Last July a “NO FLY FISHING ALLOWED” sign suddenly appeared on the water’s edge at Virginia Beach’s popular Lynnhaven Inlet. Today, thanks to the efforts of fly rodders, the sign is gone and one of the area’s busiest waterfront sites is again open to all anglers.
The sign was originally posted after one angler’s back cast accidentally hooked a passerby. Without public input the city-issued sign appeared. Local fly anglers were more irritated by the lack of discussion and public notice than they were by the actual closure itself. The idea of total closure to one group after a single incident simply did not make sense.
User conflicts are not uncommon at Lynnhaven Inlet. Beachcombers, cast netters, crabbers, sunbathers, tourists, conventional anglers, and fly anglers frequent the beach between the Lesner Bridge and Crab Creek. A navigation channel passes close to the beach, resulting in powerboat traffic that passes within casting range of beach anglers. No matter what you try to do on the Lynnhaven Inlet beach, someone else is likely closeby.
Local fly fishermen, particularly members of Virginia Coastal Fly Anglers fishing club, took notice and wrote letters to the City of Virginia Beach. Copies were sent to Lee Tolliver, outdoor editor for The Virginian Pilot newspaper. The sign became a hot topic on regional fly fishing forums such as tidalfish.com and outerbanksflyfishing.com.
To the credit of the City of Virginia Beach, the sign came down less than two months after posting. On August 17, 2003, Tolliver reported in The Virginian Pilot that a spokesperson for the City acknowledged that the sign was an overreaction, and it unintentionally punished a user group. The City acknowledged that one individual was causing some problems.
Members of the Virginia Coastal Fly Anglers are hopeful that this incident will lead to open dialog between Virginia Beach officials and various user groups who enjoy the waterways of Virginia Beach. In the meantime, fly anglers who fish busy shorelines should remember to look over their shoulder before they let one fly.