Fly Casting for Excellence and the Money Cast
(by Luis Montes)
Fly fishing is my passion. It provides quiet interludes between the press and stress of my other passion, my law practice. I took up fly fishing on a tactical whim and on a friend’s advice over 30 years ago, yet I remain an inquisitive student of the sport. One fly fishing offshoot is the competitive sport of tournament fly casting; my focus is accuracy.
Fly casting is not so obviously the most important fly fishing task, as I humbly learned in the summer of 1998, while flailing away at ever-distant trophy Rainbow Trout in Millionaire's Hole on the Henry’s Fork River in Idaho, the Mecca of western fly fishing. My fishing mentor, Mr. B Browning “suggested” that I visit the Oakland Casting Club to learn how to fly cast, a poignant recommendation and a colorful story for another time. Off I went, my ideas set, such that I waited until I was studying for the Bar in 2007 before taking up tournament casting to conserve sanity.
But, it was not until four years ago, inspired by a precocious 13-year-old young lady who won the National American Casting Tournament in accuracy, that I got serious. I set goals, scheduled practices, balanced tackle and seriously entered competitions. I got good over the ensuing two years. Good, however, is less than average at our club.
The Oakland Casting Club is the hub of U.S. tournament casting. My coach, Mr. C Korich, is a many-time U.S. National Champion, and another competitor (Mr. H Mittel) has won these competitions since 1980. We also have a number of current or former members of the U.S. fly casting team on board. Thus nothing short of “excellence” makes a caster competitive in the Bay Area. Daunted, yet persistent, I recently scored a perfect "100" in a tournament, despite six fluffy Mallard ducklings regally paddling right through my course! During the last ninety years less than ten casters have achieved that feat. Those little yellow interlopers helped me score the 100, relieving the pressure of my realization that I was ever so close to a perfect score.
Excellence in competition is rewarding; however, the joy of perfectly presenting a fly in the most difficult situations, while fishing and tricking the quarry to take your fake offering is really beyond explanation. Imagine, a Silver Salmon or a Steelhead Trout undulating in a run about forty five feet away in cool crystal clear waters of a particular rain forest river in Alaska. Resting about eighteen inches from the far bank, swimming under a canopy of branches that are shaking in the wind -- wind not a breeze. The 39 inch fish can spot danger approaching and sense a predator as far away as 30 yards. One misstep, one poor cast and the wary Salmonid darts away, well-practiced in survival. For success, the angler must make the Money Cast.
The angler has one chance to make a powerful and accurate cast, a graceful loop to slice through the wind. The accuracy to send the fly through a gap in the branches 40 to 50 feet away towards the opposite bank 18 inches from your fish. The gap might be 12 inches wide, if lucky, a foot and a half in height. The maze exists as a cover to tangle your fly, alarming the quarry, a majestic fish. That’s the Money Cast. Make it, fish on; miss it, find another fish, if you can. Practiced tournament casters are Money Cast specialists.
Fishing provides incentive for me to visit pristine rivers in the rejuvenating outdoors; it‘s why I work hard at my law practice. Fly fishing, like my law practice requires a certain knowledge and dedication. I am very lucky to be in search of excellence in my fly casting competitions. It takes effort, planning, practice and learning from the best of the best in the sport... and being in such a pursuit is the best reward of all.
Wish me luck at the World Championships in Scotland next year!
Luis M. Montes is a long-time OCC member, who sometimes casts better in tournaments than another member, Mr. R Hardin. Mr. Hardin always reminds him that he has been out-fished. When not practicing either law or fly casting, Luis is on some river attempting to trick a Steelhead Trout to a fly, or being hazed by Mr. Bowles.