Fly Casting- Santa’s Underpowered Curve

if like most people you’ve always wondered what Santa Carlos (Azpilicueta) looks like when he’s fly casting here you go.SantaCarlos' Underpowered 180° Curve

often referred to as a good upstream presentation cast, the Underpowered Curve goes directly to the bottom of my list of actual casts to use. even if the final line layout seems really good from a theoretical point of view we’re throwing a whole lot of line directly over the fish whilst false casting and at final presentation and we’re left with an enormous, even ridiculous amount of slack to attempt to tighten up if we didn’t put off the fish and managed to get a strike. if we don’t get a strike, the whole leader and all that line will pass over the fish on its way back downstream before we can pick up and cast again and if that doesn’t put off the fish then its a really dumb fish not worthy of being caught !
accuracy wise, its also probably the most difficult cast to get just right in any repeatable manner even in ‘ideal’ conditions. any kind of wind severely compromises its success. in a sense, its one to keep in your bag of tricks as a last-resort presentation. at best.

none of that sounds very good, right ? but here’s the but and the however: just as with the underpowered Controlling Casting Stroke Force (please read or reread as both articles are directly connected), the Underpowered Curve is a more than excellent manner to learn to use the correct amount of force in your other casts. just as with the overhead version: “practising to cast lines that don’t turn over completely and ‘relearning’ to add a little more force, just what’s necessary to get the job done as we go along. this is an additive method. we start with ‘not enough’ and add-on little by little until it’s’just right’.  it’s quite easy to control because adding-on seems to correspond better to human nature than subtracting; we tend to ‘want more’ as opposed to ‘want less’ is equally valid and productive and might even be considered as the next step, or part II of the overhead drill as it’s trickier.
we need to adopt a slower casting rhythm while casting off to the side in a lower plane all the while keeping line, leader and fluff from hitting the ground. on the delivery cast, the underpowered bit needs to be controlled very precisely. although we can’t push strings or in this case fly lines and this will get the physics geeks tsk-tssssking, it helps to think of it as if we where pushing the rod leg only. (i know, that might be a weird way to visualise the motion but it works for me and hopefully for you too)

as in the gif, don’t forget to ‘kill the cast’ by immediately lowering the rod tip to prevent loop unrolling. be sure to try the exact same cast with and without lowering the rod tip to see how it greatly affects line layout/turnover.
lastly, similar to the overhead drill, the Underpowered Curve also teaches an important aspect that’s rarely brought up; varying the casting force between the back cast and the front cast (or vice-versa). a typical but non-conclusive example of this casting force variance would be when fishing with a strong tail wind. we’ll need  to have a higher line speed on the BC going into the wind, requiring more force and a greater casting arc and less speed, force and arc on the FC where the wind will help push it out.

since practicing without any kind of target is generally pointless, as with the overhead drill, place little targets or reindeer here and there in front of you and place the unrolled loop over them.
even if it’s just a few minutes, do yourself the favour of including both drills every time you’re out practicing. these are seemingly strange and quirky things to do but they really pay off. i guarantee.
whether or not you decide to don the Santa suit is up to you but keep in mind that it would make the occasion that much more special.

video graciously provided by Carlos Azpilicueta. thanks buddy !

post note- i’ve always wondered what the person strolling by in the background of the gif was thinking as they saw this…

Fly Casting- have Fronton, will cast.

