Chalk up the National Capital Casting Club as another starveling of the technology and TV age.
Time was when the gentle folks who make up the club had booming weekly social gatherings. Headquarters was the Reflecting Pool on the Mall; great clusters of casters converged on Sundays for hours of solitary tossing and retrieving and lowkey chit-chat about knots, lines and the vagaries of accuracy and distance.
It was 1932; few had a pair of dimes to rub together but everyone had time, and the hours passed quickly on the grassy banks. Strollers came and went; and some stopped to passed the time and wound up signing on. Dues were $3 a year.
At one point, membership soared to 150 and the club was busy from spring to fall scheduling tournaments and sending casters to compete in Baltimore, Paterson, N.J., Norfolk, Hagerstown.
Then came technology. In the '40s the industry set the angling community atwitter with the introduction of spinning and spincasting gear. Fishing lost a piece of its artistry; anglers could learn all they needed to know with a quick lesson from the salesman.
Then came TV, and Sunday afternoons were a time for glassy-eyed obeisance to Y.A. Tittle's pirouettes, right there with the family in the comfort of your own home.
And finally came 1971 and revolution. Camped out by the thousands in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial, urban guerillas felt the chill of April evenings and set to work tearing apart the faltering club's storage boxes for firewood.
"They burned the boxes and threw all the targets in the pool," said Jay Reed, who has been with the club 44 years.
Now the National Capital Casting Club embarks on its 45th year, its members dwindled to 20 some. Home is the Annandale campus of Northern Virginia Community College, where orange steel hula-hoop targets dot the still waters of the little pond at the foot of the ultramodern campus.
Membership is still $3 a year, but time is money in 1977 and few have the inclination to while away hours flipping barbless flies and tossing plugs into empty rings in dark water.
One who does is Cliff Netherton, a retired D.C. high school phys ed teacher who has parlayed his devotion to the silent sport of casting into a retirement vocation.
Netherton has always been a little apart from his time. He discovered the magnificence that still is suburban Great Falls way back in the postwar years, and built himself a brick home on five acres of woods. Today his neighbors drive to work in Mercedes Benzes and amuse themselves with show horses.
Netherton found time between his class and baseball and track coaching at Wilson and later Anacostia to start casting clubs for his students.
And he competed himself. He retired five years ago and since then he's been in international casting tournaments in England, Australia and South Africa. He has coauthored one book on casting and angling and his own book is just completed and off to the publishers.
Netherton passes his time these days in the little casting cottage he built behind his house when his hobby outgrew his home. It's neat as a pin, with logs aglow in the spotless. Franklin stove and at least 100 immaculate rod-and-reel combinations tucked carefully away in holders along the walls. There are trophies and tackle, files and notes.
Netherton teaches casting to continuing education classes at NVCC and travels the country giving lectures to groups aiming to start "life sports" programs in their schools.
And on Saturday he and the other drift down to NVCC pond armed with fly rods, baitcasters and spinning rigs. They cast, and hopes for folks to show up.
The season opens this Sunday at 10 a.m. and most of the club should be on hand. There's no obligation to join if you feel like dropping by, and the members delight in offering advice on fishing gear and how to handle it.
But bring along $3. At that price it's criminal to resist.