January 10th, 2005

Who's Reading This?
By James Castwell

From time to time I get to wondering just who reads this column. Oh, I don't mean which countries, although we are read in about 120 countries each month. No, I mean, I try to visualize who you are. What you look like, how old you are, how well off or not you may be at the moment. Tall, short, slim, fat, young, old, bald or grey. Happy, sad, friendly or reserved?

Where are you in your fly fishing. Who are you on the stream, in the fly-shop, at the tying bench, at a casting pond or a show. Who are you at a gathering for a 'Spring Tune-Up' for T.U. or F.F.F. When you are at a fly shop, do you buy any darn thing you fancy or is there a much adhered to budget in place?

Sometimes when I give casting lessons for a small group, I will line them up and step out in front. Then, after a quick cast or two, ask them to put their rods in the 'other' hand. Some puzzled looks and a few mild scowls are my usual reward. Then I ask them to, "Hold your right hand near your shoulder, first finger pointed up and your thumb pointed back." This is where some of my fun begins and we start trusting each other. They all think they know exactly what is coming next just like you did when you just read it. Here comes that old ten and two o'clock thing again. Ad nauseam.

My fun continues this way. "Now, straighten your arm, thumb up and finger pointed at me!" Funny how they respond, they do it like I was a D.I. "Now, repeat after me! Castwell, you're the GREATEST!" With that, the 'ice is broken' and we go on for a fun day of casting.

But, when I am there, I can see them; see their faces, read body language, sideways glances, arched eyebrows, even clenched jaws. It's wonderful when 'learning' actually goes on in their (your?) heads. A light of recognition sparkles in the eye, a slight upward curve of a lip corner, a pulling-in of the chin and straightening of the spine. Confidence becomes contagious. It seems to spread among the crew. Soon all seem to be inflicted. The disease takes over. They (you?) are on a roll, you are now teaching yourself (selves?). My roll is reduced.

Which one are you? The one trying a bit too hard and making the rod swish the air as it lashes back and forth? Remember, "less effort, and nice and quiet." If you listen to your casting stroke and hear a swish on the front stroke and not on the back, what does that tell you? Think about it a second. Got it yet. Noise on the front stroke, not on the back. Right. No stop on the front, good stop on the back one.

Or are you pitching respectable loops in front and back. Eyes bulging out, sweat popping from your brow, neck veins throbbing? Yes, you! Sometimes this helps. I step in front again, raise my arms and bring everything to a stop. Then in a nice calm, cool, collected voice scream, "RELAX!" Some times I think they forget to breathe when they are learning.

The husband with his wife. How I love this combo. I separate them of course, but, my what fun. You keep checking on her. Then it hits you that she is doing darn well. Better than you already? I have seen it happen way too many times. Oh, here's one that is fun and maybe you are one that has had it happen. You are really struggling for anything more than twenty-five feet or so for distance and some of the others are slapping out casts of fifty or so. So you try harder. Of course you do. If we are doing something wrong, lets fix it by doing it harder. Never works. Remember what I did? I kind of hated to use you as an example to prove a point but you were a good sport about it and you did learn an important lesson.

I stepped right out in front of you. Directly in front, about thirty feet in front of you. I challenged you to "hit me with the practice fly, to really smack me good with it. Go for it. Lay it on me!" And so you did, well, rather tried to hit me with it. I of course was yelling at you, egging you on to, "Hit it, come on, put some muscle into that cast!"

Of course, the harder you tried, the worse the casts got, and shorter too. At the end, I am not sure you even had a back cast at all. Then, I stepped beside you, you held the rod, I placed my hand over yours, we started casting and with only a few gentle strokes you were out to thirty and not even trying. I said, "Just keep it going. I'll be back. Think about what you just did." Yes, those were fun days. I wonder if you were one of them. Meanwhile, getting back to this column.

What can I see from here? This unblinking screen, which is I suppose a whole lot like the one you're looking back into. I look at the screen and you're just on the other side aren't you. I have my hands on the keys, but, you don't. You're just using the mouse. Ok, no problem. So there you are. I don't think I figured you would look quite as tired as that. Probably some reason which does not matter at all.

You're skimming! Well, I am not offended. You can always come back again. I will still be here. I would prefer that you take a bit more time and actually read this stuff the first time instead of just whisking over it, looking for high-spots of interest, but guess I am honored you actually take the time to check it at all.

Tell you what. Tomorrow is another day, come on back then, or later today and go over it again. No reason to be in a hurry, after all, this is fly-fishing ya know... JC

Oh ya, I also explain to them that, "The most important thing you will learn from me today is where the restrooms are." ~ JC

Till next week, remember . . .

Keepest Thynne Baakast Upeth

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