Largely Unknown Pasadena Sports Club Hosts National Championships This Week

Enthusiastic members practice finesse their sport’s skills in a beautiful Arroyo setting

Published : Monday, July 29, 2019 | 5:22 AM

A national spotlight will shine this week onto a 72-year-old Pasadena sports club whose avid members frequent a largely-unknown pool and clubhouse in the Arroyo Seco.

No, not the Rose Bowl Aquatic Center — rather the Pasadena Casting Club, whose beautiful casting pool and Clubhouse will be the scene Saturday and Sunday of the accuracy casting portion of the American Casting Association’s National Casting Championship.

The Championship’s competition starts Thursday with the distance casting portion taking place on the Rose Bowl Stadium Lawn in Lot H.

Many Pasadenans know nothing about either the Pasadena Casting Club or its somewhat hidden pool in the heart of Lower Arroyo Seco Park. The Club’s casting pool is one of only three in California.

Board member and public relations head Eric Callow said Pasadena Casting Club is an immensely fulfilling social and sporting group that’s conservation-minded.

Eric Callow

“The Club is really alive, especially right now,” he said. “When it first started back in the late-1940s and through the ’50s and ’60s, it was very much a casting Club. Look at the original logo of the Club. The symbol is competitive tournament casting and it’s got the targets and the plug in the fly. But you know, sometime in the 1970s that started to fade out, it became more of a fishing Club that really worked on their casting.

“About 10 years ago a group of us started getting serious about our casting,” he said. “About that time I got involved with a separate program sponsored by the fly fishers international group to become a certified casting instructor.

“That was in the early ’90s when some prominent casters and fisherman were concerned that people were learning from people who might each be qualified but weren’t on the same page and weren’t teaching from the same book and didn’t have standards in terms of the methodology of teaching. I had to unlearn about 40 years of bad casting habits.

Callow said the Club launched a program whereby qualified instructors were provided every Sunday afternoon and people can call ahead and make a reservation to come down and be taught.

“And that was a great success,” he said. “And really elicited a lot of activity and got a lot of people on the course of learning how to cast better and more proficiently and, and become better fisherman in the process. And that process generated more interest in becoming instructors. So activity begets activity and so we’re still enjoying the fruits of that initial effort.”

As for the upcoming tournament, the history goes back a long way, he said.

“A member Michael Miller decided he wanted to get into tournament casting, a series of competitive games, primarily accuracy games that you play with a fly rod. He started competing in the local tournaments, then the national tournament and he inspired me to get involved as well.”

The positive energy is shown in other ways too, Callow said.

“I mean there are some outstanding fly-tiers who generously share their enthusiasm and skills,” he said. “They teach and create opportunities for people to come in and, and learn how to tie flies better. And that’s, that’s a wonderful skill in and of itself. And so there’s a tremendous energy in the Club right now.”

He said that energy is also reflected in the Club’s relationship with the City of Pasadena.

“In the 1990s the Club lost control of the pond and about half of the use of the pond because of the installation of trees in the area that’s needed for back-casting,” he said.

“There was one tree in particular that was taking up almost half of the south end of the pond. So I led a campaign to help restore use of the pond.”

Callow said the Club, ultimately, was successful in its quest.

“I’ve been fly fishing since I was a little kid, where my mother grew up in Southern Idaho and I spent time up there from the time I was young, fishing with my cousins on the famous Wood River outside of Ketchum in Sun Valley, Idaho,” Callow said. “So I joined the Club in 1994 and joined the board in ’97, and spearheaded the reworking of our grounds.

“The grounds were left out of the project that redeveloped the park, and were pretty unsightly,” he recalled. “So I started a joint effort with the city to re-landscape and to create a California Native Garden on the grounds, which we continue to maintain. In fact, our garden was on the Theodore Payne Foundation, California Native Garden tour just a few years ago.”

With the conservation of nature-oriented Club, and an agreement with the city, the Club serves a great purpose today.

“The pond was built for fly casting and this particular pond was built in 1955 and was rebuilt in 2010,” Callow said. “The deal has always been between the casting Club and the city of Pasadena that if the City would provide a facility, we will provide the programs and the personnel to teach all and sundry the joys of fishing and casting and we will be a resource to your population and the deal has been kept on both sides.”

Finding Like-Minded Fly Fishing Enthusiasts

While some of the members of the Club are locals, many have come from a distance away. But, says Club president Adrian Uribe, there is always an effort made to help new enthusiasts.

