Learn to Cast at the Oakland Casting Club
The little-known club in the Oakland hills has a long history of champions, and anyone can join.
Photo by Pat Mazzera
Talk to any fisherman and you’ll hear the same thing about the people they’re fishing with, said Chris Korich: “The No. 1 complaint of fishing guys all over the world? These people can’t cast.” See, it doesn’t matter if a fisherman has the most expensive rod on the market, or if there’s a local guide telling him or her exactly what spot will always guarantee a good catch. If someone doesn’t know the basics of a good cast — the ability to precisely angle their fishing pole to a faraway target — their fishing trip will be long, boring, and unfulfilling.
A desire to avoid that fate is how people end up at the Oakland Casting Club, which Korich helps run. The club’s 130 members are the official stewards of a set of meticulous casting pools tucked away in a park in the Oakland hills, open to anyone wanting to improve his or her casting, whether they want to catch more trout on their next weekend fishing trip or simply enjoy the sport of casting. The club also offers a free lesson most months and assists with the Bay Area Youth Fly Fishers, an organization that aims to get more youth interested in the sport.
Anyone who decides to take one of the club’s lessons is in luck. The club boasts several world-champion casters as teachers, and in many cases, the club’s students have gone on to become champions themselves. “The bottom line is learning how to cast, especially learning to fly cast, is — at the beginning — a challenging thing. It’s not intuitive,” said Korich. “So you can go fumble and flail, or you can take advantage of a place like the Oakland Casting Club and show up and start to learn from some of the greatest casters in the country and the world.” It’s like if the Warriors opened up their practice facility, he said: “Who wouldn’t go use it?”
Korich, the club’s longest-standing member and over 100-time national casting champion, grew up two blocks from the Oakland Casting Club, which officially began in 1941. Intrigued, he started hanging around and eventually convinced some of the old timers to teach him how to cast. One of those teachers was Jimmy Green, the club’s first champion who won the world casting championship in 1937 as a 17-year-old. Under the tutelage of Green and other teachers, Korich won the world championship in 1976, also as a 17-year-old. In 2016, Korich’s casting student Maxine McCormick won the women’s world championship in Estonia. She was 12.
The reason Oakland casters are so successful is because they focus on fundamentals that many fishermen disregard. The club’s teachers emphasize basics like how to pick out the right equipment, how to adopt an ergonomic stance so casters aren’t tired after an hour, and what kind of strokes are most effective.
“Our secret is that we help people get their equipment so balanced that you can relax. And when you can relax, you don’t get tired,” Korich said. “You don’t want your casting to tire you out. Because as soon as you get tired, you can’t make an accurate cast any more, and then you start scaring fish.”
And once fishermen learn those basics and have settled on the appropriate rod for their body, the fun can really start.
“It’s Zen-y. It’s a relaxing sport,” said Alice Gillibert, one of the club’s board members. Gillibert joined in the 1980s and is an American Casting Association’s Hall of Fame member and holder of the association’s women’s angler’s fly distance record. “When you talk to the majority of the fly fishermen, a day where they don’t catch a fish? They don’t care. It usually is, ‘Well, I got out there and breathed some nice air, saw some beautiful country, and that’s the way it goes.’ You can’t catch them everyday, but you can enjoy what you’re doing.”
Anyone can join the club, and membership fees are $15 for juniors, $30 for individuals, and $40 for families. To learn more, visit OaklandCastingClub.org.