Fronton rod m.fauvet-TLC 23-2-15last weekend was spent in the Basque region of Navarra, Spain with friend, casting instructor colleague and someone i could consider to be my mentor in these fly casting shenanigans, Carlos Azpilicueta.
the weather couldn’t have been any worse (well, technically it could have been much-much worse) but trying to figure out some intricate casting stuff while there’s very strong wind gusts, rain mixed with slush snow and the consequent quite low temperatures that make slush snow while having fun and working on casting repeatability just doesn’t do it. having the option of hanging out at the local café and just talking about it was the first plan but all of a sudden an indoor fronton appeared out of the sky giving us the opportunity to do some actual swishing and slinging instead of blowing hot air and getting the jitters from too much coffee.
when i was living in Sweden i had had numerous casting sessions in the enormous indoors sports arenas that are in just about every town or city. the biggest i saw was able to have four simultaneous full-sized football/soccer games going on at the same time. that’s big. way too big.
our little fronton/basketball/multi-sport complex was a much more intimate affair, just perfect for anything except for the long-longest competion-style distance casts. i couldn’t care less about comp-style distance casts anyway so this was a real treat on several accounts:
– not being able to cast far forces one to cast at closer distances. i know, that’s an obvious ‘duh… ‘ but ! take some casting geeks to a big field and nine out ten times they’ll instantly peel all the line off their reels and try to cast it all and even if generally speaking, distance casting makes for better overall casting, that isn’t the complete picture.
– although we may bring our own cones, hoops, measuring tapes, golf balls or whatever to a field, we tend to place them, work on a few casts and challenges/games but there’s a horizon and that horizon always seems to beckon that full line again and we’re back to square one.
– this fronton, apart from being indoors protecting us from all the weathery crap had two distinctive features that made it all the more special and productive and they where both on the floor. first, the surface was incredibly slick (not slippery as in sliding and falling over when moving about but in the sense that the fly line had much less grip than field or artificial grass might give). this made for a perfect manner to study, observe and demonstrate the effects of the anchor for roll casts and Speys by effectively removing the anchor from the equation while still getting good casts. not only that but it was yet another perfect way to demonstrate and disprove the too often common notion, that the anchor loads the rod. (it doesn’t because it can’t. more on this ‘anchor loads the rod‘ nonsense HERE)

– the other and real eye-openning feature to this super-slick floor was that we could execute and demonstrate all sorts of casts on the floor itself similar to what several colleagues such as Aitor Coteron and Lasse Karlsson have been demonstrating with bead chains to great effect but this time, with real fly casting equipment: a rod, line and leader/fluff combination.
to be perfectly clear, i have the highest respect and gratitude for all the work my friends have done with bead chains and they’ve contributed enormously to the contemporary understanding of fly casting but there’s always been something missing, something always nagging me in the back of the mind and that mostly has to do with tapers or, different weight distributions along the whole fly line/leader/fly system. bead chains have a continuous mass and profile from one end to the other whereas our lines, leaders and flies don’t. in a nutshell, tapers make fly casting easy(er), predictable and get the job done. anyway, in my opinion the slick floor and real kit can only make any experiment or demonstration a bit more realistic. if nothing else, we’re using equipment that any fly fisher can really relate to and not something that seems to always get in the way when we’re trying to brush our teeth.

different loop shapes; tight, open, loop-fronts rounded or pointy, big uncontrolled loops and tailing loops where a breeze to execute and we could show them all in a slower-than-normal fashion making for an easier way to study them. if we underpowered the cast the loop would not completely turn over but retain the loop’s shape giving us a real-time casting drawing or video pause effect as if they where suspended in mid air. very cool.
we can’t do any of that or rather, lets say that its a lot more difficult to get the same results on grass because grass grabs the line, curves it out of shape because its irregular and nowheres near as smooth as this deluxe surface.
the darkish floor made for increased contrast with the bright orange lines making this all one of the best visual experiences i’ve ever seen or can imagine. i tried to film some of these casts but although it looked really cool to the naked eye, the low camera angle from head height didn’t do this justice. i’ll be back with a tall ladder next time to film them from above. can’t wait !

i’m fully aware at how geek this must sound but for someone like myself, this is extremely exiting stuff. its like several doors and windows opened and let in the light. of course, i want to learn more and more for myself because i crave this casting-geek stuff but a lot of those windows and doors that opened up will help my students see a bit more light as well because in the end, its all about sharing.

if we manage to not get distracted by unexpected phallic shapes, all these lines, lanes and curves open up a lot of casting-challenge possibilities. the mind’s the limit.
Fronton Floor 1 m.fauvet-TLC 23-2-15
trying to control a weighted and very air-resistant fluff-puff with a standard 6wt ‘trout-sized’ rod/line/small-fly leader: i’d say he’s damned good at it. of maybe more interest than casting overweighted fluff, we’ll notice how overall supple and fluid Carlos is when he casts. this makes for super-smooth casting that’s a real necessity with this kind of challenge but also translates to silky-suave-smoothness and line control when casting a normal fly. awesome !

and just another of the myriad game possibilities; keeping the fly line and leader on top of the white line. well, almost…fronton 3 m.fauvet-TLC 23-2-15

Perfecting your English, fly fishing-casting-tying course with Carlos Azpilicueta and Marc Fauvet in northern Spain

i’m very happy to announce the first in a series of collaborations with Carlos Azpilicueta and this one has a nice twist: perfecting your English over a four day course fully immersed in a fly fishing environment.
Carlos’ text being Spanish, the rough translation below should give you a pretty good idea what this course is about but don’t worry if you’re not Spanish because we’ll be speaking English exclusively anyhow… 😉
you’ll find Carlos’ email address at the bottom of the page for more info and reservations. hope to see you there !


carlos fly boxA really new and unique in concept with a limited number of participants where I’ll combine my two passions both related to teaching: English and Fly Fishing.
Having already spent thirty years teaching English, the last 10 have been devoted to working with professionals to help them develop their capabilities and skills applied to the business world.

