Outdoor Writers Association of America
This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm

Febuary 14th, 1999

To Be a Champion

This has been an interesting week. JC and I were involved with the Seattle International Sportsmen's Show. JC did a couple of programs on casting, and was asked to manage the Best of the West Casting Championships. Not a tough job, just sign folks up, make sure they are using one of the rods provided, have a line judge to watch to see the cast crosses the line to qualify. JC has a background in radio and TV so doing the announcements and getting folks to sign up worked out very well.

We got to meet some new folks, and visited with some of the contestants who didn't know if they should give it a try or not. I encouraged everyone I could to give it a shot. For several reasons. It is a great learning experience, even if you don't qualify. The requirements were pretty simple - you had to use one of the six rods provided, all 5 wt, 9 ft rods with a weight-forward line. One practice cast with as many false casts as necessary to get the feel of the rod. Then, three shots at the distance. Eighty-five feet to qualify for men, sixty feet for women.

The fly casting pond was eighty-one feet long, about 15 feet wide, with a platform a foot or so high on one end. The area for the backcast was also about eighty feet long. The contestant stood on the platform, alone, the center of attention. That was enough to unnerve some men who couldn't make the sixty-foot ladies distance requirement.

Also interesting was the number of 'experts' who also couldn't qualify. Several of the company reps from rod companies couldn't make the minimum distance either. A couple of guys who weren't associated with any company or lodge made it easily. Their secret? Very smooth, consistant loops with perfect timing.

One of the neatest contestants who really is a fine caster, sat on the edge of the platform and winged his "practice" cast out the end of the pond and well beyond the required distance. Yes, sitting down. The competition isn't over as I write this, and I have already qualified - but I've been thinking about the sitting down part. This just might not be a joke. And when we go back to the show tomorrow, I'm going to give it a try.

One of the things one has to do in distance casting is to cast a very tight loop, we call it a wedge. For years we have taught folks to tighten up their loops on a roll cast by squating or kneeling down. The tendency to throw a big open loop disappears when in that position. The 'sitting-down cast' may just be under rated!

Most who didn't qualify had the same problems. Elbow and arms held above their head, big open loops, and trying to carry too much line in the air. After a while I didn't have to look down the end of the pond to see if a person qualified. I could hear it in the sound of the cast and the pile of line left on the platform.

It would have been grand to have any of the Andros Island bonefish guides in the contest. I think most of them can unload the whole line and 20 feet of backing in one or two backcasts. We all could have learned something from them.

As a student of what makes casting work, it was great fun to be a part of the competition. I would like to see more gals get involved - it's not as hard as one might imagine once you get past the initial stage fright. Everyone watching is very supportive, especially those who know they just couldn't do it themselves. (That included a lot of guys!)

If you ever have the opportunity to get involved in one of these competitions, even one at the your local fly club, give it a try - and be observant - it won't take long to see what works and what doesn't. You will be a better caster for trying! ~ LadyFisher

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