Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Life on the Casting Pond

The Long Beach Casting Club has a cement casting pond that is the delight of every dog and child in Long Beach, not to mention the walkers.  Oh, boy—the walkers.  They somehow discovered the perimeter of the pond is about 1/8 of a mile around, so they can know just how far they have walked just by counting the laps.  And they are going to walk no matter what happens.  I mention these walkers because they can take you into your backing before they know they’ve been caught.  Dogs and children seem to know that a back cast may have consequences, besides they are usually playing in the water in front of the casters where they can be seen.  Not so the walkers.
The casting club, and almost every fly caster, uses a hookless fly, an indicator, or a plug to monitor their casts in practice.  Unfortunately, the lack of hooks makes it more difficult to get the attention of a walker.  The indicator wraps around their fanny pack or water bottle, and they have no idea of the situation.  True the hook just might wrap itself around these things also, but maybe not…  Well, maybe it would be better just to train the dogs to...
The club is located in an old mature city park where soccer games are regularly played, picnics are part of daily life, and children and dogs regularly come to play.  The spacious dog park just north of the club is well used, but many dog owners opt for the green grass of the park rather than the dirt of the dog park.  The clubhouse and pond are not separated from the rest of the park in any overtly identifying manner, and indeed the grounds are a public park even though the club leases the property.
The openness of the park makes it easy for anyone to observe the club’s activities, and many members joined just because they were able to stroll up to the pond and talk to someone about fly casting.  But the walkers never stop to talk, except to shout “move aside” while they are walking the perimeter of the pond.  (Sorry, I’m trying to get past the walkers.)  After my neighbor Clark introduced me to the pond, I began to make appearances at the club in the evenings just to observe the activities on the water under the lights, and the number of people who would help each other with their techniques quickly impressed me.
I bought my first rod.  It was a 5-weight kit from the local fly shop, and it cost a big chunk of change as far as I was concerned.  It was a name brand, but it wasn’t in the class of a “Holy Grail” or anything even close.  I brought it to the pond knowing from my observations that all I had to do was look pathetic (wait, I already look pathetic) and someone would help me.  I put the rod together, made one toss of the line, and Bert, George, Mick, Bill, and Joe surrounded me before I could make the second attempt.  My first thought was, “am I really that bad?”, but while the answer is a definite ‘yes’ these men didn’t care.  All they wanted to do was show me how to improve. 
For months I came to the casting pond at least once or twice a week to practice casting, and to learn how to work around obstructions (walkers).  My technique has improved a little over time, and still Bert, George, Mick, Bill, Joe, and countless others do not hesitate to help.  And I repeat the word ‘help.’  Never once have I been lectured or made to feel inadequate as a caster, although I am inadequate as a caster. 
It’s strange how what goes around comes around (and this time I don’t mean the walkers).  A few weeks ago I was on the pond by myself and a young lady came up to me and started asking questions about what I was doing.  I explained that I was practicing my casting techniques before going out to fish.  Her response was, “This looks like how fishing should be.”  I couldn’t have agreed more.
I handed her the 5-weight I was using and helped her to make a few simple casts.  Then she mentioned that she was going home to San Francisco in a few days, but she wanted to learn more about this.  It was fun.  She had fished all her life and always had a desire to know how to fly fish.  She was glad someone had taken a few minutes time to show her a little about it.  She promised me she would look up some of the clubs in her area and pursue this.  I hope she does.
Well, time moves forward whether we want it to or not.  Bert is gone now, and Gary has joined the club.  In a few years he will graduate high school.  All ages are represented at the club, and this is essential to the life of any organization.
Many things happen on the pond.  The spey casters throw their long rolls, the master casters practice accuracy, the beginners practice false casts, the dogs and children play in the water (where are their owners?), and the walkers walk.  But most of all, an unbroken fellowship of more than three-quarters of a century continues.  Thanks to everyone for passing on the instructions.  And thanks to every club that keeps this knowledge alive.

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