The Mayfly Project's 25 on the Fly: A Mixed Bag Tournament Report

When The Mayfly Project announced its first annual 25 on the Fly multi-species tournament earlier this year, I knew I had to participate.  I've found myself increasingly interested in a mixed bag approach to my fly fishing, and the tournament sounded like the perfect outlet for pursuing new species while also feeding my competitive side.

Requiring teams of two, I partnered with my cousin, Jake, and began developing a plan of attack.  We quickly settled on central NY, where we had both grown up, as our desired location and pinpointed a number of waters that provided the opporuntity to target many of the 25 eligible species.

May 20th, 2021

Pre-fishing: Day 1

Meeting up near Syracuse early on Thursday, May 20th, we headed for the Finger Lakes region with the intent on scouting a warmwater lake that could potentially produce as many as 1/3 of our eligible species.  Launching kayaks near the north end, we proceeded to circumnavigate the lake, totaling over 9 miles in the kayaks before calling it a day.

The diversity and quantity of fish in the clear water was astounding as massive schools of bluegill were interspersed with large carp, smallmouth and largemouth bass often over 5 lbs, and an assortment of other panfish species.  While we struck out on large fish this particular day, we did manage to bring four eligible species to hand (smallmouth, largemouth, yellow perch & bluegill) along with a handful of other species.  Additionally, we hooked, but failed to land two other eligible species (black crappie & tiger muskie).

May 21, 2021

Pre-fishing: Day 2

Returning to the same lake the following morning, we allotted ourselves four hours as we planned to use Friday as a dry run for Day 1 of the actual tournament.  As it turned out, four hours was far more than would be needed.  Launching just before 8 AM, we landed five eligible species (tiger muskie, smallmouth, largemouth, bluegill & yellow perch) within 45 minutes.

Back in the car by 9AM, we scouted a few back up locations before moving on to coldwater around 11AM.  Though, we failed to locate any White Sucker as hoped, I quickly checked off brown trout while Jake added both browns and brook trout (along with a large fallfish) before the clock struck noon.

More than satisfied to have checked off seven eligible species (plus a few others) before noon, we turned our attention to scouting carp.  The results were less than inspiring...

Though we located dozens of feeding fish over our two hours on the water, only two takes occurred and neither was brought to net.  Still, the location clearly offered potential, and we felt comfortable leaving the carp to rest as we proceeded to scout additional locations before calling it a day around 5pm.

May 22, 2021

Tourney Day 1: Central New York!

Rising at 4 AM, and on the water as the sun rose at 5:30AM, our morning started quickly as we checked off two species before launching our kayaks.  The sunfish was expected, but the large smallmouth was both exciting and disappointing.  I had launched my chartreuse and white deceiver in the direction of a Tiger Muskie busting alewives along the end of a rock jetty.  The line taught almost immediately, I thought we had checked off a challenging fish before 6AM.  Instead, my best smallie of the weekend came to hand.

The Tiger did follow on the next cast, but it was not to be as boat traffic began to pick up and the large fish quickly disappeared.

Launching the kayaks with two fish on the board, we proceeded to land nothing but smallmouth for the next few hours.  Though a few muskie strikes did occur, the hook never drove home and as 11 AM approached, we decided to move on.

Detouring only briefly (and unsuccessfully), we were back on our trout & sucker stream by noon.  Still no sucker, but we did quickly add a brown trout to our species list.  The brookies were no where to be seen, however, and we left with only a few browns & a small fallfish (ID help?) to show for our efforts.

Stuck at three species, we moved on to carp.  And after a hard fought hour of refusals, a decent fish fell for my well-placed Primordial Carp Stew. 

A quick video of the release, and we were running once again.  The afternoon was advancing quickly, and we were still only at 4 species.

Blowing up our plans to head for Rhode Island that evening, we detoured back to our morning launch and tried once more for Tigers, Largemouth and Perch.  As the sun set, however, we had only missed hooksets and a single overzealous perch to show for our trouble.

