Gary Meyer | Tuesday, 21 April 2020

“First you guess. Don’t laugh, this is the most important step. Then you compute the consequences. Compare the consequences to experience. If it disagrees with experience, the guess is wrong. In that simple statement is the key to science. It doesn’t matter how beautiful your guess is or how smart you are or what your name is. If it disagrees with experience, it’s wrong. That’s all there is to it.”

Richard Feynman. Nobel Prize in Physics, 1965.

I forget how or when I came across that quote, but I liked it so much I made a poster of it and it hangs over my desk, at work, to this day. I like the simplicity of it and how, to me, it defines the essence of the scientific method and the importance of experimentation. Of course, I also appreciate the elegant combative nature, and humility, of a man some would say was close to being on the level of Einstein.


I caught myself staring at it while musing over some of the more technical posts in the recent thread on making flycasting leaders. Like when listening to some avante guard jazz, I love it when things take me past my current level of comfort, but just a little bit beyond, where I can still quite understand what’s going on, but I really have to try. Stretching is often good for monofilament leaders too.


I won’t, and honestly cannot, get into the weeds on the physics and equations in some of the latter posts. You will have to read them and decide for yourself. Me, I had to get on my tiptoes to even see the blackboard. But I loved it! Not only did they entice me to do some internet searches on concepts that I never considered, but I had that wonderful regret that happens more frequently the older I get: “Crap! I now wish I paid more attention to that stuff when it was just being handed to me back then!”


Things pop into your mind, sometimes, and who knows where they come from? I remembered how a couple of kids I knew back in highschool got into a bit of trouble, and I apparently learned quite a lesson from it. I am deliberately trying to distance myself from those guys so you won’t think badly of me, but I honestly was not with them when it happened, but I could have been.


Imagine a couple of teenage boys driving around on a Friday night, with mischief on their minds, and not fully aware of consequences. They also had a few raw eggs in their possession. They spied a slightly older guy in a nice car with the top down. There might have been a girl in the car too, about that part I am now fuzzy, but that might have been the final straw. Anyway, the egg was tossed and laughs were all around… until they realized that the car was now following them, and aggressively. So, the chase was on and so much the better! But the guy would not back off. The teenage driver saw an opening and jumped the curb to race across an open field… to eventually find that there was a fence and nowhere to go. The guy had followed and had gotten out of his car. Well, he was outnumbered so things had escalated a bit more than they planned, but it was still all good… until they saw the handgun. Out of desperation, the teenage driver gunned the motor and took off for freedom, at the cost of a few bullet holes in his car’s trunk.


Thinking that the worst was over, and maybe they should find a different path for the evening, they were further concerned when a police car pulled them over only a short time later. The police officer, after noting the bullet holes, simply left them with a warning that I have taken to heart… “You need to realize that there are people in this world who are crazier than you are!”


I think that educational memory came back to me because I thought I had gotten a bit too nerdy with some past experiments with leader design. Once again it has been demonstrated that there are some folks who are crazier than I am, and quite a few of them apparently.


The thing about leaders, to me, at least in the type of fishing that I do, is that I do not see them as being high on the relative level of importance when all things are considered. A lot like when customers are purchasing their first outfit and ask about fly reels, I tell them that the rod and the flyline are relatively more important than the reel.


When it comes to presenting a cast, again to me in my type of fishing, I find the line and the characteristics of the fly are relatively more important than the profile of the leader. The unbelievably abruptness of the typical large tarpon leader may be the ultimate example here, where so many other properties are a priority compared to a smooth transition of energy through the connections is concerned.


With time on my hands this past weekend, on a hunch and after a few beers, I headed out into the casting field with four old flies, one rod, and about 15 feet of saltwater tippet material. The flies all had about the same weight (mass?) after their hook point was cut off, but vastly different wind resistance (form drag?). It has always been my suspicion that those two properties, maybe more precisely their ratio, plays a significant role in how they cast, and to the leader profile that is necessary to present them.


The four flies were as follows: a small Clouser with lead eyes and mainly bucktail materials; a slightly larger Lefty’s Deceiver with an epoxy head and a slightly fuller body of hackles; a common saltwater popper, short and stubby with a foam head about the diameter of a US dime; and a 4” “hollow fly” of sparse all synthetic body with a head diameter similar to the popper. Each was cast 3 times. No flyline was involved. Instead the tippet material was tied to the fly and then the other end was threaded down the rod guides where my line hand could hold it. The tippet was never cut between flies, the knot was simply untied and retied. I tried my best not to haul: I wanted only the translation of the rod tip to impart the speed to the fly. I tried to keep everything as constant as possible.


Would you like to guess which fly cast the furthest? Of course, it was the Clouser, and quite significantly farther. The second best was the hollow fly, which somewhat surprised me, considering its bulk. The Deceiver and the popper were surprisingly similar, each casting only a few rod lengths from my feet.


Without any doubt, I think the above experiment proves I really need to get out and go fishing.