Improve Your Catching!

August 11th, 2003

An Overview: The 95th Annual ACA Casting Championships
By Jim C. Chapralis

It was my first visit to the historic Golden Gate Angling and Casting Club (GGACC) in San Francisco, California. It was here where some of the greatest casters competed, set mind-boggling records and defied the laws of physics with casts of incredible distances.

It is surely the greatest casting club in the world from a physical viewpoint.

Visiting the Golden Gate Angling and Casting Club is an incredible experience. Many casting techniques and tackle were developed here. It was built during the Depression years by the WPA.

The GGACC was built in 1938, by the Work Project Administration (WPA)- a wonderful program that provided an opportunity for the unemployed to join a work force and lead productive, meaningful lives. Today, a similar casting club built in a metropolitan area would cost millions.

You almost sense the ghosts of the past while casting in the pools. You can feel the presence of Jon Tarantino - the great caster who was robbed of his youth when he was shot in a robbery attempt. Marvin Hedge. Henry Fujita, Sr. Herman Hittenberger. John Dieckman. Dick Miller. Myron Gregory. Phil Miravalle. Earl Osten. On and on. All these great casters not only competed here at one time or another, but helped to develop new tackle, new casting techniques, like shooting heads and the double haul and all the other things that many fishermen use today but take for granted.

The Golden Gate Angling and Casting Club is the shrine for all tournament casters; it is a "must" visit for any serious angler who values history and tradition.

The purpose of my visit was to compete in a couple of distance events in the 95th Annual Casting Championship sponsored by the GGACC, the Oakland Casting Club (another great casting facility) and the American Casting Association (July 28 to August 2, 2003).

The Trout Fly Event encompasses roll casting. Competitors must hit 5 targets from 20 to 50 feet within 15 casts.

This was my third consecutive National, so I was well acquainted with the skills of champion casters like Steve Rajeff, Chris Korich, Rene Gillibert and new superstar Henry Mittel. I expected them to excel and they did.

But there were new names emerging, like Jay Clark who won the All Fly Accuracy-beating Chris Korich by one point. I learned that he was a member of GGACC for some time, but only recently decided to train seriously for the National.

George Revel (age 14) and Dustin (age 13) address the casters at the banquet. They cast an amazing 126 and 109 feet respectively. They then presented Guy Manning, their casting coach and mentor, with some special flies that they tied for him.

And the young guys-George Revel (age 14) and his brother Dustin Revel (age 13), George cast 126 feet in the Angler's Distance Fly Event! Yeah, many of us think we can cast over 100 feet, but if we were to put a tape from where we cast and where the fly lands (not how much line shoots through the guides) most of us would probably be disappointed. His younger brother, Dustin, cast 109 feet. The Revel brothers, plus young Chris Walker, did very well in the accuracy events and the grizzled veteran fly casters certainly took notice. They cast in the Intermediate Division (ages 13-16) today, but surely they will be the champions of tomorrow.

This was Randy Olson's first National. He practiced on his own for two months prior to the competition. He used a video camera to record and analyze his casting stroke.

I was very impressed with Randy Olson. The 33-year-old angler from Montana loves to fish "for any species that will take a fly" and became interested in tournament casting through web sites including this one. He started practicing in earnest about two months prior to the tournament. Randy did not win any events but cast with the poise of a veteran. In the Two-Handed Fly Distance event he cast 203 feet! Folks, that's two thirds of a football field.

I asked him how he went about it, what were his best practice casts and if he was nervous in his first National?

"I practiced for about an hour every day for about two months leading up to the National. My neighbors repeatedly asked, 'Have you caught any fish yet?' I was able to practice distance casts in my neighbor Viola Flynn's yard for which I am very thankful. I also set up hoops in my yard to practice accuracy. I was making progress in my practice sessions: My best in Two-Hand Distance Fly cast was 229 feet, Single Hand was 187 feet, and Angler's Fly, 148 feet. That was in practice; it's a lot different in competition. I wish I could say I was not nervous, but when Steve Rajeff is always right behind you in the casting order, and Chris Korich is judging, it is a little nerve racking. Steve has always been an inspiration to me because of his reputation as a great caster. Chris is a world-class caster also.

"The video camera was a key in getting my rod path to track in the same plane. I set the camera up at different angles depending if I wanted to look at my loop shapes or from front and back to look at the plane of my rod. Bruce Richards six-step method is very helpful in analyzing the stroke here."

Steve Rajeff won the Grand All Around again, and Chris Korich won the Angler's All Around, while Henry Mittel was the All-Fly Casting champion.

Korich shot a perfect score in the Dry Fly and Trout Fly events. He was up next in the Bass Bug Event. No one has ever cast perfect scores in all three fly accuracy events in a National. A silence prevailed among the gathering crowd. Most of us stood up. He hit his first five targets in a row. The sixth one is a tough one because it's 65 to 70 feet away. He hit it, but the crowd, sensing a historic event, remains silent and motionless. Korich hits the next three. Only two more to go. He misses the next one by inches. The crowd senses his disappointment. He misses the next one, too, because he is disappointed in not achieving what no one else was able to do: Three perfect scores in the fly games in a National.

In the Senior's Division, Cajun Bill Clements cleaned up. He cast so well he makes the prestigious All-American team.

This was Dick Fujita's 55th National Casting Tournament! Here he flings a fly 205 feet with a double-handed rod.

This was Dick Fujita's 55th National casting tournament. Dick, in his seventies and probably weighing only 140 pounds, proves that brawn and power are not the answers in distance fly casting. He casts a fly 205 feet in the Two-Hand Distance fly event. His second longest cast? 205 feet. He is topped in the Senior's Division by Ed Lanser who cast 215 feet. Ed also won the Single-Hand Distance Fly event for Seniors with a 157-ft. cast.

Gold Medal winner Peg VanNatter (left), Silver Medalist Elaine Gong (center)and Bronze Medalist Nicole Kozicki (right) share good times and laughter at the banquet. Earlier there was fierce competition among the ladies for the coveted All Fly Accuracy championship.

In the Women's Division, Peg VanNatter beat out Elaine Gong by a single point for the All-Fly Accuracy trophy, with plenty of competition from Alice Gillibert and her daughter Nicole Kozicki and others.

Steve Rajeff casts 273 feet in the Two-Hand Distance Fly! Henry Mittel wins the Angler's Distance Fly with a cast of 180 feet (with equipment similar to what's used in steelhead fishing). Last year, Rene Gillibert cast 190 feet in this event to tie Rajeff's Angler's Fly record. Talk about defying the laws of physics!

The last cast is made. Medals, trophies and plaques are presented to the winners and runner ups.

John Seroczynski-one of our great casters and probably tournament casting's best ambassador- is elected into the Casting Hall of Fame.

Those who didn't win will go home and practice, practice and practice. There is always next year.

There are no losers here. ~ Jim C. Chapralis

Publishers note: Jim being a modest gentleman, failed to include his own results. He casts in the Senior Division. He cast 151 ft. which was good for second place - Silver Medal - in the seniors single-handed distance fly. The winner cast 157 feet - six feet further. In the Angler's Distance Fly (like the steelhead event) he cast 138 feet, which won and he received a Gold Medal (in the Seniors). He also received a plaque for the fourth best all distance fly in the Senior's division. DLB

About Jim:

Jim Chapralis is a world traveler, a pioneer in the international fishing travel business, and author, most recently of Fishing Passion, reviewed in our Book Review section. He is an avid angler - and caster. You can reach Jim via his website

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