Reflexiones de un falso principiante

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Quizás es un problema de falta de reclutamiento, o que cada nuevo pescador está centrado desde el principio en pescar a ninfa sin usar la línea —o más probablemente ambas cosas— pero es un hecho que la inmensa mayoría de los interesados en instruirse en el lanzado ya tienen una experiencia de varios años pescando; sencillamente nunca hasta ahora se habían preocupado de pulir sus habilidades. Son lo que se conoce como “falsos principiantes”.
Es bien sabido que los vicios de lanzado son difíciles de erradicar. Es mucho más fácil obtener buenos resultados con los que empiezan su carrera como pescadores recurriendo a unas buenas clases. Ser autodidacta en la pesca a mosca en general te sitúa en un escenario similar. Lo sé por experiencia propia.
El verme repitiendo los mismos frustrantes errores una y otra vez me forzó a tomar una decisión: no me voy a olvidar de esos malos hábitos tan pronto como salga del agua para repetirlos de nuevo al día siguiente; voy a reflexionar pausadamente sobre ellos y empezar un programa de desaprendizaje. Así que me propuse elaborar una lista de todos esos deslices que he sido culpable de perpetrar a lo largo de los años. Algunos ya los tengo erradicados, otros todavía me hacen soltar juramentos de vez en cuando.

  • Todos los pescadores sabemos que los peces parecen tener una extraña predilección por la orilla opuesta. Sencillamente ten en cuenta que tu orilla es, ni más ni menos, la orilla opuesta de algún otro, y puede tener tantos peces —o más— como la que tienes enfrente. Así que observa tu orilla detenidamente antes de entrar al agua; una gran estela alejándose rápidamente te servira de recordatorio si no lo haces.
  • Las truchas siempre miran aguas arriba, el problema es que aguas arriba no siempre equivale a río arriba. Analiza la dirección real de la corriente antes de hacer el primer lance.
  • Lanza a un punto concreto. Siempre. Incluso pescando al agua.
  • Cuando la mosca derive sobre el objetivo estudia la configuración de la línea sobre el agua. Esas curvas son la radiografía de la enfermedad del “rayado”.
  • Piensa en si la mosca rayaba antes de pensar en cambiarla.
  • Comprueba siempre cada nudo tras un cambio de mosca.
  • Nunca pierdas de vista la mosca mientras deriva. Si tienes que poner algo en su sitio o hacer cualquier cosa saca la mosca del agua. Falta de concentración equivale a pez fallado; quizás El Pez.
  • Si estás cansado y desmotivado deja de pescar. Tómate un respiro, un par de cervezas, lo que sea. Falta de concentración equivale a pez fallado; quizás El Pez.
  • Cierta cantidad de línea floja es imprescindible para una deriva libre, pero hay que asegurarse de que nunca es tanta como para comprometer la posibilidad de clavar eficazmente. De esto tengo un mal —y muy reciente— recuerdo en Nueva Zelanda.
  • Si cambias de una caña corta a otra más larga, ten en cuenta que el mismo movimiento de brazo al clavar posiblemente sea demasiado duro para tu fino terminal: palanca más larga, clavado más corto.
  • Si tras dias de pescar emergentes del #22 con un terminal de 0,10 mm cambias a un streamer con un terminal recio, recuerda que el “strip strike” se inventó por algo. A menos que prefieras fallar la trucha de tu vida, claro. Basado en hechos recientes y especialmente dolorosos. 😥
  • Cuando pelees un pez mantén los pies bien juntos. En una ocasión rompí la puntera de una caña nueva cuando una trucha cambió repentinamente de opinión, decididiendo que correr aguas abajo a través del canal que formaban mis piernas era mucho más relajado que luchar contra la corriente.
  • Por último, aunque no menos importante: Cuando comience el festín ¡no comas! 😃

There it blows!

Pull Hard Whenever You Can!

