May 29, 2014

The Fate of Your Fly

The villain from Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men, Antone Chigurh, soliloquizes rather elegantly especially for a homicidal psychopath regarding fate when he encounters a gas station clerk, He proceeds to explain that the clerk's fate is about to be decided by a flip of a coin. In wonderment, he details that the clerk and coin have traveled through time, distance and happenstance to converge on that very moment when the clerk might live or die. I've often pondered the same peculiarities of fate when placing a fly in front of a fish especially a migratory fish. I'm amazed that my plans placed me on that flat, at that tide, at that moment in order to place a hunk of fur and feathers in front of that tarpon, bonefish or permit who at that moment in time decided to be in that same place possibly ignoring other similar offerings but now wants to destroy my offering. Wow. I think of all the preparation that we take, all the money we spend, all the gear prepping we do to essentially deliver a fly to that fish. Kind of crazy when you consider that all that effort and dollars are consumed to insure a 1-0 hook gets to its fated destination in front of Mr. Bucket Mouth. All these factors we fine tune to near perfection but for some reason we all will frequently skimp on the most critical aspect of this dance of angling fate, our cast.

In June, I will be making my yearly foray to the Keys to chase tarpon and I will be doing daily drills like a prospect awaiting the NFL draft, Here's a few thoughts on what I need to work on and thought perhaps it might be helpful to share. First off, I find that for a few weeks, getting out every day for 10 minutes is much more beneficial than a last day or two marathon session of panicked practice. It's best to use the rod weight that you might be using but I've also used the Redington Form Game rod if convenience is an issue. I'll need to determine at what distance can I consistently lay the leader straight out with 1-2 false casts. I like to start each "rep" with only a few feet of fly line extending out the end of the rod while holding a piece of yarn or preferably a hookless fly with barbell eyes. I'd rather know what distance I can cast to with a tight line effort than longer casts with a pile of leader like a colander full of spaghetti. Having your fly land in a pile of leader delays how much longer it'll be until the fly will appear alive, and complicate matters more so if there's any current. I'll focus on my double haul making the sure the timing and amount of haul keeps my loop tight and air resistant. If you haven't developed a double haul, here's a simple method to learn. Start by casting side arm and break your cast into halves, First, make your backcast with a double haul and allow the line to land directly behind you to its full extent. Pause for a moment, then make the forward cast with a pause as the fly lands on the grass or water. Keep repeating these half casts and as you feel more comfortable, decrease the length of each pause till eventually, the pause is eliminated then merely rotate your casting axis until you are casting overhand.

Charlie - Palometa Club

Ascension Bay Permit
I also will take time to cast directly into the wind where I find that I can really sharpen my double haul skills. One of the guides from the Palometa Club in Punta Allen, Mexico taught a technique for casting into the wind. Again, he emphasized the point of shortening the cast as long as I can get a tight line cast. In normal conditions, casting requires a nice high stop with the forward cast but if you do this in a strong wind, once the cast straightens, it will be blown back by the headwind. Instead stop almost parallel to the water but making sure not to speed up the cast. In addition, make the timing of the forward haul just a moment later with a little more speed and length. And, really make sure that you still come to a nice crisp forward stop.

When making longer casts, I've learned to employ a little bit of wrist snap in my forward and back casts. I find this especially helpful in that troublesome headwind. Most of us were taught to keep our wrists stiff like a board when we first learned flyfishing but as you progress in length of cast, you need to slightly increase the travel of your rod tip, A wrist snap can help this more efficiently and keep that loop nice and tight.

Lastly I find that practicing while trying to tighten up my forearm muscles helps me deal with big fish fever when I'm standing on the casting platform. Yes, it's exactly what you don't want to do but doing so in practice helps make me much more aware of NOT doing it during the real McCoy. Kind of weird, but it works for me.

So I'm sending out a warning to Mr. 3 digit tarpon, start prepping. I'm doing all I can by practicing my casts and my technique. Hell, I'm going to work on my left handed cast as well. I'm doing everything in my power to deliver that fly to it's fated destination. Sir Tarpon, I expect you to prep by getting yourself faster and able to jump that much higher to such an extent that my knees knock and my extremities shake. We have a date with destiny. I'll see you soon.

Charlie Chambers

"Fly Fish the World with Us"

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