November 5th, 2001

The Judges
By James Castwell

I recognized the name on the list. It seemed a judge had signed up for my fly fishing class at the college. In fact, he was rather prominent. My winter classes were accredited, ran in the evenings, were thirteen weeks and included a slide show, tying, entomology and casting. The year was 1970 and fly fishing in the mid-west was doing well. I met a lot of nice folks during the school and as usual invited all of them to join me on the stream any time. Some took me up on it for continued instruction and others just wanted to know where the heck I fished. This was actually how I met my wife, the Ladyfisher.

In the summer (late spring actually) I and my fishing partner ran a school at a campground on the river. Often some of the same names would appear on both lists. One of the couples in my first winter class later became close personal friends and we fished together for many years. He eventually went on to become the President of T.U. for the state and later became a well known guide both in the mid-west and Montana.

The next winter class I held contained the name of the judge again. He was a great guy, tied well, knew his bugs and couldn't cast his way out of a paper bag. Something just never came together for him about it. I even used a video camera, but to no avail. We went through the whole class that season and finished with the casting lessons which we held in the gymnasium. Two years of my teaching and I had failed this man completely. He was no better than the first day he had signed up.

We had however, become very good friends, so when the idea of a steelhead fishing trip came up and he indicated he would like to join us I was pleased. Now, forgive me here, but if you can roll-cast and handle basic casting, you can fish for steelhead. He could at least do that. The plan was for me, my fiancee, my fishing buddy and the judge to meet at a lodge on the west side of the state on a Friday evening and hit the fish first thing in the morning. We shared a two bed cabin for the night and after a pleasant dinner hit the sack about ten p.m.

My soon to be wife and I climbed into our bed and the judge and my fishing buddy shared the other one. Now, I have a rather dry sense of humor and sometimes it can get me into trouble. This was to be one such event. As the lights were turned off, I casually mentioned to the judge that, "Hey, I don't care what you may have heard about him having 'tendencies,' I don't think there is any truth to it whatsoever." With that we went to sleep.

It was at breakfast the next morning that I noticed the judge looked like absolute death warmed over. Taking me aside, and offering to ring my damn neck, he explained that although he didn't think that my fishing buddy had any 'tendencies,' he did not sleep one wink all night. He was sure he had slept with at least one eye open the whole night. It appeared my little joke had not been as funny as I had intended. But, the morning wore on and we hit the stream. My neck remained 'un-wrung' at least for the time being.

About mid-morning I was on a slow stretch of river with a bend upstream to my right. I was taking my time with the run when I noticed a fly line streaking in tight front loops coming around the bend. I couldn't see who the caster was, just the protruding fly line. Curious as to who was approaching me, I paused and waited for him to show himself. I was amazed to see it was the Judge! And he was casting like a champion. Perfect front loops, great control, looked like a picture in a magazine.

It seems that for some reason, things just seemed to 'come together' for him on that day and he remembered all the casting classes. I tried to take credit for it of course, explaining that due to no sleep the night before, he was completely relaxed and was no longer fighting the rod. This fell not on appreciative ears though. He later got even with me by marrying me to the lady I am now living with. That happened on the banks of a trout stream a year later, but that's another story for another time.

He is still a well-known judge in his state and my fishing buddy went on to also become a judge in Montana. Me, I'm still trying to teach fly fishing. ~ James Castwell

Till next week, remember . . .

Keepest Thynne Baakast Upeth

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