LET’S GET THIS OUT OF THE WAY: I’m not going to win any casting competitions. As a self-taught angler, my poor habits are deeply ingrained, the result of years spent with mismanaged routines and questionable form. My tailing loops have tailing loops. I’ll often find my backcast hurtling toward something behind me because I’ve managed to let go of the line. And sinking lines? Not a chance.
I’m not the worst caster; I’m just aggressively average. In college, I majored not in mechanical engineering, like my father and grandfather, but in English and whiffleball. One of these is nearly worthless, the other, a gift to the world. I’ll let you decide which is which.
As such, my expertise lies in the written word and in bashing backyard home runs, not in proper fly-casting mechanics. Over the years, several well-meaning folks have attempted to fix my cast, and I have their diagnosis. But when I’m casting to a rising trout, the last thing on my mind is “the correct form.”
Plus, I’m a stubborn bastard who’s extremely lazy. I’ll do just what I can to get by, no matter the circumstances. Oh, the deadline is tomorrow? Best I can do is stock up on energy drinks and try to avoid Netflix. You’re having a heart attack? I guess I can call an ambulance, but first let me finish reading this article about chimpanzees playing with a mirror.
Despite the glaring character flaws that I’ve so neatly outlined, several years ago I found myself on the editorial staff of a nowdefunct flyfishing magazine. We had this excellent notion that our readers would appreciate completely unbiased and unfiltered rod reviews, advertisers be damned. (This is a how to become “now defunct.”)
Over the course of our rod testing, I ended up playing the role of Everyman—our own Homer Simpson, as it were. This was mostly because I was marginally the worst caster of the lot, and everyone else decided my comments would represent “the average angler.”
One of our testers— undoubtedly one of the top casters in the country—summed up my abilities.
“Your casting?” he said. “Barely guidable.”
The words cut deep into my ego.
“So maybe I can’t carry 80 feet of line and shoot into my backing, asshole,” I thought to myself, pretending I was saying it to him. “But at least I don’t live in a truck and eat my dinners out of a can.”
It was an eye-opening slap in the face. Despite countless hours of practicing on grass, in the snow, and anywhere else I could find, my casting had been thoroughly dismantled in just a few sentence fragments.
Then, more recently, I had a similar experience. I was on a boat in Chile with a bilingual expat and a guide who spoke nothing but Spanish. I only studied French in school, but every now and then I could piece together bits of what they were saying. While they were rattling on about various people they knew, and not paying attention to me in the slightest, I was busy chucking large streamers with an 8-weight toward the banks of a swollen river. I had the occasional poor cast, but given the falling rain and slight wind, I felt I was doing just fine. But ten minutes into the float, I hear my bilingual companion break into English.
“The guide just asked me if you could cast,” he said. “I told him no.”
My thoughts on both of these incidents can be summed up thusly: Who the fuck cares how I cast? I’m aware of my limitations already, dick. Isn’t the point of flyfishing to get outside, enjoy yourself, and catch fish? If I wanted to have a loudmouth douchebag tell me how terrible I am at something, I’d go back to high school.
But I did have one scrap of solace on which to hang my last bit of pride: On that float in Chile, I landed a beautiful six-pound brown. My bilingual friend, the world’s foremost authority on casting? He didn’t catch a damn thing.
Photography by Tosh Brown
JOHN VAN VLEET is a recovering fishing guide, an aspiring Youtube sensation, and the current marketing manager for Scientific Anglers. Check out his song Dinosaurs! on iTunes.