Archive | August, 2010

Improve Your Fly-Fishing With Proper Breathing

25 Aug
  This article shall explore the most fundamental common element shared by Fly-fishing, Karate and every single aspect of human activity and life itself. That fundamental, primordial element is (proper) breathing. Fly-fishing, like Karate, and every single human activity, combines bodily movement with breathing. For the Fly-fisherman this encompasses, hiking to and from your favorite water, wading a stream or salt water flat, fly-casting, catching and releasing your quarry and ultimately enjoying your fly-fishing environment. As fly-fishermen, we should explore and implement proper breathing. The mechanism of proper breathing is derived from, emphasized and developed in a Goshin-Do Karate-Do Kata, steeped in antiquity, called Sanchin. (See Endnote # 1).

PROPER BREATHING - Key to the "Way" to Fly-Fish like a Karate master.

I call the proper breathing of Goshin-Do Karate-Do and the ancient, primordial Sanchin Kata “Issho-ibuki” (lifetime breath). Issho-ibuki will not only improve your mechanics of Fly-fishing, but also your overall enjoyment of the sport. Very few of us understand the components of proper breathing. To illustrate this point, stop reading and take a deep breath. The majority of you probably sought to ‘fill your lungs with air” by expanding your upper chest, raising your shoulders, arching your back and contracting your abdomen. Some of you may have even accomplished this deep breath by inhaling through the mouth. This method of inhalation and exhalation is unnatural, inefficient and must be corrected immediately. The manner of correction will be to adopt the method of Issho-ibuki. 
The methodology of Issho-ibuki is a three step process. First is the development of the natural method of inhalation and exhalation. The second step is the method of deep abdominal breathing. The third and final step is the manner of breathing. The starting point for one’s practice Issho-ibuki is the not-so-simple physical aspect of inhalation and exhalation. 
 Step One: Inhalation & Exhalation.
You must remember a very basic, but all to often forgotten, cardinal rule of breathing, namely: breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Without giving a lesson in biology, the nose was specifically designed for the inhalation of oxygen and the other beneficial gases contained within our atmosphere. To facilitate your implementation of proper inhalation and exhalation, I have developed is an easy technique. Consciously make an effort to inhale through the nose. While so inhaling, close your mouth and emphatically press your tongue upwards against the roof of your mouth. By performing this maneuver, it is difficult, if not impossible, to open your mouth and breath in. Therefore, the only alternative means available for inhalation is to utilize the nose for its intended purpose. Now to complete the act of breathing, you will need to exhale. To exhale you open your mouth and allow the air to flow outward. To facilitate the use of the mouth during exhalation, as you open your mouth, emphatically press the tongue downward against the bottom of your mouth. By using your tongue in this manner, you will be physically conscious of the manner in which you inhale and exhale. You may note that your exhalation now produces a somewhat audible sound. This sound is akin to a mild roar, much like the sound of ocean surf. Continue to practice inhaling and exhaling in this manner. When the act of breathing again occurs naturally through the nose and out the mouth, you can de-emphasize the emphatic use of your tongue as described above.

Step Two: Abdominal breathing.

The next step in the process of Issho-ibuki is to efficiently fill your lungs with air. To achieve efficiency, you need to inhale and exhale through the lower abdomen. The following exercise was developed by me for use in the Issho Dojo to facilitate this type of deep abdominal breathing. Lie on your back and relax. While lying on your back, rest your hands, palms down, on your lower abdomen, referred to as your “belly“. This placement of the hands does not facilitate breathing, rather, your hands will provide an added sensory indication of the proper breathing method through the sense of touch.

Open your mouth, as previously described, relax your belly and allow the natural force of gravity to decompress your belly, thus expelling air through your mouth. Keep your hands in contact with your belly and allow your hands to lower with your belly. Now, close your mouth, pressing your tongue on its roof and inhale through the nose. As you inhale, willfully direct the air to the lower belly so as to force it to expand and rise upwards. Keep your hands in contact with your belly and allow your hands to rise with your belly. You will again exhale by opening your mouth, pressing your tongue downward, relaxing and decompressing your belly so as to exhale. Allow your hands to lower and decompress with your belly. The duration of exhalation should be slightly longer than the inhalation. Both processes should be completely relaxed. Continue to breathe in this manner for a period of about five minutes. You should immediately begin to incorporate abdominal breathing into not only fly-fishing but all your activities.

Step Three: The Manner Of Breathing.

