“Hocus Pocus”

a very dark day needs some light to balance it out. this article cum memoir kindly sent in by Mark Surtees gleams with childhood fears that turn to admiration, magic, the realisation and appreciation that fly fishing is a lot more than just catching fish and most importantly, at least in my eyes, how we as sharers or teachers share and teach our passions. all too often, the what takes over the how but as with light and darkness, one doesn’t really mean anything without the other.

thanks again Mark for giving our readers another gem to reflect on and enjoy.


Hocus Pocus
(Focus, 1972)

Was it for fun as a kid on holiday or day trip? Perhaps it was in adolescence to distract you from a life of petty criminality, a developing meth habit or a wicked and dangerous career out on the cultural edge in politics, accountancy or law. Maybe it was as an adult just to help de-stress. Whenever it was, the chances are, one way or another, you were actively taught to fish. Very few people pick up fishing tackle of any description without encouragement and brief instruction from a third party.

My Grandfather taught me. Over cold fishless winters he would sit, black suited, in his high back chair, smoking bitter navy cut cigarettes, sour as wormwood, silent, waiting. Sometimes he looked at me with his old crow eyes and I wondered if he would lean forward and peck out my soul…..he didn’t, but I was only six years old and very, very afraid of him.

One spring, when the grasses were still flat from the snow and the primroses bloomed on the banks, I went with him to fish the local river. We sat among the streamside flowers and I watched him tackle up. He cast a beaten up bamboo rod with a broken tip that was patched with a short length of brass tubing, a greased kingfisher silk line and flies from an old mock tortoiseshell fly box which contained a few nondescript patterns he had tied himself long ago. I could see his fly land on the surface of the water, float a little, then disappear as a trout rose amongst the ripples in the run and took it.

For an impressionable little boy it was an act of unimaginable and astonishing magic, a fish conjured seemingly from nowhere. This relatively simple, deliberate and entirely expected catch on the part of my Grandfather caused a radical and entirely unexpected transformation in my childish opinion of him. I moved instantly from fear to fascination. I was six, he was a caster of spells, so I naturally concluded that he was, very obviously… a Wizard.

I begged him to teach me the magic, and, as I grew up, he did. It was of necessity an inexact, imperfect, ad hoc sort of instruction but it was a gift from Grandfather to Grandson of almost inestimable value. I think he knew that…me? I had no idea and he died long before I realised.

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Of course we all know that magic tricks do not happen by accident. They are repeatable, infused with purpose and completely within the control of the magician. Their objective is to deceive, just as ours is to deceive a trout in the stream when we fish.

Whilst, hopefully, we do not seek to actively bamboozle our clients in quite the same way, our lessons too are not, in many respects, significantly different to a well executed trick. If we structure and objectivise them properly then we too may surprise, amaze and delight.

Useful objectives should be observably measurable as far as is reasonably practicable and when we pick them they should be within the power of the student to achieve.
Appropriate selection of these achievable objectives allows students to build a succession of small but consistent learning wins. Each win a learned skill and each learned skill used to develop a new one and/or reinforce an old one.

For an instructor teaching within a “whole, part, whole” schema, it becomes critical to select suitable objectives so that common faults can be actively taught out without introducing negativity to the process. By doing this, within reason of course, new skills can be made to compound and combine largely error free.

That there are objectives for a student is a given. What is not so obvious, or maybe just not so often admitted, is that there are personal objectives for the instructor too. Whilst we may all wear the ego boosting insignia of our qualifications, the official regalia and psycho-protective badgery cannot really mask the ghastly truth, which is that we all, (well, most of us), have the same wonky limbic system and full complement of cognitive frailties as everyone else. So, I too want wins because this gives me a sense of achievement and I know I will instruct better and my student will learn better in a teaching environment which is giving us both positive rather than negative feedback.

In this context, although we clearly need subsets of grimly practical casting targets, there is no need to be emotionally dry with more abstract over-riding aims. Instruction isn’t just about a perfect PULD (Pick Up and Lay Down) or tail free loop, a quintuple toe hauled Jelly Roll or a cast out to the backing knot, it’s also a little bit about making people feel happy.

