Tag: fly casting

Time to learn how to cast left-handed

Shortly before I headed off to Deneki Outdoors’s FIBFest, I tweaked some pieces/parts of my right elbow. I don’t think it was the casting practice I undertook immediately before the trip, because I couldn’t cast before it and I certainly can’t now. The no pain, no gain mantra works in reverse, right?

Nevertheless, it’s been several months, and I can’t shake the irritation. Sure, I haven’t taken much of a break, but who wants to sit on the sidelines while others lie about all the fish they are catching? Definitely not I.

Kirk “Never Underestimate Him During Airband Competition” Deeter described the same problem to me on one of our Andros South runs, but on a recent outing he told me his elbow has returned to fully operational status. Then again, the guy catches carp out of swamp water, with Skagit lines.

On the bright side, Location Z, the bass pond I was romping earlier in the season, isn’t fishing nearly as well now – in fact, the action has become non-existent. I heard blame placed on something the proprietors put in the water to kill the weeds, moving the bass into deeper confines. I wanted to point the finger at my perpetually sore elbow, propping myself up on the idea that if nobody else was hooking toads either they were just piss-poor anglers. This affliction also gives me a reason to cast smaller flies with lighter lines (one of which I’m in review mode on right now too).

The [distorted] reality is, however, that I’m growing oldout of shapejust a pansy been fielding a lot of calls from fellow fly fishers for a handicap against my other-worldly skill set.

And it’s now time to learn how to cast left-handed.

MG signing off (wearing the badge of a non-contact sports injury with a smile on my face)

Book review: The Fly Caster Who Tried to Make Peace with the World

To cast a fly to a fish is to hope – hope that it is hungry. The same goes for tailing fish, those bobbing and weaving in the water column, and even cruisers if you are feeling exceptionally confident (and lucky).

To cast yourself into the whirlwind called life is, however, more risk than wishful thinking. Putting yourself out there every day, regardless of your innate skill (or lack thereof), and trying to make the best of it requires courage. To do it all with some semblance of dignity, self-reflection, self-correction, and a modicum of empathy are the only true determinants of success, at least according to this technologist finance geek fly-fishing bum. If I could put myself in the shoes of one Ian McBride, whose fictional [?] life is chronicled in Randy Kadish’s The Fly Caster Who Tried to Make Peace with the World, I sincerely hope that I could look back and say I did half the job he did.

McBride’s journey is one of never ending learning, and one he questions himself constantly about. Albeit a slow start, fly casting, and fly-fishing, becomes the protagonist’s window into a world of relativity. The storyline is immersing – some might find it almost too much so. You don’t feel like you are there, but instead wind up convinced you are Ian. In his head, thinking his thoughts. Acting on his feelings. I didn’t mind – he’s a good egg.

For the fly-fishing aficionado, some interesting history of the sport is gracefully weaved into the story, as is the sublime experience itself…

Where I came from and where I was going no longer mattered; so even though I didn’t catch another trout, I wasn’t disappointed about anything, until I looked at my watch and saw the time.

Many can surely relate. I know I can.

I’ll wrap by noting again that the book starts off somewhat slow, but by the end of the first quarter it does not disappoint. That beginning is purposeful background, one that allows you to understand the how’s and why’s of one young person’s gradual advancement to adulthood. Trials and tribulations are thoroughly included, which makes the book all the more genuine.

The Fly Caster Who Tried to Make Peace with the World is available in both paperback and a Kindle version, from Amazon.

Editor’s note to the government types: I am not generating any revenue from book link click-throughs because the Colorado legislature has seen it in their hearts to indirectly put the kabosh on affiliate revenue in our fair state. That stupidity aside, the author sent me the book on the condition that if I didn’t like it I would not review it. I read it, I thoroughly enjoyed it, and hence acted accordingly.

Teva Mountain Games shenanigans are a go – in other words, go ahead and kick me where it counts

This should be coming across the AP wire, but those folks are too busy with some nonsense about volcanic ash covering the town of Europe. So for all of you who have been deprived important news comes this…

VAIL/DENVER, CO, April 26, 2010 (BigNewsWire) – The Vail Valley Foundation, co-organizer of the annual Teva Mountain Games, was left stunned when it was discovered that Mr. Michael Gracie of Denver had entered the Costa 2-Fly Extreme Fly Fishing competition for the upcoming event June 5th and 6th. After a failed run at the prize money last year, which included Mr. Gracie wearing attire which irritated other competitors and generally mocked both the seriousness of the event and the tranquil nature which surrounds the entire genre of fly fishing, the hosts were certain they were rid of Mr. Gracie once and for all. Sadly this was not to be the case.

