It was permit I tell ya’ – permit everywhere!
I stood on the casting deck and took four practice swings. Smacked the short target three times and the middle one once. Confident, I put my fly in my hand and told the guide to get us moving. He said he’d start the moment I did.
I lifted the rod, tucked my elbow, took a quick pull of the line…and all I saw after that was permit. Permit everywhere. Little black fins bobbing and weaving, in three distinct groups at 25, 35 and about 50 feet. In the back of my mind all I could hear was 12 o’clock…cast cast cast! And then pick up…cast! Pick up…cast! And that’s what I did. The wind seemed to howl simultaneously from all sides, while some imaginary guy on the poling platform screamed bloody murder. I think I hit two targets, and am pretty sure I threw one pathetic distance cast about 60 feet.
I still don’t have a permit on the fly, and I didn’t qualify for the competition either.
James Snyder and I skipped out after that, walking 100 yards and then gorging on pancake breakfasts. Found our trucks and set forth west, hitting some nice pocket water in the otherwise raging Gore Creek. We got into a few fish on green and brown Rubber Buggers. On the way home we stopped by Ten Mile and picked up a few more, this time on small stuff. We laughed and carried on as usual, and we had a great time. Trout fishing with a friend – a fitting end to a competitive day. Full of permit.
What did I learn from this experience?
There were a lot of spectacular fly casters at the meet, and I think some of them had a great time. I left before the applause, but I’m clapping now – they deserve it. Still, others took themselves way too seriously and probably didn’t have much fun. I showed up for the pre-show in drag, and while a few photographers (as well as a small handful of competitors) were delighted, it was pretty easy to tell a lot of folks there weren’t amused. For them I feel nothing but sorrow, regardless of their performance.
I know I’ll never be a decent competitive fly caster because my casting stroke is nothing to write home about. I only catch fish because I’m lucky, and sometimes I’m just very lucky. Further, I just can’t seem to take this whole fly fishing thing much more seriously than popping the top on a Coors Light and playing stuffed animal tug-of-war with my dog (which is precisely what I’m doing in between typing the words you see before you).
Or at least I’m now certain I won’t anymore.
UPDATE: Almost forgot – special thanks goes out to John Darbeloff of RailRiders, Jeremy Cameron of Flies & Fins, and James Snyder of Primal Fly for the clothes on my back, as well as Tim Emery of FishExplorer for securing accommodations and Tim Marek for sneaking me into private parties.
UPDATE 2: Official qualifying results are in pdf form here. And a correction – I hit one target, and a 59 footer. Damn I sucked.