Back to Basics – Part 1

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For a couple of years after I finished graduate school I coached full time. I worked for the University of Saskatchewan and a private athletic club in Saskatoon Saskatchewan. One of the many lessons I learned there was when an athlete was having trouble with something complicated there was a good chance that good basic skills were not being practiced to accomplish the task. So we would go back to basics and make sure that these very important items were being performed properly. Once I was satisfied that we had a handle on the basics the athlete would then go back to the newer more complicated skill. More often than not he or she would be able to accomplish the task that had been causing so much trouble.I’m not really sure what one could call “Basic Fly Fishing Skills” but I believe my Dad taught the most basic of all types of fly fishing. I am sure Dad was not aware that he taught us a method of using a fly that was similar to the methods discussed by Izaak Walton and Charles Cotton in The Compleat Angler so many years ago. Dad’s method was simply putting a Royal Coachman wet fly on the end of a line. There would be either a Salmon Egg or a Maggot impaled on the barbed hook along with the fly as some kind of insurance against getting skunked. As kids we would then be instructed to let the fly dangle in the stream upstream of where we stood and then after it had gone down stream as far as the rod and line allowed just pick it up and put it back up stream repeating the process ad nauseum.
The technique is called “dapping” and is defined in one online dictionary as follows:

dapping – The art of dangling rather than casting your fly”

I have to say that I was turned off dapping for a long time due to its consistent lack of success when practiced by me. I preferred instead the long sinuous up stream casts of a Lefty Kreh. That to me was fly fishing as it should be and with a Catskill style dry fly too. Anything else didn’t seem quite right. Long beautiful casts were even more imprinted on my mind when I saw the movie A River Runs Through It and watched the brief but beautiful back lit sequence of a fly fisherman doing what they called shadow casting from a rock in the middle of the Montana stream. The fly line was making beautiful figure eights in the air with a mist of water flying off the line, each drop sparkling in the sun. The urge to jump into the car with all my gear and head for the nearest trout water was almost uncontrollable.

Note from J. Stockard: You can read also read Part 2 and Part 3 of this series.

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