What exactly is this course?
It is a unique experience of four days living together in a great setting while performing various activities in English while engaged in mountain fishing, fly casting and fly tying.
Ingles-4
Who else will teach you?
Participating throughout the course I’ll have the help of an expert in two areas: English and fly fishing. Marc Fauvet, US born fly casting, fishing and fly tying instructor and grandísmo guy. me

Where does it take place?
In Piedrafita of Jaca – Pyrenees Mountain, Spain. A truly luxurious stay in an absolutely stunning setting.

And will I improve my English?
Definitely. English will be the only communication tool (as well as gestural) as we all live together throughout the course.
We’ll have all kinds of activities depending on the level and needs of the participant. Simulations, roleplaying, analysis of information and a lot of conversation.

What level of English must i have to participate?Ingles
From beginner to advanced. The level determines the type of activities that will take place in English but does not alter the intensity or effectiveness of the experience.

What kind of fishing activities
take place?
Guided fishing for trout and salvelinus in low fishing pressure high-mountain environments. General fly casting practice and other preparations first thing in the morning for the day’s fishing as well as everything related to fly tying, equipment and entomology according to taste and level of fishing participants defined in advance.

Will there be time for everything?
Summer days are long. Four days give a lot of possibilities if they are well organized and the objectives have been clearly established.

Ingles-3

For more information and reservations contact Carlos Azpilicueta at carazpi@gmail.com
if you need translation help with the text boxes above let me know in the comments section.

Unless you’re good at casting, it’s useless to tie flies…

messy flies

well conceived, amusing and leaving a belly full of food for thought, here’s a fantabulous fictional ‘interview’ on Presentation vs Imitation, the Age-old debate parts 1-2-3 by Carlos Azpilicueta that i hope you’ll not only enjoy but benefit from.

“In this special article, I moderate an interesting, entertaining talk session on one of the most debated and less resolved issues in the history of fly fishing. Far from trying to solve anything, the participants contribute various original points of view that are bound to give more than one reader and flyfishing enthusiast something to think about.”


Quillan and Rodney are keen fly fishermen and staunch defenders of two different positions and approaches that, although they can complement each other, usually clearly and vehemently define which type of fisherman you are.

Some consider and defend the imitation concept as the key to success in fly fishing. They’re the Imitators (Quillan) and their main endeavor is to fill their fly boxes with all kinds of patterns. They’re usually great fly tyers and are very knowledgeable of everything having to do with fly dressing techniques and materials. Many of them are avid entomologists and some even use aquariums and binocular magnifying glasses to study aquatic macroinvertebrates.

The so-called Presenters (represented by Rodney) heartily defend their approach. The presentation approach gives priority to technical skill in casting and presenting the fly. Besides casting, they also love to read and understand the currents in the stream and everything related to how the angler manages on the stream.

Surely no other debate has filled more pages of fly fishing literature. And, to the satisfaction of many, I’m afraid it will continue to do so for many years to come.

Part 1
…positions get defined

Mod: Good afternoon, Quillan and Rodney. Since we already know your respective positions, we can dispense with presentations.
Rod: What we really need less of are imitations.
Mod: Sorry. It was just of way of getting started. I certainly didn’t intend to…
Quill: You certainly are touchy, Mr. Presenter.
Mod: I’m touchy?
Quill: No, I don’t mean you. I’m referring to my debating opponent, the expert flycaster.
Rod: Well, that’s precisely where I think the first error lies.
Mod: What do you mean?
Rod: Associating the idea of presentation with only casting.
Quill: Well, I relate my idea of imitation almost exclusively to dressing the artificials.
Rod: And that’s one of the great limitations of the position you defend. Presentation spans a whole series of concepts and approaches that are much more far-reaching than the simple cast: the fisherman’s position in the stream, reading the water, interpreting the insects, adapting the leader, etc. There are a lot of things you have to do before your dry fly is ever seen by a trout. And they’re all part of the concept of presentation. If you do them right, the fly will be successful; otherwise, you won’t have the slightest chance. I like to quote Gary Borger, “Presentation can be defined as the culmination of everything you are and everything you know and understand about the world of fly fishing.”
Quill: Then, no matter what you tie on the end of the tippet, if you do all those things right, the trout will take it, right?
Rod: Just as long as the size is right, and often not even that.
Quill: Your passion for what you do best, casting, besides revealing your clear limitations as a complete fly fisherman, blinds you and, thereby, irresponsibly confines any further development.
Mod: Let’s start focusing the issue and analyzing some of its more important points.

