This time of year, a wide net is cast – or, rather, a long fly line is cast – to gather in lovers of fishing and protectors of rivers to support Trout Unlimited at the annual Caddis Festival from 5 to 9 p.m. Saturday, May 5, at the Chaffee County Fairgrounds.

The banquet is the Collegiate Peaks Chapter of Trout Unlimited’s only major fundraising event of the year. Funds raised support the group’s conservation efforts and operating costs, as well as fund college scholarships and educational programs for men, women and children in the Ark Valley.

This will be the group’s 33rd year for the event, featuring an evening of fun, food, silent and live auctions, bucket raffles and the traditional “Heads or Tails” game. The Collegiate Peaks Chapter of Trout Unlimited is best known for its annual kids’ fishing derbies, as well as partnerships with other local conservation organizations in support of educational and conservation programs. The chapter also answers the call when Colorado Parks and Wildlife fish biologists need volunteers for fin clipping and fish stocking.

This year’s silent auction will offer gift certificates for services, rafting trips, fishing trips, art, books, fishing gear and more. Event Committee Chairman Pam Simpson said the auction will have “something for those that fish, and something for those that don’t.” Simpson is in her second year chairing the event.

2018 is the first year for Trout Unlimited’s microsite, in which attendees may purchase a banquet ticket, sponsorship, make a donation or preview and bid on silent auction items using a mobile device. The site is open now for ticket and sponsorship purchases, as well as for mobile bidding. Bids may be placed via text or through a personal bidding link. “The local chapter is looking to broaden the reach of our fundraising efforts. The Arkansas River Valley is very well-known, and we’re looking to reach out to all those who recreate here through social media and our microsite,” Simpson said. Attendees must be registered to place bids but need not be present to win.

In addition, the “bucket raffle” allows guests to purchase a raffle ticket and place their tickets in the bucket beside an item they’d like to win at the end of the evening.

Mary Lou Pentasuglio of Variations Catering will cater a three-entrée dinner buffet, and a cash bar will be available at the event.

The Collegiate Peaks Chapter of Trout Unlimited has more than 300 members. Projects include habitat restoration, stream access maintenance, advocating for responsible public policies and the aforementioned conservation projects. The group also offers fly fishing classes, a middle school enrichment program titled “Stream Explorers,” a women’s group known as “FlyGals” and provides up to $12,000 annually for scholarships. Volunteers contribute more than 3,000 hours per year. They are currently developing the Ecosystem Learning Center, an educational facility, on the banks of the South Arkansas River.

Doors and cash bar open at 5 p.m., followed by a catered buffet dinner at 6:45 p.m. Tickets are $30 in advance ($35 at the door), and youth tickets (12 and under) are $15.

Attendees may register in advance for the banquet and auction, or support the event with a donation at https://tu2018.auction-bid.org. For more information, contact Simpson at 719-395-7788 or pkssimpp@gmail.com. To learn more about the local chapter of Trout Unlimited, visit CollegiatePeaksTU.org.