Aprender de los errores

 

 

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Lejos de ser un ejercicio de auto flagelación estas reflexiones se basan en que hay buenos motivos para pensar que se aprende más de los errores que de los éxitos. Mediada la temporada, y con algún importante viaje de pesca a la vista, es el momento de reflexionar sobre algunos fallos para evitarlos en el futuro.

Este artículo previo se quedó corto, lo que sigue a continuación es su secuela:

  • Lanzando ninfas hay que estar bien atento a lo que tenemos encima de la cabeza. Cualquier tipo de vegetación que no plantearía problemas pescando a mosca seca puede ser mortal con moscas pesadas. Inercia lo llaman.
  • Comprueba regularmente el terminal en busca de posibles nudos o picadas. De hecho conviene chequear también las partes más gruesas del bajo: en alguna ocasión he tenido roturas en un tramo del 0,15 en vez de en el 0,10 más abajo —tengo un recuerdo reciente de ello. La vagancia no compensa. 😞
  • No seas remolón a la hora de cambiar/modificar el bajo/terminal si las condiciones lo requieren. Muchas veces transformar una deriva mala en una buena es cuestión de pequeños ajustes en el material. La falta de motivación tras un largo periodo sin tocar un pez conduce a la pereza, y esta última se come la motivación. Parafraseando a Picasso: Cuando llegue la inspiración prefiero que me coja trabajando.
  • Cambiar de lugar en el escenario de pesca llevando la mosca en la mano y algo de línea y bajo colgando de la puntera de la caña pensando en ahorrar tiempo no es una buena idea. La verdad es que se suele perder tiempo en enganches y líos. ¡Debería tatuarme esta máxima en la mano de la caña!
  • Aprende a calcular cuánto puedes tirar hasta romper el terminal. Después de una sesión de lanzado puedes anudar uno de tus bajos de pescar a una rama, un banco del parque o cualquier otro “pez” que haya disponible; luego tira empleando diferentes ángulos con la caña. Si tienes un terminal del 0,17 o más grueso ten cuidado al tirar con el talón de la caña vertical no sea que rompas la puntera. Las sesiones fotográficas interminables seguro que matan peces destinados a ser devueltos, pero bastantes de ellos probablemente ya estaban “muertos” antes de llegar a la sacadera debido a “peleas” interminables.
  • Al entrenar lanzado mira siempre tu lance trasero. Un vadeo algo profundo, ninfas pesadas, bajos largos, terminales finos, lances moderados o largos… por separado o combinados, son proclives a resultar en lances traseros desastrosos, y un lance delantero podrá ser tan bueno como su correspondiente trasero pero no mucho más.

No sé si a ti te convencerá pero yo suelo volver a esta lista con frecuencia. A base de releerla igual aprendo finalmente. 😓😀

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.

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.

Don’t Drag, my Fly, Drift Free!

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Piling the cast for the nymph to drift deep and naturally

Anyone marginally interested in the casting world tends to regard fly casting and distance casting as synonyms. It is the same in fly fishing shows: anglers trying bunches of new rod models with their eyes fixed in the far end of the casting pond; it doesn’t make any difference if they are holding a 9’#9 devised for bonefish in the flats or a 8’6″#4 destined to spring creek finesse. I can’t blame them, in the end most of the visual material available on the net is about putting a fluff as far as possible.

What I did never get is why devoted casters and instructors (specially if they are river trout anglers) promote that very same connection.
I can’t think of a more harmful approach for the development of fly casting, at least in Spain. The river “trouter” doesn’t see distance casting as a problem solver for everyday issues presenting a fly, and though I agree that being proficient at long distances makes controlling the line at medium range much easier, that is a relationship that isn’t at all evident to fly fishers.

As you may suppose by now I am not a distance caster; take it as a mild way of saying that I am crap at putting a fly really far away. In my view two fundamental elements pave the way to becoming a distance expert: a single family house and a big garden outside; I lack both of them. The possibility of keeping a rigged rod behind the door at all times helps a lot. Practice makes perfect and for getting your fly thirty plus meters away you need a lot of it!
I have my training lawn at 35 minutes from home, which means more than an hour just to get there and back; add some substantial time for the actual practice and the result is that my opportunities for training aren’t many. But even having a practice field close to my house I doubt I’d be much better in the distance game. No that I wouldn’t be very happy reaching astronomical distances, but spare time is limited and I prefer to spend it improving drag-free drift techniques, which, when looking for real proficiency, are as time consuming as distance itself but much more in tune with the kind of fishing I practice the most.

Have I missed being a good distance caster when fishing? Of course I have! Baltic pike and Patagonia sea-run brown trout come to mind. But I have lost count of how many times I have missed the ability of getting a perfect drift of my fly in the maze of micro-currents of my favorite fishing venues.

Around a year ago I was mentoring a candidate for the IFFF CCI title. After months of in-depth looking at the theoretical test it came the day to check for weaknesses in the practical part. The first tasks on loop control were good. Then I asked for the Reach Cast (or a Reach Mend by the current IFFF standards). He barely moved the rod tip sideways as without any purpose, resulting in a very poor line configuration on the ground, try after try.

