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. “

 

Spey Casting- More on the Snake Roll

by Eoin Fairgrieve

we’d previously seen an introduction on this wonderful all-in-one change-of-direction cast with descriptions by its creator, Simon Gawesworth and beautifully demonstrated by Christopher Rownes and today’s treat compliments the previous instruction perfectly.
always pleasantly explained with simple, concise wordings, Eoin’s as always spot on: it’s all good and well worth paying attention to every single bit.

whether learning for the first time or working on this cast, this is a little goldmine. enjoy !

note- beginners might want to focus on all the same moves but at a slower rate with short to mid belly lines to start off.

new to this or old, be sure to check out the previous Snake Roll article HERE for just about everything there is to know about this cast.
if you have any questions or comments please leave them in the comments box.

Pretty casting.

not sure how else to describe Christopher Rowne‘s style but it sure fits the bill. as casting geeks we could go on and analyse this and that but for today ’nuff said, this is eye candy and it’s very tasty. enjoy !

as a side note, i’m really happy to see mini-drones used for filming casting sequences as it’s giving us perspectives that are otherwise quite difficult to achieve.

the perfect Jump Roll

performed by Christopher Rownes

also known as a Switch cast and Dynamic roll by some, i prefer not to use those terms because of all the confusion they usually create.
simply put, a Jump roll is the other form of roll cast.
instead of dragging the line back on the water to create the D loop, the ‘jump’ part means lifting the line from the water, placing the anchor, creating the D loop in line with the intended front cast direction and going into the forward cast before the D loop crashes on the water.

although hard to disassociate from the Spey cast family, it really isn’t one because this isn’t a change of direction cast. sure, we can deliver the line in a slightly different direction than where the line was lifted but that angle change is very limited.
however, the Jump’s siamese twin of sorts, will be the Single Spey which is based on the same principle but involves a curved sweeping motion and consequent D loop angle change during the ‘Jump/Lift’.

in his dvd set ‘Modern Spey Casting’, Simon Gawesworth highly recommends practicing this cast regularly and to use it to warm-up to start off the day. i couldn’t agree more. it’s not the most useful of actual-fishing casts as it means putting the fly back where it came from and usually causes some commotion on the water’s surface during the lift but ! getting it down right involves good and proper everything: power application, timing, rod tip tracking, smoothness and probably a whole bunch of other elements that’ll come back to me once i’ve published this post…

more than just ‘line-pretty’, this image shows excellent anchor placement involving anchoring only the leader and not the fly line. this provides more than enough ‘stick’ to not blow out the D loop and makes the front cast more efficient and quasi-effortless. superb form indeed.
in this image we’ll also notice that the ‘kiss and go’ principle is far from being a rule or even a necessity as we clearly see the forward cast was started and finished well before the line anchor touched down: a ‘go and kiss’.

’nuff said, here’s some line-candy. enjoy !

'the perfect Jump Roll' Chris Rownes

Fly Casting- Some thoughts on Instruction and Descriptions from Mel Krieger

an excerpt from The Essence of a Fly Cast – Mel Krieger via Christopher Rownes

words, words, words. we need them to teach fly casting but if they’re not carefully chosen they can lead to confusion.
for instance, a pet peeve of mine is Joan Wulff’s ‘Power-Snap’.
in my mind, and something i’ve often witnessed in person is, when described to a novice caster those two words connected together often result in too much power and too much snap: things that get them in trouble real quick.
another one is the infamous ‘stop’ which we’ve already scratched the surface on that deserves an in-depth article of its own but in the meantime, what this article mostly reminds me of is there’s two basic approaches (or maybe mental-frames) to how the rod moves and how it affects the line. i like to refer to them as-

Hand Centric and Tip Centric.

in the first case, instruction and casting movement is envisioned around what the casting hand does and in the second, what the rod tip does.
it goes without saying that the hand needs to move the rod butt to eventually make the rod tip move but i by far prefer to focus on what the tip is doing because it’s the rod tip that’s the final element affecting the fly line and this greatly affects our understanding of concepts such as the ‘stop’, rod bend/rod shortening, straight or curved line path, rod straight position, counterflex or: just about anything that has to do with the casting stroke. besides, thinking about your rod tip is a lot sexier than the usual dirty, ill-manicured hand…

needless to say i’m happy to see a similar hand/tip approach coming from a Top-Gun like Mister Krieger. i sure wish i could have met him.

