Americans have a love/hate relationship with old things.
We have an addiction with all that is new, cutting edge,
state of the art, or any of the other quaint terms that
manufacturers attach to their products to make us salivate
with desire. However, we also covet those things that are
old, especially if they can be termed 'antique' or have
some collectable value. Retro is in; from clothing styles
to bicycles, that which is old has a way of becoming new
again, and alas, as Shakespeare said, there is the rub. We
covet old things as long as they are trendy, collectible,
and possibly valuable.
By Neil M. Travis, Montana
Fly-fishers, as a group, are among the most addicted to
the latest and greatest innovations that flow from the
inventive minds of the producers of fly-fishing paraphernalia.
From fly rods to fly dubbing we eagerly gobble up the latest
new and improve version of any product that promises to make
us a better _________ [you insert the proper word – caster,
fly tyer, celebrity, guru] One only needs to pick up the latest
fly-fishing magazine, or open the pages of the newest fly-fishing
catalogue to be reminded that all the latest gadgets that we
purchased last week are now passé. This is especially true of
the more expensive items in our sport, rods and reels.
Having observed the sport of fly-fishing for several decades
now I am constantly amazed at the hype that attends every new
fly rod that routinely appears on the market, and how this
latest new technology makes everything that came before it
obsolete. I have a considerable stable of fly rods ranging
from bamboo to graphite. Most of my fly rods are over 20
years old, and several of them are pushing 40. Whenever I
get a chance I will pick up one of the latest rods and see
if they make me a better caster. To date I have not found a
single rod that would allow me to cast any better, farther,
faster, or more accurately than any of my older rods.
Many years ago Castwell and myself taught fly-fishing seminars.
In the late winter we would secure the use of a local gymnasium
on a Saturday morning, and we would draw in a crowd of local
anglers that were anxious to enhance their fly-fishing skills.
These one-day events entailed, among other things, demonstrations
in knot tying, basic entomology for anglers, and casting.
Castwell had a kitchen broom that he had turned into a fly
rod of sorts complete with guides and a reel seat. He would
start out our casting demonstration by using this broom rod
to illustrate the fact that you can cast a fly line with
just about anything. He became pretty good with that broom,
and with correct timing and a couple of tugs at the right
time he could cast nearly an entire fly line, much to the
amazement of the assembled multitude. Laying aside the broom
he would then pick up a standard fly rod and begin to
demonstrate several types of casts.
When the demonstration portion of our program was over we
would work with individual anglers. We encouraged anglers
to bring their own fly rods with them so that they could
use them rather than one of our demonstration rods. First
we would let them cast while we watched. Remember this was
40 years ago, and few anglers had ever taken a casting
lesson, read a book on casting, and no one had ever seen
a casting video. Most of the casters were atrocious, with
tailing loops, whip cracking back casts, flailing arms,
and snapping wrists. In those years we saw every casting
style imaginable. Those were truly the days of chuck and
chance it. Once they had succeeded in breaking every rule
of fly-casting mechanics we would take their rod and
proceed to show them that even with their equipment it
was possible to make a decent cast. Admittedly many of
the rods we handled were more suited for poking bats out
of chimneys than fly-casting, but the point was that
technique was more important than equipment. Even the
worst fly rod was better than Castwell's broom, but by
using the proper technique even a broom can serve as a
tool for casting a fly line.
Then, as now, everyone wanted to make long casts. At any
fly-casting demonstration it is the distance casting that
draws most of the interest. Everyone wants to double haul
the entire fly line, although most anglers, unless they
are fishing in the salt or fishing for salmon or steelhead,
rarely need to be able to double haul, and in many cases
it is a determent rather than asset. Rod manufacturers
and retail sellers capitalize on this lust for greater
and greater distance by advertising that their latest
rod will easily add several feet to the anglers cast. If
every new and improved fly rod that was sold in the last
few years added several feet of casting distance we would
need 200-foot long fly lines today!
Last summer I attended a fly-casting demonstration by my
old friend Gary Borger. During the demonstration he
illustrated several different casts; curve casts, roll
casts, change of direction casts, side arm casts, puddle
casts, and several other casts for specialized circumstances.
Nearing the end of his demonstration he stripped off the
entire fly line, and with a couple quick hauls shot the
entire line out over the crowd. What made this demonstration
especially meaningful to me, and what few in the crowd knew
was that this entire demonstration had been conducted with
just the tip of a fly rod. Gary had taken a reel and taped
it to the ferrule end of a broken fly rod tip, and that is
what he used for the entire demonstration.
So if you should encounter me on one of our local trout
waters don't expect me to be sporting the latest
graphite/titanium/boron wonder rod, and don't expect
to see me double hauling to a fish that is 100 feet away.
Do expect me to be using a perfectly capable older fly rod,
a stealthy approach, and a carefully presented fly. Do
expect me to have a smile on my face. ~ Neil M. Travis, Montana
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