…historical view

Trout vision curiosities

  • The trout devotes almost half of its small brain to using and controlling its vision
  • Professor Muntz’ experiments show that trout not only perceive colours but also tones of the same color. The colors they most clearly distinguish are, in this order, red, orange and yellow.
  • Trout fry have four types of cones (vision cells responsible for color). This endows them with very good chromatic vision, thus increasing their ability to locate food. When they grow, their retina reverts to a three-cone system, like in human beings.
  • Fish stop feeding for a little while just after sundown. They need a few minutes to adapt their visual system to the new light.
  • Because the cornea of a trout’s eye sticks out a bit from its head, it’s much more prone to be damaged by careless manipulation or leader tangled around its head.

Rod: Hold on, Mr. Moderator. I’ve just been called irresponsible and limited. Me and several legends in the history of fly fishing, such as Charles Ritz and Marryatt.
Mod: All right. Defend yourself. Briefly, please.
Rod: Charles Ritz spent most of his angling life expounding that technique was 85% while the other 15% was imitation. Marryatt, for many, the greatest fly fisherman in history, used to say, “It isn’t the fly, it’s he who presents it.” And remember. He worked closely with Halford, the epitome of the imitation approach.
Quill: Come on, Rod. Insinuating that you’re to be lumped together with those great names, worthy of all my respect and admiration, is pretentious, to say the least. Your quotes date from a period in which the best imitations, what we would call realistic patterns today, were dressed by the great scholar, Halford. They were crude, floated poorly, hardly used any synthetic materials and didn’t apply a lot of the transcendental scientific criteria that appeared later. With imitations like those, it was logical to think that their presentation was decisive. They had to justify their frequent failures.
Mod: What scientific criteria are you referring to?
Quill: The research on light reflected and transmitted by insects and materials and the important advances in our knowledge of trout vision. One of the weak points of all of Halford’s patterns was the opaqueness of the materials be used: quills, floss, horse hair… Seen from below against the light of the sky, these bodies were inexorably dull and lifeless.
Mod: Do you maintain then that imitation has been gaining in importance in fishing over the years?
Quill: Absolutely. The most realistic imitations of only 10 years ago can’t hold a candle to some of today’s patterns. We’ve got a whole new category today, the clones.
Rod: Your thinking isn’t logical, Quill. Today’s reality isn’t just a shortage of trout. For reasons irrelevant to this debate, a lot of insect species are waning. So lots of the copious hatches we used to know are rare now. Which goes to show that imitation is a lot less important today.

Part 2
…the steak theory

Rodney: Maybe you think those clone patterns of yours are less prone to drag. If you do, you’re completely mistaken. The fish reacts primarily to the presentation and only to a lesser degree to the fly. Let me tell you something else. Only when the presentation is good does it make sense to consider the imitation. And always in that order. I’ll give you an example. It isn’t mine; it’s Nick Lyons’. The name’s bound to be familiar. You get served a nice, thick steak. And just as you’re about to cut off the first morsel, the steak budges a fraction of an inch to the side. I bet the fright it gives you is enough to kill your appetite. At any rate, I’m sure that steak doesn’t look so succulent any more.
Quillan: That’s a pretty funny example, Rod, but I see it differently. If a thick, dark red, rare steak were to suddenly move on my plate, I’d think someone had kicked the table. So I’d gobble it fast in case somebody’s after it. Now, if it was scrawny, tough and overdone, even if it lay there stone still, I sure wouldn’t even taste it.
Moderator: Hey, you guys are making me hungry.
Quill: Obviously for the first steak, the dancing Daisy one.

…the dry fly myth

Flies declining in English chalk streams

Only streams with such highly alkaline waters and such regular flows and temperatures can support such an enormous quantity of insects and rich aquatic life. Nevertheless many mayfly species and species of other orders have been declining in recent years, causing alarm for English chalk streams. One of the more bizarre theories attempting to explain this decline points to the great amount of unused contraceptive pills poured down the drains. They dissolve in the water and affect the reproductive capacity of many female insects.

