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MailTribune.com
  • Cast-aways

    Free fly-casting clinics give novices and experts a chance to learn or just work out the kinks
  • Jean Jeager concentrates deftly at being in harmony with the fly line. As the line unfurls behind her and the loop stretches out, it forms the slightest tension on her fly rod and triggers what fly-fishers can spend years mastering.
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    • Everyone is invited
      Members of the Rogue FlyFishers Association will hold their free casting clinics from 6 to 7 p.m. on Mondays through September at the Hedrick Middle School football field, 1501 E. Jackson St., Medf...
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      Everyone is invited
      Members of the Rogue FlyFishers Association will hold their free casting clinics from 6 to 7 p.m. on Mondays through September at the Hedrick Middle School football field, 1501 E. Jackson St., Medford. Any level of experience is welcomed, and loaner equipment is available.

      For more information, visit the association's website at www.rogueflyfishers.org.
  • Jean Jeager concentrates deftly at being in harmony with the fly line. As the line unfurls behind her and the loop stretches out, it forms the slightest tension on her fly rod and triggers what fly-fishers can spend years mastering.
    With the line properly loaded, she flicks the rod from the 2 o'clock position to the 10 o'clock position. The green line loops forward and stretches out rhythmically before falling to earth, the yarn fly at the end of the leader quietly dimpling the 31-yard line.
    A beautiful cast for someone who's been a fly-fishing bum for all of three weeks, honing her new craft by casting on the grassy expanse known to locals as the Hedrick Middle School's football field off East Jackson Street in Medford.
    "It's not one of those things you walk up to and master," says Jeager, 67, of Sams Valley. "I think I'm going to be OK.
    "But I better learn how to do this here," she says. "I don't want to goof up when it's real."
    Jeager is one of a handful of neophyte anglers test-driving the sport of fly-fishing as part of a free series of Monday-evening casting clinics run by a clutch of casters who are more than willing to help stoke in others the obsessions they share for fooling fish with concoctions of feathers and fur.
    The Medford-based Rogue FlyFishers Association holds court from 6 to 7 p.m. each Monday through September with its free clinics at the Hedrick field, 1501 E. Jackson St.
    The clinics are designed for anyone from passersby wondering what all that line-flinging is about to newbies such as Jeager already bitten by the bug to long-time casters looking to hone their skills or simply work out the casting kinks before they hit the water for real again.
    "You never know who's going to show up," says John MacDiarmid, a certified casting instructor through the International Federation of Fly Fishers and the head of the clinics. "Sometimes it's new people like Jean, who really has picked it up quickly. Sometimes some really good, long-time casters come out and we celebrate casting together."
    A handful of Zen master-casters are on hand to help. Even some club-owned rods, reels and lines are available for those smart enough not to buy outfits before trying someone else's first.
    Theresa Schumacher has taken a rather dyslexic route to the Hedrick practice field. The Jacksonville woman took a fly-tying class over the winter, joined the Rogue FlyFishers and took a position on the board of directors before learning to cast.
    "I saw 'A River Runs Through It' two years ago and thought, 'I want to do that,' " she says.
    Also just three weeks into the world of the fly rod, Schumacher is toiling on a particularly difficult skill drill set up by MacDiarmid — a 30-foot cast to a small hoop, but with a stiff and variable cross-wind blowing left to right.
    Schumacher's casts begin spot-on, but the gusts knock her yarn ball off course.
    "If there was a fish there, I wouldn't catch it," she says.
    But she sticks with it, learning some side-arm tips from MacDiarmid to deal with windy conditions.
    "It's a good place to do it out here," Schumacher says. "It's just a tough technique to master."
    MacDiarmid is pleased with the progress of his new charge.
    "I find they get more enthused and more involved if you challenge them," he says.
    MacDiarmid started the summer tutorials five years ago at downtown Medford's Hawthorne Park, then moved it to Hedrick two years ago after fearing the downtown park's denizens scared some would-be casters away.
    Yet the mantra remains.
    "It's just like everything — you can learn it," MacDiarmid says. "Some pick it up quickly. Others, like me, take some time."
    He's sometimes joined by fellow club member Tom Collett, who offers Jaeger encouragement.
    "The only thing wrong with your casting is that you don't have any water to cast to," he says.
    Collett says it's important to not over-emphasize technique.
    "I always try to make it fun, tell them funny things so they don't get frustrated and quit," Collett says.
    MacDiarmid's weekly forays onto the Hedrick field are a pay-it-forward, pay-it-back exercise for all those free hours of instruction others have provided in their niche passions.
    "This is for all those people who coached my kids in soccer and basketball," he says. "It's empowering folks to go out there and have as much fun as we do."
    Jeager, for one, feels empowered. She and Schumacher joined MacDiarmid in a real-water outing last weekend at the Rogue River's "Holy Water" impoundment — the Rogue FlyFishers' home trout waters at the base of Lost Creek Dam.
    Jeager and Schumacher got skunked. And they have discovered that real flies are easier to cast than the hookless clumps of yarn getting flicked on Mondays at the Hedrick football field.
    "You don't really need a fly to practice," Jaeger says. "Besides, I don't want to kill anybody on the lawn."
    Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.
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