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Below were our speakers for 2024. Check back later this fall for an updated speaker listing.

Puerto Rico native Jamie Aponte began fishing as a kid with his father and grandfather; today he carries on the family tradition, crediting father Jose for passing along a deep love for the water. During a summer job at Yellowstone while in college, Aponte picked up his first fly rod--and never put it down again. He is an eclectic angler: Aponte's favorite fish on the fly is whatever is biting when he's on the water. Now the owner of Pagosa, Colorado-based outfitter Piedra River Anglers, Aponte guides for trout and pike on the fly. In development is a new program that will enable him to take anglers to his home waters in Puerto Rico to fly fish for tarpon. Aponte also assists Mike Williams owner of Nomadic Waters with hosted trips to Brazil for peacock bass. Aponte loves to draw others into fly fishing with his "both/and" philosophy: Anglers can both enjoy our precious fisheries and respect, protect, and conserve them.

Troy Basso has been fly fishing since he was 9 years old. A decade in the US Army meant that he was able to fly fish around the world for free; he found it difficult, however, to find high-quality flies in Europe and South Korea during the '90s--and thus was born a lifelong passion for fly tying. Today Basso can be found all over the Southeast chasing everything from bass to tarpon. His flies are marketed around the world through Catch Fly Fishing. Basso is also a prolific outdoor writer, columnist, fly-fishing guide, and editor-at-large for On the Fly Magazine; he has also been published in Southeastern Fly FishingFUR FISH GAME, and Midwest Outdoors. Basso teaches fly tying at Fly South in Nashville, and in his “spare time” he maintains the Troy Basso Outdoors blog, which chronicles his journeys in fly fishing and upland bird hunting. We are pleased to have Troy in one of our sought after Featured Fly Tyer’s spots at this year’s festival. He'll be tying his signature pattern Troy's Dock Light Dancer.  If you’d like to chat with Troy in person, he’ll be hanging his hat in the On the Fly Magazine booth when he’s not tying.

 

Fly Fishing VirginiaBeaver Creek

Beau Beasley has fished the waters of the Old Dominion since early childhood and knows them as only a native can. His insider’s knowledge of Virginia ranges from the mountain brook trout streams of the Shenandoah National Park to the salty windswept shores of the Chesapeake Bay. Although he’s pursued trout on Montana’s Bighorn River, landed every species of salmon in Alaska, and successfully brought to hand five-pound brook trout in Labrador, his first love is still fishing poppers on a Virginia farm pond. Beau has garnered multiple awards for his articles covering conservation of such diverse species as menhaden and bonefish. He has distinguished himself as a thorough, impartial investigative journalist covering thorny issues like public sporting access to local waters and lands. His writing has appeared in numerous regional and national publications. Beau serves as the Director of the Virginia Fly Fishing & Wine Festival and the Texas Fly Fishing & Brew Festival. Don’t miss his talk “Who Owns the River: Sorting Out What Is & Isn’t a Public Fishery”

Retired Marine Jim Bensinger, owner of Fiber Flies Dubbing, is obsessed with all things fly fishing—and especially with fly tying. Bensinger has developed a line of materials derived from Alpaca, which is perfect for dubbing and user-friendly enough that amateur fly tiers will love it. Bensinger also serves as the Marine Corps Base Quantico Program Lead for Project Healing Waters. He has led hundreds of fly-tying classes and has a gift for bringing novices into the fly-tying fold. Bensinger is on the national pro staff for Norvise and will teach a specialized “Beginner Fly Tying” class which will be held on Saturday. To register for this limited seating class go here.

Conservation Police Officer Bonnie Braziel has been employed with the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources for almost seven years. She is currently assigned to the Special Operations Unit as the only female K9 Handler, where she thoroughly enjoys working with K9 Grace, a three-year-old black Lab. This girl power duo–K9 Grace and CPO Braziel–has been involved in several cases involving wildlife crimes, felonies, and even murder. When Officer Braziel is not working with K9 Grace, she is an avid fisherwoman; living on Virginia’s east coast, she has the opportunity to take advantage of everything from small freshwater ponds to the Atlantic Ocean. CPO Braziel is also passionate about combining angling with travel: She has enjoyed fishing for trout in Branson, Missouri; yellowtail snapper in Key West; and most recently, salmon and halibut in Alaska. We are so pleased to have Bonnie (and Grace) as guest instructors at this year’s Beyond the Cast Women’s Fly Fishing SymposiumBonnie's class How to Interact with Wildlife was so popular last year, at this year's 2024 festival we will be offering it to the general public.

