GGACC Member Spotlight | Cheryl O'Neill
If you've ever been to one of our free casting lessons, you definitely know Cheryl as one of our casting instructors dedicated to helping you cast tight loops. While Cheryl continues to practice casting during the COVD-19 lockdown, she's looking forward to returning to her students at the ponds (so are we!).
Cheryl got serious about fly fishing 13+ years ago and quickly found herself fishing for Tarpon in the Florida Keys and Peacock Bass in the Amazon. Fly fishing has become a lifestyle for Cheryl and she's not planning to look back anytime soon.
When Cheryl learned that GGACC has a casting instructor program, she made it her mission to improve her casting and teaching skills and join the team. She has been a member for the last six years and has benefited not only from being an instructor, she's been a student, too! Cheryl has attended multiple Spey classes and even organized a weekend casting class with world champion Spey caster Travis Johnson. She's also had the pleasure of mentoring the Learn to Fly Fish students on trips, and participates in many of our social functions and special events.
When asked if Cheryl would recommend the club to others, and why, it was an easy question to answer. In her own words: "I would absolutely recommend GGACC to any current or prospective fly fisher. The club is unlike any other in the world. The breadth and depth of knowledge about all aspects of fly fishing are incredible. You can learn something new and meet incredible people every time you participate in a club event - or stop by for an afternoon casting meetup."
As a club, we are grateful to have Cheryl on board as an active member, student, and instructor. Cheryl noted that one of the most rewarding experiences for her in fly fishing is watching a student with newfound skills land a fish. Thank you for everything you do for GGACC, Cheryl!
GGACC Member Spotlight | Ashley White
Ashley has been a dedicated and enthusiastic member of GGACC since 2017. She heard rumors of our free casting lessons run by Willy and team and decided to make the trek to the ponds where she joined our beginner group. Our casting instructors Gavin and Erik made her feel welcome and she's been coming back ever since!
Ashley's involvement in the club doesn't stop there, folks. She's also a first year Learn to Fly Fish (LTFF) student, Volunteer Central member, and works with the Bay Area Youth LTFF program. She loves participating in our Women's Program events and casting nights, and enjoys getting together with the Golden West Women Flyfishers when they meet at GGACC.
The ponds reminded Ashley that the outdoors are right here in SF, and that we can both work and recreate in our beautiful city. Being a part of the GGACC community helped Ashley feel confident to apply and work for California Trout, where she gets to be a part of an awesome crew and amazing conservation projects that are of value to both GGACC and CalTrout members.
Ashley loves getting time on the water and has fond memories of catching her first fish on the fly in September 2019 in the Eastern Sierra at a California Trout staff retreat.
When asked if Ashley would recommend the club to others and why, she responded with an all-caps "ABSOLUTELY." She has met some of her best fish friends through events at GGACC. She notes that there isn't a day that Charlie won't spend time explaining a fly he's tying while grabbing coffee, or Harry taking time to teach a quick Spey tutorial. Sarah and Russ will encourage and give casting tips to perfect even the newbies like her. She loves that the club bursts with comradery, something she spent ages looking for.
GGACC Member Spotlight | Dick Swanson
If you've been around the ponds in the last decade you're hip to who Dick Swanson is. He's crazy for fly casting and also sells the GGACC logo wear at our Saturday free casting lessons and other Club events. More recently, Dick has volunteered to take the position as the Chair of the Locker Committee.
Dick has been an avid fly fisherman for the last ten years. He grew up fly fishing as a teenager then took a bit of a hiatus but always knew he'd come back to the sport. He was familiar with the Lodge because he played Rugby at the nearby polo fields and one fateful day he decided to stop by and ask about joining the club and becoming a better fly caster. He was greeted by Ricardo Nunez who invited him to join a group lesson the following week with Glen Nagumo. What luck! The rest, as Dick puts it, is history, and he's been a regular presence at the Club ever since.
Dick is passionate about the history of the Club and the Works Progress Administration (WPA) during the Great Depression that paved the way for the Lodge and ponds to be built in 1938. He believes we have a unique opportunity to not only teach younger generations about the value of the WPA, but to introduce them to the sport of fly fishing all in one place. To learn more about the club's history, visit the About Us tab on the ggacc.org website.
Dick is a casting fool, working on throwing tight loops on an almost daily basis. While he is too humble to report this himself, we know for a fact that he recently achieved the "gold" level of the Fly Fishers International Fly Casting Skills Challenge. The gold level includes advanced casts such as the curve cast and back cast delivery. Well done, Dick!
GGACC Member Spotlight | R. Valentine Atkinson
Club member Val Atkinson is an internationally acclaimed photographer and fly fisher and was recently inducted into the fly-fishing hall of fame! Val has been consistently visiting the club since 1980 and many of you will recognize him as the guy with the camera taking pictures at our monthly free casting lessons and his favorite event to photograph- Spey-O-Rama. Val treasures each visit to the club and considers himself honored to be such a valued member of our community.
