Monday, June 6, 2016

Tips: Feed The Mend

Water is filled with power. Immense potential just waiting to get the kinetic party started. To be frank, it scares me. It always has, despite my love of being around it, and has created a healthy respect. Sometimes the power is hard to see, especially on calm waters. But, try forcing that water through unyielding canyon walls or down into cascading craggy pockets. The frothing foam begins to resemble the seething slobber of an angry pitbull.

Physics makes a better friend than enemy. We fishermen deal with physics on a regular basis, even if we aren't aware of it. Forces and energy are always at work, heeded or not. Setting the hook too abruptly can rip the hook from a fish's mouth. Not setting hard enough won't transfer enough force to drive the hook into place. Pulling too hard can break tippets, bend hooks, and even snap rods. Wading upriver against the force of the water is a chore, if not impossible in some situations. Learning to befriend and work with the physics at work is a great way to become a better angler. Understanding the mechanics of casting, setting the hook, and using the rod to fight the fish will result in saved gear and more fish landed.

So much of fly fishing is conceptualization. Often artists picture an image in their mind before even taking a single brush stroke. On top of that, learning to use their brushes allows them to better bring their mental creations into existence.

Casting, mending, setting the hook, and fighting fish are only few aspects of our art, but visualizing the underlying mechanics and then learning to work with them adds to the result and beauty of the whole experience.

It is said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result. If that is the case, there are a lot of insane fishermen out there. The problem is, we learn by trial and error. Unfortunately, it is easy to develop a "working" technique that does enough to catch some fish, which causes us to become complacent and unwilling to stretch. It always comes back to the 80/20 (80% of the fish are caught by 20% of the anglers).  The real satisfaction comes when we work for it, and that means practice and trying to understand the underlying theory. This doesn't mean we have to go fishing all the time. It just means that we explore and improve in the time we have. Who knows, you might find yourself catching more and better fish because of it.


Feed the Mend
Casting is hungry work. What better way to satiate that hunger than to feed the mend. Mending is part of the casting process, often done just after the initial cast, but other times done simultaneously. The idea is to keep the fly in the optimal zone as long as possible once the cast places it there. Mending prolongs the presentation. It takes practice and can be quite frustrating at times. Different lines and rods mend differently. Wind or fast moving water can add to the struggle.

There may be a more technical or regularly used term for this tip, but since I learned the principle through experience I will refer to it as "feeding the mend." This applies to the mend that is done post initial cast.

Picture yourself having just made a diagonal cast upstream to begin the drift. A second after the current grabs the line and begins hustling it down river is when most guys throw in a first mend. Once the line is straight in front of the angler or just a bit downriver from him is when the second mend is often placed. In both instances, a common problem we run into is that by mending the fly/indicator/line is pulled from it's prime landing spot. So how to fix this? Feed the mend.

It's a simple trick really, and maybe most people do it already, but I was slow to catch on. The idea is that as the line is pulled up and rolled over for the mend, you let some additional line out. It has to happen as the mend is occurring though, mid-mend if you will.  This will allow the mend to occur by taking line from you, rather than pulling the fly-tipped end back and out of the zone.  I usually let my line go as I mend so it can take as much as it needs.  The extra line you let out can quickly be recovered as the drift continues, allowing you to retain your hook-setablity.  Applying this simple little tip will let your nymph or dry or even swung streamer to stay in place far longer, which will result in more hookups. It takes practice, but is well worth the effort. Give it a try.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

It's easy to forget what it was like

The more time we spend dabbling in any given interest the more our interests shift. It's easy to forget our humble beginnings as our focus moves toward specializations. All sportsmen move through stages, though there are different interpretations on what these stages actually involve.  One thing most commentators agree on is that the first stages surround a simple idea of success. For an angler this means catching a fish, any size or species. The what and how don't matter all that much, as long as something is being caught. When young, I think most of our childhood is spent in the simple catching stages. Kids could care less about what is caught, just that there is catching going on. In fact I have come to believe that kids prefer catching multiple manageable-sized fish over many big ones. Too big of a fish and it turns into work.

"Youth cannot know how age thinks and feels. 
But old men are guilty if they forget what it was to be young...." 
Albus Dumbledore (OP37)

"The world will never starve from want of wonders, but only want of wonder." 
-G.K. Chesterton

As my children grow I find myself being reminded of the simple reality that joy is a result of gratitude, accompanied by a strong sense of discovery and creation. It really does not require much for a child to be happy. Love, attention, and something wholesome to do go a long way in a child's world. A handful of trout only help.


Will and I spent the day putting riverrock under foot, chatting about the things we saw in between fishing holes. He went on and on about some obsidian scattered on the riverbank, asking all sorts of questions I had no answer to. He was assured when I convinced him that we could look up the answers at a later time.

His sense of wonder and faith in the things around him and his own abilities often causes me to question what exactly smothers those qualities out of adults. He kept asking to cast in places I was fairly certain there would be no fish, or were too difficult for him to manage a snag-free drift.  Maybe we just get used to people telling us "no, it won't work there," "there's no fish in that spot," or "you'll only get snagged if you cast there."

As the day wore on we moved around and continued to cover the water. Will had made a bunch of casts in one often productive run, missing one good take, and not hooking anything. He took a short break to warm up his hands and rest. I took the opportunity to cast some, hooking a couple fish. I think seeing a couple fish caught increased Will's desire to fish enough to overcome his desire for warm hands. After a couple minutes he picked up his rod and wandered back to the waters edge.  I prepared to stop fishing and begin helping him once more but he simply said "Dad, I'm just gonna cast over here." Inside I thought, "he probably won't catch anything right there, but it probably won't hurt anything." Not even a minute later he began shouting, and I turned around to see a very bent rod and Will in the thick of battle. It was a brute trout that showed no mercy for his youthful adversary. I quickly hurried over to help, preparing the net, feeling like Christmas had just come. The fish peeled line off the reel. After a great tussle, Will finally managed to pull the trout shallow enough for me to scoop it into the net.

Will was nothing but smiles, and I'm sure my face was a mirror image. His faith paid off, despite my experience-induced doubt. This is becoming a recurring theme on our outings. The effect of his raw faith and persistent effort produces fish where they, as viewed by an experienced mind, should not be.

Some people choose not to have children. I don't blame them. They are work. They eliminate options. They are not always fun. They break things. They cost money. They cause worry and anxiety. BUT. They give you someone to serve. They make you love. They help you have faith. They bring you true and lasting joy. They become your lasting friends. And, they help you remember the hope and wonder you once had in the world, and they help you have it again.