by Stan Fagerstrom
Ever get out in the yard or a neighborhood park and practice your casting? If you can't respond to that question affirmatively I'd bet big bucks you're not catching as many fish as you should or could.
Think about it. And let me say some of the things I've said before where practice is concerned.
We both know that the more proficient we desire to become at what we choose to do, the more important practice becomes. That's why major league ball players spend so much time in the batting cage. It's why the top golfers having trouble on the greens spend hours attempting to perfect their putting skills.
You'll find the same emphasis on practice in everything from soccer to tennis as well as the other sports that demand hand and eye coordination. There is, however, one major exception. Darn few anglers accept the importance of practice and the role it plays in helping them put more fish in the boat. I'd never have taken this dandy bass unless I'd gotten my lure right into the cover where she was holding. I'd done my share of casting practice to get this accomplished.
I learned a long time ago that paying attention to constructive criticism is one of the best things any of us can do where self improvement is concerned. That's the primary reason I spent five years in Toastmasters International. It's also why I often ask friends who watch one or another of my casting demonstrations what they liked or didn't like about what I had to say. I pay close attention to what they tell me.
I've undoubtedly done a good bit of preaching about the importance of casting practice in the countless casting demonstrations I've done around the world for the past half century. I do so primarily because I think so many anglers just don't seem to recognize its importance.
I recall once being told I put too much emphasis on that aspect of my casting exhibitions. As I've mentioned, I value constructive criticism. Actually, if you stop and think about it, there are few better ways to learn as we travel life's highway.
But I think anyone who doesn't recognize what improved casting can mean to their fishing is dead wrong. The unfortunate truth is that the majority of anglers don't attach anywhere near the importance to the development of their casting skills they should.
Think about it for a minute. How many men or women do you see in the yards and parks where you live practicing their casting skills in their yards or a neighborhood park? My guess is you've seen darn few if any.
I'm talking here about anglers who fish with bait casting rigs or spinning outfits. Fly fishermen are an exception when it comes to accepting the need for practice. Users of the long rod often are quick to realize that they darn well do need to practice if they're to get a handle on what's required.
I'll grant you it's easier to heave a practice plug out there somewhere with a spinning outfit. However, I'm of the opinion that learning how to use a level wind casting reel really well requires more practice than learning how to use a fly rod.
A balance between rod and line is so important to a newcomer to fly fishing. Once you have that balance, the actual casting isn't all that difficult. You can have the best balanced level wind reel and casting rod in the world, but you're still going to have to put in some practice time to get the job done right.See that cover along this stretch of shoreline cover on Mexico's Lake El Salto? This type of cover on that beautiful lake often holds big fish. You've got to get your lure into that cover just right to achieve the results you are after.
I've been giving casting exhibitions around this country and sometimes outside of it now for more than a half century. The very first demonstration of any importance was at the old Pan Pacific Auditorium in Los Angeles way back in April of 1952. I've been at it ever since.
I mention this for a reason. Spend as much time as I have attempting to show folks how to use their rods and reels more effectively and you're a cinch to hear countless comments and an equal number of questions.
I can tell you one comments that I've heard time and again. It usually goes something like this: "Please show me that technique you demonstrated with the spinning reel again. I'm really not interested in fooling around with a level wind reel. My wife got me one of those things for my birthday a couple of years ago. All I ever caught with it was one big hairy backlash after another."
I wish I had a couple of bucks for every time I've heard that comment or something similar to it. I doubt there's a single piece of angling equipment that eventually winds up collecting dust on some storage shelf more often than level wind reels. You've simply got to practice with the level wind reel if it's to become the extremely valuable angling tool that it can be.
That's why I keep stressing that point in the casting exhibitions I've been doing for so long. Every now and then I hear from someone who has attended one of my presentations and put what I keep preaching about into practice.I don't care where you're fishing or what species you are after, the ability to put your lures on target is often going to pay off big time. It helped me hook this dandy trout on a mountain lake in Argentina.
It's so gratifying to hear from time to time from one or another of them. Often it turns out to be a now skilled angler who first watched one of my demonstrations when he was just a kid. I'll always remember a likeable young kid who came to watch me years ago in Seattle. The first time he came he could just barely see over the curtain that surrounded my casting area at the old King Dome where the International Sportsmen's Exposition was being held.
That kid watched and he also listened. And then he put into practice what he'd heard. Today that once little guy is a strapping big adult who has established an enviable reputation as a fish catching wizard in the Seattle area. Every time I see him he thanks me for helping him learn what improved casting could mean to his fishing success.
I have a good friend who has had some similar experiences. I'll share what he's told me in my next column. It's scheduled to begin right here Feb 1.
-To Be Continued-