In addition to my weekly beginners' class, I met up with a few burgeoning tarpon anglers who want to sharpen their casting for the soon to be upon us big-tarpon season. I really enjoy working with anglers who have progressed a bit beyond the beginner stage. I admire and recognize their dedication and I am always amazed at how complicated our sport can be, even for those who have gladly accepted the challenge.
Over the last 15 years or so, since my beginners' class is sponsored by a big-box store and free to the students, I have literally worked with thousands of beginners. I have become quite familiar with that bewildered look of realization when a novice begins to recognize that fly fishing might be a tad bit more involved than they thought. Some embrace it, others fold. It is not for everybody.
What I saw in the faces of these private students was something different again. I saw desire but confusion and frustration. They all admitted to trying to go it alone at first, relying on our wonderful modern technology to read on-line tutorials, listen to pod casts, watch videos, etc. I could sum them up as suffering from misinformation pollution.
And, as I have touched on before, these folks are being handed (sold) amazingly inappropriate equipment. Last year I was rather impressed by a top of the line 12wt rod loaded with a matching and also shockingly-priced FlatsPro flyline. That outfit could deliver a tarpon fly 100’ without asking for more than an easy stroke. In fact, anything more was a disaster. This year similar rods are toting a Titan taper or tarpon quick shooter flyline. These lines are being marketed as casting remedies!
Do y’all know what the “hot” Keys tarpon fly is today, and has been for a few years now? A worm fly. Imagine a San Juan Worm tied on a 1/0 saltwater hook. Then snip off the part of the fly in front of the hook eye. That’s it. It is modeled after a Paolo Worm, an incredible little creature that “hatches” and the tarpon go nuts over them. It is a great fly, but suggesting an over-weighted 12wt brick on a string flyline to deliver these flies is crazy.
I was trying to demonstrate how little was necessary to deliver the fly when one student stopped me. He asked where was the extreme rod load, the haul, and the abrupt stop? These were all necessary components of a “good” cast as he had seen on some Utube-like video. (I have to admit that visions of Lasse or Paul casting a 5 wt competition cast flashed through my mind). Can you imagine why this student had some tailing loop problems?
That is when I came up with the concept of “payload”. The line is a delivery vehicle, the fly is the payload. There is a relationship between the two and hopefully, there is a balance. Sometimes, the ratio is skewed. When the fly is a challenge more effort is required, when things are opposite you have to ease up.
I wish I could have explained it better to him. The next student reaped the rewards. After thinking about it I threw a ping-pong ball and a golf ball in my kit. This next student had similar issues with his equipment and tailing loops. I asked him to throw the ping-pong ball over a home run fence. He looked at me and laughed. So, I said, “throw it as far as you can”. Which he did. I then gave him the golf ball, and before he launched it out of sight, I stopped him and asked that he try to throw it no further than the ping-pong ball.
Although the balls might look very similar on a video, they represent a much different payload and require a much different stroke. Not a perfect analogy, but he got it!