The sports world was focused and occupied this
past week with the emergence of a woman golfer
playing on the men's circuit. It's not a first,
Babe Didrikson Zaharias was the first women to
play in the men's league. She was an outstanding
athelete, the likes of which we are not likely to
see again. Quoting Larry Schwartz in a Special
to ESPN.com about the athletes of the century,
"The first to prove a girl could be a stud athlete,
Babe Didrikson began as a muscular phenom who mastered
many sports and ended as a brilliant golfer. An exuberant
tomboy whose life was athletics, she was accomplished in
just about every sport - basketball, track, golf, baseball,
tennis, swimming, diving, boxing, volleyball, handball,
bowling, billiards, skating and cycling. When asked if
there was anything she didn't play, she said, "Yeah, dolls."
As a teenager she knew her life's ambition. "My goal was
to be the greatest athlete who ever lived," she said. "
She may indeed have been just that - I can't think of
any men who were as accomplished in as many sports as
she was. Her talent and drive were certainly uncommon
for any era. Her life was cut short by cancer and she
died at age 45, in 1955.
Annika Sorenstam did not make the cut to continue in the
Colonial Tournament, a men's PGA event, but it was nice
to see a woman do well in a man's world. Obviously for
Annika, competition matters.
I've encouraged folks to get involved in some competition
too, one which I think requires learning a lot about
casting. I'm talking about casting competitions of course,
either distance or accuracy. It is a different ball game
than fishing - but I believe it enhances the fishing
experience. We've had casting competitions as part
of some of the FAOL Fish-Ins - and even resorted to
exchanging raffle tickets for entries in those
competitions to drag folks into it. These have been
casting competitions run by American Casting Association
rules. Those who do enter usually discover they don't
know as much about casting as they thought - and many
do much better than they expected.
Sometime when you have a buddy or two around, see if you
can get a little friendly 'shoot-out' going. Measure
out a distance and see who can cast the farthest. Once
a distance is established, put a paper plate at that
distance and see if the same people can hit the paper
plate. Have anyone left? Now put a $5 bill on the
plate and challenge them to hit it again - they get
to keep the five bucks if they do. (If that seems
like too little money, make it a $20.) You will discover
that casting under pressure - even self-imposed - will
cause all sorts of reactions. Some of the reactions
are mental - but the tightening up of the muscles is
a physical reaction which occurs in everyone under
stress. And believe me, that little muscle tightening
can cause a person to perform poorly.
The other side of the coin is, if you can perform under
stress/pressure in a casting competition, you are not
going to have problems freezing up with a big fish.
Or casting to a fish you know is a record breaker.
It's not a fool-proof guarantee, I've seen some of
the 'big-boys' tear their shorts in a effort to beat
a competitor and forget everything they knew doing it.
There has to be some mind-over-matter in competition
I think it was Oscar Wild in a conversation with a famous
stage actress, who asked her "if she would go to bed with
him for $1,000."
"Certainly not!" she exclaimed.
He retorted, "Well, how about for $1,000,000? "
When the actress didn't immediately reply, he said,
"We've established what you are, now we're just
haggling about price."
I'll admit it, I've set you up.
Yes, I am in favor of competition. I believe there are
things about casting, line control, timing, and the action
of rods to be learned by competing in casting competitions.
Perhaps not the same things in accuracy and distance, but
enough to really make one a better fly fisher.
Having competed in other sports, (tennis and archery),
there is also a sense of self-accomplishment which isn't
to be taken lightly either. Since money was not a factor
in either of those sports, I can't personally say how
important winning money pots is to any individual. But
it does seem to me the road to the top money isn't cheap
either, so the financial costs of getting to a position
to be in major competition may be a trade off.
Until recently money hasn't been a big deal in any fly
fishing competitions - it's been more about bragging
rights, and maybe how much one could charge for guiding
or personal appearances. With the upcoming OLN Fly
Fishing Masters (good grief more 'Masters'?) there may
be a whole lot more to debate. I can't put my finger
on exactly why, but it just doesn't feel right. I
don't like it.
For women in whatever sports, more power to the gals who
want to play any form available. We won't see another
Babe, and Annika set a high hurdle for herself - and
just maybe that is what this is all about. She had
won almost every LPG (Ladies Professional Golf)
tournament available - and like Tiger Wood in the
PGA (Professional Golf Association) maybe she had
run out of competition.
If a mid-level tennis player wants to improve their game,
the common knowledge is to play against someone better.
It is nearly automatic, the player will raise their level
of play to compete against the better player. I'm not a
golfer, but I can accept the same thing working in golf.
I'm not going to surprise you a bit with this - it also
works in fly fishing! Fish with a better fly fisher and
you will learn things to improve your fishing! Or tie
next to a better tier! Cast alongside a better caster
and your casting will improve. I don't look at the
results as having been in competition, it is just what
happens. I wonder how many times the new fly fisher
has watched someone else on the stream to see how he
casts? Or where he puts the fly?
One of the significant things about fly fishing is no
one person will ever know it all. So for all of us,
there is a learning curve. Competition? Maybe.
~ The LadyFisher
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