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better Wading through Yoga

for most anglers, this is about as close to any kind of exercise as they’ll get…

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but fear not ! and even though i know for sure 99.9% of you will just laugh and scoff the mere idea i’ll reach some sort of blogger’s nirvanaish bliss if just the 0.01% can relate you can still work on your ‘power-snap’ and also become a little fitter or at least live with a little less pain and have a freer movement range that’ll of course make your days on the water better and also improve your posture, tv watching experiences, driving comfort, your work day, gaming, sex and all the other trivial things in life thanks to a few rather easy stretch routines.

forearmplank
Forearm Plank (think of it as full-body SLP)

“Colorado lakes and rivers lure fly-fisherman with natural beauty, peaceful waters and hard-fighting trout. But, as serene as fishing may be, overuse injuries are common. Many anglers complain of pain in the shoulder, elbow and wrists that can last for hours or even days after a fishing trip.”

A number of factors lead to overuse injuries. Casting technique, rod weight, rod design and physical stance can all affect the likelihood of developing overuse injuries. For most anglers, some amount of pain is difficult to avoid. But just a few minutes a day spent opening and strengthening the shoulders, elbows, forearms and wrists will help avoid overuse injuries.”

have a beer or three, don your waders and click either pic for the complete article while trying not to break anything in the process. enjoy !

upplank
Modified Upward Plank – “Push it all Into the Clouds”
gorilla
The Gorilla ! grunting is recommended.

Fly Casting- Practice with a purpose

shared here with Walter Simbirski’s kind permission.

Walter is an IFFF Master Certified Casting Instructor quite active in several fly casting discussion groups and today’s wise advice is taken from one of them. intended as a helping guideline for casting certification candidates, the very same advice is invaluable for any fly angler wanting to up their game.
most reading this won’t be preparing an exam so simply replace words like: exam with whatever fishing situation you’re working on- saltwater flats, high-altitude mountain streams or simply your favourite everyday fishing spot and switch the noted distances to the distances you’ll need and you’ll see that this advice indeed fills everyone’s bill.

we’ll instantly recognise that it’s all just common sense but we fly casters/anglers tend to be an easily distracted, unorganised lot… so, a little reminder can only help. enjoy !

ed_mosser_strobe_photo casting

“We’ve talked about training rather than straining in order to avoid becoming injured. The next advice in the area of practice is learning to practice with a purpose. The goal is to make the most of your training sessions by continuing to avoid injury and to practice the things you need to practice in order to advance your skills. The things to keep in mind when practicing with a purpose are:
– Set up a plan and stick to it. If you are going to practice your accuracy casts regularly then don’t let yourself get sidetracked by beginning every lesson with distance casting.

– Concentrate on the things you need to improve, not the things you are already very good at. Each of us will be different in this respect although virtually everyone will begin with learning to control their loops. Are you able to consistently cast over 85 feet and make it look easy but can’t seem to hit a target? Then you should probably spend most of your time practicing accuracy rather than distance.

– Start every practice session with some warm up drills. Make sure you are stretched and warmed up before getting into the practice session.

– Vary your practicing and forget what the test requires. Instead of setting up targets at 30, 40 and 50 feet try setting up targets at different distances and at different angles rather than just on top of your tape. If you can consistently hit targets at any distance up to 50 feet then you will have a lot more confidence in your ability to perform this task during the test. Some of my fellows take a number of tennis balls and toss them out onto the field as their targets for their practice session.

– Don’t worry about meeting the minimum requirements of a task but concentrate on meeting the requirements with ease. You are required to cast 85 feet – is that your personal best? If so, then don’t count on adrenaline to get you across the line in the test. Continue practicing until you can hit 90 or 95 feet consistently with minimal effort and with the line landing straight.

– If one of your casts is giving you a problem then break it down into smaller parts and identify the things that are giving you problems. Fix these items and then put it all back together. You might recognize this as a form of Whole-Part-Whole. It works for your students and it works for you as well.

– Work with your mentor to identify the areas to concentrate on and what sort of practice drills might help you fix an issue.

– Set aside a time to practice each day stick to it. If you set a regular time you are more likely to stick to practicing each day. Make sure people know that this is your time for practice and that you should not be disturbed. But don’t let your schedule become too much of a habit – vary your times on occasion. If you become mentally conditioned to making your best efforts at a certain time of day you may find your test time is not optimal for you.

– Make sure you revisit the things you don’t concentrate on regularly to ensure you continue to improve or don’t backslide in those areas.