As a goal, I have to admit that this is very easy to say, not as easy as I ever first imagined to achieve and very difficult to objectively measure. But, sometimes, just sometimes, when you have had to do your very best sorcery to make it all happen, when those casts pop out from the turmoil like my Grandfathers perfect little trout from the ripple in the run, when you are dancing in a monastery garden with a beautiful laughing woman or being hugged by a big beardy biker on a wet suburban rugby pitch when the lessons end, then, you feel happy…and I like that…my Grandfather would have liked it too I think.

Mark Surtees ☺

hookless fly-fishing

here’s a little something different from Lee Spencer, way different.

i can relate to Lee’s story as i used to live right next to a wee stream in the french Pyrenees that apart from making lovely gurgling noises, had a very healthy population of gorgeous native brown trout. they weren’t of course, but these where ‘my’ trout if you see what i mean. i’d go look at them every day to see how they where doing, dream off into that dream place that being streamside takes one and of course learned a lot about how they lived, behaved and interacted socially, some of them even had names.

by wee i mean that at this level the stream was often no more than one metre wide. being completely wild and untouched by man and with lush vegetation abound, the stream itself was more often than not a green tunnel with a flow. once the obstacles of actually getting an imitation into their feeding spots where figured out, this being a Bow and Arrow cast nine.nine times out of ten because that was the only possible solution, getting these beauties to take a fly was relatively simple, they didn’t know anything about fishing pressure and in their world things that look like food generally are food but hooking up quickly became a problem, something the Bow and Arrow cast only tactic might have alluded to; there was no room to move the rod up, across or down to fight and land the fish. at this point i was already getting into the ‘it’s more about the strike than the fight and land‘ frame of mind so, the idea of cutting off the whole hook bend of a completed fly came to mind and was perfect for this particular situation.
i got my strike thrill, the little fishies i loved so much never really knew what was going on and remained where they’re supposed to be and i could do all this without breaking any more rod tips…

of course, i’m not expecting a lot of other anglers to go fishing without hooks but it’s a little something to think about. like mentioned earlier, it’s different, enjoy !


“Back in 1998 Lee Spencer did two things that changed his relationship with the big steelhead of the North Umpqua River.
He agreed to become the first full-time FishWatch guardian of the Big Bend Pool on Steamboat Creek, where as many as 400 large steelhead spend the summer in startlingly plain sight after swimming up the North Umpqua to spawn.
And he started cutting the points off the hooks on his flies… “

actually, just the points:

pointless-fly
“Everybody thought I was crazy, To me the whole peak of everything is the strike or the boil. Everything after that is downhill. Especially if you have to wait a long time to land the fish.
When you get a fish on, you get a run and a jump and at the jump it will throw the hook. That was satisfying enough for me.”

-click the image for the complete article on Deseret News-

Stewards Of The River Or Pillagers ?

reproduced in full with Mac Brown‘s kind permission, here’s a rant but it’s a good thought-provoking rant.

aimed at certain professionals in the fly fishing industry and other, as Mac calls them, profiteers, it’s about fishery welfare in the warmer months where water temps are simply too high and oxygen depraved to responsibly fish species such as salmonids that are poorly equipped to deal with the situation in it’s natural state and even less when they’ve had to also deal with having been caught.

now, most experienced anglers will know that once the water temps reach 68°F/20°C its time to back off but that’s not always the case. for local fishers who live in warmer climes and care to know, it’s a given but what about the well-intentioned novice or not-so-well-informed fishers or, traveling anglers ?
as an example, when i lived in Sweden the concept was completely unheard of as water temps tend to always stay cool enough even when air temps can be quite -actually downright- hot, and i’m guessing the same example can be equally valid for anglers in other parts of the world and all that leads us to the ‘Stewardship‘ part which is everyone’s responsibility. in my opinion it’s not just about setting professionals and profiteers right (actually, shaming sounds better… ), but also of sharing this information with those who don’t know. experience has taught me that if we take a minute, explain things simply with a good positive attitude, nine times out of the ten the message gets through and it’s readily accepted and everyone’s happy, specially the fish.

thanks again, Mac. keepem’ coming.


This short piece is my attempt to increase awareness about problems facing many of our trout waters, in my region as well as many around the globe. In our hemisphere, high summer water temperatures stress the local trout fisheries, and should be a sign to concerned anglers that it is time to leave the stream for another day.

Independent guides and fly shops who book trips should be ardent advocates for keeping streams healthy. But often they’re not. Conflicts arise because the summer tourist season occurs when most of our trout streams become stressed. July and August for trout fishing in Western NC is the off season! When the early morning water temps approach 70 F, it is best to look for something else.

