BEETHOVEN AND THE FLY SWATTER
This Classically Innovative Casting Technique Has Beginners
Challenging Tough Fish In Just 45 Minutes
Terry W. Sheely
A cheap plastic fly swatter, Beethoven’s booming Fifth Symphony and East Cape fly guide Mike Rieser, when thrown together for 45 minutes can teach a beginner to pick up a fly rod and punch out casts with enough oomph and skill to hook marlin, sails, wahoo, roosters, dorado, tuna and most other surface-running big dream saltwater fish.
“Beethoven and the Fly Swatter” is an innovative short-fast casting course that Rieser’s fly-guide partner John Matson developed for their Sea of Cortez and Rocky Mountain clientele. It’s a short course thatw orks just as well in cold northern waters or fly fishers challenging albacore off California, coho in the Northwest, and any other salt or fresh water fishery that needs to be tackled with heavy rods and lines.
Developed by Matson, the casting instruction that Rieser, a full-time fly guide at Van Wormer’s Punta Colorada in Baja, teaches has evolved into a Classical one two, swat and cast system. It’s the result of three decades of guiding beginners to big game fly-fishing adventures in the Rocky Mountains and Sea of Cortez.
This year, for the first time, Beethoven and the Fly Swatter is being taught at the Federation of Fly Fishers conclave in West Yellowstone, according to Matson.
In less time than it takes to mix a decent dorado seviche, Beethoven, the Fly Swatter and Rieser zap the big-gear intimidation factor, and have novices delivering 10-inch macho mullet patterns on 12-weight rods straight into bare-knuckle brawls with some of the hottest game fish in the ocean.
Here’s how they do it…
PART ONE: Casting With Fly Swatter
1. Caster stands back against a wall holding a standard fly swatter in the master casting hand.
2. Re-position one-half step forward away from the wall.
3. With the fly swatter in hand, the caster is asked to imagine a housefly resting on the wall directly behind the casting arm and slightly above head-high.
4: With a stiff wrist and backhand swing swat the fly, and hold the fly swatter in swat position on the wall.
5. Now add the pounding classical rhythm of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, go ahead and hum it – Da…Da..Da..Da…Dum!
6. On the first Da the fly swatter whacks the fly against the wall and stays there through the quick-pace of second,third and fourth Da (the classic three-count timing pause between back and forward casts). At the fourth Da the swatter moves smoothly forward, and on the resounding Dum it is slammed to a stop.
Miss a Da on the backcast, and you not only ‘cheat Beethoven,’ Rieser warns, but worse you blow the timing of the composition, the backcast doesn’t have time to unroll the rod won’t load, and the forward cast will collapse like a First Chair violinist
with flaccid strings.
PART TWO: Pulling The Bungee
1. Attach a 24-inch loop of bungee cord to the handle of the fly swatter.
2: The stretch-cord will compensate for every student’s tendency in the double haul to make the initial line pull and forget the second. The bungee recoil takes care of that.
3: Hold the bungee in the line hand.
4: Make the backcast to Fly Swatter Da, pull the bungee down, hold it through the three Da..Da..Da notes, then follow the swatter forward into the cast.
Getting the timing down for the bungee double haul will take most beginners about 20 repetitive minutes to master, Rieser says. The difference between Beethoven swatting over salt or fresh water is a matter of volume control. Hum Da…Da..Da..Da…Dum loud and with gusto for saltwater power and quiet and softly for trout.
Practice with Beethoven, the Fly Swatter and Bungee for 40 minutes, then trade in the swatter for a rod, the bungee for line but keep the Fifth Symphony Da…Da..Da..Da…Dum pounding in your psyche. “The system works so well,” Rieser says, “because the student learns the casting stroke kinesthetically, developing muscle memory before they ever pick up a fly rod, and without the distractions of being on fishing water.”
The fly-on-the-wall-swat of the back cast establishes a precise stopping point with the wrist in perfect position with no way to drift back in anticipation of the forward cast. Timing the forward cast to the first four notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony develops muscle memory timing and once that’s developed the instructor can start fine tuning the stroke. “This builds confidence” Rieser points out, “and opens the beginner to accepting positive corrections.
“Mistakes in the stroke are easily corrected without having to go into the precise technical mechanics of the fly stroke,” the instructor adds. “Mechanical explanations
for most beginners are confusing and get in the way of learning to cast.”
“For years,” Matson points out, “we have tried to make the art of fly casting much harder than it needs to be, where the ego of the instructor became the focus and not the student. Our goal in developing this system is to get someone casting as soon as they can, to get them on the water having fun.
Forty minutes with a fly swatter, five minutes of practice with an actual fly rod and game-on. “This is all it takes to get beginners on the water and fishing. They can always come back later to learn the finer points of casting,” Matson said.
“When I get in a hurry and my casts start falling apart,” Matson admits, “I play Beethoven in my mind and somehow it all comes back together again.”
Instructor Mike Rieser shows Merry Waugh, the first swat, back up and stop--Da Pause while the line straightens. Da..Da..Da forward and progressively faster. Dum!
Now substitute swatter for rod. back, pause, forward Da..Da.Da.Da...Dum and stop, Da Dum.
Poof-You’re a fly-caster.