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01-23-2009, 09:07 AM
There are few snags in Virginia Anglers Club

Published: January 23, 2009

It was more than 30 years ago, but Glenn Carter remembers exactly what brought him to the Virginia Anglers Club.
The accounting manager at Tredegar Corporation grew up hunting and fishing near his home not far from West Point, but he never had much exposure to saltwater fishing or the diversity of freshwater fishing available in the area.

Back in the early 1970s, Max Ailor was the outdoors columnist at The Times-Dispatch, and Ailor would regale readers with the exploits of VAC members.

"Those were the glory days of the Chesapeake Bay and gray trout fishing," Carter remembers. "I was reading all these stories about people catching 10and 12-pound gray trout. The biggest gray trout I had ever caught was bottom fishing in the Rappahannock River - maybe a two-pounder. And I'm sitting there half in awe, thinking, 'Man, I can't believe these guys are catching fish like this.'"

Carter soon happened upon a club member at a local sporting goods shop who invited him to come to a VAC meeting. Carter became a member in short order, and within a year, he was on the Chesapeake Bay with his new fishing buddies hauling in the gray trout he'd once read about.
"It's just been an eye-opening experience for me," said Carter, who joined the club in 1976. "I've had such opportunities presented to me because of being a member of the club. All of my closest friends today, just about every one of them, are members of the Virginia Anglers Club."

Tomorrow the 48-year-old club will hold its annual banquet, and now seems a good time to pay homage to the VAC's unique history and vigorous present.
No less a fishing luminary than Joe Brooks started the club in 1961 after moving to Richmond from Florida. A pioneer in the sport of fly fishing, Brooks is credited with opening minds and perspectives by showing anglers that you could catch almost anything on a fly rod and do it almost anywhere in the world.
For members such as Mike Ostrander, there's a sense of pride in the club's history.

"This club is because of Joe Brooks," he said. "He was one of the guys that made traveling to go fishing fashionable. He fished the world, and from what I understand, he made fishing a destination [sport]."

Even more importantly for Ostrander, a charter-fishing captain, are the connections he's made during his eight years in the VAC.
"It's the camaraderie. It's the ability to go and meet guys that have the same passion," he said.

Gary Martel, like Carter years before, was blown away by the total volume of fishing experience of the 120-member club.
"These guys are like a treasure-trove of knowledge," said Martel, the fisheries director at the Department of the Game and Inland Fisheries. "The combined knowledge of the club when it comes to everything from panfishing to offshore fishing to fishing in exotic places is phenomenal."

The members do more than pick each other's brains on specific fishing techniques, equipment and places to drop a line. The club also sponsors talks on different topics and is involved in fishing-related and environmental conservation efforts. Members have served on committees at the DGIF and the Virginia Marine Resources Commission and have spoken at the General Assembly on issues affecting angling in the state.
Parks Rountrey has been a member since about 1990 and now coordinates tournaments. He used to be in charge of organizing the VAC's conservation efforts.

"These days, everybody that's involved in outdoor sporting activities needs to take a role in preserving and maintaining the resources that they're using, whatever they be, whether it's the environment or a certain species of fish."
Rountrey, Ostrander, Martel, Carter and many others will celebrate another year of one of the oldest and most esteemed fishing clubs in Virginia. They'll raise their glasses to the VAC's honored past and look forward to another year of accumulated knowledge, enduring friendships and tight lines.