“Gracie is simply a disgrace to the sport”, noted Jim Kanda, longtime 2-Fly Extreme competitor and Manager of Trout’s Fly Fishing of Denver. Trout’s owner Tucker Ladd added “He came into the shop the other day and we discussed the Games. Jim and I tried to talk him out of competing, out of respect for our fellow fly fishers. But he’s hardheaded. Or should I say…a jackass.”

Bonafide fly fishing luminaries took time out of their busy schedules to comment on the distressing news as well…

Lefty Kreh: “I’ve seen the kid cast – he’s no Ted Williams that’s for sure.”

Pat Dorsey and Chris Ramos: “Gracie couldn’t catch a trout in a hatchery with a cane pole and a bread ball. What’s he thinking?!”

Kelly Galloup: “If Michael could keep his eye on the target instead of the next woman walking by, he might have a chance. In other words, he’s hopeless.”

Barry and Cathy Beck: “He’s not very photogenic.”

Teva Mountain Games organizers and Vail residents alike are now concerned that Mr. Gracie will wreak havok on Vail’s reputation, a town which is known for its down-home atmosphere and impeccable class. A meeting has been scheduled immediately prior to the festivities, at which time all constituents will have a chance to speak out regarding the impending menace. Proposals for keeping Michael away already include temporarily blockading I-70 at Vail Pass and/or moving the Costa 2-Fly Extreme portion of the Games to Aspen.

About the Teva Mountain Games

The Teva Mountain Games is an annual event pitting competitors against each other in eight sports and 23 disciplines including: x-country, freeride, slopestyle and road cycling, freestyle, 8-Ball, sprint and extreme kayaking, raft paddlecross, World Cup bouldering, Stand Up Paddle boarding, as well as trail and road running, and the GNC Ultimate Mountain Challenge. Also included in the Games lineup is the Costa 2-Fly Extreme fly fishing competition, where entrants are challenged with multiple casting qualification rounds leading up to a day of catch and release trout fishing. The Teva Mountain Games are a project of the Vail Valley Foundation, which exists to to provide leadership in athletic, cultural, educational and community-based endeavors to enhance and sustain the quality of life in the Vail Valley for its residents and guests.

About the “Jackass”

Michael Gracie began his fishing career in the waters of South Florida, catching fat largemouths on Blue Grape Tournament Worms, Johnson Spoons with white pork rind, and Hula Poppers. He moved into fly fishing soon thereafter, but did not catch his first brown trout until the mid-twenties. Mr. Gracie maintains detailed knowledge of the waters directly underneath the Florida Keys’ Seven Mile Bridge, that flowing through a small bend on Maryland’s Gunpowder River, some which accumulated into a carp pond in Westminster, Colorado, as well some spinning around in toilet bowls he’s been found clasped to after over-exuberant nights on the town. Mr. Gracie resides in the good ol’ US of A, although various officials of the Department of the Interior probably wish that wasn’t the case.

So there you have it folks. Everyone is against me! But for the first time in my life I have to agree they are justified in their contempt, and I’m not going to move against the grain. No…instead I’m going with it, and hoping to drag everyone else along.

With that in mind, I’m offering a wager you just can’t refuse. I’m betting I’ll suck just like last year, maybe even worse. And you are going to side with me. This means money.

I’m hereby taking pledges in cents (or dollars) for every point I score in the event, and you’re going to donate that pledge directly to Casting For Recovery, a national 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that supports breast cancer survivors through a program combining fly-fishing, counseling, and medical information to build a focus on wellness instead of illness. So for example, you pledge ten cents per point, and I score a 1,500 (bwaaahhhh!) – you’d write a check to Casting For Recovery for $150. Easy. Note that high scores for the 2009 qualifier were around 2,500 points, and roughly 800 points for the semi-finals (which yours truly didn’t even get close to).

You put your pledge in the comments, obviously including a valid email address with said comment – when the event is over, I’ll let you know how little much you owe CFR. You wind up looking like a kind and generous soul to each and every passerby to this post, and when I fall flat on my face you don’t have to pay a dime. Heck…even if I do hit one target, I’m assuming it would be a pittance to most anyone that might be reading.

