released back into the water are carefully and quickly handled while still in the water.
  • Sue Coyle, head of COF's Wild Women of the Water group enjoys an evening of flyfishing with friends on the Deschutes River.
  • Liz Jones handmade many of these flies, tiny artificial flies that mimic real insects, an art in and of itself.
  • COF President Fred Cholick demonstrates overhead fly casting during the Kokanee Karnival. Photo credit Jennifer Luke with ODFW