FLY CASTING WITH THE
MAN OF LA MANCHA
by Randy Kadish
The sunlight shined through
the blinds. Time for me to get out of bed. I tried, sort of, but
felt weighed down, as if I were a knight, fallen, encased in heavy
armor. Was I defeated?
I pulled the sheets over my
head and hoped the new year, 2007, would bring sales of my book, and
money so I could finally travel to faraway fishing destinations. But
2006 started with so much hope. What did it bring?
I thought of the vision test
I failed, ending my hopes of becoming a court officer. I thought of
all the mistakes in the first printing of my book - the proofreader
had fallen down on the job - forcing me to have the book reprinted,
at my expense. Two major disappointments. Two major reversals. Was I
being punished - trampled on like the knight Don Quixote - for
dreaming of doing good? If only the Man of La Mancha had succeeded
in making the world a fairer place, then I'd be standing victorious.
I thought of the magazines
that bought my stories but, for different reasons, didn't publish
their next issues.
I thought of my two new
Three more disappointments,
five so far for the year. More than in most novels. And I still
wasn't in the final crisis.
I thought of the GLX fly rod
I lost. I thought of the woman from the army.
Seven disappointments, not
quite as many as Don Quixote, but Don wasn't real. Maybe that's why
he never had trouble getting out of - or even into - bed. Real or
not, I wanted to be more like the Don. Besides, the weather was
unusually mild, as if I were in southern Spain. A plus. An
opportunity to fish and write myself a better plot-line.
I rolled out of bed, ready
to battle with striped bass. Instead of armor, I took my fly-fishing
equipment and headed out the door. Less than an hour later I walked
to the north end of Roosevelt Island, and into a scene as beautiful
as any in La Mancha. I was in Lighthouse Park. The small park was
named after a tall, narrow, stone structure that I knew was not an
I didn't attack.
Roosevelt Island was about
two miles long, and a hundred yards wide. It split the East River -
a major migratory route for stripers - in half. North of the island,
the river again split, this time around Randall's Island. Half of
the river turned eastward, flowed under the Triboro Bridge - a
bridge connecting three counties of New York City - and merged with
the Long Island Sound. The other half of the river hooked westward,
then straightened and flowed out of my view and eventually, I knew,
merged with the Hudson River.
I looked west, across the
river, and saw about a half-mile of the Manhattan skyline. Most of
the buildings were built in the nineteen-fifties and sixties, eras
when New York architects were concerned with cost and function, so
though few of the buildings were beautiful, they merged, like bodies
of water, and formed a skyline whose whole was greater than its
parts. A plus, in my book.
I turned, looked east and
saw an ugly Queens housing project. A minus. Unlike the different
shaped and sized buildings of the Manhattan skyline, all the
project's brick buildings were cross-shaped and seven-storied. I
wished I could be a real Don Quixote and obliterate them. But
obliterating them wouldn't be easy, especially because they suddenly
looked like giant soldiers - maybe from outer space - all wearing
the same uniforms and standing in perfect formation.
Were they planning an
attack, perhaps against the high-income buildings of the Manhattan
skyline? Was I standing on another world's - perhaps a parallel
universe's - battle line? Would the rules of the Geneva Convention
They wouldn't have to. The
housing project, I remembered, was home to many people. No matter
how ugly it was, I didn't want to see it go.
I set up my fly rod and tied
on a white and green deceiver. The wind, not strong but steady, blew
from the west. To cut through it, I'd have cast straight back.
Still, I was confident I'd again cast over a hundred feet. I faced
the housing project and false cast, shooting more and more line. But
my casts sagged. My loops opened wide. What was I doing wrong? Or
was I, like the pirated Don Quixote, just in a bad sequel? If so, I
wanted out, or at least a casting coach, a Sancho Panza so to speak,
to keep my casting on the straight and narrow.
I told myself I shouldn't
have stopped practicing long-distance fly casting. After all, Don
Quixote, up until his very end, didn't get burned out. Why? Because
he had his impossible dream? Didn't I: to become a consistent
100-foot fly caster, and to write casting articles and help other
I accelerated my cast, then
abruptly stopped it and let go of the line. My deceiver landed only
about eighty-feet away. Disappointed, I quickly retrieved. Again I
false cast. Again my casts sagged. I cursed. Why, I wondered, after
years of casting tribulations, after finally coming to believe I
fixed my casting defects, does a new one confront me like a villain?
