Wildlife Watch: Ike goes fishing with a master angler

Published: Jun. 7, 2022 at 3:54 PM EDT
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FERRISBURGH, Vt. (WCAX) - Fishing is a popular pastime in our area and there are many different techniques and species for anglers. And to help spread the word, Vermont wildlife officials have recognized the state’s first woman master angler for fly fishing.

On the banks of Lewis Creek in Ferrisburgh, Chelsea Rapin is setting her next cast. But Rapin isn’t an ordinary angler. “I am a master angler fly fisher,” she said.

Reporter Ike Bendavid: How does that feel to say?

Chelsea Rapin: It’s awesome, it’s great. I worked pretty hard in the past couple years trying to get trophy trout and trophy fish and I was able to get five last year.

The Master Angler Program is run by Vermont Fish & Wildlife. “We created a list of fish species, 33 different species in Vermont that people could catch on a rod and reel while out fishing. And we set a minimum, a benchmark at which point each of the species will be considered a trophy, so something that is sort of rare, difficult to catch -- a bit of a challenge,” said Vermont Fish & Wildlife’s Shawn Good. “if an angler catches five different species in the same calendar year that all meet those minimum benchmarks for that species, then they’ve accomplished or achieved what we call master angler status.”

Good says the goal is to challenge anglers and also get them to try catching something they might not normally catch. “Anglers tend to peg themselves into a box with what they’re comfortable with. And what I like to see out of the master angler program is people looking at it and using it as motivation to see what else can I catch, what can I learn about, what will get me excited again about fishing, what different techniques have I never tried that I could use,” he said.

And that’s where anglers like Rapin have taken this challenge to the next level. Not only is fly fishing something she picked up within the last decade, but she is the state’s first woman master angler for fly fishing.

“As I was going along on this challenge, I was like, I’m going to be doing this all on a fly rod, I wonder if any females have done that?” Rapin said.

And she is hoping to inspire others with what she has learned. “I’m typically the only female. My wife might be with me, so that might be a little bit more of an, okay, well there’s two now. But typically, I’m the only female. I definitely turn some heads when I’m out on the river. I think it’s good, I think representation matters. The more people see females fly fishing, the bigger of the deal obviously,” Rapin said. “I love seeing other females on the river and I try to make it a point to say hi and seeing what their back story.”

“All you do when you think of fly fishing, is fly fishing, because you can’t think of anything else,” Rapin said.

Ike Bendavid: How many fish are in the water over there you think?

Chelsea Rapin: Probably 20 at least. I’m going right over them, too.

Rapin shows she’s a real pro, reeling in one that would qualify at the master angler level. and with a true expert and teacher, this reporter had to give it a try.

“If you feel like they are biting it a little bit, it’s not going to feel like a typical bite, it’s going to be very soft, like a little pull,” Rapid advised.

And eventually, I even reeled in a fish myself, and of course, we had to get a picture. It’s all part of why Rapin says everyone should give it a try. “Get out there, go explore. There are a lot of rivers around here, there are a lot of fish to be caught, and there are a lot of different fish to be caught,” she said.

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