Early? Late? Just the Opposite?

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The dreams of dry fly fishers are populated with big trout confidently sipping our flies from the surface. In my particular case I prefer to dream of a big brown eventually taking some of my tiny emergers, but only after a period of pure disdain interspersed with a number of refusals. There is no pleasure in too easy things. That is why a great fishing day can’t be measured in numbers, or at least not only in them.

On the other hand too difficult goals often lead to frustration.  There are days when you don’t know whether you are striking too early, too late or they just seem to take the fly… but actually aren’t. It is a mistery, at least to me.

The scene depicted below resulted in the urge of having a couple of cold beers to properly shooth my soul. 😀

 

A Hundred Thousand

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A hundred thousand? Of what? you ask.
Video plays on my Vimeo account.

Not exactly a record, to be honest. Popular videos on the net have that amount of visualizations in a month, some of them in even in a week! It took six years for my clips to get to that number!

And although it is a ridiculous amount by current standards I feel satisfied and surprised.

Filming fly casting things, focusing that work in fly casting mechanics, which is of interest just to the minority of the minority, puts that “hundred thousand” in perspective.
Must I know about casting mechanics in order to be a good caster? Some guy asked me in a fly fair in Germany some years ago.
Of course not, I replied. Do you see that beautiful BWV parked there? You don’t need to know how to design a car engine to be a good driver, not even need to have a clue about how it works, but if you like driving you should be grateful to those who spent their time trying to grasp the  physics of all the amazing things inside that hood. Without their apparently ridiculous and boring efforts you wouldn’t have the opportunity of enjoying a beautiful machine like that; not even the chance of using the most simple of all automobiles.

Thank you for having such a strange interest in these weird things and, please, keep watching!

There is more to come.

In Search of Beauty

That is what fly fishing is about, isn’t it?

Hatch in progress. A quartering dowstream cast to a good brown trying to get a drag-free drift in the tricky currents of a Bosnian chalkstream. The fly falls short of the target but the trout moves half a meter to its right to inspect the size #22 Shuttlecock Emerger. The fly is, apparently, right; obviously the drift is not. I get a well deserved refusal.

Three more casts get the fly drifting freely above the trout’s head. It couldn’t care less. Fourth good drift and the fish opens its mouth with confidence. Trout are a mistery. Fortunately.

Not the biggest fish of the season nor the most difficult, but beautiful. For several reasons.

Fly fishing is a permanent search of beauty, isn’t it?

Mel’s Pulling Through Stroke

Mel's pulling through

Mel Krieger’s concept of a “pulling” stroke as opposed to a “pushing” one wasn’t intended as a way of differentiating two different casting styles, it was coined to describe any good casting stroke whatever the style used. So you should “pull through” when using an “elbow up-down” style, as much as when using an “elbow backward-forward” one.

Pulling was the term Mel chose to convey the idea of leaving for the end of the stroke as much of the rod rotation as possible. In summary (and using two other Mel’s concepts) “pulling” isn’t a style, it is substance; “pushing” isn’t a style, it is a fault.

The gif above shows the paradox posed by the interpretation of “pulling” as just an stylistic issue: Mel himself is showing what he meant by “pulling through” while performing a cast that some instructors would still define as “pushing”.

Better to let Mel explain himself about the “pulling” concept, and what the gif above is showing (bold is mine):

In the pull through casting stroke, the casting hand precedes the rod tip through most of the casting stroke and the turnover and stop take place only at the 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.

Relax, Balance, Control

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We usually say about masters in any discipline that “they make it look easy”. Probably it isn’t just that it looks easy, I have the conviction that they look so relaxed because… well, they are totally relaxed.

As my fly casting mentor likes to say, a long cast starts in the tip of the toes and ends in the finger tips. Less extreme casts have less body parts in play, but share some important trait in common: good form requires to be as effortless as possible.

