Mel Krieger

The Essence of Flycasting

Reviewed by Martin Joergensen

Hi fellow fly line fumblers,

The unstoppable book reviewer strikes again. This time it's on a subject that has been discussed on Flyfish@ a couple of times: learning to cast from a book. As a new addition I'll also look at the accompnying two videos.

A recent discussion on the FLYFISH@ list was on Krieger vs. Kreh, but I can really only cast half a light on that, because the only one of the two I've read/seen is:

  • Mel Krieger
  • The Essence of Flycasting
  • Published 1987 by Club Pacific, San Francisco
  • ISBN: 0-944169-02-3
  • Price: I paid US$ 25.- through a friend in Colorado.
Supported by two videos:
  • The Essence of Flycasting, Basics and Advanced Techniques.
(I borrowed them and don't have the excact titles or prices)

This book is very stylish, kind of mellow in the visual tone and held in beautiful B/W. People who have met Krieger (or seen his videos) will know that he is not excactly B/W. On the opposite: he's a colorfull, enthusiastic, noisy, acting-all-kinds-of-roles type of instructor.

The book is still an aestethic joy. The pictures are beyond description: In spite of being (or maybe rather because they are) B/W they show every detail with stunning clearity. This is both due to Kriegers abilities as a caster: doing things right (or wrong on purpose) every time, but also owes a lot to the photographer Ben Blackwell.
This is one of the few cases where I'm tempted to say: photos are more illustrative than drawings. There are a few drawings in the book, but they are bleak compared to the photos. The schematic ones do their job, but the ones featuring Krieger are surpassed by the photos in all aspects.

Also the typography is beautiful. I know some people regard this with indifference. Bad typography can teach you to cast a fly as well. True, but bad typography won't keep you reading.

The text is fairly short. It doesn't talk in length about tackle or different kinds of fishing, but teaches you to cast right from the start. The grip and the basic casts with emphasis on the roll cast - a new way to teach casting for me.

The book covers many aspects of casting and Krieger is a good instructor - even in writing. Apart from starting with the roll cast he also preaches to practise your casts with the butt section of your rod or even without a rod. It makes sense: acting the movements again and again until they come from the spine and not the brain. Especially when learning the double haul, I think this can be a key to success for many casters.

Kriger covers different casts in addition to the 'normal' cast: the Belgian cast, different presentation casts, casting across your shoulder and of course the roll cast. He stresses his major points all the way through: applying power and loading the rod. These essentials are really the core in his message: learn to control that and you can do any cast.

In the videos the message is the same, but... the media shure is different! Here you get Krieger for full throttle and the quiet, slightly bent over, humble type depicted in the book suddenly becomes the real, lively Mel Kriger talking to *you* in person.

It's almost too much, actually. In real life his style creates the attention and entertainment necesarry to keep a large crowd listening. He often instructs dozens of people at once, and needs to be visible. But on the video it seems a bit intimidating. It doesn't really work when he says: >Get out of the chair right now! Turn off the VCR and start practising'.

Even so he gets the message across, and living pictures are good at showing the dynamics in casting. I enjoyed the second video a lot. In this Krieger and his allies (Rajeff and several others) take you beyond the basic cast and tries to give you the extra distance, better double hauls, nicer presentations, the Spey cast and more. Krieger also looks at the (bio)mechanics of casting, a bit superficial unfortunately, but still extremely interesting. This second video is not as fast paced as the first one. It doesn't >scare' as much. Any caster - new and old - can learn something here.

The essential question is of course: can you learn casting from a book.? Even with books/videos of this caliber I'd say: no! A live instructor is a must. Using the book and the videos will help, but still the interaction between instructor and pupil is missing. But for learning the concepts this combo is among the best I've seen.

How to get to Albert Hall? Practise man, practise...


PS: I'll try to get a hand on the Kreh counterpart if possible

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