Sunday, September 21, 2014

Fly Casting, A Process Toward Being In The Moment


There is one thing that must be learned so that an angler can fish as we think. There is one thing that must be achieved without thought so that an angler can fish in the moment.

By using the word 'think' I am giving you my opinion that a day on the water is a series of puzzles that have to be analyzed to conclusions and then acted upon to get each desired result.  By using the concept of 'without thought' I am suggesting that a day on the water can be best served when our skill level comes naturally.

The amount of time that is devoted to each of these concepts will vary day to day.  I find the less thinking time I am doing the faster the day moves on to night.  That one aspect that serves us best to have the freedom from thought is a result of many, many hours of study, deep concentration and practice to take thought to physical action seamlessly.  It is the amount of time we have devoted to becoming a true casting master.

Each of us, from the time we first held a fly rod till now, has acquired a set of understood principals that gets our fly cast to the intended target.  We all have our individual proficiency and therefore are limited to our personal ability to catch fish.  This ability, or lack of, determines a days outcome.  Certainly we can all understand this concept if I just talk about distance.  Greater distance casting has always been a desire to add to our bag of tricks.  We buy special lines and slick them with Greased Lightning or other compounds to make them slip through our guides and stand high in the water for an easy pick up. But distance is but one aspect that comes naturally during a day. 

To gain that distance some of us must think about how.  Think about and check the background to see if we have a deep back cast, then think about how to increase line speed, then think about the rod casting plane, then think about the trajectory, then think about the individual river currents from here to there, then think about aerial mends, then think about putting everything together.  Then again, some of us already know the background because knowing the background is the same as driving down the highway and knowing if a car is in the blind spot because we drive experiencing the environment at all times.  It becomes a natural part of our time to just be in the moments.  To some who have devoted a lifetime of study and practice these circumstances are processed without thought.  They are performed no differently than a tennis player who reacts to a slam coming their way and makes the reactive movements that returns the ball.  There is no time for thinking, only doing.

The more I practice my casting, the easier casting has become.  Sometimes I pick up the rod and start making forty foot false casts and then I realize that I am using my off hand.  No thought, it is just what happened and I smile because I realize my off hand is becoming one with my casting ability.  This didn't start to happen until I put double hauls with my off hand into my practice routine.  I now attempt the entire Masters Exam off hand and am surprised that it might be possible with a bit more practice.

I guess what I am trying to say is the more we think about what we want to do, the more we have no need to think about those things we accomplish.  If we take each part of every casting aspect through a process of thinking, studying and performing to excellence, our fishing day can become unencumbered by our lack of ability.  We then have the time to be in the moment and experience another day that moves from dawn to dusk as we contemplate why instead of how.

William.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Strong Fulcrum Two Hand Casting

Many two hand casters are afflicted with a serious disease that limits their ability to cast tight loops that finish with the leader having enough transferred energy to completely unfurl and pop forward.  The root cause can come from a pre existing condition that is not covered by their health insurance plans.  It is based on many years of single hand fly casting.

Singlehandcastitis can now be controlled and used only when wanted.   It will take a bit of work, but in the end will get you to kick the single hand casting memory habits of push and squeeze.

Let’s for a moment talk about how we have been taught to make tight loops with a single hand rod.  The principles of constant acceleration with a straight tip path to an abrupt stop are the corner stones of using the forced turn over style that is most prevalent in our teaching.  We place a very strong emphasis especially on the word “STOP”. 

At the time of that abrupt and squeezing hard stop what can you imagine happens?  The rod is in full bend and because there can be no such thing as an exacting stop, we do our best to anticipate the almost stop.  Techniques like squeezing and pushing with the thumb are explored.  All to get the line moving over the tip to launch the loop.  Joan Wulff says that we should release hand pressure immediately after, what she calls, the power snap stop.

