August 29th, 2005

The Most Important Difference
By James Castwell


It was a big affair. I actually felt a bit out of my element as I had never gone to a dinner at the Country Club. In my socio-economic world, about fifty years ago, places like that did not even exist. I wasn't even positive how to get there. But, I had been invited and wouldn't have missed it for anything. I was somewhat new to real fly-fishing. Oh sure, I had fished with a fly rod on and off for a few years but hadn't made the big transition yet. I used all types of fishing gear and when it was called for the fly rod I used one.

Anyway, there was going to be this big dinner and some well known fly fishers would be there as guests speakers. I shined my shoes, dug out a tie, checked my posture and headed out. Fancy was everywhere and I parked my car near the back of the lot and tried to look casual as I made my way up the sidewalk to the snazzy doors and on into the dinning room. One inside I relaxed to a point as I knew a few of the guys, and namely the one who had invited me. I found him, thanked him, made some small talk and got myself a drink as that seemed to be what was happening at the moment.

Small cliques had formed and the room was humming with chatter. One fellow was sitting at a small table by himself and had a pile of books which he was signing. Intrigued, I eased over and met Art Flick. I also bought one of his books. I didn't have much of a conversation with him though. He seemed tired and we just didn't seem to click on anything and I stuffed the small volume in my suit coat and wondered off with my copy of his Streamside Guide.

There was still about half an hour before the dinner was to be served and after a few minutes I noticed a fine looking gentleman who others had been talking to, sitting by himself with a cup of coffee. I figured he must be somebody important and never being very shy, I walked over, stuck out my hand and introduced myself to Joe Brooks. Impressive is the best word I can bring to mind. A true icon of our history. I, of course knew who he was from his reputation, but did not recognize him in person.

We started to talk about fly fishing of course and, wouldn't you know it, he asked me how it was going, and how I was doing. I have tried not to forget things like that to this day. I told him of my fly fishing lately and how I thought I had figured out what, for me anyway, was the most important thing and the difference between fly-fishing and just regular fishing.

Well, he asked me what I thought that it was. Mind you, at the time he was a famous author of several books, magazine editor and responsible for some flies I had read about. Well, I told him I thought that those little wiggles and half-loops that I could flip with the tip of my rod on my fly line, mostly on the floating line, were the most important part. That without doing those things, keeping the line in the right position, some controlled slack, watching out for drag and the line control after the cast were the most important and what was the biggest difference.

Along the way and over the years I have learned a lot of things. Some directly from folks, a few from books (like the horizontal pick-up from Joe Brooks), other things by myself but later found names for and of course, there are the things I have yet to learn. One thing I will leave you though is this. Let's say you have made a dry fly presentation and are going to bring back you fly. You need to (1) get it off of the water and back to you, (2) not disturb the water doing it, (3) dry your fly and (4) make enough false casts to be able to deliver the fly back for another try.

I would use the horizontal roll-cast pick-up, make a sharp tight loop in my back-cast to dry my fly, a 'try' forward cast near but not on the 'target' and then a final presentation. That may seem like one more false-cast than necessary and it might be, and in reality I don't always use the second one if I am pounding a certain spot. I find that the second 'wasted, unnecessary' cast sometimes helps me focus and make the quality presentation that I need though. By the way, did you notice which cast I dried the fly on? I find if I don't do it then it can spray water droplets and might disturb the fish. Sometimes little things can make a big difference.

Here is the point of all of this. That night of the dinner I learned those moves are called 'mending' the line. Hey, up until then I didn't even know there was a name for it. We all have to learn sometime and that was one of mine. But, what I learned, even more importantly, was that there are a whole lot of names for various parts of our recreation. And, also, the more of them you know the better off you will be. I suppose some of you will not agree, but for me, it helps me to continue learning.

By the way, he did agree that mending sure was important and I very well may have been right. And you know what? You may have just learned what the name of those little 'wiggles' is too. ~ JC

Till next week, remember . . .

Keepest Thynne Baakast Upeth

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