Unique fundraiser to combine running, fly-fishing and beer

Published 12:52 pm Friday, March 31, 2023

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Inaugural Western North Carolina Flyathlon will raise funds for coldwater conservation projects


SALUDA – A unique fundraiser including outdoor recreation and craft beer is on tap for next month. The inaugural Western North Carolina Flyathlon will take place in Saluda on the weekend of April 29. 

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The fundraiser’s goal is to raise $5,000 for coldwater conservation projects, with a focus on the Appalachian brook trout, which organizers identified as an important species native to the waters near Saluda. 

The Flyathlon includes a unique, conservation-minded race event that integrates trail running, fly-fishing, and craft beer. Organizers hope to make the event an annual occurrence.

Event Coordinator Wes Sessoms combined his love of outdoor recreation and conservation while putting this event together locally. 

“This is a great opportunity for someone to go from just participating in outdoor recreation to becoming a steward for the area,” said Wessoms.  “It gives you some ownership and a better feeling about what you’re doing in that area.”

The start of the six-mile run will be at the Green River Ranch located at 3851 Green River Cove Rd in Saluda, with the turn-around point at the Pulliam Creek intersection. Participants’ finish time will be adjusted according to the size and species of the fish they catch during the event. 

“You can complete the race without catching a fish, but [you’re] not likely to win!” said Andrew Todd, owner of Running Rivers, a collection of outdoor enthusiasts whose focus is the maintenance and preservation of public lands and waters. 

Beer will also be available at the finish line and gathering afterward.

New Belgium Brewing Brewing and Sessoms reached out to Running Rivers to host the event. Since 2014, Running Rivers’ Flyathlon events have raised over $500,000 for cold water preservation and native trout-related projects in Iowa and Colorado.

“It’s strange to have thought to put together things that are as disparate as trail running, fly fishing and beer into an event and then do it for conservation purposes,” said Todd. “We feel like the fundamental problem is that there are insufficient resources available for public lands, public waters and native fish. We create programs that are intended to be fun ways for people to engage in conservation.”

The Western North Carolina Flyathlon will take place from April 29 at 8 a.m. to April 30 at 12 p.m. Entry fees are $75 and donations are tax-deductible, and the donation deadline is April 27. 

More information can be found at trailrunner.com and flipcause.com, as well as runningrivers.org.