Warm water fishing for smallmouth bass, perch, bluegill, is a better choice. Carp is one of my favorite species to target during summer.

Shops and outfitters who tell you different are profiteers, not stewards of the resource. They look at the short-term, since even they know that trout caught in 70+ F water have a very dicey chance of survival.

These profiteers actually hurt the resources they claim to love and protect! This becomes an ethical decision for those customers that are hell bent on trying to catch a mountain trout during the wrong season!

If you want to trout fish in July or August for vacation then head to Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, or Colorado! Fly fishing has more appeal in recent years, and now vacationers throw it into the mix of rafting, horseback riding, zip-lining, mountain biking, hiking, and many other great activities the Smoky Mountains area offers. The difference with angling when it is too warm is that in no way can it be good for fish or angler!

Shops and profiteer guides should be offering clients a change of species during the hot summer months. Guides can teach learning to read water, casting, rigging, stream-side techniques, and a host of other aspects of the sport.

This might provide opportunities like targeting Chub for learning nymphing techniques through the middle of the day. Chub provide plenty of subtle strikes just like trout! Here is a trophy from a few days ago on one of my favorite streams in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park with my 10-year-old son.

Excessive fishing pressure is an increasing problem on many delayed harvest trout streams, due mostly to the increasing number of new fly fishers as well as an excess of fishing guides and outfitters. There is a big difference between how much room to leave fellow anglers on a Delayed Harvest stream versus a wild stream. The wild stream requires perhaps a mile or more out of sight. On the Delayed Harvest stream that may be only a 30 feet. Delayed harvest waters receive many numbers of trout that tend to stay together when they are first stocked.

Often, local guides work when and where they can, through shops or other outfitters. Part of the issue is that these guides’ experience levels are all over the place. In my region, The Smoky Mountains, there are too many fishing guides. An Ozark term my grandfather used to say is “the market is glutted.” Many shops and outfitters just look for bodies to fill slots on their books, regardless of experience and knowledge of the area. In my area, guide prices range from $80 to well over $500 for the same trip on the same water.

The difference of what you come away with learning and also catching is quite obvious if you really do your homework first. In fly fishing especially, you get what you pay for.

Most area tourists would hope the local shop will give them credible information. And this is typically true in the Western states for the hundreds of reputable shops.

But, in my opinion, the Southeast is a circus show, with the exception of a few quality shops. People pay hard-earned money for a quality trip. The older I get, the more twisted our sport seems to be growing.

And it’s happening all over the globe. Social media — like advertising on Google Ads, Facebook, Instagram — can enable anyone to compete for clients in their region or create a website or blog by paying SEO experts for internet exposure! I am sure you have all heard that if it is on the internet “it must be true”!

The important question folks should be asking is can the instructor teach casting and line control to provide a drag-free float? Can they teach techniques that will stay with you for a lifetime of enjoyment fly fishing? Will your trip have guides that are enablers to improve your overall skill set on the stream? Will it be a mundane afternoon of bobber lobbing with hearing only the words “mend it, mend it again, mend it” rather than adjusting to the rigging and tactic appropriate for the moment?

Another important question –, regardless of skill, teaching ability, qualifications, certifications, does it even matter to the client? Is it only about who is the cheapest price overall? So this Disney approach to the sport is something that will take me a while to get my head around since I have pushed hard for very high quality trips for close to thirty years now.

It seems to me that down the road this has to “Make America Dumb Again” in regards to tourism fly fishing mayhem.

Mac Brown

the Circle

this 51cm – 20″ beauty from a northern England limestone creek was a special fish, a two fisher fish.

i had spotted it holding in its shallow lie and covered it several times with several generic mayfly imitations but it wasn’t in the least bit interested so after a while i insisted that it was buddy Mark Legget‘s turn to temp it.
several “no, you spotted it, its yours” and “yeah, but it doesn’t like me and i really want you to catch it”s later, he not-really reluctantly gave in and positioned himself while i spotted from up on the bank and two perfect drifts later hooked up. after a good fight from both parties i landed it for Mark and we where able to briefly admire it from close up.
memory’s poor, i’ve always had a hard time remembering numbers, but i believe it was around 1,6kg – 3 1/2 lbs. that’s no record by any means but its really an awesome fish for such a small stream but a lot more than that, this was the nicest catch in ages.
Mark was of course happy but something deep inside tells me that i was a lot happier, reminding me of my youth and Hugo my godmother’s husband who was a ‘second father’ for me of sorts who so frequently brought me along on his fishing trips and who was always ecstatic when i’d manage to bring a fish to the net, no matter its size.

we’re of about the same age and Mark and i of course don’t have the mentor/parental or whatever else connection i had with Hugo but this fish left a similar feeling; of having shared and completed a scenario with its wished-for outcome as a team making it a much greater sum than its parts. the circle is complete.

i dreamt that you dreamt that a fish dreamt of you.

or did i just dream all that up ?