So, at that very moment after we have used a forced turnover stop technique, when the rod achieves being perfectly straight as it moves forward, what then happens?  It moves in the opposite direction and counter flexes.  The amount of counter flex is determined by a few factors.  The weight and length of line out the tip, the recovery rate or action of the rod, the amount of push performed just prior to the stop and the grip firmness of that stop all play their parts.  Fast recovery rods will counter flex less but the other factors are all causes of greater counter flex.  What then happens to the shape of the loop at the moment of launch?  Launch being the moment of loop formation that has sufficient energy to pass the line over the tip top and move forward.  What is the result of counter flex?

If we were to make a video of a caster from the side we could see the effects in slow motion when making different casts under the situations listed above.  The experiment of what will cause the rod to have the greatest counter flex could be achieved.  This is a worth while study at your next get together or clinic.

There is another factor that can sap the energy of our line.  In addition to the natural atmospheric condition at the moment the hard stop will cause our rod, lever acting as a spring, to vibrate back and forward.  The tighter we hold the grip the greater the effect of vibration.  The quickest way to damp the rod is to let it go.  The way to create the greatest vibration is to hold tight.  Each time the rod vibrates backward it pulls the line backward.  This creates shock waves and is a loss of energy .

Let’s assume that we are making a longer cast using a medium action single hand rod  and utilizing a hard stop and a hard thumb push with just the amount of translation, forward movement, rod arc, casting stroke and rotation that will keep the line from making tailing loops.  This will be a cast using forced turnover that is of good quality and as tight as possible for that technique.  When the rod goes into counter flex what then becomes the tip path?  In our slow motion video you will see that it becomes substantially convex.  Convex to the point of forcing the line leg to move down causing a serious dip in the line.  The harder the stop and squeeze the greater the downward tip path.  This shape is called a shock dimple.  The reason it works is because the downward movement of the tip clears the path for the loop to form and pass over the tip top.  Controlling that shape, as well as it’s size,  is possible by slowing down, tip manipulation and changing the abruptness of the stop to as light as possible for the amount of energy needed to launch the line.  In single hand casting there is but a short distance between thumb and pinky placed on the grip.  Try making short casts with body translation, moving back and forth,  and then only rotate the rod at the end of the stroke by using a pinky pull.  Yes that’s right, it can be done with a grater amount of line that you might think.  Pinky pull with no thumb and index finger pressure needed.  You will also want to make a slight downward movement of the rod grip at the same time to allow the line to move over the tip.  I now also move slightly to the opposite side.  Watch the loop shape.  If you are like most of us you will now see the tightest wedge shape loop you have ever cast.  You have now positioned the fulcrum for your lever at a point on the rod grip and not at your wrist.  Is this a practical way to cast a single hand rod?  Possibly not for all of us.  But what about if you could expand the limits of a single hand rod and achieve this when using two hands.

I learned Pull Rod Straight from Al Buhr.  He noticed that I was using excessive and premature rotation of my top hand and gave me the information needed to help me.
Let’s start from a perfect key position for this discussion.  Key position being the place where top and bottom hands are perfectly ready to start our forward translation of forward stroke movement.  At this point our top hand will be to the side of the top hand ear and the bottom grip will be in front of the top of the middle upper part of your abdomen.  Bottom hand will be forward. Remember we are in key position having circled up our D loop and under continuous tension and rod bend and moving without pause into the forward stroke.  Now, move both hands forward together at the same speed.  What should be happening is that the rod is achieving a butt style full length bend through the grip. 

Why is this important?

Fly rods are designed to taper from a thick butt section to a thin tip.  The more mass an object has the greater the amount of energy that can be transferred to an object.  Hence to butt bend the rod is to use the portion of the rod that has the ability to then transfer greater energy through the length of a tapered rod to the tapered line.  Does the energy pass from the butt to the tip?  Sure it does.  But the efficiency of a greater mass receiving and then transferring energy to a lesser mass is greater than the amount of energy that can be accepted in the lesser mass and then transferred to the line mass.   Tip casting is fine and I do it all the time.  Forced turnover is fine and I use it all the time as well.   Using the “flip the tip” exercise is a great way to have our students move line over the tip.  The key factor is to choose the way we move line and do it that way when we want to.  The greater the amount of line out the tip the more reason to make a strong, not tight, fulcrum at our top hand.  The greater the amount of line out the tip the less amount of top hand push and hard stop should be used.  

