Buckle and bight

Buckle and bight

Gary Meyer | Tuesday, 16 January 2018

I had no on-the-water fly casting time this past week. Instead, I spent a good portion of my non-employed hours restoring my laptop after some scumbag hacker tried to hold it hostage. It appears I lost nothing of value data-wise and I guess it was a lesson on how important backups are, and probably good practice. I assume it will not be the last time something like this happens.

That does not mean I did not entertain myself with thoughts on fly casting. Even though I had to follow along on my tablet I found some of the discussions scattered about on the Sexyloops Board to be quite thought-provoking. We are very lucky to have such passionate and educated fly casting theoreticians who are willing to share their ideas.

I am afraid I might be in the minority? Not everyone seemed to enjoy the dialog. Could I follow the entire discussion? No, of course not. I am ashamed to admit that once the equations reach the dx/dt level I must abandon ship and channel my inner Millennial– label it tl;dr and blame the author for not making it simple enough for me. Even though I had a full plate of college-level calculus classes I never had any need for that knowledge in my career and all that I learned turned to rust and crumbled into dust. Besides, even though I am a scientist by career and design, I am pretty sure I likely fall into the category of “Poets” when it comes to fly casting.

My addiction was further satisfied on Saturday when a local fly shop sponsored a workshop that featured some reps from Sage, local guides, and casting instructors. One of the things I like about flyfishing is that there is always something new to learn, and this workshop did not disappoint. The rep from the Sage mothership gave a nice and informative talk about the rod building process complete with photos and a good number of props. And, of course, there were plenty of demo Sage rods to cast. The new Salt HD model in a 6wt that sports a saltwater fighting butt personally impressed me. It was very crisp and light and handled the new Rio flats line easily. Fighting butts on lighter rods are, thankfully, becoming more common.

 

One of the guides, while giving a casting lesson, used a term I have never heard employed for casting. He used the word “yaw” to describe tracking problems during the stroke. Yaw is a sailor’s term for a temporary deviation from a straight path. Hmm.

 

In addition to the Sage reps, another invited casting instructor was John Cave. In my opinion, he might be one of the best instructors in Florida. He is definitely one of the most professional instructors in that, as far as I know, he is one of the few that actually have been able to make a living from fly casting instruction. He pays his dues by attending these workshops all over Florida and always does a very nice hands-on class for a large number of students. But to be honest I have a personal and selfish bias since I find very few of his ideas contrast with my own. I cannot say the same for many of the other casting instructors I have observed.

 

And that brings us back to the technical discussions here on SL. There were a number of concepts that John used to try to convey casting principles to the class that would probably make some folks here on SL cringe. They were good tools to be sure, but it could be argued that they were not technically correct. And here we return to the tired argument of which is better: simple concepts that are not technically correct vs. in-depth technicalities that beginners probably will not understand?

 

So, that made me wonder… how the hell did I learn to cast a fly rod? I really had to scratch my head. At first thought, it was from a book by Lefty Kreh, but that came much later. The fact is my first teacher was my father and my lessons started more than 50 years ago. My father was in no way a flyfishing purist. He was more of a jack-of-all-trades fish catching purist. He used the technique that caught fish the best, which might have meant live minnows under a cane pole for Black Crappies or using a boat rod to muscle Snook out from under a bridge.

 

In the month of May, back then, there was always a hatch of some white flying insect locally called a “Chizzywink”. At the time it was not important to know they were Chironomids only that when the hatch was on catching Bluegills with a white rubber spider was the way to fill stringers. And that was when and why I was introduced to fly casting.

 

I don’t believe my father ever shot line. It was measure your cast and then drop the fly near the bank or under the branch that was covered with white bugs. Hanging up on the branch was not all bad as yanking on the line would cause some bugs to drop and set the ‘Gills to feeding! I, of course, wanted to use a flyrod too, and even though I was a child, thankfully, my dad was a generous and patient man. I can only imagine how concerned he was for his cherished bamboo rods. I do know that on the next Christmas morning I had my own flyrod and that I never laid eyes on his bamboo rods again.

 

On my drive home from the workshop, while fondly remembering Bluegill fishing, “yaw” kept bugging me and eventually it led me to remember some other uncommon terms my father used to teach me to cast. One was that I had to create a buckle in the line, which now I realize is quite a nice way to explain loop formation and one that I do not remember having trouble understanding. The other term he used, which I think I might have misunderstood at the time but was afraid to admit, was his suggestion that I take a smaller bite. I thought he meant I was trying too hard. Now I’m pretty sure he meant that he wanted me to make a smaller bight, or as we might say today “tighten the loop”.  How else would a sailor describe the shape of a bent back line?

 

How my father learned to flycast I have no idea, but I would be surprised if it was by reading a casting book. So, where he came up with those concepts I have no clue but, coincidentally, I still have his copy of Chapman Piloting and Seamanship.

 

Maybe we are making it, today, a lot more difficult than is necessary by adopting technical terms when traditional jargon from other fields, like sailing, might already exist? Like buckle and bight? Although I’m still not a fan of yaw.

 

How would “Sexybights” grab you?

 

Yeah… me neither!

 

We probably should just continue with “loop”.

 

Besides, with apologies to Shakespeare, I can’t help but wonder…  “A loop by any other name would seem so sexy”?