Suck or no suck, you’re a winner.*

Editor’s note: *Pledges are expected to be honored, and all point totals will be tallied directly from official results posted on the Teva Mountain Games website. Should Mr. Gracie hit not zero targets but say all of them, please be ready to write a check to Casting For Recovery. In other words, make your pledge reasonably within your own means. All donations are tax deductible, and the jackass will not be handling any proceeds – a form letter will be provided via email to be included with all contributions. Any in-kind donations or prize winnings (again, bwaaahhhh!) Mr. Gracie personally garners from the event will be donated to the charity of his choosing, Casting For Recovery or otherwise, as well.

UPDATE: Royalties go to charity too.

Are you primed for the Teva Mountain Games 2 Fly Xstream?

tequila-posterFrom the Michael Gracie “Winning through Confusion, Smack Talking and Foul Play Series”

There are 29 days left until the Teva Mountain Games Costa Del Mar 2 Fly Xstream fly fishing competition. And according to games director Rick Messmer, there are 46 competitors signed up as of this morning, meaning there are also 29 slots left.

A true to life geek like myself figures “29…that’s a prime number. Must be some sort of sign.” I could plug that number into some obscure algorithm, but it’ll likely come up blank. Instead I’m going to spend the rest of the day thinking about how many fish I’ll catch tomorrow on one of Colorado’s Gold Medal waters (exactly which one won’t be solidified in plan until this evening). Twenty-nine would be a grand day.

flycastingpracticeYou’re now thinking “Jeez – fly fishing isn’t supposed to be about numbers. It’s about getting back to nature, exercising form over function, and clearing one’s mind in the process.” Sorry o’ pantywaist bamboo boy, but this is competition we’re talking about here. Mano-a-mano, or in this case me and my broomstick against everyone else and theirs. It’s about finding an edge, and using it to one’s advantage. There’s fame and fortune to be had.

We’re in full on practice mode now. I’m utilizing multi-colored hoola hoop targets at distances of 10, 18, and 26 feet, right in my small front yard. The next door neighbor is serving me tequila shots between rounds. You might say that publicizing my once top secret training regimen to the world is foolish, but I say emulate you must, or suffer the consequences July 6th.

MG signing off (to find a very sticky yet undetectable substance I can put on my fellow competitors’ fly lines the morning of competition)

Editor’s note: The author of this post does not condone cheating. Unless, of course, you know you don’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell of winning.

Look Ma, No Rod!

Q & A with Fly Casting Instructor David Phares

Brought to you by the International Sportsmen’s Exposition (1). There are details at the end of this post regarding how you can get some free tickets to the ISE Sportman’s Show in San Mateo, CA, January 8th – 11th, but you have to learn how to cast a fly rod first. So read on.

David Phares is an avid fly fisherman and professional casting instructor from Chandler, AZ, who will be making presentations (pun intended) at the upcoming ISE event. He agreed to do an email interview here for the benefit of those who won’t be in the Bay area a week hence, and despite the significant harm that might befall his outstanding reputation as fly-rodder and teacher by remotely associating himself with the blog of someone who has hit more inanimate objects (and fellow humans) with flies than any other person on earth (2).

Here you go folks, now get to learning…

MICHAEL: I’m sure you meet a lot of folks that are picking up a fly rod for the first time ever. Knowing casting a fly line is a fairly complex action, what do you stress in lesson number one that gets the beginner on the water quickest?

DAVID: We are most interested in making sure that student has a good time, and sees some success. While this is not rocket science, it is a matter of physics, so we make sure they understand the physics of making a piece of string go flying through the air, dragging a fly. If the student does not enjoy the experience of learning the sport, they will not carry on with it. The learning has to be fun.

MICHAEL: Professional golfers practice daily - as a result there are always plenty of everyday people on the ranges trying to emulate their discipline. Fly fishers don’t really have a Tiger Woods to copy, and there aren’t casting ponds in every suburb either. So what can fly fishers do to keep their casting stroke in top form?

DAVID: Just like Tiger, you PRACTICE. Only you have to make sure that what you are practicing is correct. It is too easy to practice bad habits. With fly casting it is not hard to know when you are doing it right as the fly line shoots out there and lands where you want it to. Also, we encourage target practice, as just throwing line is only half the task - you have to put the fly in the right place in order for the fish to take it. This can be accomplished with a couple of paper plates with a big nail holding them down out in the park or a retention basin just down the street. You do not need water to practice, except for the roll cast, that is, and I have done that in an irrigation ditch.