Mod: One thing is certain, fellows. Halford’s flies haven’t survived the passage of the years. And they caught thousands of extremely selective trout, feeding on duns and spinners on the surface of the crystal-clear waters of the mythical English chalk streams.
Rod: True. But they can’t have caught so many trout when they ended up disappearing. Walt Dette says that a fly pattern that doesn’t catch trout ends up disappearing no matter how pretty or how well-dressed it is.
Quill: Only a tenth of the hundreds of Halford’s patterns ever proved to be really effective.
Many hours on the stream have convinced me that today’s realistic patterns always work much better than a general pattern. When the insect is available to the trout, of course. I also maintain that the only realistic imitations that function as such are underwater patterns. I’ve got a theory about the dry fly.
Mod: Please be so kind as to share it with us.
Quill: Certainly. For some time now, I’ve been convinced that dry fly fishing has never existed as such.
Mod: Do you realize the transcendence of that statement?
Quill: I certainly do. The dry fly, taken as an imitation that floats like a mayfly dun, for example, is a myth. There is no way you can make an artificial float the way a natural fly floats. Try as you may, it’s physically impossible. Because of the weight of the hook, because of the materials (all absorb more or less water) and because it’s tied to a tippet that unbalances it, falls from above and adds extra weight.
Rod: Put that way, it sounds logical.
Quill: All the innovative patterns that have attempted to achieve this floatability have failed throughout history. What I’m saying is a cinch to prove. Take your best dun imitation and gently place on the water in a glass. Observe it for a few seconds. Do the same with an inverted hook pattern, a single-wing (thorax type), a palmer, a funnel dun, a compara dun, whatever you want. See the huge difference between the way they float and the high-floating, subtle, graceful subimago? Once you place them on the water, they all break through the surface tension to some degree. Note the tail filaments. Those of the natural flies barely touch the water. Those of most artificials are grotesque, indecipherable, semi-submerged appendages. And you placed the imitations on the water gently. Now tie them to a tippet and drop them from a certain height. Dismayingly revealing.
Now try it with one of Halford’s classics. I can’t understand how this fellow could think trout took these imitations thinking they were adult ephemeropteras. Those hooks were quite a bit heavier than today’s too. And the materials he used weren’t as hydrophobic as today’s either. In spite of all this, a beautiful, romantic story was born: the dry fly.
Rod: Sadly enough, I think the leader often makes them more stable. It’s funny. I set out the other day to count all the patterns, current and old, that try to imitate a Baetis Rhodani subimago. I soon had no less than 24 different imitations for this fly. And, except for the possible size variations, it’s undoubtedly one of the best defined in color and physiognomy. Nobody uses many of those imitations anymore. It’s certainly makes you think.
Mod: What does it make you think?
Rod: That there are only two possibilities. Either, like my debating opponent says, it’s absolutely impossible to even come close to properly imitating these insects or, as I’ve been saying, the root of the problem lies elsewhere, in what really makes the difference between the success and failure of any fly. At any rate, I thought you defended the imitation concept above all.
Quill: I do, and well above presentation. But referring almost exclusively to today’s realistic patterns.
Rod: Current realistic, underwater patterns.
Quill: Exactly. Although CDC gives you very good floatability—usually the first two drifts, you’ll get very few drifts with the artificial floating like a dun.
Mod: Then, when you tie on a dry fly or what you think is a dry fly, what are you actually tying on?
Quill: An emerger at some floatation level of all the various possible levels. Just that. Definitely not a dry fly as we’ve just defined it, in any case.