In everyday trout fishing casts, our main engine is a combination of arm, forearm and hand. That is why fly casting manuals recommend to apply force with the hand only at the end of the stroke: just around the stop.

Closing your rod hand tight only at the right moment, and for a brief time, makes a lot of sense. Open and close your rod hand while holding your forearm with your other hand, and feel how many muscles get tensioned by that simple exercise. This offers an explanation for that ache starting in the neck and going down the back, so many of us feel after a long day on the river.

I have no idea about biomechanics, but my gut feeling tells me that muscle tension and accuracy are rather incompatible. Just another good reason to train the closing-opening of the hand during the casting stroke.

But truly relaxing the hand is pretty much impossible if we departure from an inadequate starting point. Every time I see someone casting with his reel parallel to the casting plane, I know that things aren’t as effortless as they could be. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, so if it is a video probably even more.

I must confess that just making a few casts with the rim of the reel facing the target felt totally uncomfortable, as you have to constantly force the rod to keep the reel in place. The same goes for an overhead cast, as we normally make them with a slight inclination to the side.

One day this Autumn I handed my rod to the guide and asked him to show me his long nymphing approach in a particularly deep run. I immediately noticed how he got the reel in the “hanging”, relaxed, position. I asked him why; “balance” he said. A much more concise way of conveying the same idea.

Reflections of a False Beginner


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Maybe it is a problem of lack of recruitment, or that every new angler is focused from the start in fishing nymphs without a fly line, most probably both, but over here, it is a fact that most of those interested in casting instruction have already been fly fishing for a number of years. They just hadn’t cared about polishing their casting skills. They are what we call “false beginners”.

It is known that deeply ingrained bad casting form is very hard to uproot. It is far easier to get quick, good results with those who start their fly fishing careers taking some casting classes.

Being a self-taught angler puts you in a similar scenario. I know it from experience. Seeing myself repeating the same frustrating mistakes over and over again forced a decision: I won’t forget about those bad habits as soon as I leave the water, only to face them again the next day; I will take my time remembering those bad moves, will reflect on them, and will start an unlearning program.

The season is over, so it looks like a good time put down a list of those bad moves I have been guilty of perpetrating over the years. Some are already eradicated; others still bring swearing to my mouth from time to time.

  1. All anglers know that fish seem to have a strange predilection for the opposite bank… Just be aware that your own bank is the opposite one of someone else, and may hold as much fish as that in front. So do look purposefully before entering the water; a big wake running away will remind you of this if you don’t.
  2. Trout always look upstream, the problem is that upstream doesn’t always mean upriver. Analyze the current’s real direction before making your first cast.
  3. Cast to specific targets. Always. Even when just fishing the water.
  4. When your fly drifts over the target, study the curved configuration of the line on the water. That is the radiography of dragging disease.
  5. Think of fly drag before thinking of fly change.
  6. Always check every knot after changing a fly.
  7. Never lose sight of the drift of your fly. If you need to fix something in your tackle remove your fly from the water. Lack of focus equals missed fish. Maybe The Fish.
  8. If yo are tired and feel unmotivated stop fishing. Take a break. A nap. Have a beer or two. Whatever. Lack of focus equals missed fish. Maybe The Fish.
  9. Slack line is a must for a drag-free drift, but make sure that don’t compromise your ability to strike effectively.
  10. If you shift from a short rod to a long one, keep in mind that the same arm motion when striking will probably be too much for your thin tippet.
  11. If after days of fishing #22 emergers on a 7X tippet you change to a big streamer on a stout leader, remember that they invented the strip strike to put it to use. Unless you want to miss the trout of your lifetime, that is. Based on (very recent) actual events.
  12. When playing a fish stand with your feet touching each other. I managed to break the tip of a new rod when a trout changed its mind, deciding that running downstream through a perfect channel between my legs, was much more relaxed than fighting the current.
  13. Last but not least: During a feeding frenzy… Don’t eat! 😃

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