Lancaster County boy, youngest member of U.S. Angling team
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By P.J. Reilly LNP | LancasterOnline
When 14-year-old Bobby Brandt gets home from Manheim Township Middle School every day, he’s likely going to one of two places.
To his room to tie flies for trout fishing.
Or to Lititz Run in the Millport Conservancy to use some of those flies he tied to fish for trout.
“It’s Bobby’s way of life,” said his mother, Kathryn Brandt.
“He’s a fisherman.”
Earlier this fall, Bobby Brandt became the youngest member of the U.S. Angling Youth Fly Fishing Team.
At a competition in Montana in October, Bobby competed in a field of 16 young anglers age 14-18 for four spots on the 16-member team.
“I like the competitiveness,” Bobby said of trying out for the team. “I get to go against people and I can show my skill.”
According to the US Angling website, “The United States Youth Fly Fishing Team is dedicated to the development of a distinguished and skilled fly-fishing team that proudly represents the United States in … sanctioned international championships each year.”
Next year, the world championships will be held in the Czech Republic. Bobby hopes to be among the six Team USA youth anglers who will go.
To do that, he’ll have to compete against his teammates in competitions before next summer, and he’ll have to prove himself in the other aspects of being a member of the USA Youth Fly Fishing Team – being good stewards of the environment and being ambassadors for the sport.
Bobby will wear his ambassador’s coat Nov. 11 at the 2023 Fall Fest that supports the North Museum and Millport Conservancy, when he teaches other kids about fly fishing as part of the day’s activities at the Millport Conservancy.
But hold on.
How does a 14-year-old kid from Manheim Township become one of three Pennsylvanians on a 16-member fishing team, with kids from all over the country?
Bobby said it all started when his grandfather, Bob Brandt Jr., started taking him fishing when he was 2 years old.
“I wanted to spend all my time fishing,” Bobby said.
Two years ago, he was introduced to fly fishing, and the hook sank deeper.
“There’s so much research you have to do to learn the flies you have to fish with on different streams,” he said. “And then the skill it takes to cast with a fly rod.”
Living in Manheim Township, the Brandts are within casting distance of Precision Fly & Tackle on Fruitville Pike. So it’s no surprise Bobby started hanging out there.
“Bobby basically lives at that fly shop,” Kathryn said.
There he learned about the special tackle fly anglers use, the special techniques and about tying flies.
His favorite way to fish is by doing what’s called Euro nymphing.
It’s a style of fly fishing developed in competitions in Europe, that involves dead-drifting heavy nymphs for trout.
That style of fly fishing has become increasingly popular in the United States in recent years.
Lititz Run is where Bobby spends most of his time fishing. The biggest trout he’s caught there is a 25-inch rainbow trout.
He also has fished on Fishing Creek in Lancaster County and Wyomissing Creek in Berks County.
This past summer, he fished the world-famous Yellowstone River, when the whole family took a vacation to visit Yellowstone National Park.
“We caught cutthroats and rainbows,” Bobby said.
Kathryn and Bobby both credit shop employee Tom Herr with advancing Bobby’s fly-fishing and fly-tying skills.
“He has really encouraged Bobby to keep progressing,” Kathryn said.
It was Herr who mentioned the Youth Fly Fishing Team to the Brandts, and so Kathryn went online to research what’s involved.
Last Spring, she found a clinic held in State College that involved the team and she signed Bobby up.
“When you see your children love something so much, you want to help them continue with that,” Kathryn said.
Bobby loved the clinic and decided after it was over that he wanted to try out for the team.
It didn’t hurt that the team’s coach is fairly local.
Head coach Josh Miller hails from western Pennsylvania, where he is a professional fishing guide.
Miller took Bobby fishing on Yellow Creek in Bedford County recently, were Bobby caught a hefty, 22-inch brown trout.
“Josh said it’s the biggest brown trout he’s ever seen come out of that creek,” Bobby said.
With a summer of solid practice under his belt, Bobby headed to the 2023 US Youth Fly Fishing National Championships in Paradise Valey, Montana, in October.
For the competition, each angler fished special sections of water at specific times of days in what’s called “sessions.”
The goal, obviously, is to catch the most fish, but since certain waters and certain times of day can be better for fishing than others, anglers are only competing against the other anglers fishing the same sessions as them.
Bobby finished fifth in his first session, eighth in his second and first in his third. That was good enough for him to place sixth among the 16 competitors.
But he was among the top four non-team members who were competing for open spots on the team.
As a team member, Bobby will participate in clinics and practices with the team. He attended one in late October on Penns Creek near State College.
And he’ll have to do a lot of work on his own to improve his skills.
“Because the kids are from all over the country, a lot of it is up to him as an individual to get better,” Kathryn said.
So lots of time spent fishing?
Bobby has no problem with that.
“I want to learn as much as possible so I can keep getting better,” he said. “My goal is to be on the team that goes to the Czech Republic for worlds next summer.”
Outside of competitive fishing, Bobby has started a bucket list of places where he’d like to fish.
He’s planning to fish in Alaska in the near future with Herr. And then he’s got New Zealand and Iceland to get to eventually.
Until then, count on seeing a lot of Bobby Brandt on Lititz Run in the Millport Conservancy.
“I can’t get enough of it,” he said.
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