Roanoke-based Virginia Trophy Guides, owned and operated by Captain Austin Conrad and Captain Josh Laferty, specializes in fly fishing for musky across the Commonwealth of Virginia. They also provide float trips for tailwater trout, smallmouth bass, and other species on a seasonal basis. When not guiding clients to the best of the Southeast, these professionals spend summers in Bristol Bay, Alaska, on the world-renowned Naknek River. Conrad and Laferty are journeymen guides with nationwide experience and a reputation for world-class hospitality. If you want to learn the ins and outs of landing Musky with a fly rod, don’t miss Captain Austin’s lecture on that very topic at this year’s festival.

John Demuth learned to fish growing up near the South Holston and Watauga Rivers in East Tennessee, and his wife Katie learned to fish growing up near the rivers of the Great Smoky Mountains in East Tennessee.   John and Katie became passionate about fly fishing and tying flies together, and John quickly became drawn to the world of fly tying and continues to grow in his fly tying skills. Katie also enjoys photography as a hobby and takes many photos of tied flies and fish.  Her photos and photography tips have been featured in several fly fishing magazines, retail magazines, websites, and blogs.  John ties a variety of both fresh and saltwater flies and is always looking to learn something new from other fly tying legends and friends.  He is passionate about sharing what he has learned with other fly tiers and enjoys this aspect the most about fly tying.  John and Katie also look forward to sharing fly tying and fly fishing experiences and skills on through their live show, “Whip Finish Wednesday” which is now being streamed on their YouTube channel.  The two also enjoy taking part in fly fishing shows and demonstrations and have attended many across the country (and now world) together.  John and Katie are both pro team members and ambassadors for several fly fishing and fly tying companies, including Semperfli and Renzetti.  John is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps, and Katie is a veteran of the United States Army.  He and Katie have four children who keep them busy when they are taking a break from fly fishing, tying flies, and traveling.

Kirk Deeter is the editor-in-chief of Trout Unlimited Media, including TROUT magazine, and TROUT Digital.  He’s also the editor of Angling Trade, the business-to-business media group that covers fly fishing in North America.  A long-time editor-at-large for Field & Stream, he is the author of several books, most notably The Little Red Book of Fly Fishing. His work has also appeared in WiredOutsideMen’s JournalThe New York TimesUSA TodayGarden & Gun, and many other publications.  Known for his offbeat, “out there” story angles, he’s covered fishing on five continents and three oceans, from the tip of Tierra del Fuego in Argentina to north of the Arctic Circle in Russia, from the Tasmanian highlands to the Amazon jungle. He lives in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, with his wife, Sarah.

Pamela Dunlap, co-founder of International Women’s Fly Fishing Day, is the founder of West Virginia’s Women Wine & Waders, a diverse group of like-minded women that contributes to the physical and emotional well-being of women when, every spring, a woman facing a health crisis receives a complimentary weekend fly-fishing getaway. Dunlap hosts and guides unique fly-fishing adventures throughout West Virginia; her newest event, Cast & Blast, is a women-only fly-fishing-and-skeet-shooting weekend. Dunlap is WV Living magazine’s 2021 West Virginia Wonder Woman award recipient and was featured in the state magazine, Wonderful West Virginia.  She strives to inspire, educate, and support women to be the best they can be, learn new skills, and develop lasting friendships through fly fishing. Meet Pamela Dunlap and other trailblazing women at the Beyond the Cast Women’s Fly Fishing Symposium.

