Here is why casting practice is important, also why learning to play a big fish without breaking off is too!

From the Greenfield (MA) Recorder 6/9/06

Fly rod turns lifeline: Man
uses fishing pole to save boy
By PATRICK O?CONNOR, Recorder Staff
DEERFIELD ? Troy Jacques didn?t have much time to think. He?d already slipped into the Stillwater section of a swollen Deerfield River twice, and he was soaked and exhausted.
But he could see that a teenager ? a stranger ? who was being pulled down river was in danger of letting go of the tube that kept him above the fast-moving current.
All Jacques had was his fly-fishing rod.
So he cast the thicker fly line out to the boy, hoping he could grab hold of it.
?He grabbed it and I pulled him right into shore,? Jacques recalled later, recounting the sequence of events Sunday that ended with him pulling the teenager, whose name he?s never learned, from the river just under Stillwater Bridge.
The day had started at about 8 a.m. for Jacques, who was competing in the One Fly Event, a local fishing tournament sponsored by Trout Unlimited.
The river was high and moving fast because of the large amount of rain in recent days. It was also quite cold, Jacques remembers.
Despite the conditions, Jacques, 44, of Greenfield, was having a good day fishing, and had already caught four nice rainbow trout.
Wearing chest-high waders and boots with carbide cleats, he was standing on a familiar piece of rock ledge that stretches out underwater near the bridge.
Usually, at that spot, he can see the bottom, but on this day the water was too high. He was going by memory, he said, since he had fished that same spot for about 20 years.
Nevertheless, he misjudged his position because of the high water, and slipped off the ledge.
?When I fell in, it actually took my breath away. I hadn?t realized how cold the water was,? he said later.
He made it back to shore OK, a little wet and a lot cold, but still up for some fishing. He considered calling it a day, but decided to stick it out a little longer.
It was about 11 a.m. He returned to his fishing spot, eventually walking a little farther out.
?I shouldn?t have done it, but I did,? he said.
Sure enough, he fell in again. He was closer to the center of the river this time, and his feet could not touch the bottom.
As he struggled to get back to shore, he saw the land getting farther and father away, he said.
?When I turned to start swimming, I noticed that I was actually getting pulled away from the shore by the current. It terrified me,? he said.
?I had so much fear in me. I was so close to saying, ?I?m going to drown.??
There were some air pockets in the waders that helped keep him above water, he said. But the waders were also filling with water. He chose not to unstrap them, he said, because he feared they would tangle his legs, and prevent him from being able to kick toward shore.
But as he struggled, he held onto his fly rod.
?I spent a lot of money for that fly rod and I didn?t want to let go of it,? he said. Yet, he added, ?I was at the point of letting go.?
Luckily, he didn?t.
In a last ditch effort, Jacques flipped over onto his back and began to kick. It worked, and he started to make progress toward the riverbank.
?I just rolled over onto my back and kicked with my feet, and ended up getting close enough to the shore, where my feet touched the bottom,? he recalled.
Once on shore, he was wet and sore. He had used all his strength to get out away from the current, he said.
He was standing under the Stillwater Bridge trying to regain his breath when he heard a girl yell.
Earlier, he had noticed a few young people in a popular swimming area north of the bridge. They had large tubes, which had no holes in the center. He thought it odd that they were in the water on such a cold day, but it seemed like they were staying on top of the tubes, and not getting wet.
At first, he didn?t pay much attention to the yelling, assuming that the teens he saw earlier were just playing.
?It really never dawned on me that there was a problem,? he said.
But then he noticed the boy. He was in the water, fully clothed, holding onto the handle of the tube, being swept down river.
?They weren?t intending on going in the water. They were going on tubes like someone would go down on a boat,? he said.
The boy was holding onto the tube, trying to pull himself back on, Jacques recalled. He saw that he was getting tired.
?I yelled, ?Are you OK?? And the girl yelled over, ?He?s deaf!??
At this point, Jacques was wiped out. He couldn?t go back into the water, he thought. ?I?m not afraid of water, but that water scared the hell out of me,? he said.
Nevertheless, Jacques worried that once the boy got by him, he would reach faster-moving currents down river.
?What scared me was that he was losing his grip on the tube. The current was so strong, that there was no way he could swim to shore,? he said.
The only thing he could think of was his fly rod. Jacques, who?s been fly-fishing for about 30 years, had a floating orange fly line on the rod.
?I?ve cast that thing so many times that I could land it in a paper cup at a distance, so it was pretty easy to get it to him,? he said
?I just cast my fly line farther than him and laid the line down on water.?
The boy saw it.
?He held onto tube with one hand, and he held onto the line with the other,? he said. ?I ended up reeling him in with my fly rod.?
He said the boy was about 16 or 17 years old. Once he pulled him ashore, he tried to speak with him, but Jacques doesn?t know sign language and the boy could not understand him.
Jacques says he helped the boy carry the tube up toward Upper Road. The people the boy was with, including the girl who yelled from the opposite shore, had parked a car in a parking area on Stillwater Road on the other side of the bridge.
Jacques never got the boy?s name.
Jacques said that he knew it was ?stupid? to have waded back into the water a second time. Yet if he hadn?t, he would have left and not been there to pull the boy from the water.
?It really was so stupid of me to try what I did a second time. But (considering what happened), it?s not so stupid anymore.?