Casting into the past

(SitNews) Ketchikan, Alaska – I was reading about the casting pools at the Golden Gate Casting Club and I got an eerie feeling of loss. I’ve never been there, but it’s mentioned in many of the fly fishing books I’ve read.

The San Francisco Fly Casting Club was founded in 1894 and the pools opened in 1938, back when dudes were flexing bamboo rods that took weeks to craft and didn’t arrive by FedEx in a shipping tube.

I don’t know why, but there is something haunting about the casting pools there, as though if I made a pilgrimage, I would get the overwhelming feeling that I was too late. That I missed out. That the glory days of anglers and writers spending time there have been replaced with people with hip new fly fishing gear practicing for casting tournaments.

The pools are like this bazaar relic of urbanized angling, the infusion of solitude in the middle of a robust city.

I’ll never understand it within its proper context. I’ll never get it since I’ll never live it. That’s not such a bad thing because I get to benefit from the advances in fly fishing since then; high modulus carbon fiber, Gore-Tex waders and fly line that leaps off the reel and loop to loop connections that save me tying knots, so does tapered leader.

But I still wonder what it was like when fish were where they were and stories of finding them were told in person at places like the casting pools, not posted on social media or YouTube. When king salmon swam all the way up to the northern reaches of California to spawn in rivers now blocked by dams.

Steelhead is synonymous with misery. It’s going to take a thousand casts while you’re wet and cold to maybe get a fish. I can’t imagine what it was like to be able to steelhead fish in the L.A. River. Catching chrome closer to Mexico than San Francisco as late as the 1940s? Unreal.

Maybe I’m cheated, or my experience is cheap because I live in a time in which I can buy myself gear that will help correct what I’ve got wrong. If nothing else, I can look the part, which many do, to mask deficiencies or gain acceptance.

The past that will never be understood, only judged by contemporary standards. When I hear about that club in the middle of San Francisco, I think of proper jackets and hats, bamboo gear and stick creels, anglers worried more about sophistication than hipness. Nothing at all like the folks with forearm tattoos of brown trout, long beards drinking craft beer and craving hip, not proper.

I don’t long for the sport to return to a state of elitism, but just to see the sport in a context without logos and see if my perception is at all accurate.

If anything, maybe it’s a reminder to get while the getting is good, rather than let it pass and wish we had more good memories in that gap between then and now.

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