My Trip to the CLA

Blenhiem Palace 

As I sit down and begin to write this to you, I am still trying to shake the last bit of jet lag out of my eyes. The Time that I have been back has been plugged by guide trips and shop time. The reality of the trip not setting in until now. The things I saw, the people I met, and the things I accomplished. Are now starting to weigh on my mind.

The Bridge at Carron, what a site!!

The Weather is Scotland reminded me of Portland, Or. As I stepped out of the Glasgow airport the 63 degree rainy air, it felt like home. James awaiting my arrival. With a heavy hand shake and smiles we were off. The drive from Glasgow to Kilsyth was short and sweet, mainly because James and I were catching up and talking fishing, history, and the gamefair. Before I was even able to drop off my bags and situate my things. We had pulled into a small gravel parking lot. Where there were about 5 other cars already. James winked and smiled,”lets go meet the boys”. I then realized where I was. We were at the quarry. The quarry is a distance casters dream. A ton or room, easy to wade, a solid platform, and a tall cliff 62 yards from the platform that makes a great target and measuring tape! if you catch my drift.

James, the man, the myth, and legend.

The boys at the quarry were all ages and casting levels. Everyone of them had the bug, they wanted to be better casters. The quarry has just a great atmosphere and it is relaxing and fishing stories and small talk jokes and laughter were all common. To all the boys at “The Quarry” you guys kick ass!

Getting some good practice at “the Quarry”

There is not enough to be said about James Chalmers. He is many things. A line wizard, casting bad ass, history major, and has more connections to the fishing world than maybe anybody I have ever met. James got the job of looking after me for the duration of my trip. If that was not enough, the man even managed to put together some fishing time on the River Spey. James you are the man, and a great friend. I will be seeing you real soon buddy.

Malcolm, Duffer, and I fishing the Spey.

As the week pushed on the practices started to mean more. Then with the arrival of Gerard Downey aka “the Champ” we really started getting ready. All the team members preparing themselves for the up and coming battle. James, Ian, Gerard, and myself were living the life of a distance caster training at an Olympic level. Eating, sleeping, and living for nothing but spey casting. I must admit I did fall in love with the roll & sausage with a tattie scone and the brown sauce. A lovely way to start your day. Couple that with a nice spot of tea and milk, now your talking. Breakfast of casting champions. I also had to dabble in the world of Mt. Dew substitutions. The only thing that’s was recommended was Irn Bru. A super caffeinated version of Fanta, American Fanta I must say not the UK version. Here and there I was able to get a hold of the good Dr. Pepper. For the most part high octane caffeine drinks were scarce.

Got to support the team.

On the other hand I did try a few of the local beers and some of them were stellar. Being from the North West we pride ourselves on good beer. The couple I will mention might not make the top of the list here, were very good beers and even here would receive high marks. The first was 70 shilling, and the second was John Smith’s Extra Smooth. Awesome amber colored full flavored beer if your are in the UK and are in need of a good beer you can use these recommendations.

One of the fine UK beers I sampled.

Now it was time to make the pilgrimage to England for the big show! Big was an understatement. The CLA gamefair was easily one of the best run, organizes, and largest venue of any kinda I have ever been to. The energy of the show is electric, make one just boil with excitement. Over the 3 days that I was at the fair, I don’t think I managed to see even 20% of the stuff. This place is massive. Upon entering the gates of the fair on Friday, promptly at 8:30 am we made the almost 3/4 mile walk to the Spey casting platform. Just as I thought things were already underway. The team quickly assembled our weapons. taking a close look at our leaders and running lines before our first shots at the platform. The first set of casts and the last set of casts at the CLA will be etched in my mind forever. The morning was the coolest of the days at the gamefair. the wind slightly blowing from right to left. not real great for a right handed caster. The other competitors trickling in, and everybody sizing one another up. There was nobody stand offish or anything like that at all. Everybody there was super happy and friendly, better yet loved distance Spey Casting. Talking lines, rods, and running lines and leaders was just like at the comps back home. We all share similar ideas no matter where in the world you are. anxiously I walked over and placed my name on the heat list. Waiting for my named to be called I took my first real good look at the course. The 30 degree angle change seemed narrow, and the direction of the cast was what I though odd when compared to the casting platform. The buoys seemed to stretch forever, highlighting every 10 meters with a bright orange buoy. By the time I was able to get in my first set of casts, the gamefair was in full swing. People everywhere, going every direction. Stepping out on to the casting platform my hands started to sweat. I politely intro ducted myself to the Judge on the platform. quickly judging the wind, I saw the boat judges raise there hands to signal that they were ready to begin. The platform judge started counting down from 5, 4. I now new that at 1 it was go time, 3..2. I looked quickly down the rod to make sure that the line was not wrapped. 1!! At the CLA you must start casting with the leader in your hand. Making part of your 4 min. getting the line out and enough running line off the reel so that if you do hit a big cast your ready. I was ready for this, at home I had practiced under a timed situation. I pulled off the shooting head and set it up then went to stripping off the running line. 25 pulls should do it. Trying to relax I made a few switch casts attempting to get the feel of the rod I had been casting now for a week. Finally I felt the tip on that one, I told myself. Here we go! Life seemed to be in slow motion. I watched the anchor touch the water and I was into my forward progress. The tip loaded and off was my first cast. Being the first American caster over to the CLA in about 7 or 8 years, I was under to watchful eye of the casters as well as the crowed. My first cast was good not great but good. Now the feeling of confidence came over me. From that point on I just seemed to get smoother and better, making me feel more and more confident casting on the platform.

Getting some casts in the night before the finals.

The days went by so fast, everything after that kinda a blur. All that came to a screeching halt when Gerard Downey, good friend and also a member of the Carron Casting team. Late on the morning of Sunday the 24 of July made history right in front of the world myself included. when he Broke his own world record!! From the perpendicular vantage point I had that cast was the second must impressive cast I have ever seen. The first most impressive happen later that day when Gerard again smash that record in the finals of the CLA. On his last cast in true championship form he set a distance in Spey casting that I think will be around for a while. 70.63 meters is a long ways out there. I thought that I was casting well and a cast like that can just reset you perspective on the possibility of the Spey casting. Gerard you are nothing short of a true gentleman and that was a pleasure to watch. Another part of the trip I won’t ever forget.

The guys and I holding the weekends winnings.

The crowed and myself started to settle down as “The Champ” walked off the platform. A standing ovation was given, and rightly so. The powers that be quickly assembled the top 6 finalist for a photo and to start the awards ceremony. 3 members of the Carron team made the finals. Carron received a first and a second. All were there to witness a new milestone in casting with a new world record in the books. Plus we brought home the manufactures trophy. What a week! I can’t wait until next years CLA. I might already be practicing.

I would say I had the time of my life. As it is with most great experiences the people you are with make the trip. Thanks again Big Ian, James, Malcolm, Gerard, and all the boys at the quarry. You made my trip worth every second.

The Champ in action.

To anybody interested in the CLA gamefair, here is the link Gamefair. If you are interested in competition casting them I would start here Carron rods and lines.

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