Mel’s approach on this and a whole host of other matters remain some of the better ones i’ve seen and leaves a lot of food for thought. enjoy !

All fly casting, no matter how descriptive and analytical the directions and teachings, must finally conclude kinaesthetically – that is by feel.
The only way to learn this unique feel of casting a long weighted line with a flexible rod is to experience it; not unlike the learning process of riding a bicycle for the first time. Convincing or inspiring the learner to jump on the bike and go for it may well be the ultimate instructional mode. Casting a fly is identical, and again like riding a bike, virtually every person who is not severely handicapped can learn the timing and feel of fly casting simply by casting.
There is of course a place for other instruction even in this basic learning cycle that may help the learner focus his or her efforts and hasten that learning process. That would include analogies, visuals and key words and phrases, techniques that are also used for intermediate and advanced fly casters. Although most of these instructional tools are valid and useful to the learner, there are times when they can actually inhibit learning and possibly lead to serious casting faults. The following are some possible examples.
“Throwing a ball” is an excellent analogy for communicating the athleticism and fluidity of a natural throwing motion. It can, however lead to the use of too much wrist movement and a throwing motion that fails to utilize the bending and unbending of a fly rod.
Words like “whump,” “snap,” “flick,” “flip” and “pop” are commonly used to convey the feeling of bending (loading) and unbending a fly rod. Again, they are mostly good words, but often misconstrued to indicate a too-quick loading and unloading of the fly rod, resulting in a dip of the fly rod tip and tailing loops. Spelling whump with two or three “U”s – “whuuump” or possibly “snaaap” might be of help, especially for longer casts.
Phrases like “accelerate to a stop,” “speed up and stop” and “start slow and end fast” are common instructional tools that accurately depict the tip of the rod during a casting stroke. Many learners however, attempt to emulate those slow to fast directions with their casting hand, often with poor results. A more useful instructional phrase might be “a smooth even hand movement to a stop.” The result will actually be the rod tip accelerating throughout the casting stroke.
Another common phrase that has almost become a mantra in fly casting is “Applying power too early in the casting stroke creates a tailing loop.” This statement is actually incorrect. It is possible to apply maximum power in the beginning of a casting stroke. The key to a good cast is maintaining or even increasing the rod bend throughout the stroke. The real culprit in this tailing loop concept is unloading the rod too soon.


In the pull-through casting stroke, the casting hand precedes the rod tip through most of the casting stroke and the turnover and stop takes place only at end of the casting stroke.
Lay out 70 or so feet of fly line on a lawn behind you, fly rod pointing to the fly, and throw a javelin, turning the rod over only at the very end of the throw. You may be pleasantly surprised with this extreme pull through casting motion.

Let’s look more closely at a fly casting stroke. The first step in all fly casting strokes is “bending the rod. Significant movement of the line only takes place after the rod bend.
Starting a casting stroke too slowly, or for that matter too quickly, commonly results in a poor rod bend and an inefficient cast. Think of starting strong or heavy, forcing a bend in the rod as the casting stroke begins. A somewhat better description of a casting stroke might be “bend the rod and sling the line” or “bend the rod and accelerate to a stop”, or whatever words work for you following “bend the rod and …”. Casting the fly line from the water and changing the back and forth direction of the line helps to start the casting stroke with a good rod bend. Notice that many casters make their best back cast from the water. That’s because the friction of the water puts a decided bend in the fly rod early in the casting stroke! A roll cast however requires a more forceful rod bend as it does not have the loading advantage of a water pickup or an aerialized line between back and forward casts.