Adrian Cid Uribe

“Sundays there’s always a PCC [Pasadena Casting Club -- Editor’s note] board member down at the pond to let people in and help them get fishing,” Uribe said.

Uribe, like apparently all the members of the Club, came to the group via a circuitous route.

He grew up in Sacramento and came to Los Angeles to attend UCLA for his undergraduate degree. His family is originally from Nebraska and relocated to Sacramento in the 1950s. That’s when his family’s love for fly fishing started.

Uribe went to UC Davis for Law School. After graduation he came back to LA to open his law practice.

“My Dad gave me a small loan and I started that way,” he said. “So I wanted to open up my law practice and a fly shop, a fly fishing store. I wanted to open up a fly shop here in South Pasadena on Mission Road, you know, to have a combination fly shop and a law practice in the back.

“The owner of the building where I was going to rent told me, ‘I don’t think it’s a good idea to do a fly fishing shop and a law practice. Just open up your law practice. If you want to get involved with fly fishing, I know of the Pasadena Casting Club.’ He said, ‘I have to vouch for you to join it and I will.’

“He referred me to them and that’s how I found out about the Club, through this gentleman,” Uribe said. “And you know I don’t remember his name and I actually never saw him again.”

For Uribe, fly fishing quenches a desire to be out in the great outdoors that golfing can’t sate.

“I still play golf with them to hang out with them,” he said. “But that’s not ‘The great outdoors,’ on a golf course and having drink service and stuff. With the Pasadena Casting Club we have outings, like up in the San Gabriel mountains.”

A New Generation Takes Hold

Carl Crawford grew up in Los Angeles at a time when children could safely ride bikes around the neighborhood unsupervised and didn’t have to come home until dinner time. He’d like to see kids go outside a little more.

Crawford said the new generation is catching on to fly fishing. It doesn’t necessarily mean they have to be good at it, either. But the outings up to the mountains help give young people a new outlook on life.

Carl Crawford

“I read a statistic recently that the average American kid spends nine minutes a day outdoors,” he said. “During the summertime when I was growing up, I just had to be home when the streetlights came on. I grew up in Los Angeles, the city of LA was my backyard.”

“There are many children who, they’ve never been to the local mountains,” he said. I’m not talking about the Sierra, I’m talking about right here. You know, our San Gabriel mountains.

“It’s shocking, the large number of children who’ve never been to the beach,” he said. “And so this, you know, this is the way to expose youngsters to the outdoors and to get them to see that, you know, there’s, there’s other things that you can do other than, you know, sitting, playing video games, like you said, sitting on the computer.”

Crawford and the Club give classes to the kids on a range of subjects related to ecology and the environment that relate to fly fishing. Part of that is learning how to master the art of landing the fly on the water when casting.

“If you learn how to cast it properly, it’ll propel the fly into the water and it’ll land softly and gently, just like a real bug would. And when that happens, if you’re in the vicinity of a fish, you’re in the game. So we study the flows of the stream, the occurrence where a fish is most likely to be versus where they’re not likely to be.

We study all of those things. We learn about the currents, the watersheds, what makes a stream a good stream versus one that isn’t, the water’s gotta be clear. It’s gotta be cool. So they learn a lot about those things. And in the midst of all that, we also teach them conservation and why we have to keep our streams clean.”

Fly fishing is a lot different than regular fishing, he said.

“You know, there’s another type of fishing, the more traditional type of fishing, where you use bait and lures and worms. With fly fishing you can’t use real flies because they’re too delicate to tie. So you have to use artificial flies. And so in our classes we teach them a little bit about the bugs and entomology, which is the study of the bugs.

“Well we try to mimic the bugs, particularly those that the trout eat in the streams,” Crawford said. “And there are fly patterns that look just like the bugs or they simulate them closely enough. There are a lot of people that make a hobby out of tying these flies also. So these are hand-tied flies that we use. And so that’s part of the teaching, We go through with the youngsters in that, we teach them just where this whole thing about flies came from.

And the group outings are a good opportunity to get away.

“We’ll turn over rocks to see what kind of bugs live by the stream,” he said. “Some kids don’t even want to fish but they enjoy finding the bugs.”

The 111th ACA National Casting Championship will be hosted by the Pasadena Casting Club this week, with Distance Casting on August 1 and 2 at the Rose Bowl Stadium Lawn in Lot H and Accuracy Casting on August 3 and 4 at Tournament Casting Pool in Lower Arroyo Park.

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