On the other hand

On the other hand

Gary Meyer | Tuesday, 11 June 2019

I took a canoe out again last weekend. The weather gods must have been listening since right after my previous trip, when I noted that the usual summer-welcoming monsoon had not appeared yet, the skies blossomed grey and our life-giving rains began to fall.

It is likely that fishing in the rain, here in south Florida, just might be the most comfortable someone can be while fishing in the rain. Yes, of course you get wet, but when the ambient temperature is hovering around 80 degrees F it really is not so bad. In fact, it can be rather pleasant. I have found that as long as I keep my head and glasses dry I really do not mind it at all. Keeping in mind how it will feel around a month from now, when the rains subside and the sun will beat on you relentlessly, makes you realize what a pleasant outing it really is. The fact that the little tarpon get very active with the rain might be another positive thing too?

I have added a few optional items to my usual fishing equipment list that add significantly to my rainy-day fishing comfort. One is a hand operated bilge pump. I used to deal with the water that accumulates in the canoe with a simple sponge and a bailer cut from a plastic juice container. That worked fine, but the pump is much faster and well worth its minimal weight in the canoe bag. Other almost luxury items are a simple towel and change of dry clothes stored safely back in the van. The most uncomfortable aspect of rainy day fishing is actually a drive home in soaked clothes. Of course, I always have a set of foul weather gear with me, but they seldom see daylight during the summer. And, I always have carried a 50 mph golf umbrella as standard equipment in the canoe. Besides being useful as sun protection and a portable sail, it actually will function as rain protection when that is desired, like when eating lunch.


I had an interesting and rather self-fulfilling realization on this trip. This was not a big-fish excursion, rather it was one of my default trips where I expected only small snook and tarpon. My fishing began right after I rounded a point and began casting a popper into shade provided by the early morning sun rather low in the still cloudless sky. After only a few casts, the popper disappeared into a sudden sinkhole where a calm surface had been only seconds before. I set the hook and happily allowed the line at my feet to disappear when the snook ran for open water. It was then, after a short run against the drag, that I fumbled when trying to find the handle on the reel. It wasn’t there, or rather, it was on the opposite side of the reel, where it always is. Initially confused, I could not find it with my right hand. Semi-unconsciously, I had been fishing left-handed!


Of course, I knew I was casting with my left. It was a conscious decision when I began to work the shore. I could have rotated my body and cast with my dominant right hand, or I could have back-cast into the shade, but the simpler route was to cast left-handed. The distance was well within my established distance with accuracy. The fact that I was comfortable enough to actually forget that I was casting with my “off” hand put a smile on my face. It was proof of a lot of practice over quite a long time. Jerking around, I have caught a number of fish left handed, but they were all very deliberate and somewhat of a menial trophy for the moment. Grabbing this fish by his face was a far greater feeling.


I am not sure how to explain it, but any avid fly angler who has spent a few years trying to improve will understand. After a while, you stop concentrating on the cast per se’, and begin to concentrate on smaller things, like where you want place the fly or certain aspects of the presentation. The gross motor skill of the cast have become semi-conscious and allocated to what…“muscle memory”? Abdicating these motor skills to the autopilot are essential when that trophy fish presents itself and the finest details of the presentation are essential and require your complete attention.


Having watched so many beginners struggle to put together the basics of a fundamental cast, I realize that at first, each fundamental has to be concentrated upon, overcome, tamed, and stored. Building a decent cast is simply bundling those fundamentals together, one concept at a time. Assuring a beginner that someday, if they keep at it, they will eventually cast without much thought, is fun for me, and usually met with sheer skepticism.


So… for all you avid casters… just for kicks when you are practicing take a moment and switch hands, if only for a short time. Give your dominant hand a break. You will be surprised. It will likely be humorous at first: enjoy it. Don’t be surprised when your “off” hand is better at casting than your dominant hand is at line control.


Also, don’t be surprised when casting with your other hand teaches you something that you did not notice before. That has been the case for me on multiple occasions. Practicing with my off hand has improved my casting with each hand.


I have friends who are avid handgun target shooters. They like to say that after the basics, the way to getting good is, “Just lead down the barrel”. That pretty much sums up “off-hand” casting for me. There were no major jumps or breakthroughs. It has just been repetition: what was once completely uncoordinated had become almost decent – one cast at a time. Or, maybe more like a thousand?