Category Archives: Fly Fishing

Casting is like Kung-fu

Jackie Chan being offered a slaw dogNo, you don’t need a $590 fly rod to learn to cast and if this is the first time you’ve picked up a fly rod in anger, it’s more of a liability than a help.

Resign yourself to your fate, as finding a live human will teach you to cast much quicker than any series of books. Yoda couldn’t describe the Force, how do you expect some knotheaded fly author to teach you the feel for a cast, when he’s using silly metaphors involving clocks and tack hammers?

All talented fly fishermen are perenially late – and don’t own a tack hammer for fear the wife will make them use it. Suddenly they know how to read a clock face and can shingle a roof? I don’t think so.

What you want to do is find a nice sub-$100 flyrod and flail away in contentment. Let skills develop before you plunk down any significant rod coin, there are too many items you need to complete your outfit – so don’t bankrupt your budget on your initial tackle.

My first rod was a Fenwick Feralite fiberglas, in those days they were sub-$50 and were a fine rod. The Fenwick company is still churning out good, serviceable tackle in graphite, and as testimony to the quality, many of their glass rods are available at flea markets, Ebay, and rod collector web sites. Their graphite line goes by the Fenwick Eagle brand, and retail for about $100 after tax.

A beginner is best served by learning from someone else. The combination of watching someone cast, and being watched, will speed the instruction process tenfold. If you are really lucky you’ll get some mean old guy that scares hell out of you, so rather than asking why – you just do it.

The best place to learn is your local fly fishing club, there are usually an abundance of opinionated old guys lusting after a captive audience, as  a  recruitment tool they’ll put on a casting clinic free to all comers. On occasion they may even provide some tackle for those that lack their own rod , typically you’ll have to bring your own. Second choice is a fly shop, the instruction will be good – but their agenda is to get you near a rod product, often they’ll teach using the $600 tackle, making you assume you need that to be successful.

You don’t.

It may behoove you to ask your local shop if they have any old fly lines they’ve replaced for customers purchasing new ones. Most of us don’t have water nearby, so a lawn or concrete driveway can be pressed into service. The old throw-away line you can flog to death with no repercussion, but don’t use a new fly line on concrete, it will tear it up quickly.

Fly casting is like Kung-fu, there are many different masters, many different schools, and all of them are right. The two most prevalent are the Shaolin Flailing Palm, which emphasizes an open arm and shoulder moving in any direction, and the Prana-Bindu Frozen-Wrist school – which relies on the elbow tucked in closely to the side, an immobilized wrist, and movement of the shoulder. Like Kung-fu, many casting videos use subtitles, or should …

Casting style does not matter, whomever your instructor is will dictate what school you belong to, all will turn out servicable casters and imbue you with predator instincts.

Allow yourself time to mature as a caster, as in any memory motion sport; tennis, golf, etc.,  it will take much repetition before the muscle memory is second nature. Go fishing almost immediately, so you can see how much time is lost untangling knots and losing flies to shrubbery, water, your nose, and all other inanimate objects. This will do more to enforce the lessons of discipline than any amount of cajoling your instructor gives you.

If you’re in the midst of a steep learning curve, the fancy tackle will be lost on you. It’s no different than when your brother in law shows up and helps himself to a waterglass of your best scotch, whether it was aged 12 or 20 years is completely lost on him. Give yourself time to mature as both a caster and angler, then move to some of the higher end tackle, but only when your skills have surpassed the cheap rod, not before.

Fishing is a kid with a pork rind and a cane pole, keep it that way as long as possible. You can practice purism later when you have the wallet and the silver sideburns to back your play.

Like a new penny only better

Like Bottled Sunlight 

I can only imagine what this would look like coming through the water, or airborne attempting to throw the hook. Now that things have settled down in Croatia, you may have an opportunity to fish for them … using fly tackle instead of an RPG.

The Balkans have at least 5 types of trout not available anywhere else, many appear to share some ancestry with the Brown trout, all have diverged from that gene pool – and yes, all are endangered.

And the Fishing God smiled

manzanita_lake1.jpgI managed to pry myself from all of the things I was supposed to do, and get a little fishing done. It was a Jiffo-Whip trip, meaning more hours were spent driving than fishing, but it was a welcome and much needed respite.

I hit Manzanita Lake in time for the Calibaetis grab, but it was not to be. Winds gusting to 25-30 mph meant the bugs stayed doggo, with only a smattering of working fish. I managed to tease one 15″ rainbow to hand with a parachute dry, fooled another of similar size with a Pheasant Tail nymph. Activity was sporadic, with no insects visible. Had about 8 grabs total, and I was late on most of them.

Overheard one fellow mention, ” 2 on a streamer, 2 on a nymph, and one on a dry.” Saw one fellow float tubing that landed about 6 fish on a nymph with floating line. Most of the comments ended with, “%$##& Wind.”

In short, no hatch, moderate sunburn, relentless driving, strong winds, and I can’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday.

The Great Cunard Conspiracy

peachywave.jpgI have often wondered whether the feathers from a duck’s arse  weren’t akin to bottled water; give it a fancy french name like Cul Du Canard and sell it to the pretentious rubes that lick the pages of anything Ziff Davis.

Heresy? Yep. But having been exposed to duck behavior for the better part of 40 years, neither myself nor science is convinced the preen gland is there for flotation as popularly thought. Preening, is the act of smearing oil on feathers, oil floats, so do ducks – and the common assumption is that oily duck’s arse floats like a cork. But does it?

Most fowl feathers are exposed to a cleansing process that removes and sterilizes the feathers prior to commercial resale. How much of that precious oil remains in the feathers has never been examined – likely it’s damn little, as the feathers are dry to the touch.

A scientific work on the the Uropygial gland of birds suggests there is an uncertain relationship between gland function and flotation:

On the other hand, birds living in aquatic environments not always have a more developed gland than non-aquatic birds … The role could be more complex than a feather waterproofing function.”

As such, are we paying bottled water prices for a run-of-the-mill feather whose floatation qualities largely lie in its surface tension? Facts make this assertion plausible.

A study by the British Royal Society of Science suggests that the preen gland in sandpipers changes its secretion during the mating season, and is in part used to “sign” the nest. Similar to what your dog does to your carpet when his backside itches, only more photogenic.