Swedish version

  Excerpt from the book "Master Your Fly Casting"
…and Have Fun Doing It
By Jim C. Chapralis

Confessions of an addicted long distance fly caster
by Jim C. Chapralis

IT'S A HOT, SWELTERING, HUMID DAY. Sweat rolls down my face, first in tiny beads, but soon they merge to form an unending procession of rivulets. I walk to the athletic field, which is exactly 192 steps from my front door. I'm relieved that no one is there-kids won't practice baseball in this hot weather-so I have the whole place to myself.

I rig my tackle by the baseball bench and then walk another 153 feet parallel to the fire hydrant. I test the wind by throwing pieces of parched grass in the air, but there isn't even the slightest breeze to fan this northern Chicago suburb. The grass falls straight down.

I stretch the mono shooting line and rub out the kinks from the leader. I then perform a few stretching exercises, twirl my arms around, first clockwise, then counter-clockwise, then swing them back and forth.

"It's important to stretch before any physical activity, especially if it's violent exercise," my physical therapist recommended when he treated my casting arm following a recent fall. Distance fly casting can be violent! So I do my stretching exercises first.

I start with short casts and then lengthen them a few feet at a time. I question my sanity: Why am I out here in the blazing midday sun? If I had any sense at all, I'd be in my air-conditioned home, sipping some Kool-Aid, laughing at a Seinfeld rerun or the Chicago Cubs or some other comedy.

The 2004 National Tournament is in Lexington, Kentucky. In a way, it's probably good that I'm practicing in this torrid, muggy weather, for it will prepare me for the furnace that blows full blast in Lexington during early August.

My first attempt at some distance is about 120 feet. I try again. The line unfolds back and forth in undulating loops, and when I think I have a good back cast, I put more power into the forward cast and speed up my final haul. The line sails and it looks like it's going to be a fine cast: good acceleration, nice trajectory and a narrow, driving loop. But suddenly the front end of the fly line hits an invisible wall and limps down to earth in a gob of fly line followed by about 10 feet of fluttering leader. This clump lands about a dozen feet from the bench, which makes it about a 140-ft. cast. Sure, if it had straightened out, it would have been 165, maybe more. But it didn't. It almost never straightens out on this practice field. Something about down drafts. Bummer!

I've got a couple of weeks' practice time prior to the tournament. By now I'm soaking wet from perspiration.

An inner voice speaks to me and I listen: "Jim, let's wind this up. It's too hot and muggy. Why don't we go back to the air-conditioned house, get an ice cold drink, and give this a try on another cooler day! Now wouldn't that be better?"

Yeah, it would. Sounds good. The voice that looks out for my comfort is right. Good advice. This is stupid. I start to reel in, when another voice pops up in my head: "Hold it right there, Jimbo! What are you doin'? Surely you're not quitting! You haven't broken 140 feet and don't give me any excuses about the heat. Remember, 'no pain, no gain'?"

So I strip out some line and vow to continue my practice session and prepare for another cast.

The first voice comes back. "Listen to me, Jim. You're 72. You just had a stent inserted a few months ago because of blockage. In fact, if it weren't for Drs. Sabbia and Kogan, you'd be history by now. You want to make Sally a widow?" The "voice of comfort" definitely had a point. I'm lucky to be alive.

"Jim, Jim, Jim. Don't listen to that quitter!" The "voice of conscience" was back. "I'll tell you what: You hit the bench and you can go in. That's 153 feet. And you know this is a terrible place to cast, because of down drafts, so that means anywhere else that cast would be 163 feet or better. Go ahead now and do a Rajeff imitation . . . or a Korich, or a Mittel. Hit the bench and we go in."

And so I try to imitate the Steve Rajeff style. Then a Korich. Then a Mittel. And I throw in a Gillibert imitation for good measure. All these young West Coasters have collected many gold medals. Rajeff's signature is that explosive delivery on his final cast. Korich, a southpaw, has that very graceful haul-you can draw a straight line from his left casting hand down to his extended right-hand haul on that final cast. Gillibert is not a big fellow but he knows how to develop line speed like few others, and Mittel has become very serious about distance fly now and, heck, he is a physicist so he knows all that stuff about loop sizes, air resistance, gravity and trajectory.

So I do all the imitations. I throw in a few options of my own. I experiment with a longer overhang. I stop the rod higher, but sometimes I strive for a low trajectory. By now I'm exhausted, soaking with perspiration, talking to myself, or, worse, I'm threatening my tackle: "Listen! You better land a lot further if you know what's good for you." Maybe the sun has gotten to me. Good thing no one's around to hear this.

