As many of you know, a transformation is taking place. I’ve entered the world of fly fishing. Previously, I followed Ryan and Nick up to the mountains to catch my first brook trout. I was greeted with incredibly “technical” streams, which, for the normal person, means there were freaking trees everywhere.
Nevertheless, the enthusiasm of my friends fueled my persistence, and in between getting untangled from trees, I achieved some success in the form of several brook trout hook-ups (none landed) and landing a single creek chub. For the purpose of a good story and to further justify the creation of my fly fishing alias, it was a pretty damn big creek chub.
The initial outing absolutely left me intrigued and hopeful to become a capable fly fisherman. That being said, I am happy to report my progress to learn how to fly fish has moved one step further. I, Chubs Peterson, took casting lessons. Much to the surprise of the instructor, Ryan, and myself I didn’t suck at it.
After the posting of “The Birth of Chubs Peterson,” we received a message from Cory Routh offering to help me out with some casting lessons. Still undecided on whether or not Ryan and Nick were trying to sabotage me in my first attempt, I decided some outside help wouldn’t be a bad idea.
One word cannot describe Cory, so here are several. He is a waterman, a craftsman, an accomplished author, filmmaker, a former fishing guide, lifelong fly fisherman, and most importantly, a super nice guy. Cory, like us, is a 9-5er. He works for the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, and specializes in water quality assessment from Hampton Roads up to Virginia’s Eastern Shore.
Ryan and I pull up to Cory’s house and find him in the front yard laying out his fly rod. We introduced ourselves and I thanked Cory for taking on this impossible task. I had my Orvis Encounter 5wt with me, so he gathered up his rod and set it to the side.
“Let’s keep it simple,” Cory said. “No instructions yet, get your rod set up and I want to see how you cast or think you should cast.”
Well, it didn’t take long for Cory to earn the 12-pack of Modelo I brought him for the lessons because I couldn’t figure out how to get the damn reel on the rod. Maybe it was nerves, but the groove to fit the reel seat eluded me.
“See, I need all the help I can get,” I said.
Cory tied on a dummy fly to my line and step one began. I stripped some line out and started slinging it, or at least attempting to sling it.
“Not bad,” Cory said. “You are using too much wrist, try to keep the wrist and forearm firm.”
Focusing on that helped right away, but it wasn’t easy to not break the wrist. I grew up playing lacrosse and casting spinning rods where a flick of the wrist is helpful.
I got in a few more attempts, then we started working on a roll cast. This allowed me to see the proper trajectory of a cast and helped me understand the importance of having enough line out in certain situations. It also illustrated the importance of stopping my front cast before it's too late.
Holding the rod vertical, I was tasked with bringing the rod back to allow the line to come behind me, then when I felt it come tight bring the rod forward, but not follow through.
That last piece would prove to be the bane of my existence for most of the evening. Not following through goes against almost everything I’ve done, whether it was shooting a lacrosse ball, throwing a football, or casting a spinning rod, you always had to follow through.
For the next several casts, Cory called out “stop” as I brought the rod forward. Immediately, I saw an improvement and what the proper trajectory of the line should be. Allowing the forward motion of the rod to “load up” the fly line and stopping at 10 or 11 o’clock really let the fly line finish the work for you. After a few good casts I could feel when I had forced the rod too far forward.
Feeling a bit more confident, we switched from the 5wt to Cory’s 7wt. Since I fish saltwater predominately he felt it would be a good idea to get used to casting a slightly heavier rod.
The rod was a new Axiom-2x rod paired with a Tibor reel that belonged to Lefty Kreh. Lefty, for those of you who may not know, was one of fly fishing’s most well known personalities, and arguably the most innovative casting mind the sport has ever known. He was instrumental in the development of fly casting and, most importantly, the way fly casting was taught.
Cory met Lefty in the late 90’s at a fishing show when he worked for the Virginia Marine Resource Commision. From there he became Lefty’s point of contact for fisheries in Virginia. Check out the film Cory made about the famous Back Bay fishery on youtube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pdg8aqz-Lnw
After starting his kayak fishing guide business, Cory became a TFO ambassador in 2005 and continued to build his relationship with Lefty. Most importantly, Cory watched him teach others to cast.
I made a few roll casts with his rod to get used to the size difference. Once comfortable, we moved on to learning how to double haul. Cory had me strip extra line out and keep some of it in my left hand.
“Bring your rod back and allow the line to come behind you,” he instructed. “As the line loads up behind you, you will feel the line you are holding in your left hand get tight. Use that as a spring to start your motion forward."
This, for whatever reason, made sense to me. It is also what I envisioned fly fishing being, based on all of the saltwater shows I used to watch growing up on Sundays. I still had trouble stopping my follow through, but feeling the line load up in my left hand really helped me lighten up my front cast to allow the rod and line to do the work.
It was cool to let the line filter through my left hand to increase my casting distance. Every few casts I would let Ryan and Cory know I was double hauling. “Double haul coming,” I would say.
My only setbacks at this point were not stopping my follow through or not having enough line to feed the extra distance of my cast. Cory and Ryan reassured me that I was making progress by calling out casts that would be capable of reaching a fish if we were on a boat and not on Cory’s front lawn.
We turned directions where there were some obstructions in the way and to face Cory’s fence. Normally, Cory has a hula hoop to try and teach accuracy, but instead we aimed between two fence posts and cross posts. In order to do so, we worked on a side arm cast. A mix of roll casting and double hauling did the trick.
Cory stepped up to demonstrate. The idea was to get the line between the middle and top cross post, so that the loop made it through and opened up with the fly on the other side. After his second or third cast, Cory was dialed in and dropped the loop right through the two cross posts.
In my mind, objective number one was to get the fly to the fence. We were standing about 30 feet away. Objective number two was to get the fly between the two vertical fence posts. If I achieved objective one and two, then I would try my hand at dropping the fly between the cross posts.
Casts number one and number two were surprisingly on target, but fell short. I stripped some more line out, and double hauled cast number three over the fence. Not in the correct section, but at least I made it over. From there on I was determined.
Normally, I’d fill the story in with some of the banter going on, but I was focused and not listening to what Cory and Ryan were saying.
Several casts in and I achieved objective one and two. It was glorious to watch the line come forward in a loop and have the fly fold over the target. You could definitely feel when the elements came together. Once I got that initial cast over, I was pretty automatic. I tried a few times to get between the cross posts, but it wasn’t happening. Ryan and Cory would jump in to show me up and keep my confidence in check.
Ending on a high note, we cracked a couple Modelo’s and recapped my lessons. We talked about how pumped we are for fishing this fall. Most importantly, we determined that I, Chubs Peterson, am capable enough of a fly caster now to take a shot at a fish in saltwater, and most likely blow it. I’ll take it.
The next steps from here are getting on a boat and trying to make it happen. Chubs will fly fish.
Special thanks to Cory Routh for the hospitality and taking the time to help in the development of Chubs Peterson.