June 2nd, 2003

Counterpoint
By James Castwell


Last week I wrote an introduction to the Marryat CMR-OnLine fly reel. A longtime reader from the UK, James H. Clarke, has honored me with a response, as it were. Sort of a 'Point-Counterpoint' type of thing. As they are still smarting over us 'colonialists' having invented the 'Dry Fly,' I decided not to antagonize them further and have decided to run the piece. So it is with an eye of jaundice and a firmly stuck tongue in cheek that I offer his text in place of one of my usually extraordinary contributions for this week. ~ JC

Horror!! The new concept in fly reels featured last week is not a good thing. I feel it could be the worst thing to hit flyfishing for years.

Consider the beauty of flyfishing. What sets it apart from the other types of fishing? Direct contact-that's all. Direct contact. I and my generation were taught that in order to be a proper sporting fisherman you had to serve an apprenticeship. You had to learn woodcraft, you had to learn to respect and care for the fish and the environment. This took time. Without flycasting instructors -- without much knowledge of line to rod sizes -- with silk lines that would only float for the morning with cane rods for God's sake. We found out how to do it right eventually, and by that time we had become versed in most everything to do with fish, fishing and the world out there on the river bank. We had become, hopefully, sportsmen.

On the other tack were the bait fishermen and the spinners. Bait men in those days were the individuals who simply lumped a bunch of worms on a big hook, lobbed it out and sat down to wait and drink beer. It goes without saying that this type of angler and this type of approach precluded moving during the day. He sat down and occupied the pool as was his right, woebetide anyone else who might want to fish the pool. "I was here first!" The mechanics of this fishing were non-existent. If the rod was big enough and the lead was heavy enough, he could cover all the water in sight without moving or upsetting his beer. It would be a short step to a tent, a bed and a campfire.

The spinner on the other hand, had to learn to cast with his toy. That took all of five minutes. He was ready to sally forth and catch fish. Not only had he not assimilated any countryside lore, woodcraft and the rest, he didn't need to. He just chucked out a minnow or a spoon and sooner or later a fish would be hooked. There was little chance of the fish being lost, he had a treble hook on the end, maybe two, maybe more! He also had a SLIPPING CLUTCH. This invention of the devil meant that if a fish was hooked, our angler need do nothing but wind in. The clutch setting allowed the fish to take line right up to the breaking strain of the line, and continual cranking of the handle meant that if the fish turned and came to him, he was regaining line and eventually the fish arrived at his feet, Simple.

Consider the fly fisherman. He learns a difficult and rewarding skill. He learns to admire and respect his quarry. He learns to love the world outdoors and appreciate it's fragility. He learns to cast a fly, a delicate matter and one which can be frustrating until it ultimately becomes one of the most rewarding things some of us ever learn. Fly fishing, you fish to a fish. You do not mechanically trawl expanses of water, hoping something will fall prey to your hook. You feel, even for a short time, that you know your fish. Many people talk to the fish they are casting to, I know I do. (That the air is sometimes blue round my head owes more to my ineptitude than to the fish's lack of co-operation.) When he hooks a fish on his single tiny hook, the fly fisherman is in direct contact with a living fighting creature which does not want to be caught. He must react quickly to every movement of that fish. He must maintain delicate but firm pressure, and steer his fish away from obstacles and heavy currents. This is not easy. It is prone to failure. We know it is all too frequently prone to failure. THAT IS WHY WE DO IT.

If the only reason to fish was to catch fish for the pot, a little stick of gelignite would probably be the most productive method, with a fine net across the stream in the evening following a close second. Do we do it that way? No, of course not. We are thinking, reasoning creatures, at least we purport so to be. We are something more. We are sportsmen. That means, rightly or wrongly, we have chosen not to do things, and this thing in particular, the easy way, but to do it in a way approaching an art or even a religion.

As I have said before, flyfishing is not a matter of life and death, it is much more important than that.

If all the development in angling is to the end of making it easier to kill large numbers of fish, then I for one want no part of it. We will have Global Positioning Satellite facility next, to help us pinpoint fish in the stream, together with Individual Echo Responding to make sure the fish does not move away before we can kill it. We will have genetically modified fish that are all of a standard size, to fit the pan. There will only be one pattern of fly, proven to kill the maximum number of fish per fishing hour, and called simply "the Fly." We will use invisible super nylon of infinite breaking strain so that the fish does not escape, and rocket assisted casting engines to enable us to cover the whole lake with each cast.

I must stop. I am getting aerated over something my protestations cannot change. Of course this reel will sell. It would be a godsend under some conditions, but in those conditions should one not be using simply a bigger reel with more backing.

No doubt few of your readers will agree with me, many will disagree strongly. I have dashed this off in a fit of indignation, and may regret it when I see it in print. (That's if Ladyfisher does not disagree with me) I could go on and on, but to bore you was not the intention. I look forward to the correspondence which will undoubtedly result in the near future. ~ James H. Clark

Till next week, remember . . .

Keepest Thynne Baakast Upeth

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