I watched The Art of Spey Casting first, since it's one of easterncaster's favorites. This DVD is basically a compilation of demonstrations given by famous spey casters from around the world during the 1st Annual Spey-O-Rama held at the Golden Gate Casting Club. As Craig suggested, I fast-forwarded through most of the interviews (How many times can you listen to the host ask the same silly question to every presenter, "Should a singlehanded caster be intimidated learning how to spey cast?"). The demos showcased a wide range of spey techniques and different styles of casting using a variety of rods and lines. The presentations also varied tremendously in quality. Language barriers played a factor, especially with the Japanese casters. One Japanese caster actually used a translator. Unfortunately, the translator's English wasn't much better than the caster's!
Overall, it was quite interesting and I definitely want to re-watch certain segments, but it was all over the place. There was also quite a bit of overlap but that's not necessarily a bad thing, as each presenter had their own unique style. I think you're better off just focusing on the visuals of the demos. My favorite segment (purely from a flygirl's perspective ;) was watching the 2 hunky Scotsmen in kilts spey casting and listening to their Scottish brogues. It was very
3 hours later, despite being on the verge of spey porn overload, I watched the first DVD of Rio's Modern Spey Casting, featuring Simon Gawesworth teaching the fundamentals of spey. I totally agree with Craig–Simon gives good demos ;). He does an excellent job explaining the mechanics and I appreciated the segments on common faults. The biokinetic stick figures, I could probably do without. I went to bed excited to put some of this knowledge to work the following day during my practice session.
As I drove around looking for a good (shallow) place to practice, I spotted several tantalizing schools of bait fish swimming near the surface. But they were fairly far out, 100+ ft. from shore. It's ironic how all weekend at the Salty Flyrodder's Conclave, I had hoped to encounter this phenomenon (every salt angler's dream). Now here it was in my very backyard when I least expected it. Turns out high tide is a little too high for wet wading in my bay (on the east side). There's a long concrete wall running along the shoreline. To access the water, you had to climb down onto rocks below it, and just a few feet out from the rocks, it drops to over waist deep (at high tide). Next time, I'll wear my waders. Plus, the water was kind of gross, not the pristine Catskills waters I've grown accustomed to. I definitely need to find out if there are any local organized clean-up campaigns.
There was a man spin fishing with his 2 young sons along the wall. I settled into a spot not too far from them. I tried practicing for a while but I had very little room behind me (3 ft?) and lots of big rocks. It wasn't working out too well–my line kept snagging on the rocks. Then I noticed the bait fish schools getting closer. Before I knew it, they were within casting range. I had a small sand eel fly on to practice with. I started casting it into the schools and stripping it back. I must have done this at least 30 times. A couple of schools came quite close, about 45 feet away at one point. There were fish leaping, being chased out of the water. I even saw a large dark shape roll on the surface in the distance. There were splashes everywhere! Fins and tails protruding like bonefish. It was exciting and incredibly maddening!
I finally decided to change flies (should have done this sooner!). But as I stared at my meager selection of 12 striper flies, I realized just how woefully unprepared I was. Granted, I had come to practice, not to fish (Right... I had wanted a break from fishing :). First off, I had no idea what saltwater fly is normally used to imitate bunker (which was what I believed these bait fish were). Plus, these were pretty sizable bunker, at least 6+ inches long. I had nothing that big—not sure I could even throw something that big with my 8-weight. They had yellowish fins and tails. I had nothing in yellow.
So, I put on my largest deceiver (3" long) in white and chartreuse, cast it out into the boiling schools in front of me, and stripped it in. Again 30+ times, still no takers. Clearly, no one was deceived. The schools eventually started to head back out. My fingers were cut up from my shooting line and I was feeling pretty bummed. I gave up thoughts of practicing and called it a day. As I reeled in my line, the spin fisherman walked over to see if I had gotten any bites. Turns out he's interested in learning how to fly fish. He told me he had put his bait right in the middle of the schools, but had no luck either. However, he had caught a nice 26-inch striper the weekend before. I guess this means I'll have to return, to my backyard bay. Next time, I'll be better prepared. But knowing Murphy's Law, next time, I probably won't be seeing these boiling schools of bunker. That's fishing!
P. S. It seems recently, I've been so focused on trying to become a better fly angler, I've managed to forget the golden rule of fly fishing (and everything else): Have fun!!! This forgetfulness is most predominant when I'm fishing alone. Next time I'm on the water, I won't forget!