Sometimes it only takes a couple of minutes to help someone enjoy the outdoors.
That thought occurred to me a few days ago as I hiked the exercise path that encircles a lake near my home.
One lap beforehand, I’d seen a fellow having a bit of trouble stringing up his fly rod. Instead of threading the doubled fly line through the guides, he was feeding the tip of the leader through. At one point, I saw the leader slip out of his fingers and slide backward through the guides.
I thought about showing him the doubled-line trick, but didn’t want to intrude. I kept walking.
By the time I came around again, he’d gotten the rod strung and had started casting.
He clearly didn’t have much fly casting experience; his rod tip traveled slowly, in a semicircle instead of in a straight line, and his casts flopped only a few feet out into the lake.
I slowed to a stop.
“Would you like some unsolicited advice?” I asked. “I think it might help you cast a little better.”
“Yes,” he replied. “What am I doing wrong?”
“I think you have too much ‘back’ in your back cast,” I said. “Try thinking of it as an ‘up’ cast. That will help you stop the rod in the right spot.”
He handed the rod to me. “Why don’t you show me?”
I demonstrated how to make the rod tip travel in a straight line instead of an arc; how and when to apply power during the casting stroke; and how to make the line land straight onto the water, even in a crosswind.
He was a quick learner. Within only a few tries, he began laying out better casts.
“Good,” I said. “Now, if you want to cast a little farther, you’ll need to apply a little more power. Think of driving a nail with a hammer; keep your wrist firm, accelerate gradually and put a little ‘pop’ into it right at the end. Do that on the back cast and on the forward cast.”
His next couple of casts zipped out quite nicely.
“Work on that for a while,” I said. “I’ll check in with you on my next lap around.”
By the time I returned 10 minutes later, his casting had become considerably more purposeful and consistent.
“You’re doing great,” I said. “And I just thought of something that will give you a better idea what your line is doing. Stand sideways so you can watch both your back cast and your forward cast. That way, you’ll be able to see what the line does as it moves in both directions.”
I stepped in and demonstrated. On one cast, I stripped out a little extra line and showed him how to get more distance by “shooting” it out on the forward cast. He seemed surprised that it was possible to cast that far. I assured him that, with a little practice, he’d soon be casting even farther.
He took the rod back and asked my name. I told him mine, and he told me his. I handed him a business card. “Call me if you have more questions,” I said. “Have fun.”
By the time I completed another lap around the lake, the fellow had finished his practice and was stowing his rod into the back of his car. He thanked me for the lesson, and I complimented him on how quickly he’d picked up the techniques.
We shook hands and parted company.
As I drove home a short while later, it dawned on me that the few minutes I’d spent giving that guy a brief lesson might someday help him spend many pleasurable hours using that fly rod to catch fish.
It also dawned on me that it doesn’t take any special virtue to help someone enjoy the outdoors. More often than not, it only takes a little time.