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Catch and release practices are being subject to greater scrutiny lately. And rightly so, for releasing a fish doesn’t necessarily mean it will survive if the angler doesn’t take enough care. I wrote something on the subject not long ago:

But in this regard of “releasing alive” there is a point that is missing in both old and new guidelines: sometimes (too many times, judging from what I personally see) the fish destined to be released is, in practical terms, dead before the angler touches it. That old “keep the rod tip up!” we heard so many times in those first fishing days, has the ability of killing as many fish as the neglecting angler-photographer.

There is no problem in shooting some pics or videos of a fish, provided that you bring it to the net quickly. The key is in using the rod properly by varying its effective length. By keeping the rod tip up we exert the minimum force on the fish and the maximum on our wrist. Changing the angle between the rod butt and the imaginary line which connects our hand with the fish, modifies that relationship of forces. I see too many anglers that don’t understand this basic concept.

The following video shows a 2.5 kg brown trout that fell to a #18 nymph on a long 7X (0.10 mm) tippet. Not a suitable diameter, I know, but I didn’t expect that size of fish; had I seen it I’d have resorted to a thicker monofilament. However, by pulling hard whenever I could, I managed to get the trout in the net without any damage, although I was rather “underpinned”. And believe me, that brown fought like crazy.

My point? Taking pics in a sensible way isn’t at odds with proper catch and release practices. It is what happens first what matters the most. So pull hard whenever you can —that is, when the fish stops after a run— decreasing tension when it speeds up again.

¡Agarra, ancla, agarra!

Si algo característico hay en el lanzado spey eso es el ancla; esa corta porción de línea que permaneciendo en contacto con el agua junto con el bajo y la mosca, permite la formación del bucle en D, justo en el instante previo al inicio del lance que va a presentar la mosca.

En cualquiera de los lances spey es recomendable evitar que el ancla se despegue del agua intempestivamente —lo que se conoce como desanclado. El ancla debe levantarse limpiamente del agua a medida que el bucle frontal avanza hacia el objetivo, idealmente debería hacerlo sin desplazarse hacia atrás. Los efectos de ese desanclado son negativos así que mejor cuidarse de él.

¿Se puede conseguir un buen lance a pesar de desanclar? Por supuesto que sí, aunque hay circunstancias —por ejemplo cuando queremos llegar lejos— en las que la diferencia entre un ancla que aguanta y una que no es notable; pero por otra parte, aunque el lance salga, el desanclado lleva aparejados otros problemas que conviene tener en cuenta.

Veamos los dos tipos de desanclado.

El desanclado que se produce mientras el pescador realiza el lance delantero. El ancla patina hacia atrás, generalmente al final del golpe de lance o, incluso, cuando éste ya ha terminado. Es lo que yo llamo ancla patinada. Un ejemplo:

  • El ancla patinada siempre desperdicia energía: nosotros queremos que la mosca despegue del agua y se desplace hacia adelante, hacia el objetivo; sin embargo con el desanclado la mosca se desplaza hacia atrás, y entonces:
    Va en sentido opuesto al que buscamos
  • No se mueve sola, alguien debe moverla, el pescador, que desperdicia parte de su energía en desplazar la mosca —y todo el ramal inferior del bucle en D— hacia donde no debe.
  • Cuando la mosca endereza su rumbo y comienza a dirigirse hacia su objetivo, está más lejos de éste que en el caso de un ancla que aguante: hace falta más energía para mandarla a su destino.

Aquí se explica todo esto:

El desanclado que se produce durante el barrido para formar el bucle en D. Es lo que yo llamo ancla volada, para diferenciarla de la patinada.
En este caso no se desperdicia energía en el lance delantero, incluso éste resulta más eficiente pues, a diferencia de un spey, ahora tenemos un lance oval en el que estamos impulsando la totalidad de la línea hacia adelante, no solo la parte de la línea que conforma el ramal ramal superior de la D.

Pero, si un ancla volada puede resultar en un lance más eficiente, ¿por qué evitarla? Por dos motivos principales:

  • Si estamos pescando con un espacio limitado por detrás un ancla volada puede mandar la mosca a las ramas que se encuentren a nuestra espalda.
  • Si, en cambio, el espacio que tenemos detrás es amplio y limpio —por ejemplo un pedrero— corremos el riesgo de que la mosca toque inadvertidamente en una piedra y el anzuelo pierda su punta. Ocurre, y cuando lo hace no nos damos cuenta.

