Sunday, April 30, 2006
When I was 9 and picked up that old Southbend fiberglass fly rod with a Bluegill sponge spider on it, I was hooked. At that time I didn’t know that I had a fly rod in my hand, it was just another fishing pole. However, from that day forward, when I would ride the 10 miles out to our friend’s lake to fish for Bluegill and Bass I would always use the Southbend fly rod. There was something about the way you worked the line back and forth, the challenge of getting the fly right where you wanted that to this day still intrigues and challenges me. With Tarpon on the brain, I’m back out to the pond trying to improve my casting techniques with the big rods.
Regardless of how the fishing is, one of the first comments upon most of our customer’s mouths upon returning from a saltwater trip, or for that matter most trips, is in reference to the wind. Rarely is it the lack there of either. I remember two years ago in Key West a cold front hit by days end. The wind blew constantly out of the NE at 20 plus knots. By each days end your head and body was numb from the noise and pounding that we took. It’s difficult to practice for such conditions, especially when you don’t know what direction your targets are going to come from and at what speed. Often times under such conditions everything happens incredible fast and most of your cast are rather short by saltwater standards.
Last year I remember making a statement about my casting, probably lack there of, and Capt. Ohearn remarked: “you can’t really practice for saltwater flats fishing because it is so difficult to replicate the variety of scenarios and conditions you encounter”. To some extent I would agree with him. One moment your making a cast 50’ over your back shoulder, which I’m not very good at, the next 20’ off the bow and before it’s all said and done your punching one up wind 60’to 70’. Its one thing to have a target that is standing still, but another to have a six foot moving object that is under most conditions is difficult to judge their speed. However, the challenges that saltwater fishing presents has an awful lot to do with what I like about saltwater flats fishing and fly fishing in general.
My first two outings this year in an effort to get off on the right foot in trips preparation was in the dark. I had just finished up with a lesson and brought my 12 weight to cast if by chance there was some light left. By the time the lesson was over there was enough light to get the rod strung up, but that was about it. My second effort was similar. After a long day at work, I stepped out in front of the shop shortly after the sun set and again flailed away into the darkness. Actually casting in the dark is a decent exercise. Since you can’t really see what you are doing, you must rely on the feel of the rod. For many of you the visual aspect of the cast supersedes the timing that is more critically triggered by the feel of the rod. I can only imagine what drivers by thought when they saw me form the lights of their car heave hoeing to imaginary Tarpon at such an hour.
Today’s a little different. It’s been raining, but at least it is light out. It does make a difference. I can see the ducks and geese on the water that I use as targets. Geese are Tarpon and Ducks are Bonefish, possibly a Permit if it happens to be a fat Duck. Before some of your think I’m harassing the waterfowl, it’s pointless in preparation to cast at your target, whatever you may choose. Remember saltwater fish are always moving and you need to lead them by three or four feet if you are going to get the fly down to a level where the fish can find your imitation. Our local park waterfowl make great decoys for preparing for such a trip. About the right speed and they’ll approach you from all angles in hopes of getting a hand out.
One thing I constantly get asked by customers when preparing for a trip; what do I need. Having hosted trips now for over twenty years the single most important thing you can do to help make your trip more successful, besides having he proper gear, is to learn how to use it. I don't know how many trips I've been on where anglers don't take the time to do a little casting in preparation for a trip and they waste half or more of their time trying to figure it out. It would be one thing if they didn't care, but in conjunction with their struggles is a lack of fishing success.
Having just about bonked Goose on the head trying to throw in a crosswind, I definitely need a little more pond time myself.
Posted by Steve Schmidt