I put everything behind the next cast. And it goes. The leader drapes over the bench so the fly ends up a few feet beyond it. It was a cast of 155 maybe 158 feet. Had it all straightened out it would have been 175 feet . . . maybe more.

So I reel in and drag myself home. Sally tells me I look like a soakin' wet koala bear: "Put your clothes in the hamper and yourself in the shower. Drink some water."

Life is good!

I'VE BECOME active in tournament casting again after a hiatus of about 50 years. Back then, in the "olden days," the rules and equipment were very different. This was before graphite rods were invented. To make a decent distance fly line then, we bought silk fly lines by the foot in various diameters and then we painstakingly spliced about eight different sections together. Nylon fly lines and fiberglass rods were just making an appearance then.

In today's world of graphite rods and high-density tapered lines, the great, young casters talk about loops and rod arcs and paths and trajectory and strokes. So many things. In the late 1940s, Clare Bryan, my casting mentor, usually would say, "Watch this," and he would demonstrate a double haul cast: "Okay, now you do it." And I did, or tried to.

"No, no -like this!" Clare would insist, sometimes impatiently. And I tried and tried some more, and since my desire was genuine, I eventually got the hang of it and some casts soared. The soft, almost parabolic split-bamboo rods we used in those days featured a slower action, which required a different, longer stroke.

Today, aspiring distance fly casters have it easy because they can view DVDs and tapes of some of our best casters. There are excellent casting instruction books and wonderful Web sites that include animated visual graphics of the double haul. Certified casting instructors are available at a fair rate.

Yeah, I cast the other events in tournaments-Dry Fly, and Trout Fly and Bass Bug and some of the plug events-but it's the distance fly events that attract me to the National.

It's an addiction. I daydream of landing cagey big browns at my favorite streams, but I also dream of making that once-in-a-lifetime long cast in a National. My lofty goals may never be fufilled, but I'm going to try until I can't cast or fish anymore.

I explain my long distance fly casting addiction to John "Coach" Seroczynski, president of the American Casting Association. "Coach, the distance fly games are the main events. The accuracy and all the other events are really warm-up and cool-down events. You know, when Frank Sinatra would perform in Vegas, they would have a couple of acts just to warm up the crowd. Right? Same here. And all games after are held simply to 'cool down' the participants and spectators from the high voltage frenzy of the distance fly games. I mean you don't want them to drive home all 'wired up,' do you?"
Coach laughs. He understands. I think.

MY PRACTICE SESSIONS at the athletic field are not without some humor. Neighbors ask me, "How's fishing?" Or, "Did you catch any today?"

"Naw, but I think I hooked and lost a big one," I answer every time in a serious tone. They laugh. Ha! Ha!

One of these days, I'm going to buy several rainbow trout from the fish market and put them on ice in a cooler and take it to my practice field. When the same people ask the same questions, I'll reply:

"Yeah, I caught three beauties this morning. They were hittin' pretty good on a Royal Wulff. Here, take a look."

On second thought maybe I won't do that. With the escalating price of fish these days, I might find lots of fishermen casting for fish on my practice field.

I ALWAYS had a mania for distance, whether it was hitting a baseball or punting a football. Amazingly I remember my longest hit in baseball and a booming punt that I made some 50 years ago. It's no different in distance fly casting. You remember the long ones whether it's in practice or in a tournament. Of course, I remember my longest cast in practice at the athletic field near my house. Let me tell you about it.

It soared, high and mightily, pulling yards of mono shooting line at an incredible speed until there was no more loose line left on the ground. Then I heard that beautiful sound-the screeching reel-which meant that the cast had sufficient energy to angrily demand more line from the reel. I could not see where the fly landed, but I was sure the line had straightened out reasonably well, which is usually the case when you hear the reel scream. I pumped a clenched fist high in the air, in the best Tiger Woods tradition.

"What a cast!" I shouted with uncontrolled exuberance. And then I pumped my fist again. "Bring on Rajeff! Bring on Korich!"

I hurried toward the fly. My plan was to mark the exact spot where the fly landed, then go home, get my 200-foot tape and measure the cast exactly to the inch. Stepping it off is not an accurate method of measurement.

In my excitement and celebratory fist pumping, I didn't notice that the monofilament shooting line had wrapped around my shoe, until it was too late. As I joyously trudged toward the fly, I was pulling in yards and yards of line through the rod, which I had placed on the grass to mark my exact casting position. There was no way I could measure that cast now. Surely it was the longest I had ever made. Was the cast 180 feet? 190 feet? More than 200 feet? I was quite sure it was well over 180, but was it over the magical 200 feet, the benchmark of long distance casters? I'll never know.