Is this another reversal? Another obstacle? But obstacles are meant
to be overcome. Just ask Don Quixote.
I thought back to the first
act of my fly-casting adventures: I tried to decipher fly-casting
book after book, then I marched to a lawn and practiced casting, day
I thought back to the second
act: I tried to cast farther than 80 feet. But the fly often hit me.
An unexpected reversal. Why? I reread my fly-casting books and
learned that I was lowering my rod hand at the end of the cast, and
therefore pulling down the fly line. I returned to the lawn, and
though I tried not to, I still lowered my rod hand. So four times a
week, month after month, I experimented with every part of my
cast--stance, trajectory, follow-through--but the fly still hit me.
Darn it! Downtrodden, feeling I was at a dead-end, I trudged home,
thinking of how foolish Don Quixote was for trying to change the
world, and how foolish I was for thinking I could become a 100-foot
And so I wrote another
failure into the story line of my life. A few weeks later, this new
failure began to chomp away at me, at my self-worth, so I got back
on my fly-casting horse and resumed practicing. Then by accident,
like a contrived ending, I realized that when I cast with my elbow
pointed all the way out, my rod hand moved downward and pulled down
the fly line.
Thrilled with my new
discovery, I cast back and forth and watched my long loops tighten
and streak like arrows.
During the next few months I
overcame other fly-casting obstacles, and finally I cast a hundred
feet! I reached my impossible dream - for a while anyway, because as
I fished on Roosevelt Island I realized dreams, or at least some of
them, are fleeting.
Seagulls dived in the East
River. Bait fish! Maybe Stripers were chasing them. I cast toward
the birds. Again my line sagged. I couldn't reach my target. I
cursed, then remembered I wasn't in a real-life tragedy, though,
like Don Quixote, I was in publications, including my long-distance
fly-casting article. Maybe it held a forgotten solution to my
casting defect. And if not - well, I still had faith the new
obstacle was something I could overcome. So instead of feeling
defeated, I enjoyed fishing and feeling connected, like a bridge, to
the beauty all around me.
Four hours later, as soon as
I got home, I started rereading my casting article. About a third of
the way through, I read that if my back cast and forward cast formed
an angle greater than 180 degrees I probably stopped the rod too
late, after it started unloading and losing power. If I back cast
parallel to the ground, therefore, I had to forward cast with the
same or slightly higher trajectory.
I rediscovered my solution!
My story had a good ending.
Grateful, I closed my eyes
and wondered why casting ten or twenty feet farther was so important
to me. Were my casting experiments about more than distance?
Yes, they were also about
coming to believe in an ideal casting form, as absolute as a perfect
literary form, like Shakespeare's 29th or 30th sonnet, as absolute
as a law of physics, like Special Relativity. But why is, why was
that so, so important? Is it because even though the world is
riddled by random turns of history and bloodied by wars, the world,
or at least our solar system, is also unified by ideals that form a
working order? If so, are ideals invisible and so hard to discover
for a reason - so I can't invent them in the universe of mind? Why?
Is it because what gives ideals meaning is the search for them, the
attempt to become in-line with them and then be able to overcome my
defects, my obstacles and to connect to the good in the world?
Isn't that what spirituality
is about? Perhaps an ideal, therefore, is a part that can never add
up to a whole. And perhaps so am I. That's why when I tried to will
things my way I almost always fell off my horse and cursed a world
that seemed so unjust.
But that was then. This is
now, and now I'm able to deal with disappointments, one by one, and
keep going, like Don Quixote, and to keep believing that there is a
working order of things.
Yes, I believe by the end of
the book of my life, the good will outweigh the bad. Randy's
historical novel, The Fly Caster Who Tried to Make Peace with the
World, is available on Amazon.
Text and photos by Randy Kadish 2007 ©
Randy's historical novel,
The Fly Caster Who Tried To Make
Peace With The World, is available on