Lifelong bass angler Howie Fischer picked up a fly rod seven years ago--and never looked back. A few years later he began tying flies with a 30-year old Griffin vise from his father and a handful of repurposed dental instruments; today he is addicted to fly tying as a stress-relieving creative outlet. Fischer is an affiliate of Altar Fly Fishing and is a brand ambassador for Angler's Coffee, Renomed USA, Solarez, Regal Vise, Ahrex Hooks, Hemingway's, Semper Fly Rods, and Upavon Fly Fishing. We are pleased to Fisher as one of our Featured Fly Tyers this year. You can watch Fischer in action at his Instagram and YouTube channels.

For more than 30 years Mike Heck has fished Pennsylvania’s Cumberland Valley, learning the art of fly fishing on some of the hardest and most famous spring creeks in the country. With a degree in forestry from Penn State University, professional trout guide Heck understands the complex interaction of foliage, insect, and stream. He is the author of Spring Creek Strategies, the co-author of Tying Dry Flies and Keystone Fly Fishing, and has had articles published in Fly FishermanAmerican Angler, and Fish and Fly magazines. Heck has also appeared on Road Trip USA, a Discovery channel television show that aired across Europe. He is an innovative fly tyer, with several patterns credited to his name. His signature fly patterns are used worldwide and when not tying    Heck guides on the Falling Springs, Big Spring, Letort, Yellow Breeches and other great trout streams in south central Pennsylvania.

Gabriella Hoffman is a freelance media strategist, podcaster, columnist, and 2019 Professional Outdoor Media Association Pinnacle Award recipient. Her writings have appeared in Field & Stream, Outdoor Life, Sporting Classics Daily/Sporting Classics Magazine, The Virginia Sportsman, and other national publications. She hosts the weekly “District of Conservation” podcast and is a Senior Fellow with the Independent Women’s Forum. Hoffman wil be a special guest and Lead Angler at this year’s Beyond the Cast Women’s Fly Fishing Symposium.

Cilla Johnson has been fishing since she was 15 years old. Based in Northern Virginia, she can be found with her husband and children, at her job as a federal business development manager--or fishing. She supports our troops through organizations Bravo Zulu Outdoors and Heroes on the Water, and supports women in the outdoors through the Women’s Fishing Federation. A serious kayak angler, Johnson is a Pan-American Bass Kayak gold and silver medalist for Team USA; competes in her local kayak tournament clubs Northern Virginia Kayak Bass Anglers (NVKBA) and Mid-Atlantic Kayak Bass Fishing (MAKBF); and competes nationally with the Hobie Bass Open Series and Kayak Bass Fishing (KBF). Her many industry sponsors include Dugout Bait & Tackle, Jackson Kayaks, YakAttack, and Torqeedo. The 2024 Virginia Fly & Wine is delighted to welcome back Cilla Johnson, who will teach Beyond the Cast Women's Fly Fishing Symposium participants everything they need to know about fishing from a kayak!

A self-professed fly fishing fool, Bob Lindquist of Callicoon, New York, waded the waters of Long Island for more than 40 years before his retirement. His favorite targets were false albacore, striped bass, and weakfish. Lindquist has also fished the Catskills, particularly the Delaware River System, since 1983. His passion for this magnificent river system inspired him to build his retirement home on the banks of the Delaware River. Lindquist uses the skills he learned fishing the Delaware to guide on the river. He also has a passion for both Atlantic salmon and steelhead. Lindquist has worked with numerous fly-fishing manufacturers, including Jvise Whiting Farms, Solarez, and Ahrex. Trained in mathematics, physics, philosophy, and education, Lindquist takes an analytic approach to fly fishing and fly tying and has been published in Fly Tyer, Salt Water Fly Fishing, Fly Fisherman, American Fly Fishing and Japanese Fly Fisherman magazines. Recently, Lindquist has added a passion for photography to his fly fishing and tying addictions. As a retired teacher and coach, he uses his public speaking skills to give presentations to clubs throughout the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions. We are very pleased to have Bob Lindquist as one of this year’s 2024 Virginia Fly Fishing & Wine Festival Featured Fly Tyers. 

