Story last updated at 3/19/2014 - 1:36 pm
It's not until you take a fly-fishing class indoors that you realize how many obstacles a gym ceiling has.
Basketball hoops. Fire sprinklers. Large, swooping ropes. A hanging net full of giant green exercise balls that looks like a Nickelodeon game show trap.
But in that way, the indoors mirror the outdoors: for the long, looping, graceful cast of a fly fisherman, obstacles abound no matter where you are. And no basketball net could stop the nine (10, including me) student fishermen at the Community Schools' recent workshop, taught by Rain Country Fly Fishers president Tony Soltys, from fine-tuning their casts last week. (Soltys also demonstrated casts that help avoid obstacles.)
Many students mentioned fly fishing's blend of sport and art.
"I just find it such a graceful sport," said Anne Sutton, who bought fellow participant Gordon Sandy a bamboo fly fishing rod for Christmas.
Sandy, who describes himself as an avid fisherman, said he's been interested in fly fishing for a while. "It's another way to go out and get something to eat and enjoy the outdoors," he said.
For several participants, fly fishing is an intergenerational affair. Eve Fieldhouse started a few years ago, and now she drifts the Clearwater River on the Olympic Peninsula every year with her father, a "fanatical fly fisher" since 1968.
This is the second time Fieldhouse has taken Soltys' class. The first time, instead of zinging out long and straight, her line fell "like a pile of spaghetti, right at my feet," she said. She's seen a vast improvement since those first casts.
Bruce Franklin inherited his grandfather's fly fishing set up a few years ago.
"He left me his gear. I thought, 'Well, I'd better do it right,'" he said.
Fieldhouse said she appreciates Soltys' detailed instruction. He taught participants something called the three-point grip, for example, which is what a fly-fishing stunt double used in "A River Runs Through It."
The fly fishing world seems a small one. Franklin's grandfather, for example, was roommates at Penn State with the fisherman who taught Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and Jimmy Carter to fly fish, Franklin said. Franklin's grandfather got into fly fishing via the roommate as well.
Soltys spent time fine-tuning each fisherman's technique and timing, offering tips like the following:
"If you use your wrist, you're going to destroy your cast. You'll get what's called a windshield wiper cast. ... The mortal sin of this is using a lot of wrist."
Not using your wrist is easier said than done - and for this fishermen and some others, that meant a holding a rather rigid pose while trying to get the perfect combination of shoulder pivot and a tiny bit of elbow and arm.
"This is the only sport where you don't have to follow through," Soltys told attendees. "The more abruptly you stop (your cast,) the better off you are."
"When you see really good fly fishermen cast, the line does this magic loop behind them," Franklin said.
Last year, after taking the class, Fieldhouse and a friend went fly fishing at Cowee Creek.
"The water was so clear you could see pink salmon and ... you could see them going for that red and fuschia colored fly. Fly fishing is so lightweight and sensitive, (when you catch a fish) you feel like you have a whale on the other end."
Soltys has been teaching the class for more than 20 years. He plans to teach another next March.