The roll cast can be an excellent entry to the unique feel that exists in fly casting. Forcing the rod into a bend and keeping it bent – finally unloading (stopping) in the intended direction of the cast – almost like putting a casting loop in the fly rod itself.

for the second part of this article: The Pull-Through click here

a spey cast for dry flies

ordinarily, spey casts are reserved for sinking flies and nymphs or big deer hair Bomber-style dries that don’t require being constantly dried before being cast out again.
but what about your average trout-size dry fly ? wouldn’t it get drowned by being repeatedly dragged through the water during line repositioning and the subsequent anchoring before rolling out the line ? yes it would but there’s a way out and it’s not only fun and efficient but it lets you present your fly in situations where you couldn’t have before.
from Christopher Rownes, here’s a single-hand rod spey cast version of what both him and Simon Gawesworth call a Dry Fly Snake Roll. the cast is basically the same as Simon’s, but Chris initiates the snake roll part from the right side of the body instead of Simon’s left, combining a Jelly Roll and a Turbo spey (either single or double hauling with a single-hand spey which just like with aerial casting, increases line speed).
as an example of this cast’s usefulness, on the video below let’s imagine that Chris is near the bank and has  trees or rocks behind him and he wants to cast across the river.
this cast avoids casting into the trees, dries the fly by false casting left to right out of the presumed holding area of the fish (out of their view), initiate the Snake Roll and cast the fly out towards it’s target all in one smooth move. a really nice cast to add to your repertoire.

Spey Casting- the Snake Roll

devised by Simon Gawesworth in the ’80’s as a quicker, all in one continual motion alternative to the Double-Spey, this one can be of use for any fly angler. not only fun and quick, it’s usefulness extends to any situation whether it be on large salmon rivers or teeny-tiny trout streams, a boat or lake or sea, basically whenever a quick change of direction cast is needed.
here’s an example: i’m on a lake shore fishing to my right and suddenly i see a rise or a cruiser on my left. instead of lifting the line and doing several aerial back and forth false casts to get the line in the fish’s direction, i simply lift the line, initiate the ‘e‘ mentioned below and bang ! it’s out where i want it in about what ? two to three seconds !
cool, huh ?

” Many, many years ago my father and I ran a fly fishing school in Devon, England on the river Torridge. The pool we used to teach Spey casting on was almost ideal. It was wide enough to throw a full line, shallow and gentle enough to wade to the other side and teach casting from both banks and had a nice high bank from which we used to video casters under tuition. The only thing that was wrong with it was that there was not a lot of current. The caster would stand on the left bank (river flowing from right to left) cast a Single Spey across the pool and then have to wait quite sometime for the current to wash the line back to the dangle. This got frustrating and so I used to use two Roll casts to get the line back downstream (there were too many trees lining the pool to do an overhead cast). The first Roll cast was to get the line in the right area and the second to straighten it out. Over the course of time I started to speed the two roll casts up, merging them into one fluid movement and thus became the Snake Roll. “

read Simon’s full article here.

drawing the ‘e‘ shape with the rod tip to pull in the line and set up the D-loop. be sure to keep the rod tip in plane as much as possible on the imaginary wall.

in the video below we see Christopher Rownes‘ absolutely gorgeous  performance of the Snake Roll cast with a single hand rod. trés suave !

let’s always keep in mind that contrary to what many people perceive them to be, Spey casts are casts that can be done regardless of equipment, with both single and double handed rods. they are not a designation of how many hands are holding the rod or a type of rod.
in it’s simplest form, we’ll define spey casts as ‘change of direction casts’: a repositioning of the fly line resulting in the anchor and D-loop in line with the target followed by a roll cast.
the Snake Roll is one of the alternatives in doing this all in one continuous, graceful and highly effective motion.
it’s an easy and quick cast to learn and a definite bonus to your casting repertoire, give it a try !