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Your final exam is a river in Alaska

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POSTED March 30, 2011 10:39 a.m.
My buddy Daniel is coming up to Alaska this summer and wants to trick trout with flies, but he’s never done it before.

I told him there is no better place to learn than the 49th state, particularly a submerged log on the Thorne River that’s an underwater Los Angeles for trout. I stood there last summer with Steve the Guide and Steve the Cook and caught fish for hours, moving only to circulate blood.

My task now is to help Daniel prep for his time by that log.

I’ve got the basics but am far from anyone that would be deemed a qualified instructor. I have a piece of paper from the University of Arizona that says I satisfied the college-level journalism requirements and the State of California sent me one that says I am competent enough to teach English.

As a self-taught fly-caster that learned through watching A River Runs Through It until my DVD player got a fever and passed out, I don’t even know if what I am doing would be considered the ‘right way’.

I catch fish, it’s fun, even looks a little pretty, so it can’t be that bad.

I told Daniel right off the two things I do poorly. Once in a while I will open my shoulder during the backcast sending the fly way off to my right and into branches rather than the space behind me.

I also catch stripped out line in my reel because I don’t keep the facedown. With those two things in mind, he was free to come up with new exciting flaws that I hadn’t seen and didn’t know how to fix.

I started him with my low-end premium rod, a Sage I bought from a buddy of mine that either felt sorry for me or incredibly generous — or both.

I substituted the reel that came with the rod for one with old fly-line that wouldn’t mind the slightly abrasive gravel of my neighbor’s driveway.

Since Daniel is a coach and pretty competitive, he picked up the rhythm required to throw a tiny casting fly that weights almost nothing, though I’m sure being a coach and or competitive does not always lead to success when it comes to fly-fishing. It might even be a detriment.

We worked backward from that 7-weight rod, to a lighter TFO 5-weight rod that does not load and shoot the fly-line as efficiently as a stiffer fly-rod in rhythm. After a few minutes, I moved him down again to the starter rod and reel set up I bought for $59.99.

“Oh yeah,” he said as the cheap, heavy rod left his cast in puddles rather than the surprisingly tight loop he’d made with the medium and premium rod.

He could tell the difference.

It might be proof that better materials make better fly-casters, or it could just be a coincidence.

After half an hour, he left with the starter rod to practice in his own yard. It felt good to share something I enjoy doing. I drifted around in memories of when I was learning to fish as a kid and later my first casts with that startup kit I had just given to a friend.

There is no point in keeping a passion to yourself. There are probably a ton of people that won’t get why you love what you do until you show them.

Daniel might not end up loving to fly-fish like I do, but if he passes the Thorne River log-test, he might just understand it a little more.

To contact Jeff Lund, email
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