El siguiente vídeo muestra anclas patinadas:

A todos los pescadores les patina el ancla alguna vez, no es ninguna tragedia, pero en mi caso tengo la sensación de que esforzarme en hacerlo perfecto es la única manera de que me salga medianamente bien.

Get Prepared!

 

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Not from NZ but from Old Europe

 

I see it all the time. I mean being ill-prepared for your upcoming trip abroad, specially regarding the proper casting technique to match the challenge ahead. And I have been guilty of it more times than I would like to admit. Frustration —highly aggravated by a depleted bank account— awaits ahead.

So train your casting regularly, starting way before the trip of your dreams begins. Mine is less than a month away. To New Zealand. Probably one of the trips of my lifetime, so I am training as much as I can, not as much as I’d like though.

Anyway it is very true that casting is just one of the array of skills that a successful angler must posses. So, apart from the casting practice, I thought it was time to reread my own notes about some common mistakes and pitfalls, in order to keep them in my subconscious mind when on the water… then adding some more that have been coming to my head after the season was over. Here they are:

  • Check your surroundings, specially up and behind you before starting to cast. Trees don’t need more decoration, they are beautiful as such.
  • Oval casts are great for heavy nymphs… but also for casting any kind of fly in confined spaces. They help in keeping your fly box well stuffed: it is always better to snag a branch at head height than five meters above you.
  • Take fly drag as a given, and act accordingly. Always.
  • Having that point above in mind, don’t expect to fix with your line already on the water what you didn’t devise while it still was in the air.
  • The ever shortening tippet: every change of fly changes the drifting characteristics of your leader. Take it into account as well when thinking of drag. And don’t be lazy.
  • Learn to discern hidden drag. Many times the difference between a bad and a good drift is really minute.
  •  Change position, casting tactics or both before changing fly.
  • When in doubt pull, it could be a fish, even The Fish. This is pretty evident with nymphs and streamers (I keep some painful memories of that), but even the disappearance of that dry fly, apparently sucked in by a small swirl, could be the telltale of a different story.

Anchor Loading the Rod?

 

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A fishing roll cast: look at the lack of tension in the fly leg of the D-loop

I was trying hard to follow exactly what I had been reading on all those books. The roll cast was an easy one —authors said— in fact easier than an overhead cast because you get rid of the backcast part. However, when practicing it my results were awful, to say the least.

A guy waving a rod in the middle of an urban park is like a priest on top of a mound of lime. Fortunately, the guy coming to me this time was a fly fisher.
—Are you trying a roll cast? It is easy, I use it everyday on the river.
—Show me, please!
… and the cast ended in a heap of line.
—I don’t know what happens, maybe it is your gear —he said.

Looking for an answer to that frustration; what I found was mostly something along these lines:
It’s best to practice this cast on water because the water creates the friction and drag necessary for a good roll cast. The friction of the water on the line in the roll cast helps load, (bend) the rod.

Yes! That corroborated what I had been studying so far! Rod and line were the equivalent of bow and arrow: the rod gets bent —loaded— and it propels the line when unloading.
This approach leads to a widespread conclusion: any action or thing contributing to rod loading —sometimes only in appearance— is good by itself, while most of the problems with failed casts have their source in an “insufficiently loaded” rod.
But this isn’t how a fly rod actually works —in fact this view is totally misleading when trying to explain a good bunch of casting phenomena— however, since the bow/arrow model is still the prevalent view in the casting scene, it is worth examining rod load in spey casting. So the present article comes as a complement of this one about bend when the anchor settles, and this other one on the effects of circling-up after the sweep.