This butt bending movement should be performed with limited to no rotation between bottom and top hands.  Scissoring top and bottom hands is not desired.  I practice pantomime from the key position to presentation over and over again to get the movement fluid. 

There is another key position to talk about.

This position is the one that comes at the moment the forward stroke has completed forward movement of both hands.  It requires us understanding what a strong fulcrum is and why a strong fulcrum is necessary.  As our bodies have certain muscular structure so do all the muscles in our bodies have certain positions where, when flexed, those muscles will be at their pinnacle strength.  For the upper arm during a casting stroke that will be when the elbow is at a 90 degree angle and the elbow itself is close to our core. 

A Strong Fulcrum

If I were to place the butt of my rod in the palm of my up facing off hand and move only the top dominant hand forward and back where would the fulcrum be?  In the palm of my bottom hand.  Yes?  Look at the shape of the tip path and the shape of the loops that this creates.  Like a rainbow and severely convex and surly not tight.  Then let’s make the top and bottom hands scissor equally forward and back.   The 50/50 standard of top and bottom hand power.  Look at the shape of the line.  Still very convex with large loops.   Now keep the top hand as still as possible and only move the bottom  hand as power placing the fulcrum solidly in the top hand and using the bottom as all the energy.  Yes? 

Try this experiment. 

Stand in a doorway and straddle left and right of the floor door jam.  Now place your dominant hand at eye level in front of your face.  Push on the door jam.  Then move your feet to a position side to side and forward and back and find where you can exert the greatest amount of force from hand to jam.  The conclusion you will come to is that it will be straight from your shoulder, your elbow pointing down with the angle at 90 degrees.  It will also be the same position if you get someone to push on the back of your hand as well.  Exactly where you what the fulcrum to be when two hand casting.  Exactly the height and distance from your body that is the set up for the bottom hand pull.  The top hand is now a strong pivot point fulcrum.  The D loop is the resistance and the pull can be performed.

Now we are making that strong rod butt bend and moving forward with top and bottom to this exact point and we cease forward movement.  Not with an extra push or flick or tight extra squeeze but with a shoulder and elbow and wrist that is in their strongest of strong positions.  We then notice that the pressure point of the rod in our top hand is not in our fingers but solidly into the heel of the hand.  This is the pivot point.  This is the creation of the strong fulcrum with a pivot point for maximum strength.

Note that the butt of the rod is still in front.

The next thing that happens is making a seamless, without pause, bottom hand pull.  This pull is not to add excessive power.  If you pull too hard you will make tailing loops and cause line crash.   It is not meant to further bend and therefore possibly collapse the tip of the rod and it is not to be very long and abrupt.  This pull, heading in the direction of your off hand side hip can be as short as two inches.  It could be a bit longer when greater line lengths are out the tip.  This pull will have your core and shoulders and arm flexing tight.  What is intended by the pull is to pull the rod into a straight position that will have the effect of limited counter flex and vibration.  It will have a natural downward movement allowing the line to move over the tip.  You will notice issues in your loops that are the same as when top hand uses forced turnover if you are pulling too abruptly and too much.

The “Pull Rod Straight” movement has become another part of my cast scripting.  It now falls in between forward stroke and presentation.  I can alter the way my leader straightens with ease now and full well use this style as often as possible.  It has taken a long time and many pantomime and practice sessions but my muscle manipulation is now becoming more important than memory.  

Am I completely cured?  Like any recurring problem, Singlehandcastitis can rear it’s ugly head, but I now have an understanding for why it does and I can stop it from happening on the very next cast.

William
CCI/THCI





Monday, September 1, 2014

A Perfect Storm

This has been one of the worst North American salmon seasons in history.  Facts are facts and can not be sugar coated or embellished or made favorable by desire.  This has been one of the worst.

For the longest time, many hard working enthusiasts and conservationists have bridged the gap to keep the runs alive.  Always hoping that some day the magic bullet would be found that could open the door to dramatically larger sustainable returns.  To think that a natural resource as the Atlantic Salmon was being harmed by certain singular events was too simple an approach.  Today we know that conservation and seeding of rivers was but a small finger in the dike that has greater influence.

