This Week's View

by Deanna Birkholm

April 2nd, 2001

David Meets Goliath

Don't you just love happy endings?

Those from the western U.S. may be aware there is a hot casting competition called the 'Best of the West.' This is part of the International Sportsman's Exposition (ISE - one of our Sponsors), and folks are given an opportunity in each of the cities where there is an ISE show to enter, qualify, and compete for the title. This year the Champion was awarded a $7,500 Hyde Drift boat.

Lawn casting or fishing is not the same as competition. While the 'Best of the West' is for distance, the caster does need to be accurate enough to keep the fly within the boundaries of the pool. A fly landing outside the boundaries doesn't count, (a slice or hook for you golfers.)

This is how it works. Each person who enters has to cast the minimum distance to qualify. Three casts are allowed with any number of backcasts. The best of those three is recorded. Some casters really make a study out of distance casting, doing an analysis of how much line can be carried in the air, how much will shoot, how high the cast is aimed, length of the pull on the double haul, overall casting speed, arc and shape of the backcast and loop, and other variables (like how clean the line is). And there is the angle of the cast - is it directly overhead (more accurate) or off to the side? How many degrees? Timing, physical strength and even how tall a person is are all factors. It makes a difference whether there is a raised casting platform or not.

If you think that's a lot of chew on, here's some more. Each caster has their own method of casting. Some only feed line into the foreward cast, others may feed line into the backcast - or both. As the person is casting they will let out little amounts of line into the cast. Eventually they get to what is called the "sweet spot." The point at which the rod tip will collapse and no longer carry the weight of the line. If the caster makes a longer pull on the double haul at this point, in theory at least, you can load the rod deeper and then shoot additional line on your final forward cast. Or you can over-load the rod and regretfully - blow the cast.

So who enters these competitions? Anyone is welcome, it doesn't cost to enter. Kids are welcome, as are women. Most of the kids can't meet the qualifying distance; (Mens was 85 feet this year) and the qualifying distance was shortened to 65 feet for the gals. That sort of pares it down to folks who are serious casters. Usually those on the staff of fly rod or fly line company are the finalists.

Over the years we have watched pretty much the same people compete for the Championship.

Not so this year.

The big names were there. But they didn't win. Sort of like David and Goliath, this time the little guys won. Isn't it neat? (Well, I suppose not, if you're one of the big names.)

The over-all winner was Jim Gunderson, owner of Fish Tech Outfitters, a fishing shop in Salt Lake City, UT. Jim won the distance with 118 ft. 2 inches. He won casting a G. Loomis 9 ft, 3 piece 5 wt. Trilogy rod. The line he used was the Scientific Anglers Mastery Distance line. His trick was carrying a fantastic 85 to 90 feet of line in the air, shooting the rest, and having the loop open up and lay out. Jim did it consistently on all three of the allowed casts! Others in the competition 'hit the wall' - had the loop collapse and pile up in a heap on one of two of their three casts.

Second place didn't go to one of the 'big boys' either! It was won by Jim's partner, Lance Egan also from the Salt Lake Fish Tech shop. His cast was 111 feet, 4 in. - using the same rod as Jim.

Somewhere Jim and Lance made a decision they were going after this championship. They drove from Salt Lake to Denver to make sure they qualified at the show there. Jim Gunderson won the Denver competition. If they were both to compete in the finals, that meant Lance had to win the Salt Lake competition! Talk about pressure!

So who did they beat in the finals?

3rd Place: Tim Rajeff - G. Loomis - 107 ft, 1 in.

4th Place: Steve Rajeff - several times world casting champion, G. Loomis - 106 ft. 5 in.

5th Place: Brian O'Keiff - Professional Rep for the fly fishing industry - 104 ft. 7 in.

6th Place: Simon Gawesworth - Rio Lines - 91 ft.

Those competing had a half dozen 5 weight, 9 ft. rods they could choose from. No rods other than the ones provided could be used. All the lines and leaders were also provided.

Lance told me after Tim Rajeff had finished casting, he just picked up the rod Tim laid down and cast with it. The Trilogy rod was one, I believe, Tim designed. A G. Loomis representative told us the Rajeff brothers had a plan. They felt since Denver is higher than sea level (where the G. Loomis plant is) they could carry more line in the air. So they would adjust their casting to fit the altitude. Let's see, if a 5 wt line weights 'X' at sea level, what does it weigh at 5,200 feet? However, according to Randy Swisher at Sage, the casting distances in Denver and Salt Lake have always been longer than those at lower altitudes (the air is less dense). Maybe it's already obvious, whatever the 'plan' was it didn't work, their rod won, but the Rajeff brothers didn't.

I spoke with Jim Gunderson and Lance Egan on the phone. They are delighted to have won, and can't wait to get their new $7,500 Hyde driftboat wet. These are nice guys - and to make it even neater, their shop, Fish Tech isn't just a fly shop. They said the fly stuff is about half of their shop, they also are into walleye, and bass - especially since they are so many varied opportunities to fish in Utah.

Neither Jim nor Lance own a Trilogy rod! Jim's favorite rod is the Sage SP 4 wt, and Lance's favorite is the Sage XP 691-4. So if you fish a medium 4 weight rod and don't see any reason to learn the double haul, you might ask Jim or Lance. Headed to the Salt Lake region? Check with Jim and Lance for local information or guiding recommendations: 801-272-8808.

I don't want to leave the women out either. The winner of the Women's Division (and winner of a $1,000 gift certificate for the Angler's Inn) was Kathryn Hart of Portland, OR, with a cast of 85 ft, 11 in., Kathryn is the Office Manager for the Rajeff Flyfishing School. Guide Lori Ann Murphy of Victor ID, owner of Reel Women guiding service and Orvis Pro Staff, was second with her cast of 81 ft, 5 in. Women just do not have the physical strength of men, and believe me, an 85 foot cast is outstanding. The average flyline is 90 feet long - I wonder how many men can throw as much as Kathryn did.

Congratulations folks! ~ The LadyFisher

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