Louis Cahill’s article made me realise that i’ve never or at least can’t remember ever having dreamt  of fish, fishing or anything loosely connected to one of the activities i like doing so much when awake. following through with the theory explained in Louis’ piece that dreams are there to ‘file away’ information then that leaves two possibilities: that info is already filed away or the info is unfilable. for all i know and that ain’t much, i decided long ago that as far as dreams are concerned, i don’t want to know how or why. they’re intangible beings that operate on their own on their own schedule, sometimes entertaining, sometimes not but always interesting as long as we don’t try to make any sense of them and just take them as they are.

“I don’t know what fish dream about. Maybe they dream of the Mothers-day hatch or of shad kills. Perhaps they dream of herons or bears. Maybe they dream that they are birds soaring in the clouds. I like to think that once in a while they dream of me.

fish dream trout louis cahill“I was just there, in that big slow run, you know the one. I was eating caddis flies and all of a sudden I was just yanked up out of the water. It was like I was swimming but I wasn’t going anywhere. Nobody would help me and I just kept getting hauled up out of the water and then, from nowhere, there was this big guy, like huge with a beard. He picked me up with both hands and he kissed me. There was a bright flash of light and I was back in the water. I think he was God. What do you think it means?”

that was just the end of this thought-provoking read. click the image for the complete article and as always great stuff on Gink & Gasoline. thanks again Louis !

Fly Fishing Literature: Fishing with the Fly

by Charles F. Orvis – A. Nelson Cheney 1883

fishingwithfly00orvi_0005

” What comfortable satisfaction or foreboding premonitions do you image possess the noble lord while he is taking his recuperative rest in the middle chamber, after passing from his matriculation in the sea ? Faith ! you can almost read his emotions in the slow pulsations of his pectoral fins, and the infliction of his throbbing tail ? Perhaps he shrinks from the barricade of rock and foam before him ; or hesitates to essay the royal arch above the gorge, which reflects in prismatic hues of emblematic glory the mist and mysteries of the unattempted passage.
And his doughty squires around him ; do they share his misgivings, or are they all royal bloods together, sans peur sans reproche, in scale armiture of blue and silver, eager to attain the land of promise and the ultimate degree of revelation ? Ah, the way is indeed beset with difficulties and crucial tests, but its end is joy and fulness of knowledge : and “knowledge is the beginning of life.”

boy that’s schmaltzy but what  great schmaltz !

fishingwithfly00orvi_0007

along with assorted goodies such as: Fly Casting for Salmon, The Angler’s Greeting and close to my heart, Why Peter Went A-Fishing
this isn’t your average collection of angling literature.

fishingwithfly00orvi_0051


there’s also a few of these but the real gems are in word form.
to access the 302 other pages on Internet Archive click either pic. enjoy !

fishingwithfly00orvi_0016

Steelheading and CutsieBear ethics

lovemilkshakethese little cutsie-things sure could use a Love Milkshake

and maybe check out some of the old tunes once in a while when the slurping’s over.

Fly Fishing Tips and Tricks- Weight shift/Attitude adjustment

Davy Wotton needs no introduction. for me, he’s one of those few people that when he speaks and shares his wisdom, i’m all ears because those words are the fruit of many, many years of experience and always lead to not only learning something new but also a new mental approach to that particular subject and today’s ‘Attitude Adjustment’ does just that.
it’s not just a super-easy way to very quickly get our flies at the right depth but also gets us thinking about how flies move and how we can alter those moments during the drift or retrieve.

here’s just a few text tidbits to wet your appetite:

“There is no doubt that bead headed fly patterns have a place but not always. That said by a simple process the fly fisher can for the same fly pattern used have many options in so far as altering how that fly will fish and by what attitude or movement it can be presented be that dead drift or with animated movement such as fishing wet fly, soft hackles and streamers.”

