With his back against the wall, Bob Jacklin demonstrated the perfect roll cast. With the length of the basketball court stretched out before him, he then demonstrated the long cast.
For the fun of it, the master instructor with the Fly Fishing Federation tossed in a bounce cast, a parachute cast and a trick cast, among a half dozen others techniques he’s learned through the years.
“Stop the tip of the rod while you’re looking at the target,” Jacklin said, showing off his skills by dropping a leader tied from yarn into a hula hoop from 20 feet away. “The line is going to go there every time.”
With every fly-casting rule Jacklin shared at a demonstration arranged several weeks ago by the Pat Barnes Missouri River Chapter of Trout Unlimited, he also had a story to go with it.
There was the time a 90-year-old Chinese man offered him a tip that improved his long cast. And the time he shacked up with the great tournament caster Jim Green, inventor of the Fenwick Rod, back in 1961.
“He would practice in the evening in the motel room we shared on the Rogue River by hitting his fist against the wall,” Jacklin said. “But he would never actually hit the wall. He would stop his fist before he hit the wall and practice stopping his cast this way.”
Jacklin, who grew up in New Jersey before heading west after a stint in the Army, has developed his own casting antics in pursuit of fly-fishing perfection.
How good is he? From a distance of 30 feet, Jacklin flicked his fly off the caps of the men in the crowd, showing off the grace and control one can muster with a little practice.
“I came out West in 1967 and met the California crowd, and I got a job with the Fenway Company teaching school,” Jacklin said. “I really adapted and learned the West Coast style of casting. It’s a little different than the East, which involves a little more wrist.”
While describing the casts in his colorful repertoire — the bounce cast, the parachute cast, the roll cast — Jacklin also revealed his knowledge of the sport’s history.
Back in 1864, noted fisherman Thaddeus Norris named drag as the biggest problem fishermen faced when using a floating fly. They didn’t say “dry fly,” Jacklin said, because the term wasn’t used until around 1900.
“Pat Barnes, who your chapter is named after, had one rule,” Jacklin said. “He’d say, ‘Keep the damned fly in the water if you want to catch some fish.’”
Jacklin came to know Barnes in a roundabout way. That story began in the 1960s when he stopped at a fabled New York City fly shop to visit the owner.
Jacklin described the owner as the crotchety type, but a real pro at what he did. In a passing conversation, Jacklin told the owner he was heading to Montana. In return, the owner told him look up Pat Barnes while he was there.
“I wrote it down, Pat Barnes, and I carried that all the way across the United States,” Jacklin said. “When I got to the Madison Junction Campground, I had no idea if Pat Barnes had a store, or if it was a guy or a fly shop. I just knew to look it up.”
While near Yellowstone, Jacklin met an older fisherman who knew all the locals and that, Jacklin said, is how he came to meet Pat Barnes. On that fateful trip, he also learned a good deal about casting.
“I learned a lot on that trip,” Jacklin said, naming the false cast, among others. “It looks like they’re waving at the girls. They dry the fly out about four times and then present the fly. But it’s not a real cast until the fly hits the water.”
Reporter Martin Kidston: 447-4086 or email@example.com