Fly casting was once my biggest passion. Learning new casts and trying them over and over again was so much fun. I can remember spending an off-season in Los Angeles (Pasadena to be specific) and it was quite tough. Thankfully I was chilling with my best friend, but even my job at Bob Marriott’s Fly Fishing Store–then the largest fly fishing store in the world–wasn’t enough to feed my fishing jones. I missed Montana and the large rivers it called home.
The best part of living in Pasadena (outside the great times with friends) was spending my days off casting on the grounds of the venerable Rose Bowl. Despite the fact the Rose Bowl is home to the UCLA Bruins (my least favorite college team), it is an awesome place. The grounds around the stadium are strewn with joggers, people enjoying casual family days and the occasional lurker. And during that winter, there was one forlorn angler practicing his fly cast for hours on end.
I am still just an average fly caster, but that winter was tremendous because it put me back in school. I was only a little over a year out of college, but I missed the learning. This gave me the chance to try and hit targets far and near with a variety of casts. To this day, I don’t think anglers spend enough time casting without water. The incessant obsession to catching fish is too powerful a force to put aside for a moment in favor of a docile practice session.
The result of that winter was that I returned to Montana a much better and more confident caster ready to hone my craft on the rivers I so loved. Since that date, how much casting practice have I done? Not very much at all. Shame on me.
Fast forward several years (OK…a bunch of years) to this past Saturday. The text message came through to my usually-too-busy smartphone and it said that Tom Larimer was giving a spey casting clinic on the Yellowstone and I was invited. And I was going!
If you don’t know Tom Larimer, you might want to follow him. Hell, you should follow him. Spey casting guru. Awesome angler. One of the best guides in all the West. Heck of a nice guy. One of the true good guys in fly fishing. I have, in fact, been lucky enough to know Tom for several years, but have spent no time on the water with him. Now I had my chance.
In short, the spey casting clinic was tremendous for one very simple reason–I was not good at all! And I loved that fact. Not that I have mastered single-handed casting, but my learning curve flattened out years ago. This gave me the chance to get back to the beginning of a new craft. To turn what I loved on its head and start over.
Sometimes the fear of being lousy is powerful. I feel it all the time. But this instance was a no-lose situation. I can catch fish on my traditional quiver of single-handed rods, but trying out something completely new has me so excited to spend more time on the water. To see the progression of my cast as I had that winter in Pasadena. To fail, try again, fail again, see some progress, and smile a lot. Over and over again. I did feel a bit bad about my friends from R.L. Winston Rod Co. (who graciously supplied the rods for the casting clinic). I wasn’t sure they had ever seen their rods in such inept hands. They laughed with us, though, and greeted the newest applicants to the world of spey. In fact, we all laughed…and that was great.
So the next time you feel like you have stopped progressing in something you love, maybe look at it from the other side. The side you probably knew was there, but were afraid to look at. It just might be the angle you needed to smile again. And appreciate the lost-art of being lousy again.