FORUM: Surface Iron

I was heading home from my morning walk to see friends working at the sport-fishing docks and stores in America’s Cup Harbor. As I approached the local nautical map and gift specialty store the renowned Captain Brian and his Crew (all now Captains) emerged from its front door. He’d purchased a map of the waters we normally fished, which would be displayed in the galley of his boat.

Brian asked me to demonstrate my “surface iron” casting technique. I would soon learn that this jargon described a metal lure which doesn’t sink well, designed to “swim” near the surface of the water. Never having tried before, I imitated a long-distance overhand cast. He shook his head “no” and imitated something I’d never seen before: I was mystified and clueless. Brian said to come by the boat next morning, and they’d check out my top-water technique. When I asked what kind of lure I should bring to cast, the Captain said to bring a three ounce weight. I can easily cast a three ounce lead torpedo weight more than a hundred yards, so I believed I’d surely impress the Captain and Crew.

The next morning I arrived at the dock, and the Captain and Crew stopped their work to watch me demonstrate my casting methodology. Without even wetting the line (to increase distance), using a 7-foot rod I casually flipped the three ounce weight towards open water at the docks. I had to manually stop the reel spool from spinning to abort the flight of the weight after it had travelled about 150 feet–to ensure no boats came in harms way.

The Captain said my approach would not successfully cast a three ounce top-water iron. They gave me such a lure, I tied it on, and when I tried my overhand cast the lure travelled perhaps twenty feet. One of the Crew demonstrated proper casting technique using an 8-foot rod, conventional reel, and 3-ounce top-water metal lure tied to the end of the leader. Clearly, this technique required specialized equipment (rod and reel), as well as practice and experience to master using the lure I was given.

I obtained a high-quality Super-Seeker 9-foot, 3-inch medium action (30 to 60 pound line) Ulua (“ah-loo-ah”) jig stick. My reel was a new Avet two-speed LX with 200-yards of 50-pound-test braid backing, and a 200-yard 40-pound monofilament top shot.

I practiced casting daily because I had a 5-day trip coming up shortly, and the Captain and Crew would want to see if I made any progress. I got to the point that: (a) if picked up the rod and made three perfect casts, then (b) I was able to execute at least five perfect casts subsequently before an error occurred. I discovered this rule by recording each cast in practice, then analyzing the data using a statistical methodology which I discovered, called optimal data analysis.

We had a great 5-day trip. Everyone was tired and we were preparing to head back home. I hadn’t used the top-water lure during the trip.

Nagged by the anglers, four Crew members agreed to perform a long-rod top-water lure casting demonstration. They took over the back deck, spacing themselves equally apart, holding their long sticks. Anglers stood back, out of the way, to watch the performance.

The left-most mate swooshed his cast, then the second, the third, and finally the fourth. None connected with a yellowtail—the species the lure is often used to catch. Their lures returned in the order and with the cadence they left, and were immediately recast in perfect harmony—they were an ideally tuned fishing machine.

My fishing teacher BG was aboard, and told me to get in the mix.

I picked up my Ulua for the first time this trip, went to the bow, and made three perfect casts.

Feeling like a freshman gladiator, I reassured myself: “trust the math, Planet!” I abandoned my trepidation and marched aft down the starboard rail toward the stern.

When I entered the fishing deck, the mates simultaneously stopped casting, exchanged glances, and saying nary a word immediately made room to fit me in the rotation. I was now the lead-off caster. Utter silence aboard was deafening, time slowed to a crawl, and my tunnel vision recognized only the spot where my lure would enter the ocean. I took a calming deep breath, focused my muscle memory, and made a superb cast—far, straight, classic. The mates cast in succession like robots. I fired my second cast in flawless timing—we were an ideally tuned fishing machine. I fired my third cast, returned unscathed, and made my escape—no sense challenging perfection…

Preparation is an antidote for fear.

Surface Iron

Paul R. Yarnold, Ph.D.

May 12, 2021

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