Maxine McCormick began fly casting when she was 9 years old. At 14, she has back-to-back world titles.
By Shelby Pope
As the competitors in the 2016 Flycasting World Championships arrived at their hotel in Nelijarve, Estonia, some noticed a 12-year-old girl jumping on the hotel’s trampoline.
The girl, Maxine McCormick of San Francisco, was not a tourist. She was their competition.
Maxine was competing in four events in the biennial championships of this niche sport, in which the world’s best handlers of flies and rods test their skills in a series of accuracy and distance competitions. Maxine, instead of tinkering with her equipment ahead of the competition or fretting over the wind, spent most of her time on the trampoline, jumping or lying down and reading on it. Once, she fell asleep.
Then she trounced every other woman in the competition’s most popular event, trout accuracy, in which competitors cast into a series of rings. Her score was also higher than those of all the men except one: her coach, Chris Korich. She placed third in the salmon distance event, using back muscles honed by hours of tree climbing to propel her line 127 feet.
“She’s the most efficient fly caster on the planet,” said Korich, who has been coaching Maxine since 2013. “I don’t know anyone in history that can claim to be better.”
In the five years since Maxine began fly casting — which she describes as “fly fishing without the fish” — she has become the sport’s youngest champion. And this weekend, at 14, she defended her accuracy title at the world championships in England with a score of 52 in the women’s division — 21 points clear of the second-place finisher. She also won the salmon distance category.
“I never knew I would become this good at anything,” Maxine said in a recent interview.
Anita Strand, the nine-time world champion caster from Norway who took silver in the 2016 accuracy event, recalled watching in awe as Maxine pivoted between two existences — world champion fly caster and child.
Now, she is no longer the tiny girl on the trampoline. She’s a teenager, taller and stronger, favoring fashionable clothing instead of the utilitarian outfits of most of her competitors. At practice, she’s focused and quiet, and when she starts casting, her dark eyes narrow to a frown as she attacks her target.
Maxine’s speedy journey to casting supremacy began when her father, Glenn McCormick, took her to the Golden Gate Angling & Casting Club in San Francisco in 2013. Like most people who come to the club’s pools, he simply wanted to become a better fisherman.