MICHAEL: I think one point that is probably on the mind of every fly fisher, particularly as belts tighten, is how important equipment really is. Is the choice of rod and reel purely personal taste, or has your experience dictated particular types of gear for fly casters at different levels of proficiency?

DAVID: One of the things that has always amazed me it that even a novice can tell the difference between a really good rod with top-flight line, and a "Yugo" of the fly fishing world. A top flight rod and high quality line make all the difference in the learning curve and success for the beginner. The choice gets harder with the fact there are some really nice fly rods out there that are selling now for under $200, where in the past you had to spend twice that to get a good rod. The rod and line are the critical parts of the system, for sure.

The secret is to find the rod and line that work for you. Go to the fly shop and cast them until you find what works. I have a good friend with whom I fish and he uses a rod that casts like a broom for me. He loves it. What can I say?

MICHAEL: As fly fishing has progressed in popularity over the last couple of decades, we’ve seen people chasing wider and wider varieties of species, and with that comes an expanding breadth of equipment as well as casting technique. Are there any basic rules of thumb fly-rodding enthusiasts need to know that can help them ease the transition from say, hauling Crazy Charlies in strong winds to nymphing in a tiny freestone?

DAVID: What the hell is a "Crazy Charlie?" No, seriously, the secret is to spend some time learning about the fish you are going after. Each species has its own set of challenges. With this rapid growth in fly fishing has come a wide assortment of books and articles (both hard copy and on the net) about fly fishing for just about anything that swims. And, you never want to ignore good old "local knowledge." Ask at the fly shop, or go to a meeting of a local fly club and ask around. Most fly fishers are little John the Baptists at heart, and they would love to share what they know with you.

MICHAEL: You live in Phoenix, and there aren’t a lot of trout streams or tarpon migrations running through there. Assuming you do a lot of destination travel, where’s your favorite place to fish? And, considering that casting a big rod all day, every day, during a planned outing can be physically arduous, how do you, personally, keep yourself prepared?

DAVID: I just wish I traveled as much as I would like. Actually Arizona is a fly fisher's paradise, as we can fish year-round for a wide variety of species, and we are located pretty close to some great destinations, as well. While I fish locally as often as I can, I do love to travel and fish both South Padre Island on the South coast of Texas for redfish, snook and sea trout; and I try to get the Norfork and White Rivers in Arkansas each year as well.

MICHAEL: Back to the golf bit… Golfers in medium to low handicap ranges periodically take on the advice of the club pro to help them adjust their swing and (hopefully) knock a few strokes off their game. Do professional fly casting instructors do the same for their clients? And if so, what are the corrections you most often target in the intermediate to advanced fly caster’s method?

DAVID: One of the biggest mistakes beginners make is to bypass good instruction. The Federation of Fly Fishers, local Trout Unlimited clubs and local fly shops can all provide that kind of start for the beginner. For years we taught hundreds of novices in our local parks and recreation programs.

As for the intermediate and advanced casters, there is probably a second opinion on this, but I feel "if it works don't fix it." Going back to golf for an example, I would never try and teach a new golfer to try and swing like Arnold Palmer, but that ugly swing worked for him. If the caster can get the fly where he or she wants it most of the time, I would be loath to try and make his cast look a little prettier by tampering with it.

MICHAEL: Besides receiving professional casting instruction (and tying flies until their eyes are crossed), what else can fly fishing enthusiasts do to improve their ‘game’? Do you have any book, video, or other instruction-related materials you’d recommend?

DAVID: Hey, I have been tying flies for years, and my eyes are not crossed! They might be a bit fuzzy some times, but not crossed.

One of the really unique aspects of the sport is that it offers so many different ways to enjoy it. In addition to the actual fishing for everything from bluegill to great white sharks, and as you mentioned tying flies, you can also take a class in rod building; [additionally] spend time on the internet researching destinations and chatting with locals in diverse areas on what it takes to get there, where to stay, and what is the best guide in the area. For me, the planning of a trip as always been almost as much fun as the going. I am blessed, too, with three really good guys with whom I fish, and they add a great deal to the enjoyment of fly fishing for me. Fly fishing is a social event for me. And, I am just now introducing two of my grandsons to the sport as well. It is just getting better and better every year.

MICHAEL: Have you ever had a beginner get so aggravated they break a rod over their knee? What rod would you recommend for such folks?

DAVID: I have never had a student with that kind of a temper, but I have had some that just could never quite "get it." However, I have seen guys on a golf course do that, so maybe it says something about fly fishing vs. golf!