His father introduced Steve Maldonado of Evergreen, Colorado, to the outdoors as a child, and he has been fishing ever since. He is an Umpqua Signature Fly Designer with numerous patterns to his credit, including Maldo’s Trico, Maldo’s PMD Emerger, and Maldonado’s Jungle Junkie. He is also a pro staffer with Semperfli, Regal Vise, Scientific Anglers, Ahrex Hooks, and Solarez. A huge saltwater angling fan, Maldonado has fished all over the United States as well as Belize, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Mexico, and Canada. He is passionate about fly fishing and fly tying and teaching others to match the hatch and learn to tie flies.

This is Steve's first visit to the Virginia Fly Fishing & Wine Festival, and we are simply delighted to have him at this year's event.  Be sure to visit with Steve as he teaches our attendees how to tie streamers for big trout and other predator species!

Montana native Julie Mattson began fly fishing and tying when she was just 10 years old. In 2022 Mattson competed in the first-ever USA Women's Fly Fishing Nationals held in Colorado, winning a silver team medal and landing a spot on the national team. She competed in the first-ever women's fly fishing world competition in Norway, was a member of the women's team when they took home the bronze medal at the second women's world competition in Canada in September 2023, and is currently preparing for her next world competition in Czech Republic in May 2024. Mattson has been a guide and outfitter for over 25 years in Montana, Alaska, and Oklahoma. Although she guides (at The HookUp Fly Shop) in Southeast Alaska during the summer, Mattson actually owns and operates On The Rivers Fly Fishing Company in Southeast Oklahoma on the Lower Mountain Fork River. She volunteers with Reel Girls, Casting for Recovery, Boy Scouts, and Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing and is a mentor for The Mayfly Project.

We are very pleased to have Julie with us for the first time this year. She and other members of the USA Women’s Fly Fishing Team will be speaking at this year’s Beyond the Cast Symposium. She will also be teaching a Beginners Fly Fishing Class each day of the festival.   

Landon Mayer’s angling success is fueled by an addiction to pursuing selective quality trout on the fly. He shares his innovative strategies for sighting, hooking, and landing elusive trout in his books 101 Trout Tips: A Guide’s SecretsTactics and TechniquesColorado’s Best Fly FishingSight Fishing for Trout (Second Edition), and The Hunt for Giant Trout: 25 Top Locations in the US to Catch a Trophy, and in his instructional video, Mastering the Short Game (www.mastertheshortgame.com). Mayer travels, guides, and teaches across the country; is a contributing writer for Fly Fisherman and High Country Angler magazines; and has been featured in publications such as Fly Fusion and American Angler magazines. He represents several of the best companies in the business--including Simms Fly Fishing, Yeti, Scientific Angler, and R. L. Winston Rods--and is a royalty fly designer for Umpqua Feather Merchants. Mayer is also an advisory team member for Simms, Bauer Reels, Winston, Scientific Angler, Smith Optics, Fishpond, Yeti, Regal, Flycraft, and Casio Pro Trek watches. He spent a season guiding on Alaska's Naknek River and has been a full-time guide on Colorado's South Platte River for the last 25 years. Landon Mayer resides with his family, in Woodland Park, Colorado. Don’t miss our special limited seating class with Landon at this year’s festival entitled “Trophy Trout For All Seasons using Dries, Nymphs and Streamers.   as well as an Intermediate to Advanced Casting Class (Saturday Only).

Wayne McGee‘s lifelong dream has been to run a world-class fishing operation on a prolific river system in Alaska’s Bristol Bay. Luckily for his many clients, McGee’s dream came true! For the past 18 years, McGee has fished across Alaska–including his “home water,” the Alagnak River, where you’ll find his Alaska Trophy Adventures Lodge. McGee doesn’t limit his fishing to Alaska, though: he has pursued everything from tigerfish and Nile perch in the Congo and Nile Rivers of Africa, to Atlantic salmon and sea trout in Norway and Scotland. In a former life McGee owned a charter boat company based in Senegal, West Africa, where he chased blue marlin, tuna, and sailfish. Today his heart is firmly fixed in Alaska’s Bristol Bay and the wild Alagnak River–and he’s eager to share the region’s beauty and bounty with you!