The next phase in the Issho-ibuki is to perform the act of inhalation and exhalation in a specific manner. In Goshin-Do Karate-Do we referred to the manner of breathing as either “Go“ or “Hard” and “Ju” or “Soft“. It is important to remember that the METHOD of breathing remains the same as described above. Only the MANNER of breathing is altered as follows. For purposes of this article, only the soft manner of breathing is relevant. Soft breath is a relaxed form of breathing. The body remains relaxed as air is gently inhaled in a steady manner. Once inhalation is complete, the breath is held for a fraction of a second and exhalation begins. During the process of exhalation, the body remains relaxed and air is expelled softy and in a steady manner. The process then begins a new.

You can and should incorporate soft Issho-ibuki into all aspects of your fly-fishing. Use Issho-ibuki to steady yourself during the hike to your favorite water or while wading a stream or salt water flat. You can use Issho-ibuki to calm yourself as you cast to rising, but wary fish. You can effectively increase the performance and technique of fly casting by using Issho-ibuki during the casting process. You must remember that you always want to exhale during your power casting for stroke. You will soon see that the mechanics and enjoyment of fly fishing greatly increase when you finally learn to breath properly. Proper breathing is the first step to Fly-fishing like a Karate Master and enriching you fly-fishing performance and enjoyment.

Sensei John (center) at the USA Goshin-Ryu, NJ Dojo of Shihan Wayne Norlander (2nd from left)

NOW AVAILABLE – The Sanchin Kata Video Series – follow this weblog for free links to videos.

Here is a link to a promotional video with information on how you can purchase your 57 minute Sanchin DVD:

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If you are intrigued by this article or otherwise enjoy this blog, please remember to tell a friend. Check back weekly for more updates on how to fly fish like a Karate master, articles on the Way of Fly-fishing (Fly-fishing Do), fishing reports, product reviews and other fly-fishing related matters.

Sensei John


1. The Kanji, Japanese writing, for Sanchin translates as three battles. Fundamental to understanding the three battles of Sanchin is proper breathing. If you would like to learn more about either proper breathing or Sanchin Kata, please feel free to visit my martial arts blog WWW.SenseiJohn.Wordpress.Com and website WWW.Dynamic-Meditation.Com.

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Focus On The Leaf But See The Tree

18 Aug
We fly-fishermen pursue fly-fishing with a passion. While such a passion drives us to better ourselves in furtherance to such pursuit, it has a down side. It is all too common that we so intently focus on the object of our fishing, catching our quarry, that the object becomes the end-all. We fly-fish with a cocoon built of goal oriented tunnel vision. As such, we fail to appreciate and enjoy the natural environment in which our fishing activity takes place. How can we assuage the personal deprivation caused by this tunnel vision phenomenon? This article will offer you one method of reminding you to pursue fly-fishing with a more open appreciation of the natural environment.
There is a saying from my Goshin-Do Karate-Do Dojo that will help you to moderate the phenomenon of goal oriented tunnel vision. The saying is derived from a recognition by Karate-Ka (those who practice Karate) that, in combat, if one focuses too intently on one’s opponent (to the exclusion of all else), one does so at one’s peril. The following saying reminds the Karate-Ka of the perils of such tunnel vision. “Focus on the leaf but see the tree.”
When applied to fly-fishing, the result is simple. While you wholeheartedly pursue your trophy fish, you remain open not only to the joy and aesthetic beauty of pursuing a fish through fly-fishing, but also allow yourself to be enraptured by the natural surroundings within which your fly-fishing takes place. Such enraptured state envelopes all your senses. You will see the total natural environment and simultaneously see the minute details that make nature such a marvelous place to experience. You will marvel at plethora of wild creatures, as Great Blue Herron below, that make your fishing water home.    

Veterans Oasis Park, Chandler, Arizona. A Great Blue Herron greets the dawn.

Water Ranch Lake, Gilbert, Arizona. A Great Blue Herron lurks in the shallows.

Or, if you are lucky to fish in such an area, you may be privileged to have a visit from nature’s inhabitants curious to see the strange two-legged creature casting into the water.

Lower Salt River, Arizona. A small herd of wild horses visits.

While it is easy to appreciate such beauty and diversity on a large scale, do not fail to notice the smaller citizens of nature.. How many of you would not only notice but appreciate the dragonfly resting on the reeds you are casting towards? To be sure, nature largely ignores the foibles of man; but now and then nature may pause to watch a graceful fly-fisherman within its midst.

Veterans Oasis Park. I am watching the dragonfly or is he watching me.

