Casting Ponds: New England Alternatives?

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Standing on the banks of Spy Pond, in Arlington, MA, one sees a lot of things: bikers, runners, strollers, cars, and the odd kayakers. Today one could see something else and, to judge from the look of surprise on many faces, something unexpected: three fly fishermen, practicing their Spey casts.

For many fly fishermen winter is a time when we reconsider our gear and, having fell victim to a series of good sales, we restock for the new season. There are new lines to be cast. New rods to be flexed. The risk of all of this, of course, is that should you not test this gear on the water, instead of upon the excitable waters of your mind, then you could easily find yourself on a riverbank, hours from a store, with very expensive pieces of monofilament and graphite who are about as well-matched as a 12 year old to his first cigar.

Which leads me to a sentence I don’t often write: sometimes, I wish I lived in Oakland. But only for one reason (the proximity to good wine, a great city, and plentiful sunshine aside): they have a world famous casting pond.

The Oakland Casting Club is the fly caster’s dream practice location. (To be fair, so too is the Golden Gate Angling and Casting Club.) The large, shallow pools provide ample space in a highly controlled environment. Large, calm bodies of water make for ideal conditions for the beginner to improve, and the experienced caster to try out a few new tricks. The Club hosts lessons, tournaments, and doesn’t discriminate against spin fishing, etc. What’s more: they’re all open to the public, all year round. It’s a gear-head’s crucible: where ideas can be tested, and found to fail, in relative safety.

Sadly, we don’t have anything like the Oakland Casting Club in New England. Going slightly further afield, there used to be casting pools in Brooklyn. There is, of course, Joan Wulff’s famous school in the Catskills, and there are classes held by L.L.Bean out of the Freeport mothership. But casting ponds? I don’t know of any in New England, nor of any that used be here (but if I’m wrong on that, please do let me know).

Such a paucity of casting pools is liable to make a dedicated fly fisherman in search of a place to test his new rod and line combo a bit desperate. Case in point: archive photos of a guy in the Purple Panda outfit (from Mr Roger’s Neighborhood) casting a split cane bamboo rod in the still, unpopulated waters of the Boston Public Garden. The accompanying photo, of the dumbfounded police officer, hat removed, speaks to just how unfamiliar the site of someone practice casting in New England is.

And so it was that we headed to Spy Pond. When I first rode past it, I did what I always do with water: surveyed it for the presence of fish, and then means of reaching those fish. The beach by the parking rotary struck me as too public to fish, but as a perfect place to practice casting. Today confirmed that suspicion.

As the Google Earth visual shows, a shallow, sandy bottom extends for a few yards, making for stable, safe footing. Rocks also line the banks, providing you with elevation, should you desire to stay dry or have more height to simulate casting from a bank. It’s wide enough to provide you room to cast a big D loop for Spey casts, and enough of a cast cast to teach or practice traditional overhand casting as well.


The beach at the top of this photo makes for a great casting location — when it’s not populated by hordes of children.

There are, of course, a few downsides: the bikers, dogs, and runners behind you. The children who, curious and unfamiliar with fly fishing, come racing toward your backcast in near silence. The watchful and curious gaze of many who think you’re either nuts or breaking the law. And the used condom, collected in the floating flotsam at the water’s edge.¬†Other than that, it was just like the banks of the Beaverkill.

Do you have a spot that you like to use for casting? Are there any ponds or lakes or even rivers that have a good spot for practicing?¬†Given that no one will be sharing their favorite fishing spot, I hope people will feel comfortable sharing a place where they practice — if they practice at all.

I leave you with this: Brendan, who hadn’t picked up a Spey rod before today, nailing the timing. Nice.

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5 thoughts on “Casting Ponds: New England Alternatives?

  1. Ben: That is one wonderful post. The Purple Panda actually surfaced somewhere in Maine, if memory serves, with a 7’9″ Garrison in hand. He has not been seen since.

    These posts are going to gather a following. H

  2. Great find, very jealous. Apparently the old Abercrombie & Fitch flagship in NYC had a casting pond on the roof! Now my only option is to sneak onto the rooftop of one of those fancy high rises and convert their swimming pool…

    • Lee: Good point! I should have mentioned the Abercrombie casting pond. And I’m still sorry we never swung a fly under the Manhattan Bridge. The eddies behind those pillars looked like they could have held some good fish!

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