• Chris O'Byrne

Charles and Cecil

Learning To Fish

Based on The Beautiful Addiction


Warmer spring weather promised a good day of catching fish, so Charles and Cecil launched the boat with high hopes.

As the sun showed its full circle above the marina, a bruising bass broke the surface, twenty feet beyond Cecil’s fly. Quickly, he stripped in a little line and made his cast. But the line rolling out stopped abruptly then bounced back toward him while simultaneously something plucked at his index finger.

Looking at the loops of line on the water short of the target, Cecil dropped his shoulders, then looked at his rod hand. He grimaced when he saw the fly line still anchored between his index finger and the grip.

“This is fishing.” With the superior tone of a middle manager, Charles insinuated himself into Cecil’s quiet analysis. “You aint’ on the casting lawn no more.” He turned toward Cecil. “Here, I’ll teach ya. Watch me.” He made a cast. Pinched the fly line against the grip and stripped in line. Then he released the fly line he’d held against the grip and cast again. “See? You try.”

With focused thought, Cecil pinched the fly line securely in his line hand and let go of the line with his rod hand. He made a crisp cast and the line rolled out cleanly. Then he placed the fly line between his forefinger and the grip and made a few strips. Then he began to cast again.

"No!" With a vigorous jab, Charles poked an accusing finger on Cecil’s rod hand. “You’re doing it wrong.”

Another hour of effort and the correct order of operation still had not engrained itself in Cecil’s hands. He spent so much time focusing on releasing the fly line with his rod hand that he missed fish rising. Resolving nothing with the help of his teacher, Cecil woke early the next day determined to get his hands to do the correct thing. He walked to the pond and began to practice.

At each step of the cast-present cycle, he looked at his hands, concentrating on letting go of the line before a cast, then pinching it against the cork to present. He moved through this cycle cleanly several times, even ignoring a few popping rises.

After 45 minutes, Cecil caught one only fish. But his hands had learned to release the fly line before each cast, then pinch it to the grip after each cast. Several more sessions of pond fishing and grass practice helped Cecil to gain the muscle memory of the fly fishing process.


“Hold on, I’ll show you again.” Charles announced his lesson at the start of their next outing.

But before he could hold forth, Cecil began fishing with confidence. As his hands went through the fly fishing process, his mind hunted for fish and reacted to the many strikes he got. At one point, Charles bragged, “I should charge for these lessons.” But Cecil was too busy setting the hook on another lunker to hear.

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