Part 3
…about magic wands

Rodney: Aside from this interesting “theory”, as you so aptly call it, I think the pattern-buffs, whether they extol exact imitations or not, are actually trying to compensate deficient casting techniques. The worst is that lots of them aren’t even aware that they’re doing it.
I’ve got another theory.
Moderator: Your turn then.
Rod: I call it the magic wand syndrome. Man constantly strives to find utensils to make life easier and save toil and sweat. Even knowing there are no miracle products for losing weight or lightning-fast systems for learning Russian in 6 months, we’re always willing to try out something new, just in case. No matter what…to avoid suffering and pain. Fly fishing has two magic wands. Rods that cast yards and yards almost by themselves. They make unbelievably delicate presentations, even against a headwind. Then you have the infallible flies that no fish can reject.
Quillan: I hope you aren’t insinuating that I go around selling magic wands.
Rod: In a way, you do. What you defend can be bought. That’s why most all fishermen change the fly before changing the cast or the presentation. And that’s why most angling forums, debates and discussions always focus on this or that pattern. It also explains why there’s a lot more literature about fly tying than any other angling-related topic. Fishermen keep trying to replace practice and training with a new rod or a new pattern. So they keep failing. They refuse to accept that the only magic wands in fly fishing are training, study and hours of effort. And, Quillan, you can’t buy those in a store.
Mod: Mmm, interesting.
Quill: And quite wrong. There’s a lot more skill involved in the option I defend than in yours: knowledge of fly-tying materials, manual dexterity, creativity, imagination, an artistic flare and, particularly, knowledge of entomology. Though I’m sure you consider how you handle the butterfly net more important then recognizing exact species of mayfly under the binocular magnifying glass.
Rod: He who fishes better catches more fish than the guy with the better imitations.

…slight point of encounter

Mod: Don’t you guys believe that, in the ultimate analysis, the guy that makes the best presentation with the best imitation will catch the most fish?
Quill: Yeah, but that hardly ever happens.
Rod: You’re right there.
Mod: Hummmph! Please enlighten us.
Quill: The angling styles of the great majority of fly fishermen are much closer to one option than to the other.
Rod: Almost always closer to imitation. Obsessed with changing flies to solve all their problems.
Quill: More and more anglers are focusing almost exclusively on presentation and stock their fly boxes with only a couple of patterns.
Rod: Yeah, but they’re still a small minority.
Quill: It’s funny but usually the guys that catch the most fish know little about casting. I think I know why.
Mod: Why?
Quill: Because they make the best presentation they know how to make. They get as close as they can to the fish and, with little more than the leader, they drift the fly past the trout’s snout. No technique, no special training. That’s all they do. And once the fish sees the fly, either it looks a lot like what it’s eating or see you later, alligator. And that, Rodney, summarizes everything you’re trying to defend.
Rod: You’re describing a special type of fishing done in certain streams under specific conditions. That kind of fisherman does catch fish in his usual streams but he’s very limited in any kind of river where he can’t get so close.

…dragging isn’t always decisive

Quill: I maintain that a realistic imitation doesn’t need an impeccable presentation; it can even drag a bit.
Rod: Never. The trout, for example, is much more finicky about a poor presentation than about a specific fly pattern. If a trout knows anything, it certainly knows how to tell the difference between something that floats and drifts naturally from something that’s forced.
Quill: What poor presentations do is highlight the deficiencies of a given imitation. Natural insects are continually subject to whimsical eddies and micro currents. They rarely drift in a straight, predictable line.
Rod: True. That’s what makes a proper presentation so difficult. The imitation has to follow the not-so-uniform drift of the natural insect.

…conclusions

Mod: Let’s try to wind up with some last thoughts, OK?
Quill: I’d like to end on this note: the vast difficulty, study and work required to create almost perfect imitations always pays off on the stream. Very few fishermen systematically use this type of fly, but they undoubtedly catch the most fish. Today’s artificial fly, with current knowledge of the art of fly-tying, stands out as much more important than presentation. Never, until very recently, has this been so clear.
Just about anybody knows how to cast and make more or less presentable presentations. But very few can tie patterns that truly imitate natural insects and then use them for fishing. That’s the real source of this controversy.
Mod: Your turn to finish up.
Rod: Fly fishing is about placing a fly on the water without spooking the fish and making it drift naturally. No matter how good your imitation is, it’s always going to be tied to a tippet, which, in turn, is tied to a thicker leader and a much thicker fly line. Between you and the fish, there’s almost always going to be a multitude of currents that are sometimes absolutely indecipherable. You’ll be surrounded by vegetation and obstacles and the wind is rarely going to be your ally. This whole reality interacts with itself and changes with each step you take and each minute that goes by. In the stream, I sincerely prefer to rely on my skill and knowledge more than what I have in my fly box.
Mod: Many thanks to both of you for this interesting debate. Happy fishing until next time.