At only five species, we were behind the ball as day 1 came to a close.  We still had a day to go though, and did our best to squeeze in three hours of sleep before the long drive to Rhode Island.

May 23, 2021

Tourney Day 2: Rhode Island

Alarms waking us, we piled into the car before 4 AM and began the five hour trek to our next stop.  And though, we did stop a few times along the way, our target species were hard to come by and a string of bluegill and smallmouth were all we had to show for our efforts.

Things improved quickly in RI, however, as Jake and I each managed Pickerel (eligible as a "pike" per the rules) and Black Crappie in short order.

Largemouth bass were still surprisingly hard to comeby, however, and we began to worry that such a simple fish might prevent us from placing in the tournament.  Still, we were now at seven species.

And after a brief, failed attempt to locate mirror carp, we turned our attention towards an urban stream where Jake had previously collected both White Catfish and White Suckers as part of an electrofishing project.  Though it produced neither, we did find ourselves at eight species as an unexpected stocker rainbow provided our only excitement on the relatively warmwater.

Moving on to brook trout before finishing our day on stripers, a much prettier rainbow made an unexpected appearance as I pulled a 15" wild fish from under a log jam in a stream known for small (<6-8"), wild brook trout.

Checking off a brook trout shortly thereafter, we packed up once again and headed for the coast after one last ditch effort to find a largemouth.

Our last failed attempt to land a largemouth behind us, we made our way to a small, tidal river with less than 1.5 hours to go before the tournament closed.  We sat at nine species and needed a Striper if we were to hit double digits on the tournament.  Though the winds and tides were not cooperating, we peppered the water with casts until Jake drove the hook home on a schoolie near the mouth fo the tidal creek.

Fish in hand, we snapped a quick picture and sent it on its way.  We had hit double digits with less than 30 minutes to go.  No time to double back for other species, we enjoyed a relaxing 30 minutes casting as the sun set.

The Awards Ceremony

Though the winners were not announced until the following evening, Jake and I both feared our inability to land a largemouth bass would cost us.  And when the announcement final came, it turned out our fears were warranted.  We had placed 4th of 45 teams, but only the top 3 were awarded prizes.  We had tied with 3rd for species, but lost on tie breaker points.  A single largemouth would have given us third.  Any one of the five tiger muskie that we had failed to land would have given us enough points for second.

Still though, I can hardly complain.  We had fished nearly 30 hours over two days and landed a combined 10 species.  We had covered 600+ miles and beaten out teams representing brands like Sage and Redington.  Better still, we did not leave empty handed as we were awarded the winner of Simms #fishitwell Challenge by the judges. 

In all, it was probably the most fun I've had fishing in a long while.  And a great first trip following a year of sticking close to home. 

Species List:


Graceclaw's picture

Thanks for sharing with us! Sounds like you had a ton of fun and learned a lot. Way to stick it to the Sage team!

Eric Kol's picture

I am so glad anoth RF member fished this! It is to raise money an awareness for a cause that is near and dear to me.

 I fished this solo in the Arrowhead region of MN. I had some weather challenges that kept me from catching a few of the species I was counting on and some fish I caught prefishing. Though I got nine species officially, I am already planning for next year's contest. Next year I will for sure be fishing with a partner. Not only for the better chances of getting the target species, but it was a pain to video each catch solo. I did manage to get a lake trout on the fly but was unabale to get a muskie. That laker was a 500 point fish and I was hoping it would come in handy if their was a tie, but, the species count wasn't there.

Great write up!


Carpy Diem!

Chris_in_Louisiana's picture

I remember seeing the Lake Trout video!  That was a great catch.

Regardless of outcome, it really was a fun format and supported a great cause.  Hopefully, it will continue to grow year over year.

SomewhereDownstream's picture

That is a fallfish. Sorry I didn't see that question earlier. 


Chris_in_Louisiana's picture

Thank you!  I appreciate the confirmation.