09-02-2002, 10:22 AM
Chicago Tribune - Outdoors
09-02-2002, 12:51 PM
I couldn't access the article about this National event without registering at the newspaper's site; here's another link that might be of use to those interested in this group's tournaments.
09-02-2002, 02:11 PM
Sorry about that, Here it is.
Looks like 70 feet precision dry fly casts were the winner.
299-foot cast is on the (winning) money
Fly-flingers vie in U.S. tourney at Lincoln Park
August 4, 2002
Steve Rajeff flicked his right arm back and forth. The fishing line snaked through the air, coiling and straightening. Over and over again. False casts. He aimed, then let fly for real. The line landed in the center of one of the colored rings floating in the Lincoln Park North Pond.
"Such ease," said Florence Manasin, 86, the oldest member of the Chicago Angling and Casting Club, who was standing nearby.
Rajeff, 45, of Battleground, Wash., is a smoothie. His fly-casting line performs rope tricks that would have made Will Rogers envious. More important, he made the line behave the way he wanted it to during the American Casting Association National Tournament in Chicago last week.
One day, Rajeff was throwing line a record 299 feet, winning the quarter-ounce spinning distance title, and the next he was throwing line with nearly perfect accuracy to distances of 70 feet, giving him the dry-fly accuracy title. Rajeff's collection of national titles since he began competing at a top level in 1970 is approaching 30.
About 85 casters from 14 states, Canada and Sweden competed in the 94th championships, hosted in Chicago for the first time since 1943. The setting shifted from the shoreline of Lake Michigan for distance events to the tree-lined concrete pier behind the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum for accuracy events. Yet no amount of green completely shielded tall buildings and passing cars less than 100 yards from the playing fields.
"It's almost a surreal setting," Rajeff said. "You think of fishing in pristine waters, and here you're surrounded by skyscrapers and traffic. It's a totally unique place."
Landing the tournament was a coup for the local club, and officials hope its Chicago appearance will be a boon to the sport in the region.
"I've had so many people call me," said club President John Seroczynski, who competed as well as organized.
Casting for distance and accuracy mimics the skills needed to outsmart fish when fly-fishing. Yet no fish are involved in this discipline. "Catch anything?" is not the proper question to ask in this crowd. The most enthusiastic apostles, however, have no doubt that tournament casting makes them better fishermen.
"It helps a tremendous amount," said Rajeff, who spends perhaps 50 days a year fishing and only 10 casting. "It makes casting effortless and automatic. I know the dance steps, but I may not know the dance."
That means he is prepared for any basic fly-fishing situation and simply must read specific local conditions.
Manasin, a member of the Chicago club since 1934, received uniquely memorable instruction about form when she learned distance casting.
"I was told to put a book under your arm, and if it falls out, then you're holding your elbow out too far," she said.
Manasin fished with her late husband, Alfred, but said she didn't see many women competing in the early days of the club and doesn't see as many as she would like to now.
"Women just didn't get into fishing," she said. "I was a fisherman. The husbands went off and left the women at home. I think it will [grow]. Women are getting into all types of activities these days."
One who is helping the sport grow regardless of sex is Cathy Sero, niece of John Seroczynski. She offers free fly-casting lessons at the Lincoln Park site each Wednesday from 6:30 p.m. to dusk between April and September.
"People stop by who say they always wanted to do it," said Sero, who placed second in the women's trout fly accuracy competition.
Competition at the championships included divisions for women, children and men over 60. Jim Chapralis, 69, of Evanston, a veteran caster who returned to the sport in recent years, won medals and seemed particularly pleased by his second place in distance fly casting.
"Pretty good, I'd have to say," Chapralis said.
If Rajeff was the star on location, Henry Mittel, 37, a physicist from Union City, Calif., by way of Germany, was certainly someone to watch, accumulating a handful of silver and bronze medals. Mittel believes casting has made him a better fisherman because he can cope with wind or awkward shoreline conditions.
"It has helped me enjoy fishing more," Mittel said. "Casting isn't the difficult part. The variety of situations you can catch fish in is larger. You can try to catch fish where others can't."
Mittel came to town gunning for Rajeff, the record-holder in quarter-ounce hand spinning at 287 feet. On a windy day along Lake Michigan, Mittel unleashed a powerful cast of 294 feet. Record! Only Rajeff had a turn remaining at a different station. Unaware that his record and gold medal were in jeopardy, Rajeff popped his 299-foot throw.
"Everything fired perfectly," Rajeff said. "It didn't even seem like I made a fantastic cast. I didn't even know [about Mittel]. There was no pressure."
Rajeff knew the dance steps when he needed them.
Copyright © 2002, The Chicago Tribune
09-02-2002, 04:35 PM
I really wanted to go to that this year. I'll have to get to work on the sponsors earlier for next year. Except that I may be in Spain about that time. It sounds like they all had a total blast. Hal do you by any chance know if ESPN filmed it? John Seroczynski is supposed to be sending me a video at some point. If I am not totally tied up next year I will "definately" be there.
09-02-2002, 05:35 PM
No idea if ESPN filmed it but I suppose it is on film somewheres, like every thing else is these days.