The following video is the second most viewed one of my Vimeo channel, and probably one of the less well understood. Let’s analyze what that experiment shows. What I am using to make some roll casts is an Echo Micro Practice Rod, whose “line” consists of braided cotton cord with a short piece of red wool as the “leader”. A tiled floor makes for the perfect scenario for the experiment. Since when casting on water the anchor is said to be the main actor providing rod load, what happens to rod bend when we have no anchor at all?:

 

Another roll cast from a different point of view:

What is happening on those clips? We have a very slippery floor that allows the line lying on it to slip freely, with almost no resistance due to the very low friction provided by the polished surface. As the current view on anchor and rod load states, the water “grip” on the anchor provides the resistance against the rod is moving, putting a bend on it. The rod pulls on the anchor and the anchor reacts and pulls on the rod bending it. But is that what actually happens?

Let’s address the main factor to understand this issue: during the casting stroke tension on the fly leg of the D-loop is very very small, that is, the force exerted by the moving D-loop on the anchor is very small, so small in fact that the anchor on a tiled floor remains in place during the whole casting stroke. It is important to notice that the line starts slipping backward only when the casting stroke is finished; the turning D-loop is able of making the anchor slip only when it is very close to the line end, when its small force is exerted on a shorter piece of cord, whose small mass opposes much less resistance to the pulling.

A fly rod bends due to action/reaction: we apply force to rod and line and these react due to their inertia —a body that isn’t in motion wants to remain still and opposes itself to any force trying to put it in motion; inertia we call it—, trying to oppose that force. Since the rod is flexible it bends, gets “loaded”. But, as those videos above show, if the fly rod pulling on the rod leg of the D-loop is unable of moving that super slippery anchor it is because it isn’t actually pulling on it, and if the rod doesn’t pull on the anchor the anchor doesn’t pull on the rod!; no pulling, no load!

And what about the bend in the rod on those slippy anchor casts? As we can see the rod gets loaded even without the supposed effect of the anchor. If it isn’t the anchor, what is it that provides that load? Just action/reaction, as explained above. When the stroke ends the rod has been pulling only on the piece of line that forms the rod leg of the D-loop, but not on the rest, that is, not on the piece of line lying on the floor. So that rod bend comes from the reaction of the rod itself and from the reaction of the rod leg of the D-loop only. That length of line that the caster has impulsed during his casting stroke is what I call live line, as opposed to the dead line which forms the fly leg of the D-loop; this dead line contributes nothing to our cast, it is just a passenger, a payload. But this is an interesting aspect that will be analyzed in another article.

OK! —you say —but that is just an experiment, what happens in a real cast?

As shown on this clip, on water we face the same phenomenon: the anchor slips after the casting stroke is finished:

The following picture was shot in a real fishing situation. It shows that even with a water anchor, tension in the fly leg of the D-loop is so low that that piece of line isn’t tight at all:

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Another clip showing how small is the force exerted by the rod leg on the fly leg:

So, if the anchor’s function isn’t rod loading, what is its role? The following video addresses this. Take notice of the instant in which the anchor starts sliding backward and its effect on the front loop speed and shape:

Conclusion? Don’t think of rod load, just concentrate in as long a live line as possible, with it, V-loop and anchor pointing in the direction of the target. And consider rod load just as a by-product of a well executed casting stroke.

Resist Temptation!

 

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I am a gear junkie. I mean gear in general, not just fly fishing paraphernalia. The periodical urge of getting a new rod isn’t uncommon, for that reason I quitted browsing catalogs compulsively long ago. But that drive is rather manageable now, after all I already have a lot of sticks, and I am old enough to know that any new addition to that department won’t make me any better at catching fish, nor significantly improve my casting skills. For the price of any top of the range rod, you can get a good number of casting classes that will have a real effect in your abilities.

But photo gear… That seems to ring a different bell inside, and the fact that I own a number of cameras and lenses collected along the last twenty-odd years doesn’t seem to ease that inner itch.

Maybe the explanation for the different strength between those two Visa-burning tendencies is purely rational: rod are just plastic tubes and the differences among them aren’t as radical as we like to think. On the other hand photo camera technology is advancing apparently every month.
Just a bad excuse, I know; a new camera -and the Sony a7S is being particularly tempting in the latest months- as it happens with a new rod, won’t make me any better in the picture making pursuit.