Val is well known as one of the most prolific and lauded fly fishing photographers in the world, so we asked him for some photography tips that he could share with our social media-minded audience. If you are looking to step up your fly fishing photography game, consider the following tips from the master himself: Try shooting from different angles and perspectives to make a more interesting shot. The art of photography lies in the composition - learn the rule of thirds and use this to help set up the photos that you take. Light is everything! Side light, backlight, diffuse, there are different types of light and they change the image drastically, so get out there and take lots of pictures so that you learn how light works to enhance your images. Finally, Val reminds all of you fishing photographers out there to keep your fish wet and in the water until the photographer is 100% ready to take a picture. The desire for hero shots can be detrimental to fish, so fish and photograph responsibly.
Finally, we asked Val to share one of his most memorable photographs and tell us a bit about it. "My 'Jumping Mullet' picture that was taken in the Seychelles as I was fishing for bonefish and a large school of mullet came porpoising in and out of the water coming right toward me, probably spooked by a barracuda or shark. I had the camera around my neck and quickly snapped one image as they went by - several of them actually bumping into me. The amazing thing about the picture is that it's in focus as the whole scene lasted only 3 or 4 seconds."
You can find Val online at valatkinson.com
GGACC Member Spotlight | Rebecca Blair
Rebecca has been a member of GGACC for 15+ years, has been fly fishing for 25 years, and is constantly finding ways to give back to the fly fishing community and we think that's pretty neat. We love Rebecca's story around her connection to the club and dedication to learning all aspects of casting and fishing. We asked Rebecca how she initially learned about the club, what programs and classes she's involved in, and why she recommends becoming a member today. You can find Rebecca double-hauling like a boss at our monthly free casting lessons.
Rebecca heard about GGACC through her first fly fishing club, Golden West Women Flyfishers (GWWF) which was started by Fanny Krieger, Mel Krieger's wife. GGACC provided casting assistance to GWWF members.
At GGACC, she has participated in the double-handed Spey program and has taken advantage of special technique clinics such as how to cast a shooting head for Pyramid Lake Trout. One of the best entomology courses she's ever taken was through GGACC.
Rebecca admits that despite her 25 years in the sport, fly fishing can be quite diverse and new aspects of fly fishing just keep filling up her calendar. She loves that there is always an opportunity to learn something new. She's taken up Spey fishing with a double handed rod for Steelhead, saltwater fly fishing for Roosterfish, Tarpon, Dorado, Permit and Bonefish, euro nymphing small creeks for beautiful Trout, top water Bass fishing with poppers and her newest adventure - Tenkara.
Rebecca has been a board member for several different clubs and in many capacities. She has volunteered for Trout in the Classroom, helped with conservation projects, and co-taught beginning fly fishing programs for groups like the Girl Scouts. She is a long-time volunteer instructor for Casting for Recovery, which provides free fly fishing retreats for breast cancer survivors. Fly fishing has enriched Rebecca's life immensely; it has taken her to beautiful places and helped her develop wonderful friendships and she's at the point where giving back is very important.
GGACC Member Spotlight | Sam Brophy
If you've ever been to our free Saturday casting lessons or watched any Spey casting at the ponds, you definitely know who Sam is - she is always helping out with something or working on her two handed cast. Sam has been a GGACC member for about four years and has been fly fishing for about the same time. Sam is always eager to help out with the club's programs and is a volunteering superstar. In addition, she competed for the first time at Spey-O-Rama earlier this year and we hope to see her out there again next year!
Huge thanks to Sam for all she does for the club with enthusiasm to help others. Read more from our interview with Sam on her involvement with the club and why she recommends becoming a member.
What classes/programs are you involved in at GGACC?
In 2016 I helped Henry Little with the launch of Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing, and in late 2018 I took over the Loaner Rod Program which supports the Second Saturday free casting lessons. I frequently volunteer as support staff for the kitchen during events, and have volunteered for Spey-O-Rama for the last three years. I got to volunteer for the Men's and Senior's divisions as a line judge this year, and was a last-minute and first-time competitor for the women's division.
How did you hear about the club?
My dad grew up in San Francisco, and when I moved here for college and was looking for people to go out fishing with, he gifted me a membership as a Christmas present. I loved it here so much that I just kept renewing my membership!
Would you recommend the club to others and why?
Absolutely. Over the years the club became like a second home, and the members became my second family. I always feel supported and loved by the friends I've made here, and I can't imagine anywhere else I would want to spend all my free time. It's a great place for camaraderie and meeting people who share a love of the outdoors and fly fishing, and I learn more here about fly fishing than I could from any book or online resource.