Style vs. Technique

This brief article was written in mid-June, 2012, after listening to some rodmakers and fly casters discuss casting “style”.

 

A few days ago I attended a gathering of bamboo rod builders and aficionados on the Henry’s Fork River.  I enjoy these yearly gatherings as a chance to visit with friends, try out some new and classic rods, and observe a lot of flycasting.  This year’s gathering did not disappoint.  Some of the most interesting talk revolved around the question of casting styles.

It has long been my belief that the word “style” is generally misused in reference to casting.  All too often, “style” is used to describe what is actually poor technique.  That is, a kind of “style” is attributed to a caster as a way to explain the look of his casting, when what really explains the look is nothing more than flawed technique.  More correctly, only those individuals that possess fundamentally sound technique should be assigned a “style”.

Consider, for example, professional golfers.  By and large, they all possess good technique (sound fundamentals), but a close examination of their swings reveals that no two golfers look exactly alike. They all have slightly different ways of accomplishing the same thing.  Indeed, they have different styles.  It is important to understand, then, that style always follows fundamentals; you can’t be said to have one until you own the other. For the majority of amateur golfers, the errors in their swings are not manifestations of a particular style.  They are errors of technique.

The same is true for fly casters.  Ninety-eight percent of us have major fundamental flaws in our casting strokes. Consequently, we do not really own a “style” (since our strokes are best defined by their faults).  There’s nothing wrong with this.  Rather, it’s to be expected.  Most fly fishermen have never had a fly casting lesson, and among those who have, many were subject to questionable teachings.

Harboring a few casting flaws doesn’t necessarily mean our time spent fishing will be less enjoyable than it would otherwise. But I do think we’re better off when we recognize our shortcomings and work to improve them, rather than hiding them under the guise of “style”.  And I can assure you that improving your casting will always improve your catching.  So let’s reserve the descriptions of style for those among us who deserve them—the fundamentally sound.