Hooked His life­long pas­sion is fly fish­ing, and he’s about to be Cap­tain Canada at the world cham­pi­onships in Italy

The Prince George Citizen - - Sports - Cit­i­zen staff tclarke@pgc­i­t­i­zen.ca

As a Prince Ge­orge RCMP gen­eral duty of­fi­cer, Claude Cipel­letti spends his work­ing days catch­ing crim­i­nals. Be­ing good at his job re­quires pa­tience, stealth, in­tu­ition and an ex­cep­tional un­der­stand­ing of his sur­round­ings – qual­i­ties that have served him well dur­ing his 16-year ca­reer with the RCMP. The goal is to al­ways be one step ahead of his tar­gets and pre­dict where they might be hid­ing to boost the odds of trap­ping them.

He ap­plies the same phi­los­o­phy to his favourite pas­time, fly fish­ing.

For the 58-year-old Cipel­letti, it’s not just a hobby, it’s his pas­sion. His fishy for­ays be­gan when he was a boy in Montreal and his dad first handed him a trolling rod. By the time he was 10, he was prac­tic­ing casts with his first fly rod. The thrill of snag­ging a live wig­gler never grew old and as an adult he’s taken it the next level, en­ter­ing com­pe­ti­tions.

This week he’s in Trentino, Italy, pre­par­ing to land the big ones at the world fly fish­ing cham­pi­onships. Cipel­letti has been named cap­tain of the five-mem­ber Cana­dian team that will com­pete against 29 other coun­tries in team and in­di­vid­ual events. The three days of com­pe­ti­tion in­cludes five three-hour ses­sions on scenic rivers and lakes set against the back­drop of the Dolomites moun­tain range in north­east­ern Italy. Com­pet­ing for tro­phies, each fish­er­man will try to catch the big­gest and the most fish in each ses­sion.

“It’s go­ing to be a lot of fun and I’m go­ing to try to do well for the coun­try,” he said. “In fly fish­ing com­pe­ti­tion there’s some luck in­volved. It’s a lot­tery for where you get to fish on the river and if you don’t get the right spot then you won’t do very well.”

The 38th an­nual event starts on Mon­day and runs through to Sept. 23. The 150 com­peti­tors will be try­ing to reel in brown trout, rain­bow trout, Euro­pean grayling and a species of char called Mar­mota, an ag­gres­sive fish sim­i­lar to bull trout. He’ll be us­ing light two- or four-pound test line that eas­ily sinks to the bot­tom of the river, where the fish are usu­ally found.

“It’s just like an in­ves­ti­ga­tion, you’ve got to get to the bot­tom of things,” laughed Cipel­letti.

“Mar­mota can get quite big, which will be in­ter­est­ing, be­cause we’ll be rigged for trout and one of those brutes can ac­tu­ally grab your fly and all hell breaks loose,” he said.

Prac­tice makes per­fect, and Cipel­letti and the other Cana­dian team mem­bers are al­ready in Italy scout­ing out the ter­rain and test­ing the wa­ters, with help from their re­con­nais­sance scouts. Dif­fer­ent con­di­tions re­quire dif­fer­ent tech­niques, based on the speed and slope of the cur­rent, the type of river bed (rocky or flat) and what in­sects re­side in the rivers and lakes. Hav­ing the right fly for the job is cru­cial and Cipel­letti ties his own.

He’ll have time to ex­per­i­ment be­fore the com­pe­ti­tion be­gins – to de­vise tac­tics for each of the five ar­eas. Each com­peti­tor will draw a spe­cific area in the lot­tery and has to stick to that area un­der the su­per­vi­sion of an of­fi­cial, who mea­sures the fish and checks to make sure all equip­ment is le­gal.

While it’s rare to find a com­pe­ti­tion in Canada, the sport is ex­tremely pop­u­lar over­seas and Euro­peans don’t have to travel far to find the next event.

“They com­pete ev­ery week­end, they do it all the time and there’s lots of peo­ple,” said Cipel­letti. “It’s very difficult to make (Euro­pean) teams be­cause there’s so many peo­ple. It’s eas­ier here.”

Cipel­letti fin­ished 18th over­all as the top Cana­dian at the Amer­ica Cup in 2014 in Vail, Colo., and twice fin­ished third in the in­di­vid­ual and team events at the na­tional cham­pi­onships.

Cipel­letti has Ital­ian roots on his dad’s side. He vis­ited the coun­try once when he was a kid but hasn’t been back there since. Be­fore he be­came an RCMP of­fi­cer he worked in lo­gis­tics for 11 years in the Cana­dian Armed Forces and dur­ing that time was posted to nearby Ger­many and he re­gret­ted not mak­ing the trip to Italy. He won’t have much time for sight­see­ing this trip but is glad he’ll get to see an­other part of that coun­try.

His first RCMP post­ing was in Kelowna, where he spent 12 years be­fore mov­ing to Ques­nel for a 3 1/2-year stint. He moved to Prince Ge­orge in Novem­ber and has found some of his favourite fish­ing holes on the Black­wa­ter River south­west of the city.

“I go to the Black­wa­ter and a cou­ple other rivers in the area – I’d hate to have you re­veal where,” he quipped. “There are rivers within an hour of Prince Ge­orge that are good for prac­tic­ing.”

He says while some fish­er­men never eat what they catch, he’s not usu­ally into catch-and-re­lease, un­less it’s man­dated. He’ll have to toss back what he catches at the world event in Italy.

“I ab­so­lutely have no prob­lem, when it’s le­gal, to catch and keep a fish and eat it – they’re de­li­cious,” he said.

He ad­mits his mil­i­tary/po­lice back­ground serves him well when he’s cast­ing lines.

“There’s self-discipline, of course, that’s im­posed on us early on, and the abil­ity to re­main calm when all seems lost,” he said. “Af­ter the first hour-and-a-half, and you’re not catch­ing many fish you’re start­ing to sweat, so my train­ing comes in pretty handy. I just per­se­vere, keep at it, and don’t let your­self get dis­cour­aged.”

For stress-re­lief from his day job, Cipel­letti can’t think of any­thing bet­ter.

“I find fish­ing, with the gur­gling sound of the rivers rush­ing by and the wind and the trees and the birds and swear­ing fish­er­men, you kind of zone out and for­get about work and your trou­bles,” he said. “You just fish.”

Cipel­letti fin­ished 18th over­all as the top Cana­dian at the Amer­ica Cup in 2014 in Vail, Colo., and twice fin­ished third in the in­di­vid­ual and team events at the na­tional cham­pi­onships.

CIT­I­ZEN PHOTO BY BRENT BRAATEN

Lo­cal fly fish­ing en­thu­si­ast Claude Cipel­letti tries his luck at the con­flu­ence of the Nechako and Fraser rivers. Cipel­letti is cur­rently in Italy, pre­par­ing for the 38th an­nual world fly fish­ing cham­pi­onships, which start on Mon­day in Trentino.

CIT­I­ZEN PHOTO BY BRENT BRAATEN

Cipel­letti, 58, got his first fly fish­ing rod when he was just 10 years old. All these years later, he’s one of the masters of the sport.

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