You have to make each cast with authority not only for the examiners to see but when fishing as well” I said.

Then an idea started turning around inside my head.

Do you know what the practical uses for the Reach are? I asked.

Practical uses? I thought it was an exercise, something for the examiner to check if you have a good control of the line!” He replied.

Amazing! I can’t think of a single day on the river not sending dozens of Reachs out there, and there I was with a would-be casting instructor who didn’t have a clue about one of the most practical fishing casts available!
Of course he was very good at sending the fly thirty plus meters away.

In my opinion this shows that we, casting instructors, are approaching things in a wrong way. For instance, the invention of “trick casts” intended just for showing off doesn’t exactly help in reconciling -in the eyes of the fishing community- casting with fishing as the two sides of the same coin they actually are.

So here we go with some dry fly downstream drag-free presentations by master angler Zeljko Prpic.

The Never Learning Story

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Watch your backcast when training. A little bit of wading, heavy nymphs, long leaders, thin tippets, moderately or plainly long casts… on their own or combined, are a recipe for backcasts disasters


A new season is over and, again, it comes the time to reflect on successes… but mainly on mistakes. It isn’t about being prone to self-flagellation but about not succumbing to the same pitfalls next year.

So consider the following as a variation on the same theme started one year ago, and the list goes on like this:

14.  When nymphing always check for things above you. Overhanging structure that doesn’t pose any problem to casting dries could be deadly for weighted flies. Inertia they call it.

15. Check regularly your tippet for nicks or knots. In fact check the thicker parts of the leader as well: at times we have breakages in the 5X instead of the 7X further down. And I have a very very recent memory of that. Lazyness doesn’t pay off. 😞

16. Don’t be lazy in changing leader/tippet if conditions ask for it. Many times turning a bad drift into a good one is about tweaking your setup. Lack of motivation after a long period of slow fishing leads to lazyness, and the latter will never improve motivation. Paraphrasing Picasso: When inspiration comes I prefer it to find me working.

17. Moving to a new casting position with fly in hand and some line and leader hanging from the rod tip thinking of saving time isn’t a good idea. You will waste it instead. I should tattoo this one in my casting hand!

18. Learn how much you can pull before breaking your tippet. Afer a casting session on the lawn you can tie one of your fishing leaders to a branch, a park bench or any other “fish” you have available. Then pull using different rod angles. If you have a 4X tippet and pull with the rod butt upright be careful lest you break the rod tip. Never ending photo sessions surely kill fish, but some of them were already dead before coming to the net due to a never ending “fight”.

19. Watch your backcast when training. A little bit of wading, heavy nymphs, long leaders, thin tippets, moderately or plainly long casts… on their own or combined, are a recipe for backcasts disasters.

I don’t know about you but I will get back to this list frequently. As my good friend and mentor Prpa likes to tell me: You are young, you will learn. 😓😀

For a sequel go here.

Nothing New Under the Sun

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As the planning for a next New Zealand fishing trip began to take shape I remembered something lost somewhere in my messy fishing library. Browsing for a while gave its fruit. The book’s title is Stalking Trout, and it was published in 1985. On its first page a manuscript note by my hand says: June 2000.

I wasn’t specially interested in the subject as much as in the background: the authors are kiwis and the book is devoted to catching New Zealand trout. It actually made for a nice reading so it was over in just a couple of days. No fantastic discoveries to share here, though the abundance of paragraphs I, at the time, underlined in red shows that today’s no-brainers were illuminating findings sixteen years ago. Older but, at least, a little bit wiser.

The chapter on conservation caught my attention. For a book more than thirty years old -and from a country with plenty of healthy fisheries, still today- its call for C&R practices is particularly surprising… and saddening when compared to the level of consciousness (lack of it to be precise) I see around here.

As a guideline to the proper release of fish the chapter gives what time has stablished as the usual recommendations, with the exciting addition of a very NZ specific one: carry a landing net big enough!

In recent times an interesting social media campaign has focused on raising awareness of the fact that “releasing” and “releasing to survive” aren’t the same thing. And this sets a fundamental difference between the old advice and the new one: those kiwis didn’t imagine at the time that an angler provided with a camera should be reminded of the fact that fish can’t breath air. Obvious things aren’t that obvious, are they?

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.

Between pointing the rod directly to the fish, and putting the rod at 90 degrees of that position there is a good number of variables that must be used. In that way you vary the amount of force exerted on the fish, pulling lightly when necessary… or up to the tippet breaking strain limit when possible. The amount of force we actually exert on a fish and the force we feel in our wrist, are of very different magnitude. It is the nature of levers. Here is an enlightening experience I do during my classes and recommend to every angler:

Ask a friend to rig his rod with a line provided with a pretty thick tippet. Take the end of the tippet between index and thumb, and challege your friend to take the tippet off your fingers with his “rod tip up”. Warn him about rod breakage first, then enjoy the look of his face when he starts feeling worried of injuring his wrist while you happily sip your beer.

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