November 21st, 2005

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
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Out There vs Right There
By Joseph Meyer, One More Cast Fly Shop

I now find it critical to ask the people who I guide for, what it is they do for a living. One's occupation used to not matter a whit; I wanted to know if they could make an accurate 35-foot cast to a rising trout or if they could double haul into the wind if we were fishing for small mouth bass.

As an aside, please be honest about your skills as a fly fisher when you hire a guide. If you can't wield a decent stick, say so upfront and get some casting instruction before you head out on your big trip. There are lots of qualified folks out there who could help you out in about an hour and your skills would be so much better with a couple of afternoons of practice. Why ruin a trip with minimal skills? When was the last time that you practiced your cast? Before Tiger Woods plays Augusta National he practices, why not you?

There isn't a fly shop owner or casting instructor that hasn't heard "Oh, a buddy of mine taught me how to cast, I can get it out there O.K." Out there, who are you Steve Rajeff? This isn't a distance contest, it's fly fishing! As if distance is the be all and end all of fly fishing.

Out there? Tennis players don't slap each other on the back when one of them scorches a serve over the net, the backstop and the stadium wall. "Way to go, you really got it out there!" Applause comes from the crowd when a ball is stroked right there, on the line, in the corner out of reach of the opponent. It's called a winner for good reason and it comes from practice with a purpose.

Practice your casts to a specific spot, pick out a leaf laying on the lawn to cast to or, better still, put out a series of Frisbees or like targets on the lawn at 15, 20 and 25 feet away from you and cast to them. Another golf analogy: start with short casts. When golfers are on the practice range, they never start with their driver; they start with their wedge. They want to feel club head speed and then they graduate to longer irons and finally the driver.

It doesn't matter that you are able to strip all of the line off of the reel and then power your cast across the lawn blindly if when fishing, you need to plop your fly into a space the size of a dinner plate 20 feet away from you. Get better at this skill and more of your presentations to trout will become winners. Windy day? Don't stay home; the windy days are the best conditions to practice in.

Get some qualified casting help and you will soon realize the difference between out there and right there. I hold firm to the axiom that most trout are caught on the first cast to a specific spot. Each successive cast to that spot is met with decreasing results.

I came to realize that if I wasn't a little sharper with my pre-trip questioning of clients, I was not going to have much repeat business and my word-of-mouth advertising was not going to be sterling.

How's your casting ability? Are you able to hike across fields, scramble over rocks, climb fences and wade in heavy water? Be honest with me and I can easily make adjustments for your benefit. My job is to make your day more enjoyable; I don't want it to become a death march for either of us. If you can't handle a 35-foot cast in windy conditions, we could always wade a little closer. We might spook a few fish but I want you to be able to have an honest shot at some fish, I don't want you to blindly wave bad casts over un-catchable trout.

The mark of a good day for both client and guide is when the clock is consulted at the end of the day and neither is happy that the day is over. A bad sign is the client and the guide rejoicing that 5:00 has finally gotten here. I also want you to come back so I work hard upfront to make the experience pleasurable.

"Let's do this again." Yeah, I've heard that after so many dates that I had to get married so the post-date disappointment wasn't so paralyzing; wives tend to be there the next morning. The same with guiding, I want you to want to come back.

After shortening a client's tippet and tying on a hopper pattern, we watched buttercream bellied browns attack. A glorious day in the Coulees of South West Wisconsin. I had a client that could actually cast with some degree of accuracy, the weather was dry and somewhat gusty, a relief from the airborne soup that we had been breathing, the streamside grasses were waving seductively over the trout, calling to them: "Look up here, I have a surprise for you." And respond they did, piscine rockets that jumped on each properly offered treat.

My mistake, still echoing over Spring Coulee, down the Wisconsin River to my campsite to the sleeping bag that I had burrowed my way into was to exclaim, "That trout jumped on your hopper like a cop on a doughnut!"

Later that day when my now aloof client pulled out his wallet to pay me (no tip) I noticed a badge gleaming in the late afternoon sun...a cop's badge.

Like a cop on a doughnut, indeed. Of all of the cheap metaphors that I could have used, this was not the worst. I did tell a client that his repeated casts to the trees were not the end of the world, just a little delay in catching trout, "Look at it this way, if you were a pilot, we'd both be dead." My client, a United Airlines pilot.

My comments were not right there, they were out there.

Another glorious day on the Coulees and when asked if we could knock off early so he could catch his flight to Guatemala to perform some Pro-Bono work on burn victims, I told the premier plastic surgeon from Chicago (you would recognize his work on T.V. and the big screen) "Hey, it's no skin off my nose."

Again mortified about a comment that was out there, but I was still learning. If I keep my mouth shut, I tend not to offend clients. If I don't ask the right questions, I tend to get into trouble anyway.

So now I ask. "How's your casting ability, and by the way, what do you do for a living?" Oh, a Rocket Scientist? Hey, it's not brain surgery, it's just trout fishing." ~ Joe


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