There are plenty of fly fishers in South Jersey, catching just about every saltwater species as well as freshwater, said Joe Gerace, of Northfield, vice president/treasurer of the South Jersey Coastal Fly Anglers.
"Whatever swims you can go after with fly rod," Gerace said.
The group will celebrate its 10th anniversary in February. It meets monthly and provides education about the sport, and the art of fly tying. But it has also added fundraising and advocacy for breast cancer causes to its agenda.
It raised about $1,500 for Susan G. Komen Cancer Foundation by selling hand-tied flies (the lure they use to catch fish) at international fly fishing shows, Gerace said.
About four years ago the group got involved with the nonprofit Casting For Recovery, and helped organize the first CFR retreat in southern New Jersey. So far, SJCFA has hosted four retreats. At each one, the club provides 14 women with a full fly fishing outfit and instruction.
Partly as a result of its involvement with Casting For Recovery, the number of women in the group is increasing.
"We have six female members, two of whom are graduates from the Casting For Recovery retreats," Gerace said, adding that the correct term for practitioners is not "fly fishermen," but "fly fishers."
Gerace said the sport becomes a passion for many.
"It's a lot like golf. You have to think about what you are doing, how you are moving your arm in the cast. You stalk the fish a lot of times. It takes a lot of knowledge, and you can never learn everything," he said.
Fly fishers also become passionate about tying flies, he said. "I was up at 3:30 this morning tying flies."
Gerace took the sport up in his youth, then didn't fish for about 20 years while raising his family and focusing on his career as a pharmacist. He retired from AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center in 2012.
In 2006 he got back into fly fishing through the club, he said.
He also volunteers for the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., from which his daughter Melissa graduated in 1993. He promotes the academy to students, and interviews qualified applicants.
Fly fishers are typically conservationists, he said.
"It's being out with nature. Most of us don't keep our fish," he said. "It's a sport of essentially stalking and catching fish, and putting them back for another day."
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