Not only do you see the natural beauty, but are open to feeling the warm sun, or cooling breeze, or light refreshing rain on your skin. You appreciate a symphony of natural sounds that you are deprived of upon your return to “civilization”. You can readily appreciate the sounds of the river as it makes its way on its primordial journey, or hear the breeze in the trees. Sometimes nature treats you to a melodious treat. While fishing at Red mountain Lake on morning in Mesa, Arizona, I heard the most indescribable sound coming from the reeds across the lake. I soon saw the sound was coming from a family of American Coot; a beautiful waterfowl to behold and hear.

Red Mountain Lake, Mesa, Arizona. An adult American Coot thinks not of a fly-fisherman on shore, but cares for its young.

The smells of nature penetrate your olfactory senses to awaken a primordial appreciation of the outdoor environment. You can even taste nature when you lick the salt air from your lips, when you wet your tippet when tying a knot, or perhaps when you eat a sandwich for lunch after catching and releasing a few fish.

So the next time you are on your favorite waters, casting a fly to your treasured quarry. Pursue the object of your search with a passion. Don’t let the passion limit your total experience. See nature totally and from different perspectives.

Veterans Oasis Park Lake as viewed from a bird-watcher’s blind.

Fly-fish with a true heart and spirit but, pause a moment, think like a Karate master and remember to “Focus on the leaf, but see the tree.“

Sensei John

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13 Aug

7 Pound Monster Bass Caught In New Jersey

I just received a startling e-mail from a Goshin-Do Karate mentor and comrade, Sensei Bob. Not only is Sensei Bob a dedicated Yon-Dan (4th Degree Black Belt), he is also a talented fly-fisherman residing and fishing in New Jersey. Sensei Bob has discovered a dark secret hidden, or even intentionally ignored in Northern urban, industrial New Jersey.

Sensei Bob recently caught and released a beautiful 7 pound largemouth bass. You may ask from what infamous bass producing waters did he catch his monster. Was it the mighty fish producing rivers, the Delaware, Susquehanna, Musconetcong, or Raritan Rivers? No, Sensei caught his bass from a lake. Ok, then, was it the big fish nursery known as Round Valley Reservoir? Or, perhaps Lake Hopatcong, or Greenwood Lake, or a smaller lake, like Shepherd’s Lake? No indeed.
The lake Sensei Bob caught his monster bass in is located in the heart of Northern New Jersey, specifically in Hudson County. This monster largemouth bass makes his home in and prowls the waters of the lake in Hudson County Park! And, this monster bass is not alone! Sensei Bob tapped into his deepest martial skills, and used his courage, imagination, improvisation and concentration to fish in this urban concrete jungle. Sensei’s efforts have finally proven to all those North Jersey-ites that while they work, play and otherwise live the drama of life blissfully unaware of their existence, monster bass lurk and prowl in the midst of their neighborhood.
Please note that, like me, Sensei Bob, more often than not, fishes solo. As such it is difficult to find some one to assist in taking pictures. However; much like the History Channel’s TV show “Monster Quest”, Fly-Fishing Dojo will dispatch a team of journalists, photographers, crypto-zoologists and others to accompany Sensei Bob on a daring return trip to shed light on this otherwise mythical urban legend known as the “Bass and the City“.
Stay tuned, More to follow . . .

Sensei John


12 Aug


Revised rating system:

   karate-belt-black  Black Belt – excellent!


Old rating system:

Torri Rating: 4 1/2 – A MUST!




During a routine internet search for flies, I came across the website of Big Y Fly Co. – WWW.BigYFlyCo.Com.

I was very surprised when I checked out their website. While the inventory of flies for sale was quite impressive, my expectations were surpassed when I noticed the prices. The prices are a fraction of what I have seen at fly shops and on the internet. I was a bit concerned that quality would be sacrificed for lower prices. I needed to stock up on a few fly patterns so I decided to place an order. Big Y Fly Co offers free shipping on orders over $ 35.00, so I ordered enough to qualify for free shipping.

The ordering process was efficient and secure. Immediately after submitting my order, I received an e-mail confirmation. Within a day the order was shipped and once again, I received an e-mail confirming the shipment. Such communication is a big plus with me whenever I order product via the internet. I figured that with the free shipping, I would have my order in about a week. To my pleasant surprise, two days later my flies arrived.

The wet flies and nymphs were packaged in appropriately sized zip-lock bags. The dry flies were conscientiously packed in small plastic containers so as to prevent damage to the hackles. An excellent job of packaging.

