Archive | October, 2010


27 Oct
With Halloween soon upon us, I thought I would submit an article on Fly Fishing Monsters. The within concerns the manner in which we battle the day-to-day stress, our internal monsters, through the art of fly fishing. There is a maxim of Friedrich Nietzsche which can assist us in understanding this point.
 You may be familiar with the following, oft quoted, commentary by Friedrich Nietzsche, “when you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.” The popularity of this comment overshadows Nietzsche’s preceding sentence which many fail to appreciate. It is, “He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster.” (See Endnote # 1).

Friedrich Nietzsche, Circa 1875.


We all use the art of fly fishing to battle monsters that lay deep within us. The pressures of daily life, including, work pressures, family, school, dictates of relationships all impose a burden upon our sense of well being. Emotions such as stress, anger, frustration are counter productive to our desire for physical and emotional comfort. These negative situations and emotions are like monsters that seek to invade our sense of being. Through fly fishing we can keep those monsters at bay. More often than not, a day spent on the water can perform wonders for our sense of self. I say, “more often than not” because, we must keep Nietzsche’s maxim in mind as we seek the calming effect of casting a fly to a fish. Many months ago, I had a day on the Lower Salt River here in Arizona that reminded me of the import of Nietzsche.

It was the beginning of another hot, almost inhuman, summer in the Valley of the Sun. Two to three months of unbearable heat, exceedingly high ultra-violet indices, and air quality alerts lay ahead. The prospect of the hellish summer had put me in a real bad mood. I sought to quell my mood; to do battle with this emotional monster. I went fly fishing in the cool, swirling, bountiful waters of the Lower Salt. The only problem was that in seeking to do battle with the monster, I became the monster. I let my foul, fetid mood destroy my fly fishing. I had seen fish lurking below the waters surface. My mood should have instantly improved. When I started fishing, it became apparent that my fly fishing technique was infected by my mood. I waded the waters with the grace of a hobbled Frankenstein monster. My casting technique was so vicious that not only did I foul hook a few bushes, I snapped two flies off the leader. The more I tried to relax the more angry I became.

It finally dawned on me that I was now the monster I sought to cast off. I took a deep breath and performed a Goshin-Do Karate Kata known as Sanchin. (See Endnote # 2). I then put my fly rod down and sat on the gravel bank letting the sound of the river quiet me. The last remnants of a cool breeze blew through the canyon flowing past my face. I finally began to expel the monster of anger. Had I not realized that I became the monster I sought to battle, the day would have been lost.

So, when you turn to fly fishing to escape the “monsters“ of daily living, keep Nietzsche in mind.

To assist you in enhancing your fly fishing experience, you may wish to review two articles previously posted on this weblog. Both are filed in the category “Fly Fish Like A Karate Master”. They are: Improve Your Fly Fishing With Proper Breathing and Fly Fishing Using The Mushin State Of Mind.

Until the next article, I hope we all can be on our favorite waters, in nature, casting a simple fly in pursuit of our favorite quarry, successfully battling our internal monsters and avoiding becoming the monster ourselves.

Sensei John

1. Nietzsche, Friedrich, Beyond Good And Evil, Part Four: Maxims And Interludes, Number 146.
2. Sanchin is a Goshin-Do Karate Kata that combines deep abdominal breathing, physical movement and a quiet state of mind called Mushin. It takes less than four minutes to perform and is physical refreshing and mentally rejuvenating. For more on Sanchin please see my martial ideology weblog and click on the “Sanchin Book” page tab. WWW.SenseiJohn.Wordpress.Com.




22 Oct


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19 Oct

 Within the context of the traditional Martial Arts of Okinawa and Japan, the term Sensei is a title steeped in honor and is bestowed upon one who is commonly known in the western world as a “Teacher”. When the term Sensei is parsed into its two root words, a more distinctive interpretation is revealed. The root word “Sen” means “Before.” The root word “Sei” means “Being“, as in a physical presence. Thus, Sensei literally means (a) “Before-Being“, or, one who came before me. Thus, a martial arts teacher (Sensei) came into his martial knowledge before the student. (See Endnote #1). 

In terms of familial relationships, a parent is, in effect, a Sensei of their child.
For Sensei Bob and me, in addition to being a chronological Sensei to our children, we were also Goshin-Do Karate Sensei to our children. Each of our children, to varying degrees studied Goshin-Do Karate. Sensei and I are also fishing Sensei as we introduced our children to the pleasure of fishing. This is the story of our recent fishing adventures.    


 Sensei Bob and his two sons, Trevor and Devon recently undertook a Salmon fishing adventure in upstate New York. As every parent knows, as your children grow older, the demands of work, education and their own desire for independence result in less time spent together. Sensei Bob and his boys enjoyed each others company during a nice weekend of fly fishing on the Salmon River in New York.

Sensei Bob displays one of the many trophy sized salmon.

