"Well, succeed for my sake, because then you'll be doing the finest thing for me. Hold the rod loosely. Imagine you have a pretty girl in your arms instead of a fly rod. De-tense yourself! She's not going to respond to you like that, is she? You must learn to take it nice and easy in all things."
A merciful thunderclap fell over my ignorance of girls and fly rods, and we repaired to a gamekeeper's shack, where I asked Ritz how he had developed his high-speed, high-line technique. "At first I didn't know what I was doing," he said. "People would tell me, 'Your line is so fast, we've never seen a line so fast in the air, and we've never seen one stay up as high and as long.' I paid no notice. I said, 'That's nice.' Then one day my friend, Pierre Creusevaut, the champion caster, said to me, 'Your casting is jerky. It lacks elegance.' But nevertheless I was faster on a fish than Pierre. 'Why is that?" I asked myself, and I realized that I am naturally jerky in all my movements. I began to analyze my casting, and I found that I was packing all my effort into one jerk.
"Then I went to a casting tournament in Zurich to see Jon Tarantino, the American who may be the best caster in the world, and I saw that he was doing the same thing: a short pull but a very fast one. So I said to him, 'Let's go to my laboratory: the Risle.' I took him there and he put on the finest exhibition of fly casting that I have ever seen, using the same controlled jerk. Now I was aware of all the mechanics except the short lift of the elbow. I watched Pierre Creusevaut casting for salmon in a film, and I saw the elbow lifting at the same time that he straightened his wrist and jerked his forearm up—zic! It was all done in such a short space that no one knew what he was doing, including Pierre himself. That was the last piece to fall into place in the high-speed, high-line system. It's not a big discovery. It has always existed. But no one ever explained it. Now, by using this system, by simple mechanics, brass tacks and logic, the mystery can be taken out of fly-fishing."
But isn't it true, I asked sagely, that neither the establishment of trout fishing nor the writers of fishing tomes nor the anglers themselves want to take the mystery out of trout fishing? Isn't the mystery part of the allure?
"Perhaps," said M. Charles. "There are many eekons in trout fishing."
"Icons?" I said.
"Yes. I don't want to disturb anyone, but some of the ideas are ridiculous. Such as matching the hatch. Of course, there are times when you should have a fly as alike as possible to the flies in the water. But the casting and the accuracy and how you present your fly and how fast it gets there and how it swims are all more important than matching the hatch.
"I've never been interested in flies. Flies annoy me. I don't want to spend hours changing flies all the time. Once I had 3,000 flies. Every time I fished I took with me a whole cabinet of them. And when I had taken a fish with a certain fly I'd run up and down telling everybody, 'I've got the right fly! Here's the fly. Take it and fish with it!' I was an easy victim at first.
"But I don't want to take away from the fisherman the pleasure of his flies. The fellow who ties beautiful flies, I like to look at them, I like to have some. But if I'd spent my time on flies I'd never have found out what I did about high-speed, high-line. So I use nothing but the Tups Indispensable, the Panama, the Lunn's Particular, the Bivisible and the Black Gnat. I use only these flies because I'm lazy. I put one on and I say, 'Damn it, now the fish has got to take this fly!' Sometimes I feel it would be better for me to change, but I leave the fly on anyhow, because I believe more in technique, getting on the fish as quickly as you can, letting the fly arrive there so fast that the trout doesn't know where it comes from and he's taken by surprise and he says, 'My God, that thing's gonna escape if I don't grab it.' I don't say I'm right, but with this system I don't have to waste my time fooling around with flies.
"But trout fishermen are believers. They believe in the leader, they believe in the line, they believe in the rod, the reel, balancing the rod with the reel, matching the rod to the fisherman, matching the hatch. That's all nonsense. The fly-fisherman should learn how to cast. He should adapt to the rod. But fishermen waste time and money matching the rod when they don't understand movement and muscles. With our system the fisherman can feel when he's got it right. There's a certain feeling, like when you hit a golf ball well."