THE NATIONALS are only about ten days away. I'm seriously thinking about canceling my trip to Lexington, because I feel lousy. Physically and mentally. I was sure that this was due to all the prescribed medicines I was taking to keep my blood thin following the stent surgery. When I walk up 12 steps in our house, I am exhausted. Before the stent? No problem!

But there was another reason I had lost interest in going to the National. Bus Duhamel was very ill. He is a dear friend of almost 40 years and while he is 93 years old, it was only a few years ago that we waded a Wisconsin trout stream late at night and fooled some big trout. We did this in total darkness: no moon above to guide us through this river section that was booby trapped with a few sunken branches, some rocks, and, of course, several deep holes, too. He was what, 88 or 89 at the time? It was that year, or maybe the year before, that he captured the Angler of the Year award for our trout camp because of the incredible catch he made one evening.

Bus was very weak now. I told him I would not go to the tournament. "You go!" He instructed sternly. "And I don't want to hear of a Silver or a Bronze medal. You go and get the Gold. Promise me."

"I promise, Bus. I will win the Gold." But I only said that because he insisted on it. And Bus could be stubborn.

And so I went to Lexington. I felt punk. Not only was I feeling sick, but also my arm now was hurting from that previous fall. I could hardly move it. I had to use my left arm to drink coffee that morning.

It was hot on the distance fields. The excitement was there. The joy on faces. The high anxiety as casters made their final practice shots. Some were making minor adjustments to leader lengths; others sought a little time to themselves to review their strategy. Judges with timers were ready. So were the young fellows out in the field who were trained to mark casts quickly.

I approached John Seroczynski, a superb veteran caster. "Coach, I don't think I can cast. I feel lousy. Can't move my arm much. I feel sick."

"Listen, Jim. You feel good. This is the National. Everyone feels good at the National even if they don't! Now here are my keys, go into my car, turn on the engine and air conditioner and take a nap. You are the last caster and I'll call you."

So I followed Coach's instructions. I fell asleep. The cool air-conditioner and the purring sound of the engine proved to be very soporific.

"All right, Chapralis, you're up next. Get ready," Coach barked.

My rod had already been checked to meet the regulations for the One-Hand Fly Distance Event.

John Seroczynski starts giving me instructions. I felt like a boxer in the ring, getting last minute advice from the manager. "Okay, now take it easy. Wait for a breeze. Stop the rod high. And pull your left arm all the way back on the final haul."

In the One-Hand Fly Distance Event you are allowed a ghillie who can offer advice, strip in the line after a cast for you, and, in general, help the caster. Coach was my ghillie.

I think someone said that Zack Willson was the leading caster in the Senior Division with a 160+ ft. cast. Yikes! I tried to find out. "Don't worry about the other scores. You just cast!" Coach said.

I made some fair casts-I think-but I had no idea how far they went. In this event, a participant has five minutes to make as many casts as he wants, and the longest cast determines the winner. The second longest cast is recorded in case of ties. Minutes ticked by. Funny how fast five minutes goes when you are in the caster's box.

"You're doing okay. But wait for a breeze," Coach instructed.

"How far do you think I'm casting?"

"Hey, Chapralis you have enough time for one cast, maybe two. Just wait. There should be another puff of wind in a few seconds."

But I didn't wait. A couple of false casts and then I released my presentation cast. Coach was striping in the line fast, spiderlike, to see if I could get in another cast-a good breeze came up. "Why didn't you wait?" Coach shook his head, but he was smiling, too. "Geez, you should have waited for that breeze."

"Time's up!" Too late. The judge shouted as I prepared to get in another cast.

My two long casts were recorded. One of the boys brought in the scorecards.

"172 feet! You won, Chapralis! You won the Senior Division." Coach announced after studying the card. "Congratulations! If you had listened to me on that last cast and waited a just few seconds for that nice breeze, you might have tied or beaten the Senior's record of 180 feet." I was nine feet short of a new record for seniors.

I was overwhelmed with emotion. A few minutes ago I felt sick. I could hardly move my arm. I didn't think I could cast. Adrenaline does remarkable things. Tears of joy dripped down my face. I was crying and I didn't care.

"Are you okay? Are you okay?" Coach was concerned. I had told him that I had some medical information in my wallet in case something happened.

