Gary Meyer | Tuesday, 14 April 2020

The last few weeks have been tough… much more so for many others than me. My biggest “problem” has been being grounded from fishing. That is all I have to complain about, so it is not a legitimate reason to complain. In fact, I realize that I am very lucky, indeed.
Where I work I am essentially a one-man show. There are no others that do what I do, and what I do is deemed essential. So, unlike many others, I not only still have a job, but I am being treated with respect. I am far enough from the front lines that I have little concern from becoming infected, at least not due to my job. Of course, there is always the chance of random contact through the general public. So, like anyone with common sense, I am limiting my interactions with the outside world.
I report directly to only one person and he is way up the chain, “at 40,000 feet” as he likes to claim. He really does not grasp what I do, but as long as I do it right he leaves me alone in my lab, as do most others. The one person who actually has a clue is the supervisor of the location where my lab is located. And, as luck would have it, he is also a fly angler and we have fished together on many occasions. So, he not only knows about my job, but he also knows what I do and where I go when off the clock.
And it is with that knowledge he has managed to keep me from wandering off to fish. To limit the possibility of inter-employee contagion, all who can work from home are now required to do so. Meetings are now all done via the internet. Unfortunately, part of my job is very hands-on and I must physically travel to other private laboratories during normal working hours. So, I cannot work remotely for at least part of the workweek. To keep me off premises, I am allowed a few extra days at home each week now, and with pay. How can anyone complain about that?
Here is the rub: I am on call. The supervisor has promised that he will not call me in unless it is absolutely necessary. However, as he knows who I am and what I do, he has implored me to be available if I am needed. In his own words, I cannot be “off in a canoe, hours away and out of cell phone coverage.” To that request he added a very heart-felt “Please!”

So, what else is there to do other than practice casting and think about all things flyfishing. To that end I have been casting with a new twist. Well, at least new to me. At the last fly show I attended I had the good fortune to witness a demonstration by a truly top-notch caster. One who is published and recognized as a true celebrity within this small weird universe that we inhabit.

The thing is, he is a proponent of, and demonstrated beautifully, a “style” of casting that is far from what I consider my comfort zone. He believes in the elbow forward, shoulder rotation oriented, hand-closing,pull to a hard stop technique. And all I can say is he explained it and demonstrated it so beautifully that I had to seriously reconsider how my casting has evolved for over the last few decades.

Of course, immediately after attending the show I played around with his techniques. I so much wanted to prove to myself that I had not wandered off course, or somehow find a flaw in his theories. But, just about everything I tried proved to be quite efficient and even eye-opening, at least when out in the field with a fluff on my light “play” rods.

I had a suspicion, however, that his technique would not translate well into the saltwater arena with a heavy outfit (12 weight) tarpon fishing that I commonly pursue.

The Everglades winter tarpon fishery is sort of a sight-fishing thing, but it is not the eye-candy stuff seen in most videos. Sure, we see the occasional fish roll, but they disappear like magic as soon as they go back down in the mangrove-tinted waters. This is not the watching a chain of fish approaching for minutes in crystal clear water type of tarpon fishing. Instead, you hope to see one roll and guess where his location will be shortly after, and place your fly to be there. The visuals that are lost are wonderfully replaced by that massive yet unseen weight on your line when they eat. Of course, you are hoping for that to happen on every cast, but it doesn’t happen most of the time. When it does the adrenaline rush is amazing, and that still does happen every time.

The reality is a bit more sober. Often the fish do not show hardly at all, so it becomes dredging drudgery. You could just hold the fly and wait for a chance, but keeping a fly in the water greatly increases the odds. Some days, often very good days, all of the eats happen blind casting.

Now, if you are a casting nut, that really is not such a problem. It is often referred to casting practice occasionally interrupted by fish. But, the rods are big and heavy, and, the longer the fly is in the water the better your odds are for a random fish to find your fly. So, distance is also a plus. The trick is to cast as far as possible, as often as possible, without wearing yourself out, or succumbing to injury. If the fish suddenly turn on late in the day you still want to be able to cast.

So, this last season, I had ample opportunity to compare casting techniques: my default Lefty oriented long translation form versus the above mentioned elbow –shoulder – hand pull – to a hard stop technique. And you know what? They both work!

Going for maximum distance, my default style still is the best, but I have been working on it for a much longer time. As far as decent distance with a minimal amount of effort – I have to give that to the much more efficient use of the shoulder muscles of the elbow forward cast. Even with a heavy rod and big fly. Maybe even more so.

So, over the last few days, I have been wearing out my distance line trying to modify my stroke to fit in the concepts I learned at the show. And, to be honest, it is not going all that well. I have found some new ways to get to the same place, but when it comes to my maximum distance I am still relying mostly on the old tried and true.

But, that is fly casting. It is always good to try to recalibrate. Ya never know what might surprise you.

BTW… to make use of my down time, I just finished reading “The Feather Thief”. If you have not read it yet, it may be worth a look. It is a curious peak into one of the more esoteric corners of our fly fishing world.