April 2007 Cannon’s Creel

Do you suffer from ARRTI Syndrome? Here are some tips for beating this debilitating disease.

David Cannon | April 3, 2007

David Cannon

Each year, millions of patients are diagnosed with one of the thousands of physical and psychological disorders and syndromes; some serious, some not so serious, some affecting significant numbers and others not. One such disorder that you won’t find in any of the major medical journals, despite the fact that it can be observed alongside almost any stream containing trout, is known as ARRTI Syndrome (pronounced Ahr-tee), and it affects many who fish with a long rod and feathered hook.

ARRTI Syndrome is a condition that produces an intense, often irresistible urge to fly cast unnecessarily long distances over numerous suitable areas of trout habitat that lie much closer, including but not limited to deep runs, seams, riffles and even pocket water. ARRTI can cause unpleasant sensations, usually while attempting to manage a large amount of slack line or mend at long distances over multiple varying currents. Reeling in a few feet of line sometimes provides temporary relief, but someone who suffers from ARRTI often unknowingly and almost immediately begins stripping line from the reel again, which can lead to severe fatigue and difficulty enjoying a day astream.

Surprisingly, ARRTI Syndrome has been around for almost 15 years now, though it has spent most of that time flying under the radar, and was first observed shortly following the release of the movie after which it is named, A River Runs Through It (ARRTI). Many flocked to the sport in the early ’90s, inspired into action by the film’s breathtaking scenery and long, graceful, almost poetic casts to eagerly rising fish. These picturesque images are the probable causes for the birth of this syndrome. One scene in particular is most likely responsible; the scene where Paul Maclean catches one last trout before he meets an untimely death.

In what is essentially the climax of the movie, younger brother Paul, played by Brad Pitt, spots an especially attractive eddy adjacent to a fast, frothy current and between two boulders on the far bank. Against all odds, Paul executes the perfect roll cast and sets his large dry fly in just the right spot. In the split second that the fly settles on the water, and just before the current can pull his fly line and create an unnatural drag on his fly, a dark, heavy figure rolls beneath the water’s surface, takes the fly and, before being landed, proceeds to drag Pitt’s stuntman through some Class IV rapids.

What the untrained eye doesn’t notice in the midst of all the suspense and excitement is the multitude of great trout-holding water that Paul casts over to get to that one fishy-looking spot.

An Appalachian-American (a.k.a. hillbilly) who wished to be identified by the name “Dredger” reported sighting several ARRTI-afflicted anglers in just one afternoon on the Chattahoochee tailwater.

“There was a good caddis hatch in the afternoon, and the guys who were keeping their casts short were just killin’ ’em because they could manage their line and get a good drag-free drift,” Dredger said. “But the guys who were making these long, pretty casts were only catchin’ a couple because they really just had too much line out to manage.”

Now, we can all admit that casting long distances is something that is a heck of a lot of fun to do. It takes skill and, for most of us, fly casting is what initially attracted us to fly fishing. And while pursuing gamefish in saltwater or fishing a large western river requires the ability to cast 60 feet or more, on our trout streams here in Georgia, a cast exceeding 30 feet is rarely needed and oftentimes not possible because of tight conditions.

Nevertheless, many Georgians still suffer from the condition. In fact, it is possible to have ARRTI and not even know it. So, to better help determine if you have ARRTI, carefully examine this list of symptoms. You may have ARRTI if you:

• Experience a strong desire to cast to the opposite bank, no matter where you are standing.
• Find yourself consistently performing a double-haul while fishing the Smith Creek Delayed Harvest.
• Ditch your standard- or mid-arbor fly reel in lieu of an orange extension cord reel which has a greater line capacity.
• Can always see your backing and/or the inside of your reel spool.
• Find yourself searching through books on fishing knots for an effective fly-line-to-fly-line connection.
• Forego backing altogether to make room for more, castable fly line.
• Prefer stiff, fast-action fly rods, even in two- and three-weight models.
• “Accidentally” take your eight-weight rod to a headwater stream, then justify it by telling yourself it will more effectively “punch through the wind” and “turn over those large, bushy dry flies.”

If you experience any of the aforementioned symptoms and can admit to them, you’ve already taken the first step to recovery. There are several treatment options available, and the sooner you begin treatment, the better.

One step is to measure from the tip of your fly line back about 20 feet. Take a permanent marker and color a thick, black line with it. Try to keep that line on your reel or inside of your rod guides at all times on your next outing. This will force you to focus on the area within about 30 feet of you (20 feet of fly line plus 8 to 10 feet of leader), and also cause you to pay more attention to your stealth and fish-stalking abilities, which can never be too good.

Another good tip is to fish with your non-casting hand behind your back. This will remedy the problem of unknowingly stripping line off the reel to make that long cast and fish over the trout that are right in front of you.

If, while reading this, you’ve discovered that you have A River Runs Through It Syndrome, take heart; there are many out there who share this pain with you.

Just resolve to decrease the length of your cast, then watch your catch rate significantly increase.

Become a GON subscriber and enjoy full access to ALL of our content.

New monthly payment option available!


Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.