SF’s grand old man of fly-fishing in Golden Gate Park

Before he left his home in the Italian Swiss Alps more than 50 years ago, Armando Bernasconi had never been fly-fishing. But once he moved to San Francisco and found his way to the fly-casting pools hidden within the west end of Golden Gate Park, Bernasconi became hooked. Now almost 96, the devoted fly fisherman is the Golden Gate Angling and Casting Club’s oldest and most popular member.

On Saturday, May 12, the club celebrated both its 85th anniversary and the 80th anniversary of the construction of the three azure-blue casting pools that still draw Bernasconi as often as he can make the trek from his nearby home on 33rd Avenue.

For the occasion, the club’s lodge, a rustic and well-loved wooden structure perched adjacent to the pools, was packed with club members, young and old. Blue and gold helium balloons battled the wind along the property’s immaculate walkways. Both an American flag and a California state flag whipped in the wind above the doorway that leads from the cozy lodge out onto a stone deck. That deck, in turn, overlooks a small grassy hill and those wind-kissed pools — and on that hill, dozens basked in the weekend sun while they watched fly-fishing fans, some waist-deep in the water, cast their rods.

The whole scene would’ve made a great painting — and it was a scene that was almost impossible to believe existed in Golden Gate Park.

LINK (via: San Francisco Chronicle)

One thought on “SF’s grand old man of fly-fishing in Golden Gate Park

  1. Those old G.G. casting pools and their ‘teach people to cast (and THINK) fly’ reached right around the world.

    Aside from the big-name casters they were a nursery and practice ground for, there was that Mel Krieger fella still pulling crowds of Argentine (soon not to be) spinfishers with his flycasting demos and clinics all over Argentina for many years right up until his death in 2008. Before him there had been another U.S. Fly Emissary, though probably not a G.G. man, a guy named Brooks, you may have heard of him, who really started something in Argentina, including the long-running weekend casting gathering in a fine park in downtown Buenos Aires. One of the best casters I have ever seen, a young woman at the time in the early 1990s, was taught by one of the men whom Brooks inspired to take up fly fishing in the 1950s, a very erudite porteno fishing buddy of another convert of Brooks’s, Jorge Donovan, whose name I cannot remember here without raiding my library of fishing books and find his dedication to me in a copy of Donovan’s book, Naci Pescador, when we met at what at the time (Nov. 1993) was a polo pony-breeding ranch in a distance out of San Martin de Los Andes in northern Patagonia, though a month later was to open as what has since become a well-known fishing lodge.

    “Say ‘Hi’ from me to Mel when you meet him, Paul. ” the very Anglophile, elderly Argentine gentleman said to me. He’ll be down in the South after sea-trout again after Christmas … you’re sure to bump into him…”.

    I did. Plus, the following year, the Argentine fishers who organized his casting shows for local fishers when he was down there (and in much more northern parts of Argentina, too).

    From a few pools in a S.F park and some cranky old fellas waving sticks around to all the way down there and to a heck of a lot of other watery places around the world. Amazing.

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