When we teach casting we are always on the lookout for those who seem to come to casting naturally, and we move them up to better rods when we see that. As for the poor guy who continues to struggle (we have never had a woman who could not learn to cast - even some seniors do quite well), then we might suggest after repeated sessions they may want to stick to bowling. As much as I love fly fishing, it is not for everyone. We owe to the beginner who trusts us to be honest with them. I do not sell equipment, so that may be easier for me than a shop owner, but they have to do it, too.

MICHAEL: I know you haven’t seen me with rod in hand, but does your casting crystal ball tell you whether I will ever be able to toss a weighted crab pattern to a group of permit without spooking every single one?

DAVID: Michael, I may not have seen you cast, but the mere fact that you know that you have to cast that weighted crab a good distance to that school of permit tells me all I really need to know about your casting.

The single most important thing for every caster to remember is that must wait on the back cast and not start forward too soon, or you lose it all. That back cast is more important than the forecast, every time. Even experienced casters can get excited when they see that school of permit for the first time and forget that vital lesson.

MICHAEL: And finally, regarding all those folks out there who have accomplished the previously mentioned feat…where are the big dollar endorsement deals from American Express?

DAVID: When you find that out, send me a personal email, okay? The best I have done is that I have been lucky enough to have sold two fly patterns to Umpqua, and so I get a little check each quarter for my developmental efforts over the years. I doubt that you and I will ever be in Tiger's league when it comes to the big bucks, but then that's not why we take a rod in hand and hit the water, is it?

En how! We all now know that fly casting is one parts physics, two parts practice, and many parts fun. Problematic for me – back in the day I dropped Thermodynamics 101 in favor of accounting, I’d rather drink beer and watch college football than hit the park, and I only fly fish because it gives my friends the opportunity to razz me just before buying my lunch (ok, so that’s fun) – but there is still ample hope for the rest of you!

And now that everyone is a bit more informed, there are some free tickets to be had. The ISE is offering 10 passes to any of the four days of the San Mateo, CA event, and you can get up to two of them for yourself by leaving a comment below with your true name (so you can pick up your tickets at the will-call window), real email address (so I can confirm with you), and the simple announcement of the day you’d like to attend. It’s first come, first serve as usual. And anyone that would like to quiz Mr. Phares further while they’re there can find him at the Discover Fly Fishing booth or in the Fly Tying Theatre.


(1) Special thanks to the International Sportsman’s Exposition, Gilbert Fly-Fishing Programs, Spin Communications, and Chocolate Communications.

(2) While the editor’s flies have impacted with plenty of rocks, trees, and poling platforms, he has actually only hit one person other than himself. Fellow fly-fishing enthusiasts are, however, still welcome to scatter when he shows up on the water.

Key to fly casting is strict dietary control

In another blow to the teetering fly fishing gear industry, a non-partisan think tank study has found that massive consumption of donuts and beer corrects breaking wrists and rising elbows, and increases overall line speed by as much as 250%.

Empirical evidence in executive summary form can be found here.

The ‘Whip-Like Physics’ of Fly Casting

fly-castingJoan Wulff, female fly-caster extraordinaire:

“If you do it right the fly shoots by your head like a bullet.”

And if you have a lot of luck with conehead muddler minnows, might I suggest making use of your sidearm cast just in case.

(h/t Fishing Jones)

Veddy, veddy important for fly fishing: casting and knots

If you can’t cast a fly and/or can’t tie it to the line, you are going to have a hard time fly fishing. It’s that simple.

Fortunately, learning how to do both of these veddy, veddy important angling tasks is just about as easy.


A book I originally thought would help with lazy guide syndrome (i.e. guides refusing to pole close enough to the bones so I could just net them) turned out to be a pretty darn good book on generally casting and practice technique. Longer Fly Casting has plenty of pics to follow – it lingered in my library for a while, and has since been passed on. And since that time it’s been updated too!

The other “must have” for getting the fly in the water is Practical Fishing Knots. I’ve mentioned this one before, and it too was given to someone after I finished up with it. It’s a great guide that will leave you with a stable of go-to knots. Sadly, it’s been a while since I chased big game, and if I’m ever asked to tie a bimini twist I’ll probably have to buy it again!

Experienced fly fishing folk won’t be surprised that both recommendations are written (or co-written) by the infamous Lefty Kreh. That wasn’t the intention, but I’ve heard Mr. Kreh is one fine photographer too. Maybe he’ll put out a how-to book on that as well.

I could certainly use the help.