Muscle Memory, Chocolate, Marital Sex and Fly Casting Games

“Muscle Memory has been used synonymously with motor learning, which is a form of procedural memory that involves consolidating a specific motor task into memory through repetition. When a movement is repeated over time, a long-term muscle memory is created for that task, eventually allowing it to be performed without conscious effort. This process decreases the need for attention and creates maximum efficiency within the motor and memory systems. Examples of muscle memory are found in many everyday activities that become automatic and improve with practice, such as fly casting, typing on a keyboard about fly casting, typing in a PIN number to buy a new fly line, ‘drawing with the rod tip’ to perform presentation casts, playing fly casting  games, or performing complex arm movements while attempting to explain fly casting physics.”

you got it, fly casting is just like sex or eating chocolate. you can talk and theorize about it all you want but you’re not going to be any good at it without practicing regularly and just like chocolate, it should be a fun thing to do or it just becomes a boring unproductive chore like marital sex.

anyhow… if you’re in need of some fun casting practice inspiration, i definitely recommend Carlos Azpilicueta‘s list of Casting Games.
to discover what the mess below is about and why it will make you a better fly caster/fisher, click the pic quick !

Carlos' Casting Games

Carlos

as in Carlos Azpilicueta

one of my favorite casting images, this one was taken several years back in the Spanish Basque region during a course with the Master. i often look at this image as it demonstrates power, flexibility, agility, synchronicity and grace and is a constant reminder what great casting form is all about.

as a bonus, the gigantic wall of hay bales in the background make it unique. i’ve often wondered how many thousands of mice must have lived there…

The Wariness Scale – part 2

” I am Aware of the air beneath me”

as promised, here’s the follow-up to part 1  by Carlos Azpilicueta, this time in it’s entirety.


The Wariness Scale (2nd part)
In the first part of this theory, we saw trout wariness levels 0 and 1. This second part analyses levels 2 and 3 and a whole set of factors that can condition a trout’s behavior to a greater or a lesser degree when the fish is involved in the activity that is the most important for the fisherman, feeding.

– Wariness 2
The trout’s feeling: it feels vulnerable and is aware of the fisherman’s presence, which it tolerates as long as his movements are rhythmic, regular and smooth.
Behavior: it feeds with apprehension and lets some flies drift by before taking one.

Probable situation of the trout: There is no protection nearby. There is quite a bit of light.

Reaction to your fly: anything abnormal like light reflected off your leader, micro-drag, etc. will make the fish reject your fly and increase its level of wariness. This trout may have moved up to this degree upon rejecting one of your flies because of drag.

Difficulty: high. You have to get everything right on the first try. You won’t get a second chance. So everything depends on the first cast.

A trout may be fully aware of your presence and go on feeding. But it will be taking the naturals irregularly and almost at random, with one eye on its food and the other on everything surrounding it.

– Wariness 3
The trout’s feeling: It’s feeding, but very apprehensively and on the defensive.

Behavior: unforeseeable and erratic. Feeds at random.

Probable situation of the trout: It’s very visible. No protection nearby. Quite a bit of light.

Reaction to your fly: unlikely that it will look at it. If it sees it, it may die laughing.

Difficulty: Impossible. This trout is not going to take your fly no matter what you do. You’ll have to wait until it drops to level two on the wariness scale.

According to the researcher-fly fisherman, Harry Ramsey, it takes a trout barely seven minutes to get used to a fisherman’s presence. If he casts and moves carefully and rhythmically, the trout relaxes and forgets about him. If the fisherman stays there a while and his movements are always regular and smooth, the trout will end up accepting him as part of the stream and even take him as a reference point with respect to its feeding station. It may even approach the fisherman to a distance of less than two yards.

A trout may be feeding and still be quite wary. What are the factors (either of the natural instinct or learned behavior types) that con contribute to a higher or lower level of wariness?

Some conditioning factors:
– Light (increases the degree of wariness)
– Transparency of the water (increases)
– Protection from the banks (decreases wariness)
– Protection from the sky (decreases)
– Current (decreases)
– False strike (increases)
– Rejection (increases)
– Awareness of the angler’s presence (increases)
– Intensity of the hatch (decreases)
– Size of the trout (increases)

After level three, you would have four, when the trout runs for cover in its shelter and stops feeding.

Some possible conclusions

A trout may be feeding on the surface, apparently relaxed and carefree, but is actually be feeling a bit tense, apprehensive and vulnerable.
No trout is unhookable. All trout become so wary at some time or other that they just can’t be deceived (you say you’ve never come across one?)
Lengthening your leader and/or reducing its diameter only make sense for trout at level one or two.
Changing the fly for a more exact imitation will only serve a purpose for trout at level two.
Your movements must be extremely unhurried and careful for level-two trout.
With level-three trout: Be still and wait.
After a rejection, the trout is very likely to move up the wariness scale a level.
After a false strike, it will very likely move up two levels. (If it was at level two and the false strike scared it, it’ll be put down. If it was at level zero, however, it’s still hookable.)
A trout can jump from level one to three or four in just an instant.
It’ll only lower its wariness one level at a time, though.
It’s very likely that this theory does no more than put a lot of fishermen’s unspoken impressions and experiences into words. Nevertheless, I believe that the more we rationalize complex fishing situations such as those studied here, the better equipped we’ll be to know what’s happening and how to proceed, often acknowledging that it’s useless to keep insisting. Something’s better than nothing.