Captain Matt Miles, the 2023 Orvis-Endorsed Fly-Fishing Guide of the Year, grew up in Lynchburg and began fly fishing in the early 90s. After graduating from high school, Miles moved to Colorado to pursue his dream of becoming a fly-fishing guide. He credits Pat Dorsey owner of The Blue Quill Angler, who gave him his first guiding job, with teaching him how to be the best guide in the business. In 2003 Miles decided to return to Lynchburg to guide his home waters. With over 20 years of experience working with beginners to advanced anglers, Matt Miles' passion is guiding, teaching, and being on the water--and especially pursuing smallmouth bass with popping bugs. Last year Matt’s class on “Fly Fishing for Smallies in Virginia”, was packed so don’t be late or you may not get a seat.

Conservation Police Officer Amanda Nevel has been employed with the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources for six years. CPO Nevel is assigned to the Northern Neck of Virginia and enjoys her work in wildlife enforcement. She has been hosting Women and Youth Hunter Education Program classes to empower more women to the outdoors for the last five years. Nevel participates actively in outreach for the community by hosting educational events. In her free time, CPO Nevel enjoys backpacking the Appalachian Trail and has completed over 250 miles so far in Virginia. She enjoys hunting, fishing, the outdoors, and traveling. She has been to Colorado for a pheasant hunt and has also participated in a women’s antelope hunt in Wyoming. Nevel enjoys all kinds of angling, whether for grouper offshore in Florida or for bass in local private ponds or for striped bass in her home waters of the Chesapeake Bay. We are pleased to have Amanda as one of our instructors at this year’s Beyond the Cast Women’s Fly Fishing Symposium. Amanda's class How to Interact with Wildlife proved so popular in 2023, that we are offering this class to the general public in 2024.

Star Nolan is Executive Director for Casting Carolnias, a local independent non-profit that provides free weekend fly fishing and educational retreats for women surviving all types of cancer. Nolan has many years of non-profit leadership experience. She served as Chair of the Board of Directors at Helpmate, Asheville’s domestic violence agency for four years. and served on the board for eight years. She is Past President of the Land O’Sky Chapter of Trout Unlimited in Asheville for four years, and also served on their Steering Committee. She’s served as a fly fishing instructor for many years at the John C. Campbell School and has taught fly fishing in the “Becoming an Outdoor Woman” program.

In 2017 Nolan was named to the Fly Fishing Museums of the Southern Appalachians Hall of Fame in the “Humanities” category in recognition of her fly fishing expertise and years of volunteer service.

Nolan is the owner of Brookside Guides, a fly fishing guide service which has operated for 30 years. This is Nolan’s first time at the Virginia Fly & Wine and we’re so pleased to have her teaching our “Women’s Free Walkup Casting Classes”. You can meet her at the Casting Carolina’s booth all weekend and just prior to her class each day.

When not casting fly lines, Nolan spends her free time playing fiddle and mandolin in her band, All Strings Considered.

 

Juraj “George” Sabol, a New Jersey-based fly tyer specializing in freshwater streamers and saltwater patterns, is the owner of Hooked on the Fly 2 Custom Flies and Photography. Born and raised in the former Czechoslovakia, Sabol had finished his enlistment with the US Navy when he was drawn into fly fishing for the first time through a Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing outing. There he cast a fly rod for a few minutes and tied his first wooly bugger--and the rest is history. Fourteen years later, Sabol is still tying flies; his specialty is tying custom orders for specific trips. He lives to tie patterns to chase the ultimate predators; some of his clients call him "The Meat Maker" for that reason. Sabol is a pro staffer with HMH Vises, Ahrex Hooks, and Loon Outdoors and has been a professional photographer for over 7 years.  We are quite pleased to have George join us as a new Featured Fly Tyer for our 2024 festival.