I immediately set about fishing with the flies. Much to my satisfaction, the flies performed well and are extremely durable. Thus, my initial worry that quality would be scarified for cost was abated. I fly-fish at least four days a week. I have a river and four lakes within 25 miles of my house, so I can drop a line for as little as an hour or two and still be at work on time. I fished Big Y Fly Co.’s flies steadily for several weeks. All flies produced well. Despite the triple digit Arizona heat, I had hooked several average size largemouth bass and, as my grandfather would say, “More bluegill than Carter has liver pills.“

Big Y Fly Co.‘s flies held up well to the constant munching and crunching of little jaws, the grasp of hook removal tools and occasional tangles with aquatic vegetation. In summary, Big Y Fly Co.‘s flies are nicely tied, in effective patterns and very durable.

I recently placed a second order and again, e-communication, shipment and delivery was excellent. In order to meet the $ 35. minimum for free shipping, I rounded out my fly order with a Big Y Fly Co. logo hat. It is almost a given that Fly Shops will sell all manner of logo wear, hats, shirts, apparel and the like. I found it refreshing that Big Y’s website is dedicated to not to clothing, but to flies and fishing (A Blog, Hatch chart and other topical information). Absent is the “buy our over-priced logo product now” ideology. The hat is the ONLY apparel offered. Now, in an era when companies expect you pay $ 15 to $30 for the “privilege” of wearing their logo (including a certain American motorcycle Company’s logo hats and apparel), the name of Big Y Fly Co’s hat says it all – the “Darn Fine $ 7. Cap”. The hat arrived and I concur with the name in all respects!

Okay, so now you will ask, “Why only 4 ½ Torii and not the full 5?” The reason is simple – societal expectations. American society has become indoctrinated to an “I want it now” attitude. After reading this review, you may desire to log onto the Big Y Fly Co. website and purchase a few flies. You may see that a pattern you desire is temporarily out of stock. Being a good American consumer, you will no doubt be gravely disappointed, suffer from extreme emotional distress and have nightmares. Get over it. Big Y Fly Co’s flies are excellent quality at fantastic prices so they will sell out from time-to-time. So to acknowledge this pervasive “I want it NOW” ideology, I begrudgingly deducted a 1/2 Torii. Big Y Fly Co occasionally being out of stock calls to mind an ancient saying derived from Okinawa Karate. I use this saying at the Dojo often to motivate my students. The ancient saying is, “You snooze, you lose“. So, in other words, log onto WWW.BigYFlyCo.Com and order your flies before some one else does. You won‘t be disappointed.

Sensei John

Please feel free to view my other blog dedicated to exploring martial arts ideology and concepts as they can be applied to daily life. You may visit the blog at WWW.SenseiJohn.Wordpress.Com.


4 Aug

Arizona, July, 2010, hot, consistent triple digit temperatures, humid, Monsoon season. I was very lucky to be able to average 4 days a week of fishing. I hope the following fishing journal encourages you to beat the heat and wet a fly.


I have an affinity for the Lower Salt and was able to fish it at least once a week. When I fish the Lower Salt, I use either a 7 ½ foot Cortland Pro Crest rod with # 5 double taper floating line and a 9 foot leader with a 6X tippet or an 8 foot Fenwick Ferrulite Rod throwing the same line and leader. I also fished with a nice 9 foot rod which I recently acquired. I will not provide the specifics of the rod now as I an still field-testing it and will be posting a review of the rod in about 3 weeks. My usual starting points are 1) a quarter mile up river from the first tubing launch point, 2) Sheep Crossing from the Bush Highway bridge to about a mile down river, 3) Coon Bluff and 4) Phon Sutten. The most productive stretch of water for me was the first two locations. Trout were few and far between; however, I had fair catches of decent-sized Bluegill and small to decent small mouth bass. Having said that, due to the heat (low temperatures in the mid-nineties and triple digit high temperatures) fishing was tough. Adding to the overall slow fishing conditions was varying water depth and flow. As you can see from the flow chart obtained from WWW.Watershedmonitor.Com water flows for the month ranged from a low of 300 c.f.s to a high of 1,150 c.f.s The most drastic single day fluctuation was on July 31 when flows ranged from 300 c.f.s. to750 c.f.s. in less than 24 hours. Rough on the fish.

Lower Salter River Flows as recorded by WatershedMonitor.Com

The most interesting aspect of fishing the Lower Salt this past month was the unusual encounters with nature. On several occasions I saw a herd of wild horses in the area of Sheep Crossing.

