PUNXSUTAWNEY — A Punxsutawney man has taken his love for the outdoors to a first-place level since he started competing in fly fishing competitions four years ago.

At the start of this year, Cody Schlemmer won the National Fly Fishing League competition on the Juniata River near Tyrone, Pennsylvania.

He competes a few times a year individually, Schlemmer said, and on team Dead Drift Mid-Atlantic — a competitive fly fishing team with members in Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York and Virginia.

Rich Ferrara of the National Fly Fishing League said it hosts competitions in the northeastern United States, but the goal is to do that nationally. The competitions are judged by other competitors, Ferrara says. The day is divided into fishing and judging sessions, and competitors are randomly selected for certain fishing areas.

“To me, winning an NFFL event is huge,” Schlemmer said. “These competitions have exposed me to some of the greatest anglers in the country, and it’s been great to learn from them. To be able to come out on top gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

Competing is also Schlemmer’s biggest stress reliever.

“Being outdoors, especially in water, is next to therapy for me,” he said. “I immediately lose all of my stress and just enjoy nature. I rarely have a bad day when I’m outside.”

Although most of his activities are related to fishing, he also enjoys camping, rafting, kayaking and hiking.

Schlemmer is also involved in many other things — he’s a contractor by trade. This year, he and Jesse Hicks started Allegheny Mountain Outfitters, a fly-fishing guide business.

He is the director of the Allegheny Mountain Chapter of Trout Unlimited (AMCTU), an organization dedicated to protecting, conserving and restoring cold-water resources in Jefferson and Clearfield counties, Schlemmer said. They participate in activities like tree planting and adding to underwater fish habitats, while monitoring local waterways. When there’s enough interest, the AMCTU hosts family fishing days and classes.

Last year, Schlemmer won the “Golden Reel Award” from the AMCTU — an honor given to an outstanding member. He is also a Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission certified fly fishing and fishing skills instructor.

In the summer, he’ll compete about every two to three weeks, Schlemmer said, and in four Deep Freeze fishing events. His next big adventure is “guiding” with the outfitting company.

“I’m excited to pass on my knowledge and love of the outdoors to others,” he said.

For more information, visit the National Fly Fishing League, AMCTU or American Mountain Outfitters on Facebook.

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