Tom Rosenbauer has been a fly fisher for 50 years and was a commercial fly tier by age 14. He has fished extensively across North America, in England’s fabled chalk streams, on Christmas Island, and in the Bahamas, Belize, Kamchatka, and Chile. He is credited with bringing bead-head flies to North America and is the inventor of the Big Eye hook, Magnetic Net Retriever, and tungsten beads for fly tying. Rosenbauer has some 20 fly fishing books in print including The Orvis Fly-Fishing Guide; Reading Trout Streams; Prospecting for Trout; Casting Illusions; Fly Fishing in America; Approach and Presentation; Trout Foods and Their Imitations; Nymphing Techniques; Leaders, Knots, and Tippets; Dry-Fly Techniques; The Orvis Fly Fishing Encyclopedia; and The Orvis Fly-Tying Guide, which won a 2001 National Outdoor Book Award. Salt, Rosenbauer’s collaboration with photographer Andy Anderson, also won a National Outdoor Book Award in 2014. He has been published in Field & Stream, Outdoor Life, Catalog Age, Fly Fisherman, Gray’s Sporting Journal, Sporting Classics, Fly Rod & Reel, AudubonMen’s Journal, and more. His latest book, Fly Fishing for Trout—The Next Level, was published in November 2016. Rosenbauer is the writer and narrator of “The Orvis Fly-Fishing Guide Podcast,” one of the top outdoor podcasts on iTunes. Rosenbauer has worked for the Orvis Company for 44 years in a variety of capacities. In 2022 he was awarded Fly Rod & Reel’s Angler of the Year Award for his many educational efforts in books, magazine articles, and his podcast. He lives with his wife and son in southern Vermont on the banks of his favorite trout stream. We are delighted to have Tom Rosenbauer return this year to teach two special classes Reading the Water,  (Saturday only) & Matching the Hatch, both with limited seating.

Allen Rupp has been tying flies for 30 years now. Growing up around the District of Columbia, his first fish on the fly were Potomac River smallies. Allen now owns and operates Fly On the Water  and while he lives in New York City, his flies have caught fish all over the world–from Belize, Chile, Canada, Mexico, the UK, and the Seychelles to Colorado, Montana, New York, Wisconsin, and beyond. Lately saltwater fish–and especially snook–have been taking up most of his time. This is Allen’s second appearance at the Virginia Fly Fishing & Wine Festival. and we are pleased to have him.  New this year is an all day Friday fly ting class for dedicated bass fly tyers called The Complete Near Nuff Fly Tying School based on the work of famed fly tyer Dave Whitlock who Allen studied under. This limited seating class will be held at the festival hotel. Allen will also be offering a Saltwater Fly Tying Techniques Class on Sunday afternoon on the festival grounds. We anticipate both classes selling out so don't wait to make your reservations.

 

Ian & Charity Rutter - Ian has been full-time fly fishing guide in the Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee since 1995. In that time he has waded most streams and rowed a boat on most rivers in the Southeast. In 2002 Rutter’s wife Charity joined him as a guide; today, the Rutters own and operate R&R Fly Fishing guide service. Together they have written six books on fly fishing.

At the 2024 Virginia Fly & Wine, the Rutters will co-teach a paid specialty class called Casting for Accuracy: Brook Trout to Bonefish.” After all, it doesn’t really matter how far you can cast if you can’t hit your target. In this specialty course, the Rutters will provide expert, intensive instruction to help students hone their casting skills.

Ian Rutter is also an accomplished artist who focuses on fly-fishing subjects and moments on the water. Attendees of the 2024 Virginia Fly & Wine will have the opportunity to see and enjoy some of Ian’s artwork.

Charity Rutter is an advocate for women fly fishers and regularly organizes women's fly fishing and camping events to help women gain confidence in the outdoors and on the water. She will be a guest speaker at the 2024 Beyond the Cast Women’s Fly Fishing Symposium--our show-within-a-show event developed by women for women--at which she will lecture on mountain trout tactics.

They have a new book "Fly Fishing Guide to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park" coming out in March of 2024. Stop by the Rutters’ booth at the 2024 Virginia Fly & Wine to meet them both, check out Ian’s artwork, or discuss booking a guided trip in the Smokies!