Train. Don’t strain.
Preparing for a casting certification test can be difficult because you need to practice a broad range of skills and it can be hard concentrate on one or two things. When I first began working towards becoming a certified instructor I printed out the performance test, took it to the field and worked my way through each task every time I practiced. After a couple of weeks I found that I spent about 10 minutes each session running through the parts of the test I felt mildly interested in and then spent the rest of my session trying to see if my distance cast had somehow improved from the previous day. Instead of my casting improving it became very sloppy. My loops were large and I was constantly ticking the grass. I was in no condition to attempt the test. At some point I decided that if I was going to pass the test I needed to concentrate on what was really required. Instead of spending every day trying to cast farther I concentrated on increasing the distance for which I had good loop control. If I started each session and found that I could easily handle the distance from the previous day then I added 1 or 2 feet for that session – no more than that. If I felt the loops weren’t up to my satisfaction I shortened the line until I felt I was back in control. By changing my practice methods I found that within a few weeks my casting, and my best distance, improved significantly. It takes patience but it pays off in the long run. Instead of running through the test every day you should run through it every few weeks to identify what things you need to concentrate on for the upcoming weeks. Select a limited number of items you think you can improve and stick to those.

One more tip – review your equipment regularly as well. Make sure you are getting the performance you need from the equipment you have selected and that it is kept in peak form.”

Presentation Casts- DownStream Dry Fly

here’s another great presentation casting tip from Aitor Coteron.

along the lines of Jason Borger‘s downstream presentation ‘Undercut Drop’ (see diagram) and similar in concept as Jim William’s upstream ‘Pull-back-Slack‘, Aitor’s videos show us a super-easy way to get better drag-less drifts.
the common denominator casting-wise is these casts are all based on the same principles and casters of all levels can rejoice because there’s no need to learn and practice any fancy twists, curves, unreliable and wind-dependant tricky piles or wiggles either during-or-after-the-cast movements.
the bonus here is these casts are real, effective fishing casts of great value to any fisher: bread and butter stuff we can consistently rely on and not some iffy maybe-may or maybe-not presentation. in other words, the simpler the better.
everyone who knows me knows how much i love fiddly, curvy casts. outside of the fun factor, i firmly believe it make us better casters because we need to get creative and try to deal with several exterior elements like wind or body movement inconsistencies or whatever else you’d care to add but as more time goes by i try to get the same results in simpler, more easily repeatable manners and today’s videos are super-fine examples of just that kind of practical/effective reductionism.

Jason Borger ffw-undercutdrop

with either one we’ll want to:
– cast directly in line with the current. this is the key to making these casts work and means the angler needs to position themselves in the seam or just to the side of the lane to be fished prior to presenting.
in river fishing we’ll almost always have micro currents to deal with but the big nasty drag issues happen when we have to cast across conflicting currents and the most difficult part of dealing with drag is eliminated, or at least greatly reduced when the fly line and current seam are the same. it just makes sense.
– as previously mentioned, cast straight to the target and the best part about that is just about any fly angler already has that skill down pat. the only thing to keep in mind and as in any other slack line cast, we’ll need to plan the use of more line than when presenting ‘straight to the rise’.
– last somewhat denominator (but i’ll still put them in the same cast family because all rod tip mend movements are basically vertical) is all three casts require either keeping the rod tip high, where it stopped at the ‘stop’, (Jason’s Drop), or drop the rod tip (Jim’s Drop and Pull-Back) or Zeljko’s ‘Drag-Back’ after the ‘stop’ and before line touch-down.

“Very conflicting currents, like those shown here, are a killer for fishing the dry fly with an upstream presentation. Using a downstream approach (when conditions allow it) leads to incredibly long drag-free drifts. Master fly fisher Zeljko Prpic shows how to do it right.” and he sure does… enjoy !

 

and a variant with the very same ‘in-the-seam’ presentation as above but using a reach mend, rather handy when getting into the seam is difficult to wade to or off of the bank.
one last thing, the video says dry fly but this’ll work just as well with whatever fly you have tied on, wet, nymph or dry.

 
ps- Jason’s blog Fish, Flies and Water is currently under reconstruction but be sure to check it out regularly if you don’t want to miss out on the good stuff and, if you’re not familiar with Aitor’s blog One More Last Cast, you should be…

Fly Casting Instruction Breakthrough- How to control someone else’s casting arm with your brain

you’ve attempted everything; you’re trying to help out this lost soul with his casting but whatever you do he has no control whatsoever over his wrist and it’s flip-flopping-flailing all over the place, so is the rod and of course so is the fly line.
he’s embarrassed, frustrated and is having second thoughts about suicide and you, poor instructor are wondering how this guy has gotten through life so far without swallowing his own tongue.