When temptation arises I remind myself of an article about camera/lens choosing I read years ago. One statement by its author remained fixed in my mind:
Before buying new gear you should answer honestly to this simple question: will the limitations I find in my pictures be solved by any of the features of my dreamed camera? Or are those limitations due to lack of technique or artistic prowess?
If you are sincere to yourself you’ll find that most of the time it is the latter, not the first.

So to ease the itch I have found specially useful to browse hard drives and unearth some picture that pleases me. It happens that the following photo is my favourite regarding action shots. And it also happens that it was taken with my first underwater camera -a feature that, at the time, was relatively new in the market- a small point-and-shoot of rather bad image quality.

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This shows me, again, that to shoot something appealing you don’t need any particularly expensive or big equipment, just awareness, a good knowledge of how your tool works, and being quick in recognizing and grasping fleeting opportunities. Pure luck doesn’t do any harm either.

So no, Santa, I don’t want that Sage X nor that Sony a7s! Yet!

Sweep, Loading… Unloading II

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In the first article of this series we studied how the setting of a V-loop doesn’t put any load in the rod. The momentum of the line travelling backward is transferred to the water, without affecting the rod tip. In many spey casting technical works we find another purported source for that mythical rod pre-loading: the rod motion from the tilted sideways position at the end of the sweep into the more vertical position suitable for starting the forward cast, a maneouver also known as circling-up. A quote from the internet about this circling up and its consequences puts things in perspective:

It is intended to transfer the rodloading created during the Sweep, on through to the Forward Cast, in a continuous, uninterrupted fashion… no stopping of the rod, no load-unload-load action… thereby maintaining continuous loading of the rod.

As H.G. Wells wrote: It sounds plausible enough tonight, but wait until tomorrow.

Will tomorrow be able of invalidating plain logic?

As we have seen in the first part of this study rod bend comes from a force. After the sweep is finished the line moves on its own backward; the rod pulls on the line making it turn and a loop is formed.

– Well, for that to happen the rod has to exert a force on the line, and the line exerts the same force -action/reaction- on the rod in the opposite direction, right?

– Yes, of course.

– So the rod gets loaded, right?

– No, slo-mo says it doesn’t and so does physics.

Let’s take a look to the equation for force:

F = m.a

What this equation states is that force is directly proportional to mass (weight in layman’s terms) and acceleration (change in velocity). The bigger the mass the bigger the force needed to accelerate it; the bigger the acceleration the bigger the force applied. So for a force to be increased we could increase m, a or both.

So what happens to the mass of the line and its acceleration -and consequently to force and then rod load- in those two phases of spey casting known as sweep and circling-up?

During the sweep we are applying force to the whole length of line at play in order to form a loop; during circling-up we exert force only on the short piece of line which is actually turning around in the loop front, the part of the line changing direction but not on the rest of it. During the sweep we are pulling on a much bigger mass.

What about acceleration? During the sweep we have to accelerate the line significantly to form a loop; when circling-up the rod is not accelerating anymore, for the caster moves it to the key position leisurely, without the intention of applying any significant force. During circling-up we are pulling with much less acceleration.

The logical conclusion? The force bending the rod on the sweep is comparatively big and decreases hugely when the sweep ends. In fact the force exerted on the rod by the line during circling-up is so low that the amount of bend left is irrelevant. Some video to clarify things:

 

The following pictures correspond to three frames taken from the video above: they show both the difference in the mass the rod is pulling on, and the difference in rod bend between the sweep and the circling up.

whole-line

The sweep applies significant force to the whole line. The rod is bent.

rsp

End of the sweep. No force applied to the rod or the line. Note how the line has lost tension and the rod is straight.

loop-front

An instant during circling-up. The rod is pulling only on that piece of line inside the red circumference, so there is no appreciable bend in it.

 

 

More video:

 

Is it that important to be aware of these intricacies? It is, in my opinion, if only for one reason: if you train or fish focusing on getting some impossible pre-load, you won’t be paying attention to the things actually defining spey casting efficency, namely: minimum anchor, maximum live line in the V-loop, all that aligned with the target and as close to the forward rod tip trajectory as possible.