Cast a Line
May 5, 2002
Prospect Point, 3:30pm, rising tide. Bones in SE corner.
Changed flies a half-dozen times; finally got a take on a #6 pink Flee with lead eyes to anchor it down in the wash.
Saw other fishermen there, a fly-fisher among them, but they were too far to the NW and were looking into the light anyway. Apparently today I’m the only one on the water who knows where the fish are… or maybe they’re fishing for mullet (having moved on to that higher echelon of angling where only the elite reside—where you only cast to fish that will never, ever take the fly and thereby prove your superiority by pursuing that which is unattainable, which is all very well), but I’m learning that perhaps walking away from other anglers is good for all sorts of reasons—not the least of which may be actually finding fish.
Of course, when I finally hook a fish it instantly leader-wraps me on the numerous boulders strewn across the flat by the last storm. Ah, well.
At high tide when the fish don’t tail and the angle of light is poor they seem to materialize a roll-cast away. Speed, that’s what that calls for. No time for a half-dozen false casts, no need for them. I walk with at least 10 feet of fly line outside the rod tip, the fly held lightly by the bend and ready, ready to be flipped out at a moment’s notice and pray a wave doesn’t swing it away before the bones see it.
Unfortunately, I have spent too many hours on the water with folks who—while they could see the fish approaching 30 feet out—couldn’t perform the mental arithmetic that a dozen false cast were at least twelve too many. By the time these hapless duffers dropped their flies they squarely lined fish that were (by then) barely a rod’s-length away. And all my quiet, pleading exhortations to “drop it now!” seemed to fall on deaf ears: their brains seemed programmed to make that many casts and, come hell or high water, that’s how many they were going to make. (You know, I could almost admire them—ignoring concerns of anything so crass as practicality or merely catching fish—they seemed to thumb their noses at making a cast in any fashion except the right way...as they’d learned it. Rush a cast?!! That, sir, is simply not done.)
Now, I realize that time is at a premium for most of us, and taking the time to practice fly-casting can seem almost a waste. I mean, you’ll get plenty of practice on the water right? But—at the risk of transposing this into a qualitative issue—let’s consider the sheer numbers involved: Airline ticket: $800; new tropical fly line: $70; new flies: (Ok, you tied your own and saved forty bucks. Fine); UV resistant clothes: $200; fly casting practice: free. Yup, free. Better to steal a few hours from the office than scare the hell out of everything by beating the water. Maybe I’m a traditionalist, but I think of a fishing vacation as a get-away, a respite from the frustrations and stress of life. I can scarcely conceive of anything more stressful and frustrating than flying 9 hours, dropping a couple mortgage payments, and not catching fish because—let’s face it—you can’t actually cast an actual fly rod in order to actually save your life.
I like to think of fly casting like a workout, or yoga, or ti chi, or whatever you’re habitually into. I actually set aside time in my schedule to practice for at least 15 minutes, twice a week. During college I spent months away from the water and I’ve had to rely on this type of workout to keep myself in practice. I find it soothing, relaxing, and casting takes me back to all the good times I’ve had with a fly rod in close proximity.
I hear Carlos—my first guide and truly a man of few words—pleading, “Nooo, on de fish, man, on de fish” two casts before my line jumped tight and I was into my first Belizian tailer.
I see the blue of Exuma’s George Town harbor in the background as I flicked tiny Gotchas at baby bones in a quiet lagoon, slipping my back casts between the drooping casuarinas.
I see Dad with his measured cast, working his way down the cobbled shore of Grapetree Bay, waiting for dark sickle tails, flashing in the August sun.
And I think of all my friends—those still here and those who’ve gone before—and the times we used to have with a simple hook and line.
Here’s to them.