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High-Water Caution

The Durango Herald - News - Durango, CO


April 9, 2004


Fly Fishing Durango - by L. David Grooms


Impressive fly casting may not impress the fish


I've been told that I caught my first trout on a fly at the age of five. Although I don't remember that, I do vividly remember some very specific things about the event.


It was on the North Fork of the Shoshone River by Yellowstone Park. My father was an equine hunting and fishing outfitter, and I had the preschool luxury of spending the summer at the popular tourist destination of Pahaska Teepee, which was the East Gate to the park. The Shoshone was a story-book crystalline mountain river, with numerous trout in its headwaters - but very smart little trout. When trout saw me, they instantly darted away.


I clearly remember crawling through the high grass and poking my Huck Finn-style willow fly rod slowly through the bushes and over the river's edge. The only fly cast I remember knowing was the "bow and arrow" technique. It worked. The fly zinged out a few feet past the rod and landed next to a trout - but this time, the trout darted and grabbed the fly instead of vanishing into the river. It was a treasured moment that any youngster would always remember.


For some of us, our very first fly-caught trout may have been on a rather sloppy, unorthodox fly cast.

Eventually, we learned basic overhead and false casting that looked a lot more impressive. But, as we fly fished over the years, our casting style for trout seemed to revert back to versions that seem rather unimpressive to many onlookers.


A few prominent fly fishing personalities and fly casting demonstrators like Joe Humphreys and Bob Jacklin are perfect examples of those who teach numerous unconventional casting methods. They dispel the wisdom of the basic overhead and false casts for most trout fishing situations - and instead advocate fly casts that leave onlookers amazed or perplexed.


For most of our fly-fishing lifetimes, fly-casting instruction has stressed the importance of being able to execute near perfect overhead and false casts if we are to become effective trout fly fishers. Then, along comes Joe, Bob, Dave, or a few others and completely upset the presumptions held by many, if not most fly fishers. When we introduce weird and unusual fly casts, the reactions are essentially twofold. Some will not be inclined, because for them fly fishing may be partially about the art-form of demonstrative casting - they simply like to do it. Others are more excited about catching trout than their casting style.


Offering to out-fish either Jacklin or Humphreys is a bet that I wouldn't take. They are masters of atypical fly presentations, and they are respected world wide for their abilities.


The techniques they use are designed to catch difficult trout in difficult situations - and they do. When I am teaching advanced casting methods, I first explain and demonstrate why the stereotypic overhead or false casting styles have serious shortcomings. They require aerial or on-water mends, are very resistant to achieving natural drift, require back-casting room, and myriad other problems that simply keep those methods from working in various situations.


One really good thing about such a discovery is that most of the "other" so-called non-conventional but highly effective casts are extremely easy to learn. Although they are referred to as "advanced casts," about any 5-year-old can learn most of them.


L. David Grooms is senior partner of He can be reached at 385-9048.


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