Carlos Azpilicueta

The Wariness Scale – part 1

by Carlos Azpilicueta

one of the more interesting fish-behaviour concepts i’ve ever come across, an ever-present approach i’ve adopted no matter what species or water-type fished.
this goes a lot further than the simplistic and typical “Pattern vs Presentation” that most authors have re-hashed over centuries. something the dedicated angler should most definitely consider to add to their ‘bag of tricks’.

”  Imagine the following situation: a brown trout feeding near the surface in front of you. Moreover, it’s large (this requires some imagination). You have the perfect imitation. You know that because, during previous hatches of this same species, this pattern worked consistently. With a careful, accurate cast, you make a perfect presentation. Drag-free, it drifts into the trout’s window at the right place at the right time. Everything is perfect. It couldn’t be better. But… (now you don’t have to imagine anything, just remember the many times you’ve experienced this) it doesn’t take your fly. So, what do you do now? You tie on a different fly, and then another and another. You lengthen your leader to see if it’s that darn micro-drag. You carefully move into a different position and cast at a different angle. Zilch.

During the two last seasons, I’ve verified that there is one more parameter that we generally don’t take into account or we simply don’t pay enough attention to. Consequently, we don’t deal with it as something separate from the other two. I’m referring to the trout’s degree of wariness in such a critical situation as feeding on the surface. Conditioned by a heap of circumstances, the trout passes through states in which its feeling of security or awareness of vulnerability vary constantly. These states enormously condition the trout’s willingness to take your fly, independently of the pattern or the presentation.”

click HERE for Carlos’ complete article.
Part 2 will follow shortly, enjoy !

Fly Casting- Pushing and Pulling

by Carlos Azpilicuetta

although nothing new, here’s a way to greatly improve your casting while being able to play with soft squishy balls and plastic bags at the same time.

“Whoever tries once and learns to pull, no longer wants to do it any other way. It’s a whole new sensation of control and mastery. When you pull, your cast is mechanically much more efficient; your movements are much more subtle and controlled. Moreover, pulling helps lessen the possibility of tailing loops, every fly caster’s arch enemy. These are pretty convincing arguments.

Basically, pulling entails raising and lowering your elbow; pushing is moving it horizontally.

These two exercises have a single purpose, to get you to feel the sensation of pulling the rod as opposed to pushing it. Feeling this sensation is the first step in training your muscles and movements for quickly acquiring such an interesting technical advantage.”

   click pull either image to access Carlos’ great article.

a toad and a centipede

The fable of the poet fly caster
by Carlos Azpilicueta

Strolling in a field one day, a toad and a centipede meet. The toad tells the centipede how much he admires him and how awed he is by the marvelous, perfect coordination of the movement of so many legs as the centipede glides along so gracefully. As they stroll along, the toad goes on expressing his admiration and wonder. The flattered centipede, not knowing what to say, starts thinking about how he actually does it and the more he tries to understand how he moves, the clumsier and slower he becomes. After a while, the centipede is stymied, comes to a complete halt, paralyzed, thinking how to coordinate his legs to keep walking. At this point, the toad gobbles him up.

Moral: “If you’re a great fly caster and don’t want to explain how you do it so that others can do it like you, no one will be able to stomach you.”

a fabled excerpt from Carlos’ article Poets and Engineers

Fly Casting- Horizontal Climbing loops

a side cast followed by a little upwards lift by varying finger grip pressure, starting at the beginning and continuing throughout the ‘stop’ is all it takes.
not only fun to do, this side cast can get under obstacles and still deliver the fly delicately.
since the front end of the line is angled higher than the back, the front ensemble, line and leader unrolls slightly upwards, it’s energy dissipates and falls to the water of it’s own weight similar to a parachute cast.diagram: Carl McNeil
photo: Carlos Azpilicueta

this photo brings back fond memories as it was the first time i met Carlos, ‘Mr Presentation Casts’ and my first casting lesson with a true master of fly casting. i’m still wowed