casting hammers

snickering blatantly, motherly insults and verbal threats start the healing process but remain sterile. the Casting Hammers aren’t working (one for each knee), there’s blood, snot and tears all over the rod you lent him for the course (he doesn’t know it yet but he’s just bought your whole outfit at four times its original cost), your Xanax bottle is empty and if you’re not lucky to be bald yet you’re probably pulling out enormous grey tufts whilst trying to figure out what to do next when low and behold, all of a sudden some science geeks in the form of helping angels working out of their parent’s garage have come to save the casting world with just a few old radio parts, suction cups, alligator clips and a low-end model iPad, the whole lot is easily transportable to the casting field in a messenger bag.

wipe the sucker down (be sure to over-charge him for the towels and antiseptic) plug him in and finally get him to cast properly for the first time in his life. at this point it doesn’t really matter if he’s conscious or not because we’ll be working on electrically-induced muscle memory that’ll automatically be stored in his inner him. you’re now in charge, just as it should be.

yeah i know, that was silly (except for the Casting Hammers. i do use them frequently and they work a charm, believe me) but you know, casting, fishing, chocolate, science, dreams and realities all blur into one at a certain point…

brainwashem’ young- Maxine’s amazing Gold Medal

i’m both speechless, sporting a huge grin, absolutely amazed and just all-around happy-extatic  for what this means for children, girls, women, any fly angler/caster and the future of fly fishing in general. here’s why:

Maxine-McCormick-with-medals-211x300

” At the U.S. National Casting Championships in Long Beach, Maxine McCormick finished fourth in fly casting accuracy behind only the world’s best, made the All-America team and bested the all-time women’s mark. That’s right, at age 11, she had the highest women’s score in history. She also broke seven junior national records in different events.

To put it in perspective, casters are scored in accuracy on a scale of zero to 300 in three events. Maxine scored a combined 289 in three events for fly accuracy. That tied for the fourth highest among all casters, no matter age, gender or past achievements.

Maxine’s 289 beat the all-time record for women, 286, set in the 1990s by Canada’s top champion, Brenda McSporran.

So what happened is that 11-year-old old Maxine just scored higher than any female in the history of the American Casting Association and was only outscored by Steve Rajeff, myself and father Glenn by just one point,” said Chris Korich of the Golden Gate Casting Club. “

for more on this amazing feat click the image above for the full article. enjoy !
for more amazing fly fishing kids here’s the complete brainwashem’ young series to share with your little ones.

SloMo Spey

from 2013’s Nordic Fly Casting Championships here’s a little slomo ballet gem staring buddy, colleague and super-duper caster Magnus Hedman from Sweden doing a left-hand up single Spey with an 18′ rod.
we don’t get to see the line fly but the emphasis here is body movements and coordination. judging by a lot of little details such as body weight shifting, the D-loop’s position and what seems to be a perfectly placed and very short anchor it’s a fair bet that line went far… enjoy !

 

don’t be surprised if the Hedman name sounds familiar as we’ve seen brother Fredrik’s wicked ‘Crouching Tiger’ single-hand distance style a while back. bad-ass casting genes in this family are rather strong…

Fly Casting- Casting by hand

although very cool to watch, casting fly lines by hand (without a rod) isn’t anything new. i’m not sure they where the first to develop this but Lee and Joan Wulff wrote about it eons ago and if i remember correctly, they got the idea of trying this out when they ended up stream side one day and realised that even though they had their reels, lines, flies and other stuff, they hadn’t packed their rods ! it saved the day, they caught fish, probably had quite a few laughs along the way all the while coming up with an ingenious learning/teaching method that’s as good now as ever because by removing the rod and forgetting about the all-too overly emphasised ‘loading the rod’ mantra from the equation and focussing on moving the line which is the whole point of fly casting, we either instantly or very quickly understand just about everything there is to understand about line tension, casting rhythm/pause, force application, straight line path, stroke length and forming loops (in other words, Bill and Jay Gammel’s Five Essentials of Fly Casting) and all that with just a simple piece of yarn or thickish string.

today’s video via allcastcomp (i don’t know the fellow’s name. if you do please leave a comment below, thanks !) is in two parts.
in the second, our mystery cowboy explains and demonstrates some really nice hand-only line control and accuracy and in part one, and the part i find the most interesting teaching-wise is the concept of getting people, specially beginners but something a lot of us could benefit from as well, to do exactly as explained in the video and mentioned above and learn or relearn to do all the moves without a rod.
in the same sense as pantomiming teaches our body to easily repeat a movement, casting a short length of line by hand will not only get us familiar with that movement but we’ll get instant feedback on our results and those results don’t lie. in my eyes, this kind of no-nonsense and ultra-simplified teaching and learning is simply brilliant as the caster can only get better when they put that rod together and string it up.

i have no idea if he fly fished or even considered such seemingly menial things as playing with strings but if he had, i’m sure George Orwell would have said “Triple plus Good”. enjoy !

