Reel Passion

Competitive fly-casting is a lifetime fling.

"Well," Rajeff says modestly, contacted at his day job as a rod designer at Washington-based G. Loomis, "I guess I could put five casts in a row on top of a soda can -- if it was just pulling the fly out of the water and then placing it back in the same place."

And, he adds, it's true that he's been known to toss a tennis ball into a lake and then nail it a half-dozen times in a row with spin-casting equipment. But that's just showing off. Even more impressive has been his casting under pressure, in tournaments. At one competition, Rajeff cast at 67 targets and hit 61 of them. The six times he missed, his casts were each off by less than a foot. Rajeff has been equally deft at distance casting. His longest one-handed fly-fishing cast, a contest in which a nine-foot rod is used, is 238 feet -- the U.S. record. In the two-handed category (which calls for a seventeen-foot rod), he's hurled a line 290 feet. So, for example, if an angler needed to place a jig into a hole across Invesco Field, Rajeff could do it.

Such skills have resulted in an unprecedented run of victories, and for more than a generation, Rajeff has dominated the sport, perhaps more so than any single person in any competitive athletic endeavor. He won his first all-around national American Casting Association championship in 1972; since then, he's lost the title only once (he came in a close second), sewing up the tournament an astounding 31 of 32 times. It's as if Jimmy Connors, who won his first Wimbledon title in 1974, were still playing professional tennis and hadn't lost the tournament since.

Christopher Smith

Back at Utah Park, where a deluge-like rainstorm has just passed, a handful of members of the Cherry Creek Anglers Chapter of Trout Unlimited are beginning to show up. Many unpack their latest early-season, barely used equipment. Bostwick, who makes a handsome second income guiding and teaching casting, has agreed to host a free casting clinic.

The club members watch as the master methodically whips his $680 Sage rod (the company is a sponsor) from the ten o'clock position to the two o'clock, like a metronome, placing cast after cast straight and true.

"Three hours of practice a day," muses one man, a Texas transplant. He shakes his head as Bostwick uncurls another cast yards in front, his yarn alighting gently on the wet grass. "I don't put in three hours in a year."

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