Mark Signorino is a Fly Fishers International Certified Casting Instructor from Erie, Pennsylvania. He is involved with the Gem City Outdoorsmen Fly Tiers and is a director for the Franklin, Pennsylvania-based FFI Affiliate club Keystone Fly Fishers. Signorino has competed in American Casting Association events, is a helper/instructor for Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission fly-fishing seminars, teaches "Fly Fishing 101" classes at state parks in Western Pennsylvania, and is a volunteer with Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing. He is a member of the Lake Erie Advisory Council, the purpose of which is to present new projects, easements, and land acquisitions that are funded through the monies generated from the Lake Erie Stamp fishing permit. Signorino's first article, "So you received a fly tying kit for Christmas--now what?" has been published in MidCurrent. When he isn't teaching, Signorino is an avid steelhead, trout, and bass fisherman.

This will be Mark’s first year with us at the festival, and we are pleased to have him teaching one of our specialty Beginner Fly Casting Classes.

Pennsylvania native Jena Smolko grew up in the outdoors; camping, hiking, and fishing are in her blood. Although she learned to fish with conventional tackle, Smolko has spent a decade honing her fly-fishing skills while raising two amazing little boys (undoubtedly future fly anglers). A Penn State graduate with a degree in agricultural and biological engineering (and a concentration in natural resources), Smolko has enjoyed her career as a stream restoration project manager in Maryland for the past 10 years where she works for Baltimore County Environmental Protection and Sustainability doing stream restoration work. In 2022, Smolko attended a USA Women's Clinic in New York and was invited to compete at the first USA National Women’s Fly Fishing Competition in Colorado. Her team placed third, winning a bronze medal and securing her spot as one of 10 women on the first USA Women's National Team. In her free time, Jena Smolko is honing her fishing skills, attending competitions, fishing across the country, and getting to know the next generation of fly anglers. She currently resides in New Freedom, Pennsylvania.

Angelica Talan’s passion for traditional fishing began at an early age.  It wasn’t until her daughter Ella asked her to go fly fishing that she began fly-fishing and learning more about the sport.  Angelica is the founder of two successful lifestyle blogs.  She is a source for inspiration, covering everything from travel and fitness to parenting, attainable luxury and style, home decor and more.  Not having seen many women of color represented in the fly fishing world, Angelica is doing her part to change that.  “Growing up in a small town in Northwest Ohio, I was surrounded by people that didn’t look like me and subsequently feel like representation is essential to everyone.  Now more than ever, girls are influenced by so many social factors and shouldn’t feel under-represented in areas of interest.  Especially activities that are meant to be enjoyable and open to anyone.” Angelica has been published in Dun MagazineArlington Magazine and has been featured on The Woman Angler Podcast, several Washington, D.C. television news channels as a regular correspondent and travel expert. She is one of the current ambassadors for Take Me Fishing’s Women Making Waves. Angelica Talan is a mom, a wife, Washington, D.C. based blogger, digital creator and social media influencer.  You can follow Angelica’s journeys in D.C. at ClarendonMoms.com, AngelicaTalan.com or on Instagram at @angelicatalan.  If you’re in the Washington, D.C. and Northern Virginia area and would like to connect with Angelica, she can be reached at: AngelicaInTheCity@gmail.com.

Tim Urtiaga discovered fly fishing at a very young age and quickly decided he wanted to share his love for the quiet sport with others. Over the years Urtiaga has successfully guided many clients to beautiful trout on New Mexico’s famed San Juan River. After catching a few monster Northern pike on the fly, Urtiaga was himself “hooked”—and began to offer the only guided fly-fishing trips for Northern pike off of a boat. Urtiaga, who has been featured in Field & Stream and American Fly Fishing, is trying to raise awareness of Northern pike, abolish the catch-and-kill rule, and increase conservation efforts to protect this species. Urtiaga opened Eagle Nest Fly Shack in Eagle Nest, New Mexico, to provide a new generation of outdoor enthusiasts with the gear and equipment they need to become independent anglers. The Fly Shack, which really did begin as a shack beside an old gas station, thrived and grew until Urtiaga expanded to include more space and even lodging. Today Eagle Nest Fly Shack and Lodge offers eight hotel-style accommodations as well as guided fishing with four different experienced fishing guides.

