Fly Casting on City Streets Is Weird. That’s Why I Love It
By Jon Gluck / New York Times / Aug. 5, 2020
I live in New York City, in downtown Manhattan, on the seventh floor of a 13-story apartment building. Two or three times a week, I wake up early, ride the elevator down to my lobby and say good morning to my doorman, in the custom of millions of city dwellers everywhere.
But on the particular days I’m describing, my next move isn’t so familiar: I plant myself in the middle of West 12th Street and commence fly-casting — essentially fly-fishing without the fish — slinging 30 or 40 feet of thin nylon line behind me and in front of me, over and over again while stepping in and out of the street in sync with the traffic-light cycles to avoid passing cars, like some kind of bastardized urban version of Brad Pitt in “A River Runs Through It,” God and Norman Maclean forgive me.
“This is a time to do whatever we can to find our moments of peace and contentment.”
I’ve been practicing this peculiar ritual for years. Some time ago, I was looking to shake off the rust and get my arm in shape to prepare for an upcoming fishing trip to Wyoming, but living where I do, I didn’t have a suitable place to do so. Or I thought I didn’t, anyway. But then it occurred to me that a city street — long, straight and, in my case, relatively free of traffic — is actually quite suitable. Pretty great, even. Peculiar is in the eye of the beholder.
“The casting itself is only part of the appeal. I also find myself reveling in the particular pleasures of doing something weird.”
This year, street-casting has taken on a new urgency. I typically fish 20 or so days a year, everywhere from the Catskills to the Bahamas, but because of Covid-19, I haven’t managed to get out on the water at all. And yet, like many of us these days, I’m desperate to find pockets of joy wherever I can. Some people bake bread; others do jigsaw puzzles. I cast a fly rod on West 12th Street. For now, it’s not a way for me to prepare for a trip — it is the trip.
“There’s a simple Zen pleasure in the metronomic rhythms of fly-casting, and it’s a pretty cool experiment in applied physics. The trick is to “load” the line on the back cast, then transfer the coiled energy on the forward cast, stopping the rod at precisely the right moment to shoot the line forward with maximum speed. As with a golf swing, a million things can go wrong. But when you get it right, it’s magic.”