If I say that it started with the shared love of a young woman, it would be true, though slightly misleading. It is more accurate to say that it occurred one breezy spring day, in 1996, when my wife and I went over to visit her parents for dinner. During the course of conversation, I mentioned to my father-in-law, Jim, that I had watched a fishing program, and they gave a quick fly casting tutorial . I also mentioned that while fly fishing looked intriguing, I may have follow-up on its finer points when I retire, and have an abundance of time, and money. I was 26 years old at the time I made that statement, Jim would have been in his early fifties.
“Don’t wait for that, they both go by fast enough as it is, let’s go outside.” Jim said
As we walked out the door which exited through the garage, Jim grabbed his 1970′s Berkley Cherrywood, CRC40, 7′ 6″ fly rod off of its peg and we continued walking out to the spacious front yard until we far enough away to not get tangled up into any trees, vehicles, dogs, or cats that happened by. Once settled, Jim started stripping line off of the automatic reel that was the holding fly line for the fly rod. Once he deemed that enough line was laid out, he started to methodically aerate the fly line by false casting; pausing at the prescribed ten o’clock position on the forward cast, and pausing again at two o’clock position on the back cast. As Jim casted, he also described what it was he was doing, as well as why he was doing it.
“As you cast back and forth, you let a little bit of the line pay out. Remember, you are casting the fly line, but NOT the fly itself! The fly is to light, the line; however, is heavy, and once you have as much line out as you need, you let it fall lightly to the water.”
As he spoke that last bit, he let the line fall gently to the lawn. Then he handed me the fly rod.
“Now you try.”
I had spent the best part of my early childhood drowning worms in all the nearest lakes, streams, bays, rivers, and mud puddles as I could find; so holding a fishing rod in my hand was not unusual, but the first time I lifted the rod up, and the line went sizzling by me, I knew I was in for something. I stopped the back cast somewhere around two o’clock, but in hindsight, it could have gone until four; however when I brought the rod forward for the forward cast-the fly line, in its urgent rush to catch up to where the fly rod was sending it, broke the sound barrier creating a very loud “crack!” This is similar to the sound a bullwhip makes, and for the very same reason.
Brimming with pride with being able to do something that even my mentor seemed unable to do, I casually looked over to see if I could notice his astonishment at having the opportunity to mentor someone who had such natural casting ability as the “Whip-cracker!” Instead, I got the comment,
“Yup, that cost about $1.50.”
Assuming that I was about to receive some kind of accolades regarding my whip-snapolicious casting abilities, I was confused by the statement, hoping the “Atta-boy!” was soon to follow. Instead Jim said;
“Go ahead and pull the line in.” I did as he asked. Still thinking positive praise was in store for me.
“Do you see that?” He asked casually while holding the empty end of the leader; which is the transparent monofilament line that connects the fly line to the fly. “The fly is gone. Whenever you, “crack the whip“, it snaps the fly from the line, and each fly cost about $1.50.”
By the end of the lesson, I was down $20.00, and feeling very humble.