The fly-casting contest

I lost the second fly and my cool about the same time. "Quick" I screamed, "Give me another bisexual!" ... Judy Muller

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Harvey replacing his fly

In 1998 two of my fishing buddies entered themselves into this local fly-casting contest.

Roy and Harvey. Roy's a retired electrician, Harvey's a meat cutter. They're brothers, and, as Roy told the contest organizers, had over fifty years of fly-casting experience between the two of them. You see, Roy's just turned sixty, Harvey's somewhere around fifty seven, and they've been fishing together since they were young lads. They've got tales that would make your hair stand on end. Problem is that when Roy gets talking he gets easily sidetracked and after and hour or so usually ends up asking, "Now what were we talking about?". Roy likes to be the 'camp boss', well someone has to, and, like most older brothers, jovially reckoned he'd be number one. Harvey had promised Roy that this was one time he was going to beat the pants off him.

On a cold Thursday night we drove to the Exhibition grounds. It's a large tin building just outside the city limits, used for everything from ice-hockey to dog shows. Quite functional, nothing fancy, very down-to-earth. Exactly how I would describe Roy and Harvey, down-to-earth, what you see is what you get. Whenever I see Roy and Harvey they are usually stubbled, I reckon they shave with the same bread knife. On this night though they were both looking spry but a bit nervous. Roy was wearing his first ever pair of Nike sneakers. I thought they looked a bit of out-of-place on him, he usually wears shoes, but Roy couldn't have cared.

On to the show. We arrived at the required time but couldn't find the organizers. To keep busy we wandered into the arena to check out the casting pool. It was a raised pool, about four foot high, forty-five foot long, twenty feet wide. A rough five foot high, six foot by four foot, casting platform, with a set of steps, was pushed up to one end. Six, two foot diameter colored rings were floating around the perimeter of the pool.

The organizers finally showed up with just one more caster. This was a four day event with eight people going to the finals on Sunday, the top two advancing from each event. With only three casters on this night, either Roy or Harvey were sure to advance.

I helped put their rods and lines together. They were pretty nervous and I was worried they might miss an eye when threading their lines. Roy's rod is made from two different rods. He broke the tip of his original rod but found another tip lying in the woods one day. Then he broke that and fixed it with crazy-glue. Harvey had a brown line that must have been about twenty years old, the leader was like sandpaper. You just have to see these guys in action when the mayfly are on, they outfish me two to one. I guess it's true that gear isn't as important as experience and their attitude to their gear is, 'if it ain't broke why fix it'.
The three competitors drew straws to decide the casting order. Roy got the first spot, Harvey the second and the other feller the third.

Roy climbed the steps to the platform and began false casting. He has the classic ten-to-two action with a really beautiful tight loop. He gave an almost flawless casting display except that he overshot five of the six hoops and scored just one point.

Up climbed Harvey. Harvey has this very rapid three-to-twelve action which shoots the line almost straight up over his head, as if he's trying to miss a bunch of alder bushes right behind him. He missed the first hoop but the second hoop required about twenty-five feet of line. So what did he do but shoot the fly straight up into the rafters and couldn't get it down. I could see his embarrassment but couldn't help a silent chuckle. I mean, it's like when one of us falls in or disappears up to our knees in a sink hole, you've got no choice but to laugh. Anyway, he broke the fly off, tied on another and cast again. At the end of his session he had one hoop too, so he and Roy were tied.

The next feller climbed up. He was using a small rod and had a lovely soft technique, the line had a loop that floated through the air. It was the kind of calm, hypnotizing action that could send a person to sleep. I was almost certain this feller would take top spot, but I was wrong. He missed every hoop by just a fraction.

Roy and Harvey were through to the finals! However, another, nail-biting round was necessary as prizes were being presented to each nights winner.

Up goes Roy again and misses the first five hoops. The last one is the one nearest to him, about ten feet away. Roy has the same problem as me, he can't shoot a short line accurately, so he started backing up to the rear of the platform, letting out line while false casting. Well, he took one step too many and started to fall, arse-first, down the steps. We could see it coming but had no time to yell at him, all we could do was hold our breaths. Luckily there was a two-by-four railing that he managed to get a hold of and halt his fall. Roy, knowing he was the center of attention, came up grinning. He took his last cast, missed and scored a big zero.

The pressure was now all on Harvey, he just needed one hoop to win. He climbed the wobbly steps to the platform. A miss on the first hoop. And now the second hoop, the one where he had all his problems the last time. And you could almost guarantee it, with his patented three-to-twelve casting action he shot his fly into the rafters; again. Not only that but when he went to break the fly off he dropped his rod. The reel parted company from the rod and skittered across the platform. Harvey's hands were shaking as he put the reel on the rod, backwards. Then he somehow managed to tie on another fly and shot his next cast straight into the middle of the second hoop.

Harvey had kept his promise!

Tales Casting contest I Tangier River I Boyhood memories I Newfie salmon I Muddler's memories I Does a bear? I First ever salmon I The Tickmobile
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Pat Donoghue, Canada, ©1997