Davy Wotton 'Attitude Adjustment'
“So here is the deal. l carry with me a box which contains tungsten beads of different sizes and colors, size of bead is of course related to the weight. Many of my fly patterns are not adorned with a bead head included on the hook shank.
l now have many options to change the fly by the addition of bead size and color, or number of beads used, more to the point by the addition of the bead to the tippet or leader above the hook eye it will cause the fly to fish hook up.”

click the pic to access Davy’s complete article. enjoy !
and HERE for previous articles on Davy’s wisdom posted here on TLC

My seatrout mojo is a bad mojo

here’s the scene- i’m on a lovely Scottish river that’s noted for having a good run of seatrout. there’s also a lot of golden-bellied brown trout and salmon but since seatrout are far and few between in my part of the world i decide to spend the evening trying to catch what’s been so far an elusive species for me or who knows, maybe a salmon. on the way to a promising looking run, all of a sudden mayflies started popping up, dancing all around me and all-exciting rings started to happen all over the pool. a lot of them.

those rings where created by the aforementioned golden-bellies. the as-yet unstrung rod was an 8wt more than capable of of handling the biggest seatrout this river might offer and the flies in my box where all seatrout/salmon type things which could never be confused with the mayflies that where dancing about and being chomped by my buttery friends.
the little voice said: pursue the quest and persist ! so i listened, got ready, waded in and started the evening wilfully thinking that one specie’s appetite was sure to be wetted by another’s.
the hatch got stronger and stronger and the feeding frenzy carried on relentlessly despite all my line-thrashing and Spey swoops and whomps right over the trout’s very heads. i even tried swinging and retrieving my seatrouty morsels in front of their noses and they’d just continue sipping the bugs away, sometimes right next to my offering and at others, right next to the line that was moving in front of them. these guys where in gluttony mode and nothing could put them down… you’ve already guessed that once again, seatrout where only a bittersweet, delisional dream that never came through.

once back at the camp, my friends where very happy to tell me in great detail of all the lovely browns they caught, released and took pictures of and that made me very happy for them. i showed them my ‘trophy pic’ above and since they are friends and good friends, i guess no-one felt the need to say “should have taken the trout rod instead, Marc…” and i fully agree with that unstated statement.
fishing for seatrout is a boring, fruitless and frustrating endeavour. they’re not even pretty and i know this because i’ve seen countless photos of them that other people have caught. i’ll probably never do it again but then, i just might if i ever get in better terms with my mojo.

It is Traditional.

during my recent UK stint big buddy and today’s special guest blogger Mark Surtees invited me to fish two historical southern England chalkstreams; the Avon and the Wylie, both part of a handful of rivers in the Salisbury area that where some of the play and testing grounds for all the famous chalkstream fly fishing authors/forefathers: Skues, Sawyer and Halford the Weird just to name a few that still mostly established our manner of fishing as we see it today . although there’s a lot to learn from the past, i tend to not get all gooey when it comes to visiting historical places but i’ll have to admit that the day was a bit of a fishing highlight and i left it with yes, a certain mushy yet very pleasant aftertaste: the good kind, the kind that says mmmmmm… and brings a smile.
i’d heard of these famous waters all my life and they and their inhabitants, keepers and fishers have often been subjects right here on TLC but for one reason or another, never got to grace their exquisitely manicured banks.


i was lucky to just catch the tail end of the Mayfly season, the ‘real’ mayfly as it’s often considered in England, the big, milky-yellowish Danica. as another treat, the ranunculus where still flowering and we where able to enjoy them just in time as the weeding started just the next day. there’s a certain irony to this culling as the water weeds are a great breeding/hiding ground for all the insect groups the fish love to eat but these slow-flowing waters can get completely covered with the stuff making it unfishable. although i was an invited guest, keeping in mind the exorbitant prices it costs to fish one of these beats, i guess it’s understandable that fishers prefer to cast their flies on water instead of catching weeds on every cast. they do make life a bit difficult drift-wise…

