Impressions From The CLA Game Fair 2004
I just returned late last night after a wonderful few days at the 2004 CLA Game Fair at Blenheim Palace (birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, and the Duke of Marlborough's house - awesome pad for sure). This was a wonderful setting for the Game Fair, and many thanks to Christine Ilseley, the Game Fair organizer, Brian & Aline Pilcher, David, and Julie from Musto, Robin, Steve, and the boys from Daiwa/Alltmor, Andy Murray, Pud, Gavin, Johnny, Richard, and the folks at Hardy, the Barbeque guys, Jimmy Jack and Gwenyth from Carron, Jon, Peter and all the boys for tirelessly officiating (and others from the Salmon and Trout Association for their help), some guy from AAPGAI for ripping up the marker ropes and making an interesting Sunday morning, Malcom for letting me try his rod, Michael Evans for his great emcee work, humor and letting us cast his cool new stuff, and finally Brian and Judith O'Keefe for support and humor (now I know what a Lurcher is).
If any readers have not made it to one of these events, especially the folks stateside, words cannnot communicate the vastness of this "Fair". The fishing village alone is larger than the biggest combined show we have in the states, and I would bet that to see all there is would take well more than the three days alloted the event!
The Musto competition was again a great learning experience. To see the different styles, and the evolution of such along with the evolution of equipment (mostly lines) has been a fascinating over the past few years. The exponential improvement in the standards of Spey casting defy comprehension. In 2001, the winning cast was around 42 yards. In 2003, the winning cast was 51 yards. This year, just to QUALIFY, one had to cast around 50 yards, and a 48 yard cast was only good enough for a cast off for the last spot in the finals! This standard is more telling when one considers that the qualifying was done on still water, with an angle change close to 60+ degrees or more (due to wind and the marker line drifting), and into a downstream/headwind.
Scott McKenzie's performance was nothing short of awesome. Scott is a giant among men - his level of casting and technique is simply that much better, and currently, he has no peer. He was the only caster not apparently affected by wind (58 yards in qualifying, 59 in the finals!!!), and it has been a fascinating and privileged study over the last year studying his style, and spending many hours on the phone with him! The most technically obsessed caster has to be Andrew Toft, highest marks for persistence and committment to meticulous technique, adn a second place finish with 54 yards! Heartfelt congratulations to young Gordon and James in their first competition, and to my buddies Steve and Ian for sharing third place with 53 yard casts.
I have noticed, however, that since 2002, when Steve and I first went over to see how we and our line would fare against REAL speycasters, the number of participants enrolling in the event has decreased in inverse proportion to the increase in the distances cast. Whereas about 60 folks entered the first event, I would guess that less than a dozen entered this year. I find this troubling and somewhat sad, as I think the event for most is more about fun and personal bests than trying to cast 100 yards. I can only hope that more give it a try next year, and I find it to be an incredibly useful and unique leraning experience, though certainly humbling!
Special thanks to Paul Arden for his lesson on single hand casting - looking forward to seeing you in a week or so in West Jellystone!