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Pulling a rabbit out of a... mailbox

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Willy Franzen
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Pulling a rabbit out of a... mailbox

#1

Post by Willy Franzen » Fri Aug 02, 2019 4:12 pm

Every year my favorite fishing lodge in Michigan hosts the Midnight Derby. It's a night fishing/mousing tournament that is more of a party than a tournament, though the goal is to catch and release a monster on the single fly that you've selected for the night. It's a ton of fun, and the party aspect usually includes two casting competitions. One changes from year to year--they've had distance casting with a very, very soft and short rod and trying to put a fly in a toilet bowl under an overhanging tree as many times as you can in a minute. I've won both of those, but the other event has eluded me.

The other contest is called the "Mailbox Challenge." It has stayed mostly the same over the years. There is a mailbox on a post about 4 feet off the ground. It has some rabbit strips in it. There is a rod, reel, line, and fly provided. The fly is a Hex fly--a large size 6 fully hackled dry fly--with it's point cut off but still enough of a bend. You have to cast from about 70 feet away and pull the rabbit strips out of the mailbox (they're not too far in there, but they're not hanging out the front). If you do, you win the rod. You can buy time (something like $5/minute and $20 for 5 minutes), and all the funds go to a local conservation organization.

No entrant has ever pulled the rabbit strips out of the mailbox, but the event organizer has twice. He used to provide a mismatched rod and line, but as he's realized how hard this is, he's offered more appropriate rod/line combos. Last year was a 6 weight Scott Meridian with a matching line, if I remember correctly.

I've come close many times. This is the closest...



If you have your sound on, you can hear my fly hit the top lip of the mailbox.

While I know that the best way to improve at this challenge is to practice casting a fly into a mailbox, I'm looking for advice on any tweaks I might be able to make to drive a large dry fly into a mailbox and pull out a pile of rabbit strips. I don't know what rod and line will be provided this year, but I'm guessing something like last year. My assumption is that you need as tight of a loop as possible and a lot of luck (or many attempts). What am I missing? It would probably help to do some practice with slo-mo video of the fly as it approaches the mailbox to see which casts give me a better trajectory. Any other ideas?

Dave Alexander
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Re: Pulling a rabbit out of a... mailbox

#2

Post by Dave Alexander » Fri Aug 02, 2019 9:19 pm

Sounds like a fun event. As I was reading I was thinking a tight loop. As you would want any angular sweep as a fly unfolds with a big loop. Maybe also you would want have to have the top leg of the loop lined up with the bottom floor of the mail box. I wonder if kneeling would help this?

Cheers,

Dave

Dave Alexander
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Re: Pulling a rabbit out of a... mailbox

#3

Post by Dave Alexander » Fri Aug 02, 2019 9:23 pm

Well apart from getting a mailbox set up.... small hoops hanging in the air might be a good start. It would help at least with general aim, tightening up the loop, the loops position, etc. Hanging hoops are bit easy set up if you have a tree.

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Graeme H
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Re: Pulling a rabbit out of a... mailbox

#4

Post by Graeme H » Sat Aug 03, 2019 12:08 am

Tight loops and learn to carry 70' of line so every forward cast has a good chance. If you're carrying 70' of line, then you would get ~30 shots every minute.

Sounds like a fun challenge in any case and I think I'll have a go at setting it you for myself.

Cheers,
Graeme
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Paul Arden
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Re: Pulling a rabbit out of a... mailbox

#5

Post by Paul Arden » Sat Aug 03, 2019 9:04 am

I would aim for the leader to collide with the mailbox near the bottom left corner and for the leader and fly to unroll into the opening. You definitely need a mailbox to practise - just don’t get caught pulling out letters :laugh:

Cheers, Paul
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SevenWeight
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Re: Pulling a rabbit out of a... mailbox

#6

Post by SevenWeight » Tue Aug 06, 2019 12:45 am

Triple-haul. Overshoot the mailbox in terms of velocity, not trajectory, and haul as the fly approaches the box so the fly and leader smack into the box. If you time it just right you might get lucky and haul the rabbit out.