i’m realising that my intended short introduction to the main event of this post is turning into a tirade… but i have to add a little more. hopefully you’ll consider my words as an appetiser or foreplay for the main course ! but since these rivers have special rules, and that’s what all this ‘tradition’ stuff is about i’ll be quick.
i didn’t get to keep the booklet that was allotted to me for the day but it basically goes like this: fishing from bank only (pretty cool not to have to wear waders) with either dry flies or nymphs (i’m equally cool with that specially that there was a decent amount of bugs flying here and there and fish where feeding happily on or near the surface) and the really weird and very unnatural one to me: upstream only.
from a practical point of view, considering the above rules, the slowish water with no special currents, the mowed paths above water level and easy casting space, my go-to approach would be my usual across-stream presentation while keeping a low profile. it’s by far the easiest and most efficient manner to get a great drift. if the fish takes the fly, great ! and if it doesn’t we can easily try another presentation or several without ever lining the fish or spooking it by lifting the line to recast. etc, etc, etc.
we had a good talk about the whys and what-fors with not only Mark but several other friends we met along the banks during the day and no other could come up with any other explanation apart from Tradition

“It is traditional, when discussing the southern English chalk streams, to speak, or even to write, in a tone of thatched and rose bowered wistfulness. It seems impossible to talk of these beautiful rivers in anything other than worshipful whispers. They represent an angling wormhole, a time passage back to the days of horsehair, cat gut and silk. Places where an angler, too twisted and tight wired by modern living, can kneel amongst the meadow flowers and cast at fat trout rising in the pale flint knuckled channels between the ranunculus beds, romancing across the years with the saints of the chalk streams who kneeled on these very same banks a hundred years ago.
Sadly, such a communion is beyond me because my knee isn’t up to bending much. This is due to a nasty “improperly ironed trouser turn-up” incident which caused me to whack it on the corner of the kitchen table last Saturday. Not being able to kneel and, with the added disadvantages of middle age and considerable bulk ruling out any possibility of demonstrating how to make oneself completely invisible behind a buttercup or a handy clump of meadowsweet, the prospects of a wistful riverbank commentary on the joys of chalk stream angling with a Frenchman seemed somewhat limited.
Via his book, Dry Fly Fishing in Theory and Practice, Frederick Halford had an enormous influence over the regulatory framework for chalk stream fishing. For example, whilst some rules can seem a little odd to the uninitiated, it remains the case that fish in these waters have to be approached with some discretion or they will leg it in to the safety of a weed bed or under a reedy bank. They are exceptionally easy to spook. Applying a little common sense will tell you that in this kind of environment, if you stand upstream of a rising fish, wave a stick about and hurl a string at it, then it will generally clear off.
It is commonly believed that this perfectly rational thinking is the root of the “upstream only” rule. Astonishingly, it seems not, this more subjective analysis, scornful of the wetties, probably is:-
“On one point all must agree, viz., that fishing upstream with fine gut and small floating flies, where every movement of the fish, its rise at any passing natural, and the turn and rise at the artificial, are plainly visible, is far more exciting, and requires in many respects more skill, than the fishing of the water as practiced by the wet-fly fisherman.”

Mr Halford is also very firm on another matter, that of dress. He advocates that one should only ever fish these rivers in elastic garments made of wool. Stockinette stitched wool to be precise. Our Fred had an entire suit constructed from material which must have been a form of exceptionally hairy Victorian Lycra. It cannot conceivably have been comfortable, warm summer evening spinner falls must have been a distinctly tickly affair and it surely caused some significant difficulties with “unnecessary dampness”.
So, whilst his view of upstream casting remains influential and an amusing irritation to French visitors, his proclivities with respect to itchy elastic body wear have been discarded over time, no doubt due to irritation of an entirely different nature.
However, interestingly, a stockinette stitch is used in some forms of compression bandage and this would obviously be extremely useful for my knee. So, by channelling the spirit of Halford as my sartorial guide, and accepting that modern technology can better the fabric, I propose to have made a full body Lycra fishing suit decorated with butter cups and meadowsweet.
Although it may present some minor difficulties in the pub at the end of the day, or on the bus home, this will provide injury support and offer a perfect blending with the bank side vegetation. In fact, because it will make me all but invisible to the fish, I may even be able to cast downstream.
Just like Marc…  *
”vive la revolution”

and just to show that Mark is somewhat of a rebel himself, here he is performing a Traditional Downstream Grayling Release (untraditionally known as the Grayling Flop) on one of those very hallowed upstream-only chalkstreams…


* you’ve probably already guessed: i was fishing slightly upstream to a semi-regularly rising trout when all of a sudden a nice big boil happened straight downstream on my side of the bank no more than two rod lengths away. close to fifty years of instinct/habit/reflexes (and you can add every other knee-jerk reaction action to the list) instantly kicked in and i thoughtlessly did a Snake roll and placed the fly dead centre of the still small ring and had an instant take from a beautiful golden-bellied brown and i don’t feel the slightest remorse from my heinous crime…

thanks for such a lovely day, Mark. it’s always a treat to see you but this was really special.

