The world's best flyfishing site.
The Stomped Circle


Manual de Lanzado
Sección de Carlos
The Downloads


Monday: Paul Arden
Tuesday: Harps
Wednesday: Bernd Ziesche
Thursday: Mr T.
Friday: Ray
Saturday: Viking Lars
Sunday: Bruce Richards

Ronan's report

Tuesday 12th March, 2013

The grass where I'm standing is flattened and muddy. In some patches I've worn it away completely and bare earth is showing through. Fifty yards away two local football teams are kicking, running, and shouting. Lots of shouting. The teams' coaching staff stand on the touchline on my side of the pitch with the linesman, occasionally casting suspicious and mystified glances in my direction.

The sun is shining brightly on this early March day, reflecting off car windscreens parked on the other side of the field. My face and back feel the sun's heat, alternating pleasantly with a light breeze. No coat today. There's birdsong too. A thrush blasts his spring-song from the top of the tallest tree.

A shining white tape measure runs straight away from the stomped circle at my feet. Next to the tape an orange fly line coils itself like a snake warming on a rock, waiting for the energy to straighten and head off.

And I'm done. Enough.

I've cast myself out. I should be fishing.

Ten years ago I read the results of the casting competition at the CLA game fair and remember wondering if I could get anywhere near those distances. I couldn't. At a subsequent game fair I sat watching Brian O'Keefe do a casting demonstration that was a revelation. Here was a quietly spoken man, holding an audience rapt with a beautiful and graceful display of effortless fly-casting. I wanted to do that.

I always loved my fishing. Absolutely and unconditionally, I think since before I even went fishing. I loved the thought of it when Dad came home with some trout, or a new rod; when I looked up at his green Uniroyal studded thigh waders hanging up in the garage; when making a mess of his fly tying materials and when leaving sticky fingerprints in his copy of The Art of Angling by Trevor Housby.

So in my late thirties, after watching Brian O'Keefe smoothing gorgeous loops through the air at the CLA, I decided that I owed my fishing this: If I was going to do this for the rest of my life, I was going to do it as well as I possibly could. I would try to match the beauty of a trout rising to a fly with the grace of a smooth loop; the mastery of a grayling holding in a fast current with the control of a precisely laid out line; the magical power and startling speed of a striking pike with a gravity defying endlessly unrolling distance cast.

Well, all I can say is that it's easier typed than done. I was at the top of a very long, windy, and slippery slope. The descent has been fun, frustrating, sometimes painful (hello tennis elbow, and a multitude of shoulder and back twinges), but ultimately hugely satisfying. And I'm not even halfway down.

I was never what you might call "sporty". Always the youngest and smallest in the class at a school obsessed with rugby, I never made it into a school team and never wanted to. I didn't do well at woodwork, metalwork, or any thing that really required lots of hand-eye coordination.

So I guess I didn't really have much faith in my natural abilities. I would have to substitute bloody-minded commitment and dogged practise for in-built skill and feel.

In 2004 I googled "fly-casting" and found Sexyloops. Here was a collection of people who seemed to want to do the same as me. There was hardly any of the usual discussions as to why anyone would want to cast better, that was just a given, and so the pages of the board and the wider site were crammed with questions and answers on how to cast better. Perfect!

I would print off articles and discussions, and take them to the park with my 9wt and see if I could chuck the whole line. That backing knot stayed frustratingly on the reel. Occasionally a random pearl of a cast would come out of nowhere and surprise me by banging against the reel. These rare reel-bangers were a tantalising glimpse that it was possible: that the line could fly, that the backing knot could one day click through the rings for me.

In 2006 I moved to Edinburgh and bumped into a grumpy Geordie called Ben who, it turned out, also read Sexyloops and was similarly possessed with the casting demon. It was Ben who started me off down the road of becoming an instructor. I think he just wanted someone to practise with!

Now casting became much more than throwing the line as far as it would go. The first time I saw someone do a snake roll I nearly fell over, so cool! Spey casting became something I had to try, as were the multitude of weird curves and mends that wiggled out of the pages on 'Loops. But in the background to all this, always there, out towards the horizon, distance casting still bugged me.

I've worked really hard on my casting and learned to Spey cast reasonably well, I can make most of the commonly used curves and mends ("twiddly shit" Ben would say), but I have to say that learning some sort of consistency in distance casting is the hardest thing of all.

It doesn't help that the horizon keeps getting further away. When I first started reading ÔLoops the benchmark was a dazzling 100ft with a 5wt. Since then I've seen Paul cast over 130ft, Stefan and Fredrick effortlessly go over 120ft time and again, and I even witnessed Frederick chucking a 3wt 118ft for heaven's sake. To me, struggling to 90ft, it was like running a marathon and seeing the finishing line move back another 5 miles just when I was in the home straight.

I have to say I'm a slow learner. The limited skills that I have acquired were gained painfully slowly. I have to relearn the same thing time and again before it sinks in. I have a permanent bruise on my forehead from slapping it ("Duh! You idiot, you're creeping again"... slap!).

Apparently I'm rubbish at taking advice too. At Dunkeld in 2008 Magnus told me that I needed to sort my stance out. At the same gathering I watched Paul do his distance workshop and talk about the need to throw straight. Stefan told me my haul was half-hearted and too early. In 2011 at Strathdon Mike Heritage told me to lose the hand-tightening "bang" at the end of my back-cast stroke. I nodded and understood the words, but singularly failed to put them into practise.

I just carried on casting. Standing in fields for hours. Tired of tailing loops and ticking leaders. Exasperated by 80ft hook casts, and standing on the line the only time I make a good loop. Resenting that pile of un-shot running line, mocking me from the grass at my feet. Sick at the fact that I'm still not sick of distance casting.

For me, it seems, learning to cast is a process similar to that of rainwater getting into a chalkstream. A light and persistent precipitation of good advice takes years to percolate through the chalky synapses in my brain until it can go no further. A groundwater of understanding that connects with experience suddenly and unexpectedly bursts forth in a wellspring of whirling and beautiful clarity.

Today, for a short time, the water was at its cleanest and clearest. The 5wt line zipped out and pulled tight to the reel. The leader fluttered down in the sunshine. I'm sure the thrush stopped singing and the footballers stopped shouting. The tape said one hundred and twenty one feet.

A shining white tape measure runs straight away from the stomped circle at my feet. Next to the tape an orange fly line coils itself like a snake warming on a rock, waiting for the energy to straighten and head off.

And I'm done. Enough.

I've cast myself out. I should be fishing.



Pic Of Day



SEXYLOOPS SCHOOLS - Flycasting in England and Hungary. Contact Paul Arden for more info.

Sexyloops on Facebook: Sexyloops on YouTube: www.YouTube/SexyloopsTV. This is Snapcast - our irregular monthly mailshot!

<-- Copyright Notice -->