"I'm fine. I'm delighted to have won the Gold, but I'm mostly happy that I kept my promise to Bus."

The Angler's Distance Fly Event took place right after that. It's a similar event except that casters are restricted to a lighter line (equivalent to a No. 10/11). I also won the Gold for seniors in that event with a cast of 153 feet.

I called Bus. He was in an oxygen tent. He could not speak on the phone. I talked to Mildred, his wife. "Bus is not doing very well," she informed me.

"Could you do me a favor? Could you tell him I won the Gold in distance fly for him?" "Absolutely." I could hear her telling him. Then a little later, she said: "Bus gave a 'thumbs up' sign. And he smiled. He said something but I couldn't understand him. But he smiled."

Bus died a few days later.

I had planned to put the Gold medal in Bus's casket. But his instructions were that he would be cremated. He didn't want any special ceremony. No hoopla. No speeches. He just wanted to be cremated and for his family to dispose of his ashes. Quiet like.

Bus was that kind of a guy.

IT'S A HOT, SWELTERING, HUMID DAY. Sweat rolls down my face, first in tiny beads, but soon they merge to form an unending procession of rivulets. I walk to the athletic field, which is exactly 192 steps from my front door. I rig my tackle by the baseball bench and then walk another 153 feet parallel to the fire hydrant.

Just like I've done so many times before.

I listen to the two inner voices argue. I make my casts. I need to go farther. The 2005 National Tournament at Dundee, Michigan, is only a few weeks away.

And I need to practice.

This was a excerpt from the book
"Master Your Fly Casting"
…and Have Fun Doing It
By Jim C. Chapralis.
Copyright 2006.
Angling Matters Press 216 p.

Description: Softcover. 216 pages (5½ X 8½ in.). 64 black and white illustrations. Full-color cover.
ISBN 0-970865368
For more information:


Book presentation

Master Your Fly Casting! . . . and have fun doing it is not a how-to-cast book. There are lots of great books, videos, Web sites, casting instructors and fly fishing schools that teach the basics. This book assumes you know the basic simple casting stroke. Back cast, pause, forward cast.

The problem: Most hopefuls learn to cast well enough to catch some fish, but many put away that fly rod until the next fishing trip, which may be months away, and learned lessons—casting stroke, timing and narrow loops—dissolve into a hazy memory. “Geez, did Bob tell me to stop the rod here or there? Thumb on top of the grip. Right? Do I cast with my wrist?” Forgotten lessons.

The answer: Practice. This holds true not only for novice casters but also intermediate anglers and even experts. Amazingly, the top 10 fly casters in the world practice casting on a continuing basis. Some on a weekly basis. Practice is not a user-friendly word to most of us. It’s like having to practice music scales when instead we want to play Bach or Beethoven. Or Brubeck or Basie.

Make practice fun: Casting practice on a lawn or pond soon becomes b-o-r-i-n-g! Ho-hum. Zzzz. But add some targets and a series of progressive step-by-step disciplines or “games” and immediately practice becomes so interesting that you’ll want to practice often. You may want to get your fishing friends or family involve. Maybe even start a casting club.

Be assured that once you get the hang of these fun events, you are going to love these games. Many of you will find these games not only fun but perhaps addictive. You may even want to compete in a local, regional and perhaps later a National tournament.

Designed to make fly-casting practice more motivating and fun, these exercises employ a series of targets and challenges to encourage fly casters to hone their skills and develop from merit-class into master-class anglers, a position that only the top 10% of casters achieve. An introduction to the American Casting Association's (ACA) official fly events and regulations is an integral part of the program, and casters are
encouraged to incorporate the challenges associated with these events into their practice rounds and to score their results as if participating in tournament play in order to fine tune their techniques and prepare for actual competitions. Master Your Fly Casting! also includes interviews with accomplished casters, information on starting a casting clubs, and instructions for using a video camera to improve casting techniques rounds out this informative work.

Remember. The most important ingredient of fly fishing skill is the ability to put the fly exactly where you want to. Master Your Fly Casting! is the only book that concentrates entirely on practice casting…and have fun doing it.



To get the best experience of the Magazine it is important that you have the right settings
Here are my recommended settings

Please respect the copyright regulations and do not copy any materials from this or any other of the pages in the Rackelhanen Flyfishing Magazine.

© Mats Sjöstrand 2006

If you have any comments or questions about the Magazine, feel free to contact me.

Mats Sjöstrand, Sweden

Please excuse me if you find misspelled words or any other grammatical errors.
I will be grateful if you contact
me about the errors you find.