Captain Simón Valencia is the co-owner of Current Culture Fly, Richmond’s only independent fly shop. A native of Bogota, Colombia, Valencia emigrated  to Miami, where he learned to fish for largemouth bass, chain pickerel, striped bass, red drum, and speckled trout with his cousins. A recovering social worker, Valencia guides full-time on the James River, Chickahominy River and Lake, and the Chesapeake Bay. Be sure to take in Captain Valencia’s class as he speaks on fishing for stripers, shad and more on Virginia’s famed James River. The class will go over tactics, where and when to go, as well as what patterns to use. Don’t miss this informative talk about one of the best rivers in the Old Dominion.

Stephanie Vatalaro is the Senior Vice President of Marketing & Communications at the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation (RBFF), where she leads the consumer and stakeholder outreach strategy for RBFF and its Take Me Fishing™ and Vamos A Pescar™ brand campaigns. A marketing and communications professional with more than 20 years’ experience in corporate, agency, nonprofit, and TV newsroom settings, Vatalaro has devoted the last 15 years of her career to getting more people out on the water fishing and boating and conserving our nation’s aquatic natural resources. Vatalaro currently serves on the American Sportfishing Association’s (ASA) Marketing and Market Insights Committees, Boating Industry’s Leadership Council, the Marine Marketers of America Board of Directors, and NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuaries Business Advisory Council. She was recognized in Boating Industry’s 2020 Women Making Waves, and she volunteers with Casting for Recovery. Vatalaro, who received her B.S. degree in communications from Florida State University and a certificate in management from the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, grew up in the Florida Keys and is the daughter of a flats fishing guide. She now spends summers fishing and boating with her family on Virginia’s Potomac River. Vatalaro will be a special guest at this year’s Beyond the Cast: Women’s Fly Fishing Symposium which will run concurrently with this year’s festival.

Ashley Wilmot, owner of Spring Creek Fly Fishing LLC guide service and an adjunct professor for the Joe Humphreys Penn State Fly Fishing Program, volunteers with Casting For Recovery Western Pennsylvania, Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing, and Trout Unlimited. She is a member of the US Women’s Fly-Fishing National Team and the US Women's Fly Fishing World Team. Wilmont also organizes Reel Girls, a fly-fishing program for girls ages 12 to 18. She currently lives in State College, Pennsylvania, and works in Human Resources for Penn State. Wilmont will be helping to lead this year’s Beyond the Cast Fly Fishing Symposium for Women, and we are delighted to have her and her teammates involved in this year’s festival. Photo credit Joyce Yong.

Alex Wise has been fishing the banks of the Smith River for nearly two decades. Living no more than a mile from its banks in Eden, North Carolina, he has spent countless days from the headwaters near Woolwine, Virginia, all the way to the confluence with the Dan River in Eden for a multitude of species. Wise has dedicated the last 12 years to fly fishing and guiding for brown and rainbow trout from Philpott Dam downstream to their furthest reaches. He has traveled to fish many states including Florida, South Carolina, Georgia, Montana, West Virginia, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Idaho, and Tennessee, but has great pride in calling North Carolina/Virginia home. Alex guides on the Smith for New River Fly Fishing and hopes that a day spent with him on the water results in his clients learning how to better their angling experience.

Shannon Young, who began fly fishing as a teenager in the mountains of North Georgia, was a bass angler for 30 years and fished the B.A.S.S. state federation circuit for three years before opening a guide service in Western North Carolina. Young loves to instruct and guide clients in the art of European or "Czech" nymphing. He and his wife Kristin own and operate Maggie Valley Fly Shop in Maggie Valley, North Carolina. As an avid fly angler, pro-staffer for Hardy Fly Rods as well as Cortland Line Company, guide, and fly shop owner, Young is driven to welcoming novices into the quiet sport of fly fishing and introducing them to the enduring beauty of the outdoors. Young is one of our new speakers for the 2024 festival, and we are grateful to have him and his wife Kristin join us.