Fly Fishing and Fly Casting- a Zen Approach

this kind of stuff is very close to my heart. its part of the intangibles that not only go into fly casting, fly fishing and to a much lesser extent fly tying but also manage to reach out to just about every other aspect in life. in a way, its what smoothes yet connects everything all together while making it all work better. call it a mind-frame, attitude, hippy shit or whatever you’d like but after all, its our mind that controls our acts when we know how to control our minds.

just one of the goodies you’ll find on Christopher Rownes’ great site The Perfect Loop, this great piece by Guy Turck of Turck’s Tarantula fame offers another perpective to some of my own writing- How to loose your flies in trees and Poetry, Grace, Fluidity and the S.R.B. and other articles in the Body and Mind section of the Fly Casting page here on TLC.

i hope you’ll enjoy and benefit from this. in my opinion, there’s a lot more to learn and gain from these words than any fishing or casting manual. its one i come back to regularly when i start to go astray…

” How do you make virtually any beginning or intermediate fly fisher improve immediately? And without a single casting tip or hint on tactics. You may be surprised to learn that it doesn’t require any physical changes whatsoever, yet has the potential to dramatically improve your skills. Whether it be getting your fly to the target more often, achieving a better drift, or hooking more fish the secret, in a word, is focus. And the lack thereof is responsible for more missed opportunities than any other single factor in fly fishing. We now tend to use modern colloquialisms for what singularly used to be referred to as concentration. I like the word focus because it most accurately evokes a feeling for the state of consciousness I am referring to. It seems to me that the modern conception of concentration implies a willful act (that of concentrating) on a singular point of interest while “being focused” refers to a similar state of being, but in a perhaps broader sense. But that’s just my interpretation of modern day language. Whether you prefer the word concentration or focus, it matters not. For the purposes of this column they are one in the same and will be used interchangeably throughout. I’m in the zone, Man, I’m in the zone! Focus is sometimes called “being in the zone.” “The zone” is a state of consciousness characterized by your total awareness converging on the task at hand. That task may require the assimilation of stimuli from a number of various sources (for example, knowing where all four of your teammates are on the basketball court at the same time) or it may require you to concentrate on a single point of interest when you determine it is in your best interests (for example, the front rim during a foul shot). You may well vacillate between a singular interest and a broader awareness. At the same time irrelevant stimuli (such as the screaming crowd) are filtered out. Whatever you do, it is imperative that said task be the most important thing in the world to you at the time.

Focus does not involve thinking and cannot be forced. You can only allow it to happen. In other words, if you are concentrating on concentrating, you are not concentrating at all. To put it all in plain english, too many fly fishers are simply not paying attention to what they are doing! Their thoughts are on the last fish they missed, the stock market, the last fish their friend missed, the bond market, a fish they hooked and lost ten years ago, whatever. Their mind is everywhere but in the present, the here and now. As a guide I am often regaled with someone’s “greatest day ever” fishing story while the storyteller is missing copious opportunities and perhaps an even greater day because of their constant chatter and corresponding lack of focus. I once had a client spend over half an hour on a yarn about a bowl of soup he once enjoyed. I’m not making this up. In the meantime he was missing fish after fish yet complaining he hadn’t gotten a big one yet. Sure enough, a well-endowed cutthroat finally gobbled his fly and … well, I really don’t need to tell you what happened next, do I? Other than what immediately followed was total silence (as I choked back the urge to scream).
Concentration and/or focus is a form of meditation where all but the task at hand is allowed to fall away. Responsibilities and worries are temporarily forgotten. The passage of time goes unnoticed. I often have clients who can’t believe how quickly the day is passing. I view this as a good sign. They are, at the very least, absorbed in the act of fly fishing which, to me, indicates a desire to learn, a very good starting point.

zen and stuff ftlow m.fauvet:tlc 26-1-15

Chill out and take a deep breath.