A small herd of wild horses 7-3-10

I also learned that it is best to avoid fishing the Lower Salt on a hot holiday weekend. The weekend of July 4th I wanted to get in some river fishing. Though I have a few spots that are unaffected by the tubers and kayakers, I learned that my spots are not impervious to law enforcement. I was fishing a deep secluded pool when I began to hear a loud sound, almost like a giant vacuum cleaner coming from down river. The sound was so loud that it drowned out the tuber’s numerous floating boom boxes. These floating radios usually provide a constant cacophony of unsynchronized milieu of rock, rap and reggae music. “Ok“, I thought. I knew my hope for a quiet day on the river was a bit optimistic, but this is loud droning sound was more than a bit out of the ordinary. I looked downstream and to my amazement saw a Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department airboat coming up the river. I watched the patrol boat speed up river. As I stood knee deep in at the base of what was once a quiet pool turned into a churning mass of water, I knew it was time to leave.

MCSO Airboat Crew (stock photo)

As I was packing my equipment into the truck I heard an airborne roar. Upon looking into the blue heavens, my eyes set up not a wondrous Herron, hawk, or even a vulture, rather, it was a Maricopa County Sheriff’s Helicopter patrol. It was good, I guess, to know that the thousands of river-revelers, sans this one fly-fisherman, would be well protected (from themselves) on land, sea and air by the ever vigilant efforts of our fatherly local government agencies.

MCSO Helicopter Patrol

Oh well, I’ll see how the dog days of summer pan out on the Lower Salt in the coming month of August.

VETERNA’S OASIS LAKE, Chandler, AZ (See Note  1)

This lake provided me with regular fishing. I was often able to take an hour or two, hit potential productive spots, many of which are now “favorites” and be back to work all within two and a half hours. The lake, which is a recent addition to the Urban Fishing Program, produced well.

Sunset at Veteran's Oasis Lake, July 1oth

There were consistent catches of bluegill and large mouth bass. I saw several large white amur, in excess of the thirty inch minimum. When fishing this lake, I used a small Fenwick Ferrulite six foot rod ( 2 5/8 rod weight) with 5 weight double taper line. I also used a nine foot 7X tippet to add to the fun. With this set up, the blue gill were fun, but the largemouth bass were a thrill. My fly patterns involved using double nymph and wet fly combinations. The most productive combination was an Apache Lady, # 14 on the head and an Olive Chironomid Pupa, #16 on the tail end. This set up produced the most fish consistently. I had a real exciting catch of a largemouth bass using the Apache Lady with a # 16 Ju-Ju Bee dropper. Size-wise, the fish was only about 11 inches. Fight-wise it was a contender. It took about 8 minutes to work him out of the reeds in which he was hiding with the small Fenwick rod and the 7X tippet.

Bass could not resist the # 16 Ju-Ju Bee (the black dot in the lower jaw)(released unharmed)

Catfish were recently stocked and provided bait fishermen with nice catches. Additionally, it provided me with an important aspect to my fly-fishing. This aspect is the idea that your fishing partner, whether they fly-fish or not, must have the opportunity to catch fish. In my case the catfish provided Di with suitable quarry. 


Back home Di lets Chloe inspect her catfish (subsequently breaded & eaten)

WATER RANCH LAKE, Gilbert, AZ  (See Note # 1)

This is another lake that I was able to fish at least once or twice a week. I used the same ultra-light tackle and double nymph or wet fly set-up as described above. Once again, the lake was fertile with Bluegill and small largemouth bass. I say small because the minimum size for keeping a largemouth is 13 inches. Notwithstanding the size limit, it is always best to practice catch and release with the bass as they are only stocked once a year. My average catch was between 11 and 13 inches. But, once again, on a rod that weighs less than 3 ounces, a 7X tippet and a fly that is often a size 16, these fish provide the sought after excitement.

Bass on ultra-light fly tackle and 7X tippet July 17th (released unharmed)


July 30th, I happened to be in Mesa on business. A quick check of my map showed that I would be only 2 miles from this lake. Naturally, that meant the fly-fishing equipment would be packed. I arrived at the lake about 3:00 pm. The wind was blowing strong as a summer monsoon storm front loomed in the distance. I made a quick trip around the lake casting a wooly bugger, size 14 with a Red Ass, size 16 on the tail. After one trip around the lake, about 10 Bluegill succumbed to the mythical Siren’s call of the Red Ass. The next time I find my way out to Mesa, I will again fish this lake in a more calculated manner.

Until my August report, I hope you continue to enjoy the articles I post on this Blog. Keep your flies in the water.

Sensei John


1. These lakes are part of the Arizona Urban Fishing Program. The program which provides man-made fishing lakes in close proximity to major population centers is celebrating its 25th anniversary.

Please feel free to view my other blog dedicated to exploring martial arts ideology and concepts as they can be applied to daily life. You may visit the blog at WWW.SenseiJohn.Wordpress.Com.

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