Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Battle For My Fly Fishing Soul

… the little bass-fishin’, bi-focaled devil that sits on my right shoulder keeps whispering such notions into my ear. "Let's go throw big bugs at big fish," he implores, and suggests that any material not measured in pound test alone belongs in a sewing basket, not a fly box. 
As counterpoint, the Waldenesque, native brookie loving, dry fly angel that sits on my left shoulder sings sweet songs of the inherent beauty of the tiny colorful creatures that inhabit the woodland streams and the dainty, ethereal wisps that it takes to engage them. It suggests that the devil on my right is a cretin and that I should embrace my delicate side by throwing #24 pieces of fluff on silky material to fish that the devil would consider too small for decent bait.
Tippet Tantrum – Mike's Gone Fishin' – September 2010

I had about 15 minutes before my shift began at the Triangle Fly Fishers booth - just enough time to stop by and see the boys at the Temple Fork Outfitters display and to take a Clouser Series bass rod out for a quick test ride. I’d wandered around the Raleigh edition of the Fly Fishing Show, oohing and ahhing over this and that, and had almost frittered away my casting time, but, having pitched the Clouser prototype the year before, I wanted to put my hands on the final product. I had to hurry.

I found the TFO space, conveniently situated next to the casting pool, and began to poke around the racks for the Clousers. When I didn’t find them immediately, I looked up for some assistance. Who better to ask than Bob himself who just happened to be hangin’ around? I figured that if anyone should know, he would.

He cheerfully took me to the proper rack, strung up a 6wt, and followed along to the pool to give me "some pointers.” I didn’t have much time, but how can you turn down tips from the guy whose name is on the rod? We spent a thoroughly enjoyable ten minutes stretching the rod’s legs and my meager casting skills. One tip in particular had me throwing lasers – well, as close to lasers as I’ll ever throw - from green target ring to far post to yellow target ring, changing directions with nary a false cast.

(I’d share the tip, but for the second time in a week I’ve been sworn to secrecy. As before, I will respect that promise. But I do wonder how many other folks Bob had told not to tell his secret that day.)

Just as things were really coming together, there was a ruckus behind us. Through the crowd stepped this skinny little cuss, yelling in a Jerry Lewis voice, “What are you telling him, Bob? That’s all wrong! Let me show him.”

So for the next ten minutes I had Bob Clouser on one shoulder and the irrepressible Joe Humphreys on the other, two of our sport's treasures, locked in an uproarious tug of war - my airborne fly line and caster’s ego as their rope - playfully tussling for possession of my fly-fishing soul.

I laughed and casted and laughed again as each loudly corrected what the other had just told me, back and forth and back and forth, all in good fun. And despite the instructional tugging match – or probably because of it - my casting suddenly got a hell of a lot better. Good thing, too, as a crowd had gathered to watch the fun.

Now it might seem strange that these two master casters would be giving me wildly different directions, but understanding their backgrounds and their fishing styles tells the story. Bob Clouser is the smallmouth king, master of throwing heavy flies with rods that can handle the fly’s weight, big waters, and obstinate smallies. Joe Humphreys is the sprite of the small, Pennsylvania limestone creeks – tiny waters fished with wispy sticks and tiny flies for dainty trout. Bob fishes with his body. Joe with his wrist.

But what Bob and Joe have in common is an understanding of the fundamentals of Newtonian physics, the laws of motion and how objects are propelled, though they most certainly don’t speak of it in those terms. These classic mechanics are, after all, what fly fishing is all about. By knowing why the fly line reacts as it does, you can apply the basic principles to any gear, location, and body style you’re bringing to the table. Each of them knows this and each of them teaches it well.

The other important thing that Bob and Joe have in common is an engaging, exuberant personality and a willingness to have some fun, so their spirited skirmish over my stroke was twenty minutes of joyful mayhem.

I had a blast. I learned a ton. I was in fly-casting heaven.

I was late to my booth gig.

Note: My deep appreciation goes out to Bob Clouser and Joe Humphreys for their time and attention. It was a fabulous experience and could only have been improved by relocating the three-ring-casting-circus to some mountain stream.

Another Note: Photographic evidence of this little episode exists and I am working on getting my hands on it. If successful, I will share, though none of the three of us win any beauty contests.

A Final Note: That TFO Clouser rod is sweet!


Feather Chucker said...

Mike you tell the story really well. I wish I got a picture.

Jay said...

Excellent post.
What a great experience. I admit a wee bit of jealousy. The FFS doesn't even make a stop anywhere close to me. I would love to experience such a memorable moment myself.

Unknown said...

It was realy something to rub shoulders with the greats of fly fishing fantastic post Mike. It was a show I won't soon forget.

Steve Zakur said...

I'm sure my children feel the same way when I give them casting instructions.

cofisher said...

One of the many reasons I love the Fly Fishing Show. Great story Mike.