Drunken casting

Drunken casting

Gary Meyer | Tuesday, 5 May 2020

It had been a long week at work, which was really no different than a normal week at work, but it sure felt different. The difference being I had to attend all week unlike previous ones when I was out periodically for “scheduled distancing”. It is funny how easy it is to get out of the normal rhythm. In any case, by the end of the week I was pretty much beat. It turned out that my presence was not due to an emergency; it was just back to the norm. So, I met my usual requirements and tied up some loose ends. It was rather boring compared to some stuff of late, but it was tiring just the same. I expect it is also an age thing.

But then came the first weekend morning, my normal day off, and things felt better after a good night’s sleep. What would the day bring? Nothing pressing was on the calendar, probably because the calendar has gone out the window as of late. And I obviously wasn’t going fishing since all parks are still closed. But never the less, it was looking like a beautiful South Florida day, a “department of commerce” day. Except, unfortunately for the fishing guides and the tourist industry, COVID 19 still had most everything shut down.

I slept late and got off onto a slow start, but that was OK since I was thoroughly entertained. There is an annual nature event that takes place without most peoples noticing but it is quite obvious in my back yard. Each autumn, billions of birds migrate in the Americas, mostly from north to south, following their evolutionary instinct to avoid freezing to death in the cold north of winter. So they head to equatorial South America. Then, in spring, they return by following along the chain of islands of the Caribbean, and eventually to the top end of Cuba. There they wait for favorable winds to help them across the Florida Straights to the beginning of the North American mainland via Key West. Then they migrate up the Keys.

It is a migration event that has parallels to the great herds crossing Africa, but the animals in this case are of a very different scale. In spring, the “weather” radar from Key West frequently depicts a massive storm when the night is actually quite clear. What it is reading are flocks of millions of birds crossing between Cuba and Key West where they have patiently awaited assistance from strong southerly winds. Afterwards, those birds migrate north, right through my area, and a quite a few stop in my back yard. Unlike most modern South Florida yards redesigned and constructed of pretreated wood, concrete, and swimming pools, my back yard is dominated by large hardwood trees, fruit trees, and native bird and butterfly-friendly shrubs. So, my yard draws these birds like a magnet. Now, realize that most of these birds would easily fit between the tips of your thumb and forefinger, and you can realize why most transplanted South Floridians hardly notice.

So, my spring mornings at home are commonly spent on my back porch while I partake of breakfast and my daily dose of caffeine, all the while accompanied by a pair of high quality binoculars. To those who ridicule my bird watching, I say, “I am witnessing my tiny contribution. What have you done to help the environment?” I can hardly find the words to express my enjoyment when I watch one of these diminutive works of art enjoying a simple clean bath in water I have set aside for them in my mid-yard birdbath. Many of these exquisite feathered midgets are more impressive than the most expensive jewelry, and yet, most are about the size of your thumb and weigh slightly more than your thumbnail. The fact that they traveled thousands of miles on those tiny wings and are still going when they pass through my yard simply amazes me.

After breakfast I fell into a usual spring routine of yard work that is best done before the upcoming summer monsoon. Eventually, after mowing, trimming branches, raking, and transplanting spontaneous feral seedlings, I found time for a backyard shower and some well deserved refreshments on the rocks.

Thus wise refreshed, I brought the portable speaker into the back yard and directed it toward the park behind my house. Then, accompanied by some good ol’ southern redneck rock (Govt Mule), I ambled out into the field and began to cast. The evening was cool, the winds light, and the shadows were lengthening. I picked a location where my backcast flew between shadows and was fully illuminated by a shaft of light from the low angled sun. I tell my students that a good cast cannot be made unless a good backcast precedes it. I believe that is true. So much so that I think the idea can be expanded to the thought that great casting requires great backcasts. And, on this evening, aided by the accidental lighting arrangement, my major goals became to hone in on truly great and reproducible backcasts.

Maybe because of the music, I began to concentrate more on cadence and rhythm than power or technique. And things really began to take shape. By watching the rod leg of the backcast and striving for wave free, taut, and horizontal, I eventually got things locked in. There was definitely a particular rhythm where everything seemed to be in sync. Maybe there is something to this idea of rod harmonics after all?

The required rhythm jived well with the music. I even began to dance a little, sort of, but then there were a couple of unexpected stumbles. It was at that point that I also began to realize I might have overdone it a bit with the bourbon.