The Greenland buy out is one such finger, or even a few fingers worth.  When runs started to increase, during some of the last ten years, the buy out became the reason why.  When we think of the reasons that have be associated with poor salmon years it is always the same.  First Nation Netting, Seals, Clear Cutting, Dams and Pollution.  Certainly these factors have an effect on the numbers of returns.  Yet in general they have very little to do with the number of smolt that go to sea.

A set environment, in this case a certain river, has and exacting number of young that can be supported.  This number changes from year to year based on weather patterns over the course of the young fishes in river life.  But in most years these numbers are constant.  For example a river with a usual return of 5000 fish creates an exacting number of eggs that then hatch and over the next two years creates smolt in numbers that the river supports.  That same river in a poor year might only have 3000 fish return and the number of smolt ready for ocean travel will be exactly in the same relative numbers as the good year.  Biologists call this the escapement level as it pertains to returns.

A RIVER CAN ONLY SUPPORT A CERTAIN NUMBER

Producing numbers of eggs greater than the number of smolt going to sea is an every year cycle event.  There are many natural predation and environmental factors for this yet it happens.  Why then would it matter?

During times gone by there were bad years.  Not just over the past fifty years but bad years that occurred before Greenland buy outs, before netting, before seals were so prevalent and way before the dams and pollution were in effect. Rivers all over Canada that have never had these factors and still experienced light returns.  Naturally bad years.

THE PHENOMENON SEEMS TO BE UNIVERSAL

This year the low returns are not river specific.  The numbers reflect the entire North American profile and that can only place the cause in one place.  The winter feeding grounds.  If you have followed my writing over the last number of years you know that The North Atlantic Oscillation has had a prominent place in my thinking.  I have now had more than a few years experience watching the winter charts and predicting the following spring and summer returns.  The situation shifted this year and what we have experienced is the lowest returns of adults in recent history.  


NOT JUST FEWER FISH BUT THEY WEIGH LESS

Returns of Grilse in the two pound range and thin fish that are larger have been seen.  What can be concluded is that the food supply was disrupted and made scarce.  The NAO chart for the winter of 2013-2014 explains this in simplistic detail.  The oscillation was in a positive position for the entire period.  In a typical year there will be fluctuation.  Some storms travel east below the feeding grounds and some directly through.  But this past year it was almost a continual battering in the North Atlantic.  Salmon winter in an average of fourteen feet from the surface.  When seas are high and rolling the bait is scattered and the salmon go hungry. Naturally there is die off and experience lighter weights.

THE PERFECT STORM

With all the factors of man in full effect this became the year when all parties wanted their share.  The Greenland buy out is no more.  Many fish were harvested.  First Nation rightfully took theirs.  Fish farms in estuaries produced sea lice, and The North Atlantic Oscillation could not have been of much greater detrimental effect.  All the other ocean issues of seals and pollution have not stopped.

Sad to say that we, as anglers, then continued to harvest and live release.  Harmful to the totals and all contributing factors.  The Perfect Storm was in full effect this year and we can see what happens when all the factors of man and nature take hold.  

I AM STILL HOPEFUL

As I said in the start of this posting, the number of smolt that will go to sea from this years November spawn should be the same as last years and the same as if the river were chocked full of adults.  A river can only support so many and nature has that survival covered.  What we as anglers and conservationists can continue to effect is of the greatest importance.  We, with our efforts and money have sustained the survival and in some cases replenishment to many rivers.  Yes, some are lost forever as the gene pool is gone.  But what happens this winter is still unknown.  Perhaps the powers that be will come up with a solution to the netting.  And an even greater possibility will be that the NAO will be negative all winter long and Salmo Salar can be fed without working too hard.    

This has been one of the worst salmon seasons in history.  Yet if nature has it's way the North Atlantic Oscillation will move winter storms south and intelligent heads will prevail and the buy out will be re-established and a dramatic change could happen.  I am still hopeful.