"A Champion Distance Caster, Ron Arra Became Known For Being Able To Cast Clear Across The Cap Cod Canal" - Story By William Sisson/ Photos By Michael Cevoli
*Summary of Publication - To read the full article, download the copy of Anglers Journal Fall 2023 Edition or find it in your local Barnes and Noble and Sporting Goods Stores for Purchase*
In his prime, Ron Arra, the celebrated Cape Cod surf fisherman, was renowned for his awe-inspiring casting prowess, which earned him five national championships for distance casting between 1983 and 1988. His casting abilities were nothing short of remarkable, with achievements like casting a 54-ounce lead weight an astonishing 758 feet, and being the first person to hurl a tear-drop sinker 786 feet across Cape Cod Canal at Pole 100. These extraordinary feats were a testament to Arra's unwavering dedication, extensive practice, innate hand-eye coordination, and an almost instant muscle memory.
Today, at the age of 78, Arra continues to amaze observers with his casting skills. His typical casts in the Cape Cod Canal span between 300 and 475 feet, making him a force to be reckoned with, especially when chasing after large stripers. One aspect of his angling that sets his heart racing is witnessing the thrilling moment when stripers breach the surface to strike his surface plugs.
Arra's journey into the world of fishing began with a strong athletic background. His pursuit of a career in sports led him to minor league baseball, where he signed a contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1966. Although he had hoped to be an outfielder, the Pirates sought to convert him into a pitcher, which ultimately dashed his baseball dreams after just one year. He even tried out for the Boston Patriots of the American Football League, showcasing his versatility as a high school punter.
Even in his golden years, Arra remains active and committed to staying in shape. His daily routine includes walking or cycling, recognizing that maintaining physical fitness is key, especially as one advances in age.
However, fishing is just one facet of Arra's multi-faceted life. He's an all-around outdoorsman, participating in a wide array of activities that include woodworking, fly tying, ice fishing, and hunting. Furthermore, he is dedicated to sharing his woodworking skills with special-needs children, a vocation that lasted for 22 years, with 18 of those years being part of a program called The Home for Little Wanderers in Plymouth, Massachusetts. He has a deep sense of accomplishment from this experience, which speaks to his generous spirit and strong sense of purpose.
Beyond his remarkable casting, Arra is also an adept teacher and an accomplished author. He has imparted his casting wisdom to hundreds of individuals, helping them refine their techniques and achieve greater casting distances. His contributions to the fishing world extend to the publication of two casting books, co-authored with Curt Garfield, a former editor at Salt Water Sportsman magazine. One of these books, "The Ultimate Guide to Surfcasting," includes a foreword by the late New York Times outdoor columnist Nelson Bryant.
Arra's casting journey, particularly the development of his pendulum casting method, is a testament to his natural coordination and agility. He learned this technique by following a how-to article about British casting champion John Holden, an endeavor that eventually led to the creation of a modified pendulum cast more suited to everyday surf anglers seeking to improve their casting distance.
One thing that Arra, Bryant, and others concur on is that while casting distance is important, it is just one aspect of successful surf fishing. A deep understanding of factors such as reading the water, accounting for wind, weather, tide, time of day, lure selection, and retrieval methods are essential components of a skilled angler's toolkit. Arra's casting abilities, however, come into play when fish are just beyond the reach of other anglers, allowing him to excel in challenging conditions.
For all his accomplishments, Arra is deeply grounded and possesses a modest outlook. While he may no longer enjoy the same level of fame he once did, he remains influential in the fishing community. His image adorns Strike Pro lure boxes, and his name is printed on the plugs, which continue to attract clients seeking casting lessons. He has served as a design consultant and ambassador for several well-known fishing companies, including Penn Reels, Berkley, Lamiglas, Strike Pro, Spider Wire, AFTCO, Red Top Sporting Goods, Fuji guides, Sampo Tackle, and Maui Jim sunglasses. This is an impressive list of affiliations for a man who made the bold decision to leave a stable job with an architectural woodworking firm in Boston in 1977 to lead the life he had always dreamed of on Cape Cod. Arra had purchased a lot near Sandy Neck Beach back in 1968, a place where he had caught one of his first stripers as a youngster. Living on Cape Cod, surrounded by the beauty of the saltwater, has brought him immeasurable joy and fulfillment.
Accompanied by the approaching fall run, Arra's enthusiasm for the days when fish can be caught throughout the day is palpable. He has an undying love for the saltwater, its smell, and the mere sight of it. In his own words, "I've got salt in my blood."
A full day spent shadowing Arra reveals the breadth of his interests. He moves seamlessly from the Cape Cod Canal to the Long Pasture Wildlife Sanctuary on Barnstable Harbor, where he frequently casts for schoolies and gathers shellfish. Within 10 minutes of his home, he enjoys two freshwater ponds that hold trout and bass.
A dedicated angler, Arra exemplifies the mindset of true fishermen. His commitment to his craft is so profound that he often insists on meeting as early as 4 a.m., fearing someone might be fishing in his favored spot before he arrives. His passion is shared by many in the angling community, as evidenced by a story of an angler who, even after suffering a heart attack, was primarily concerned about whether someone had taken over his favorite fishing location.
His friends liken him to the legendary Boston Bruins hockey star, Bobby Orr, affectionately calling him the "Bobby Orr of surf fishing." Arra's presence in their lives is cherished, and they find great joy in spending more time, more water, and sharing more stories with him.
One of his longtime friends, Stephen Desisto, first encountered Arra at a sportsman show in Plymouth, where Arra was representing Lamiglas, a company that had created a series of Ron Arra surf rods, including a model that received the "best in show" distinction at a national fishing trade show. Desisto notes that many of Arra's friends have either passed away or aren't fishing as much anymore, but Arra himself shows no signs of slowing down. "He has to get out there. It's just in his blood. He's very driven."
Understanding the transient nature of fame, particularly in the world of angling, Arra has gracefully adapted to being less of a household name in the sport than he once was. However, he remains content with the recognition he has earned through casting, endorsements, and teaching. Riding his canal bike, which features five rod holders, along the bike path and wrestling big bass in the canal with conventional gear, brings him a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction that few experiences can match. His love for the Cape and the surrounding coastal landscape is evident as he enthusiastically declares, "It's a beautiful place, isn't it?".
Ron Arra, the Cape Cod surf fishing legend, embodies a lifetime of dedication, passion, and love for the water, casting his spells, not only with the fishing rod but also with his ability to inspire others through his teaching and his enduring spirit.