Free fly fishing at Golden Gate Park

July 6, 2011 7:52:27 PM PDT
If you're looking for something different to do this upcoming weekend, you might try the casting pools at Golden Gate Park. Free fly fishing lessons will be offered on Saturday at what is usually an overlooked, historic spot in San Francisco.

Across the street from the Golden Gate Park buffalo and next door to the San Francisco Police Department's stables, just follow the signs to a little slice of peace and beauty that sparkles like a gem.

the Angler's Lodge and Casting Pools are a 1938 WPA project, build for the Golden Gate Angling and Casting Club.

Armando Bernasconi, 89, wasn't here then, but he has been for the last 30 years and now he comes every day to keep watch at the lodge's entrance. He's known as The Godfather, and he says not much has changed in the last three decades.

"Pretty much the same, it's pretty much the same" Bernasconi says.

Club historian Tripp Diedrichs says the club started at Stow Lake in 1933.

"They had a facility where there was a tiny platform where two people could cast at the same time," Diedrichs said, "and people would go there and wait their turn to be able to practice their casting."

The club later convinced the city to build the lodge and ponds.

"If you look very closely, you can see a lot of this was hewn by hand," said Diedrichs.

Inside the lodge are floor-to-ceiling lockers filled with the stuff of fish stories. The club has 500 members, but the ponds are also open to the public.

The ponds are internationally known, one of the few urban places to practice and learn. Club president Tom Gong learned at the ponds and now teaches others.

"Some people prefer what is known as a fast rod," said Gong. "In that case, the rod bends almost only in the tip. Other people, all the way down, toward the grip."

National tournaments also put it on the map, and yet many San Franciscans don't realize it's right in their backyard.

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