Over the years I have found that proper breathing is of great benefit in helping one achieve the proper focus whether it be on the stream, the golf course, or on the sharp end of the rope as the leader on a rock climb. Focus requires a relaxed (but not limp) body, in conjunction with an alert mind. As tension insidiously creeps into the body one has the tendency to hold one’s breath.
If time permits, three slow deliberate deep breaths will melt away the tension. It also helps tremendously to exhale just before performing an athletic act, such as casting a fly rod. As the last bit of air leaves the lungs, make your move.
This critical moment is when the body is most at rest and tension free. Another technique I can relate helps me focus on my target while casting, which translates into more accuracy. If you’ve ever been a baseball or softball pitcher, this will come naturally.
Pick out a target, and keep your eye on it until your fly arrives there (please read this sentence again).
If you do not allow your focus to waver from your target, it is truly amazing how the mind will make the muscles hit the mark with pinpoint precision. With good casting technique and practice you will eventually develop a feel for nailing your target simply by focusing on it. Think of it as willing your fly to the spot.
I’m reminded of a story I heard long ago which illustrates the importance and depth of concentration required for achieving pinpoint accuracy. The two best archers in the village were to test their skills against one another by attempting to hit a fish which had been hung on a somewhat distant tree. When the first archer was asked what he saw, he replied he saw a fish hanging from a tree. When the second, and ultimately victorious, archer was asked what he saw, he replied, “I see the eye of a fish.”The moral of the story for the focused angler is that when choosing a target, choose the exact location where you want your fly to land.
Don’t merely cast to a pool where you know a fish lies, cast to a one inch square within that pool. Focus on that one inch square. Be precise in your aim so that your cast can be precise as well, Capitalizing On Your Opportunities.
I don’t know how many times we’ll finish a day on a river and feel that while it was a slow day overall, had we capitalized on the opportunities we were presented, it would have turned out pretty well. This is because it is difficult to maintain focus on slow days when strikes might be separated by thirty minutes or so. But over an eight hour day, that’s sixteen strikes. Land half those fish and it’s not a half bad day. Air traffic controllers know this. They don’t work eight hours straight because it’s impossible to maintain the degree of vigilance necessary to perform their jobs at the level required. While lives are not on the line when fly fishing, there is still a lesson to be learned. Focus is difficult to maintain for long periods at a time. When fishing is slow and your attention is wavering there are two things I like to do to help keep my mind in the ball game. The first involves visualization. After a long period of inactivity most anglers will miss that first strike when it finally comes. To help prevent this from occurring, try visualizing a fish rolling up to eat your fly as it drifts along unmolested. This keeps your mind alert and your muscles in a state of readiness so they will react faster when the take eventually does come. It may sound obvious, but another good idea is to develop the habit of always paying attention to your fly when it is on the water. I have a rule for myself in this regard. Never leave a fly in the water unattended. If I want to look at the scenery, or take a drink of water, or perhaps watch my fishing partner, I take my fly out of the water. Why do that when I might actually get lucky by leaving my fly on the water? You know the old adage, you can’t catch a fish without your fly on the water. The reason is this … I want to develop the mind set that when my fly is on the water I am going to be paying attention to it at all times. It has to do with habits. I readily admit that I don’t always follow this rule, but I try to. Perhaps you’re skeptical at this point. The notion that concentration alone will make you the next Lee Wulff overnight might be stretching it a bit. You’re right, It won’t. But you will improve. With practice and good fundamental casting technique, you will get successively closer and closer to your target, ultimately willing your fly to the spot. By paying attention to surface currents you will get better drifts because you will instinctively know when to mend. And by not letting the mind wander you will hook more fish because your mind is alert. Putting it all together will still take time and practice, but your improvement can begin immediately, if you let it happen. “

 

Dry Fly Fishing in Theory and Practice

dryflyfishing cover halfordanother doozy from the infamous “Detached Badger of “The Field” *,  Frederic Michael Halford, first printed in 1889 via openlibrary.org

while all of us in the Northern Hemisphere are secretly hating all those that aren’t, impatiently waiting for open waters and better days… here’s a more than amusing and informative and oh boy, once again reminder that while certain details have changed through fly fishing history, the bigger picture hasn’t evolved that much.

a few tidbits-

reels

rod action

changing

rod length
and if those don’t get your interest, this one on rod-holding ‘butt spears’ should do the trick.

butt spears

click either text/image to access the complete 400 or so page book. its well worth the read, besides, well, its well worth the read.
the guy sure had a lot to say about everything one might want to know and then more. enjoy !

* please don’t ask. i have no idea and i really don’t want to know.