Fly Casting- The Foundation Casting Stroke

before anything else, i want to extend a great big thank you to Jason Borger for sending me this video to share here on TLC ! first described in drawing form in his seminal book Nature of Fly Casting, today’s treat is as far as i know, the first animated rendition of the Foundation Casting Stroke.

let’s first have a look at the video in ‘real time’. enjoy !

ok, with all the other styles of fly casting around what makes this so special ? there are several aspects.
– firstly, as opposed to most other styles i can think of (with the exception of say, the 170° or other distance competition-specific methods), the FCS is the only stroke/cast/line path that all works in one plane.
as a reminder, most other styles are somewhat based on a more elliptic stroke. some more, some less elliptic but the main result is typically a back cast where the line travels behind the caster beneath the rod tip or at least much lower than the subsequent forward cast.

lifting the elbow literally ‘lifts’ the line over the rod tip.

JB 'Pistoning' FCS
its purpose is to track throughout the stroke as true as possible which means effectively having a higher BC trajectory keeping the line and fly away from obstacles and also a greater degree of fly placement precision.
– the FCS necessitates the full use of the caster’s arm. the stronger shoulder joint and muscle groups do most of the ‘work’, the quicker-to-move elbow adds a bit of speed and rod butt angle change to the stroke and the wrist and fingers finalise both speed-up and stop of the rod butt while refining the movements the bigger/stronger groups initiated.
this ‘big to small’ approach not only makes perfect sense bio-movement-wise but also greatly reduces the risk of injury, discomfort and fatigue.
– actively engaging the whole arm during the strokes and particularly the up and down ‘pistoning’ motion of the elbow makes getting a narrow and/or super-controlled loop thanks to SLP ‘Straight Line Path’ of the rod tip a piece of easily repeatable and consistent cake. among all the aspects of the FCS, that alone should get most casters interested.
another aspect i find invaluable to the FCS is it prevents what i term ‘arm laziness‘. this laziness is common amongst casters of all levels for what might be one of a million reasons but one thing i’ve noticed throughout the years is it’s often the root of many problems. to put it another way, exaggerated arm movement rarely leads to anything worse than a bigger than normal loop whereas not enough or just-at-the-limit movement very easily leads to casting nasties.

is the FCS the end-all of fly casting ? no and yes. it most definitely is not the kind of cast we’d want to do when casting big, heavy flies or teams of flies and most casting styles don’t rely on casting in a single plane to be effective and people definitely catch fish without casting the line over the rod tip.
learning the FCS however takes our casting game to a whole other level. once we’ve assimilated it to our bag of tricks we’ll be a more complete and therefore more efficient caster. it’s well worth the extra play/work to get this one down pat.
as a final note, i personally don’t consider the FCS in the least bit to be a purely vertical overhead style. we can use the exact same elbow up-and-down ‘pistoning’ as Jason calls it to any other plane in various degrees from completely horizontal and from one side of the body to the other by simply replacing the up-and-down movement of the elbow to one that goes out-and-in. as a supplement to this article, i’ll try to make a video of the ‘out and in’ motion in the near future.
for more on the SLP aspect of the FCS click here HOW STRAIGHT IS STRAIGHT LINE PATH ? and check out the comment section.

here’s  a slomo gif that’ll hopefully help to completely assimilate this all-important movement.

JB's FCS 303fps slomo

i’d like a mention that Jason’s upcoming book Single-Handed Fly Casting is in the photo/drawing stage and that the list for the 1001 signed and numbered copies is filling up quick. be sure to click HERE to reserve your copy soon, the casting world’s been waiting for this one and i’d expect them to go fast…

how cool is this ?

fly casting finess cover

needles to say, it is an enormous honour to have TLC‘s fly casting reference page mentioned in this recent book by John L. Field !

funny thing, and i sincerely hope you’ll pardon my ignorance, John…  is until now i’ve never heard of this gentleman but that’s all about to change as i just downloaded the book through Amazon/Kindle and it’s coming with me on a short trip in the higher Pyrenees tomorrow where i’ll be not only reading in the shade, hiding from the heat wave we’re currently going through if the fishing is slow but also trying out an absolutely fantastic small-stream jewel of a 6′ 3wt Superfast bamboo rod hand made by Monsieur Hulot umm, Luke Banister lent for review along with a too-nice-for-me hand-made wooden scoop net by Mark Leggett of Alternative Tackle just last week in Cumbria, England.

there’s a real home-mattress in the back of the fish-van and chocolate and coffee is packed: this should be fun.

fly casting finesse reference

click either image to access Skyhorse Publishing’s page for more info on John’s book.
and a big thanks for the heads-up on all this to buddy Will Shaw !

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.