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Willy Franzen
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Re: Pulling a rabbit out of a... mailbox

#7

Post by Willy Franzen » Tue Aug 06, 2019 8:09 pm

Dave Alexander wrote:
Fri Aug 02, 2019 9:19 pm
Sounds like a fun event. As I was reading I was thinking a tight loop. As you would want any angular sweep as a fly unfolds with a big loop. Maybe also you would want have to have the top leg of the loop lined up with the bottom floor of the mail box. I wonder if kneeling would help this?
Kneeling might help! I'm going to try that.
Graeme H wrote:
Sat Aug 03, 2019 12:08 am
Tight loops and learn to carry 70' of line so every forward cast has a good chance. If you're carrying 70' of line, then you would get ~30 shots every minute.
I need to try this. My fear is that I would end up catching on the mailbox and having to untangle. I once lassoed the mailbox and pulled it over. The rabbit strips fell out, but it didn't count. The line usually doesn't have that long of a head (probably an SA GPX or MPX), so a 70 foot carry can be a bit difficult.
Paul Arden wrote:
Sat Aug 03, 2019 9:04 am
I would aim for the leader to collide with the mailbox near the bottom left corner and for the leader and fly to unroll into the opening. You definitely need a mailbox to practise - just don’t get caught pulling out letters :laugh:
I'm guessing this assumes that I'm right handed, which I am. I think this will be helpful instead of just aiming for the entire opening.
SevenWeight wrote:
Tue Aug 06, 2019 12:45 am
Triple-haul. Overshoot the mailbox in terms of velocity, not trajectory, and haul as the fly approaches the box so the fly and leader smack into the box. If you time it just right you might get lucky and haul the rabbit out.
The triple haul will speed up the loop's turning over, right? I'm not sure I want that. My thought is that I want a still formed loop to hit the opening and for the fly leg to pile up inside the box. But overshooting in terms of velocity/distance seems right. I don't just want to put the fly in the box, but as much of the loop as I can... I think.

I know there's some video posted on here of loops hitting walls. Does anybody remember which post? Looking at those might be helpful.

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Re: Pulling a rabbit out of a... mailbox

#8

Post by Mangrove Cuckoo » Wed Aug 07, 2019 11:34 am

A distance of 70 total?

Minus your leader, minus your rod... that is only about a 50 carry. That is less than the head on many distance lines.

How tall is the box?

If you keep your rod tip at around that height you should be able to create a tight loop with no shooting. False cast a few times just to the side of the box to get dialed in, then just move the line over. Tilting the loop to the diagonal of the opening, like Paul suggests will help too... and is a natural consequence if your rod plane is tilted low because of the height of the box.

This type of challenge was a common task at our annual club picnic years ago... but we did not win a rod! Just bragging rights. I still have the PVC kit that we set up as the "mailbox" somewhere.

You could make up a practice target easily and cheap!
“Very simple man. Catching fish makes me happy. Scaringly simple.”

Håvard Stubø

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Paul Arden
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Re: Pulling a rabbit out of a... mailbox

#9

Post by Paul Arden » Wed Aug 07, 2019 2:22 pm

I think you also need to have excellent control over the amount of line that you intend to stick through the box. It needs to be quite a short length of leader. When I try to cast through standing hoops, I hover the fly in front of the lower edge corner and then shoot a little line into the backcast and on the forward delivery shoot nothing. You definitely want to be using pull-back to set the loop.

I will try this. Do you have the dimensions of the opening and it’s height above ground?

Thanks, Paul
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Willy Franzen
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Re: Pulling a rabbit out of a... mailbox

#10

Post by Willy Franzen » Wed Aug 07, 2019 2:51 pm

Yes, 70 total--so the carry is probably doable even with a short headed line. They definitely don't provide a distance line!

The box is a little less than 4 feet off the ground (42" - 46" to the top of the mailbox is the United States Postal Service standard) and 8 inches wide, 11.5 inches tall, and 22.5 inches long (I'm assuming it's a standard large mailbox).

I know the real answer here is to practice, but I don't have a reasonable way to set that up considering that I live in the middle of Chicago. I'm heading up to Michigan tomorrow, so I will have a day or two to get some practice in--maybe even with the actual mailbox.

Lots of helpful ideas here! Can't wait to try them.

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