Brian Aguon, an Oregon fishing guide, is describing the benefits of spey casting. "First, you don't need to have a lot of room behind you to throw an 85-foot cast. Secondarily, it's easier for the spey rodder, especially fishing steelhead, if he needs to mend line. Say he's got a 14-foot rod, I don't care how good he is, he'll never mend as much line as..."
I blurt/croak/stumble, "When you say, 'mend...' "
This is going to be one of those interviews. I know nothing about fishing, less about fly fishing, less about the subcategory spey casting, which has become -- I'm not sure how -- the subject of this conversation.
Aguon continues, "Once the fisherman makes his cast, he can pick up line from where it landed, move it 14, 15 feet upstream and get a different angle on the sweet spot across the river."
Aguon, his buddy Chris, and me are standing on the concrete bank of a basketball-court-sized concrete casting pool. It's Friday; the Padres are out of town.
Chris, a middle-aged, short, rotund male wearing a burn-your-eyes-out orange Hawaiian shirt, says, "You fish more efficiently with your line in certain places. So, you have to mend in order to get that efficiency. You can mend much better with a longer rod."
Mending line, I'll learn later in the quiet of my reference library, is "using the tip of your rod to move, flip, manipulate the line so the fly is floating in a natural manner." Spey casting, while we're at it, employs "a two-hand fly rod, 12' to 15' long. The spey caster throws a much longer cast than a person using the smaller one-handed fly rod and can more easily execute change of direction roll casting." Or, to put this in English, spey casting is what everybody was doing in the 1992 Robert Redford film A River Runs Through It. Which is not a bad movie. It's set in Montana and shows off spey casting, which, all irony to one side, is a take-your-breath-away gorgeous thing to watch. Think tai chi with a giant fly rod.
"When you're steelhead fishing, for instance," Aguon goes on, "once you make your cast and you're quartering downstream, the line starts to sweep back to your side of the river. Right?"
Fuck, I don't know.
"So, you're casting, quartering downstream. What the spey caster can do is reposition the line upstream and make the sweep of the fly back to his side of the river much slower. Another big advantage is time in water. I read an article that had two guys casting, one used a one-hand, 9-foot, 9-weight fly rod; the other man had a two-hand [spey rod], 14-foot, 9-weight. Behind each guy was a ghillie [guide] with a stopwatch. They said, 'You guys go out and cast for six hours.' They wanted to see who was going to catch more fish.
"Neither man caught a fish that day, but at the end of six hours, the guy with the spey rod...his fly spent more than twice as much time in the water as the other man's fly. See, the cycle time for a single-handed rod is longer. With a single-handed rod you've got to pull line back; you have to false cast in order to work the line out."
One of the drawbacks about the great outdoors is that there is no door nearby.
"Another benefit," Aguon says. "Spey casting takes two hands; the distribution of labor is over two arms rather than one arm." Aguon lets loose a teenage-boys-talking-about-sex chortle. "It's the ultimate high-stick rod. It should be outlawed."
I experience a series of humiliating teenage sexual flashbacks.
Chris says, "Let's pretend for a moment that the river is flowing from our left to our right. You cast straight across stream, near the far bank. The fastest current is in the middle of the river. The minute the line lands, the line begins to move downstream -- it starts to belly downstream. As it does that it pulls the fly away from the far bank. So, what you do is, you mend the line by throwing an opposite; it's called a dome. That's mending the line. It's a line-manipulation technique. You're painting a line on the surface of the water. And you can do it two ways; once it's landed on the water or, if you're good enough, you can do it in the air, before it lands.
"Let's say you've made a cast out to the river, and the river sweeps it back and now your line is parallel to your bank. The spey caster has to pick it up and shoot it back out at a different angle. We call that a change-of-direction cast. A good spey caster can reposition his line at more and more acute angles."
I'm not going to leave here alive.
San Diego Fly Fishers offers free fly-casting lessons at Lake Murray on Sundays at 9:00 a.m. Bring your own gear or borrow theirs. Call 619-276-4822 for particulars.