 All three are accomplished fly fisherman and anticipated stalking the large salmon known to inhabit this river. By the end of the weekend, father and sons had many new fish tales to remember.

Devon displays another trophy lured to a fly.

It is such moments of sharing, bonding and enjoying each other’s company that are retold countless times in years to come. I am sure that when Sensei’s boys have children of their own, they will tell them their tales of stalking large salmon; of a time spent with a grandpa, who is a fisherman and a Sensei. On Sensei’s part, not only will he recount the tales of the mighty salmon with a future grandchild, inevitably he will also bestow upon his child’s child the secret knowledge of Goshin-Do Karate. Goshin-Do Karate and fly fishing, secret arts, passed from Sensei to son to son’s son.

In a photo from days long past, Trevor displays another trophy.


In mid-October, I was elated by an extended weekend visit from my youngest daughter, Sensei Kim. As with her sister, Jessica, Kim not only fished with me, but also studied Goshin-Do Karate. Kim spent 16 years studying Goshin-Do. When I relocated to Arizona, she assumed the day-to-day operations of the Issho Dojo.

Sensei Kim made a point that, in addition to visiting and Karate training, she wanted to fish in the Arizona desert. We were able to visit many of my favorite fishing locations, including Veteran’s Oasis Lake, Dog Park, Discovery Lake, and the “big” lakes, Apache Lake and Canyon Lake.

A family night spent fishing.

Although Kim, Jess and I have many fishing tales in our collection, including, falling out of boats, a seashell being dropped on Kim by a flying seagull and cutting her, fishing poles disappearing into the depths of water, mishaps with car doors and the inevitable “one that got away”, we added a few more this weekend. With the hotter than normal temperatures the primary catches (and subsequent releases) were bluegill, largemouth bass and catfish. The effect of these catches were memorable smiles, laughs, and a special, heretofore unknown “dance of joy” displayed by Sensei Kim as she landed a nice largemouth in the dark of evening. One to tell the grand-kids.

As she was reeling in this bass, Sensei Kim erupted into the infamous “dance of joy.”

Until the next article, may you all be fly fishing Sensei to your children,

Sensei John


1. In the dedication to my book, Sanchin Kata: The Gateway To The Plateau Of Human Serenity, I propose the following more embellished definition of “Sensei”:

The Honored One who came into mysterious, secret, knowledge before me and grudgingly bestows his mysterious teachings upon, a yet unworthy, me.

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


10 Oct
In the first installment of Fly Fish Like A Karate Master, I discussed the most fundamental element of not only fly fishing, but life itself. That element is PROPER breathing. (See Improve Your Fly-fishing With Proper Breathing, posted on August 25, 2010). In this second installment, I would like to introduce you to an omnipresent state of mind, or spirit, that pervades Karate-Do. This state of mind is called “Mushin” (pronounced “Moo-shin“). Mushin is an abbreviation of the phrase “Mushin No Shin” which refers to a mental state described as “Mind, No-Mind”. Mushin is taken directly from my training in Goshin-Do Karate-Do. Using the Mushin state of mind, you will be able to purge yourself of external thoughts so as to be open to and absorb your complete fly fishing experience. Ultimately, such expansion of the mind or spirit will result in a more fulfilling experience while fly fishing and, perhaps, increase your productivity in catching and releasing the species of fish you seek.

An expression of the Kanji, Japanese calligraphy, for Mushin.

Mushin is a unique state of mind wherein one actively experiences one’s environment with the totality of one’s senses. The sensory inputs are transmitted to the brain. The brain processes these sensory inputs and accordingly transmits reactionary impulses to the body and simultaneously creates a state of mind, or spirit, attendant to the inputs received. Invariably, an undeveloped spirit will focus on what it believes to be the most pervasive of the sensory inputs, to the exclusion of the other sensory inputs, and evolve a mental or spiritual state to meet the situation transmitted via the sensory inputs. This state of mind is characterized as “clouded”.

The Mushin state of spiritual being is “unclouded”. Instead of focusing the mind or spirit onto a specific sensory input to the exclusion of the others, Mushin perceives all inputs from the sensory world and absorbs them totally. Prior to contrary belief, the Mushin perception does not necessarily focus the mind onto one specific sensory or mental inputs to the exclusion of all other sensory or mental inputs. Rather, a specific input is perceived within the context of all other perceptions. Thus, the spirit is uncluttered by a single exaggerated sensory input. The spirit is uncluttered so as to experience and accept all sensory inputs for exactly what they are.

Mushin can, and should be, readily be incorporated into one’s daily routine as a “default“ state of mind. In addition, Mushin can be used to foster the fly fishing experience. Mushin directly cultivates the physical technique, unclouded state of mind and spiritual enjoyment of fly fishing. To illustrate this point, I will share with you one particular day of fly-fishing I recently enjoyed. That day was Tuesday, September 14th, 2010.

The day before I had learned that my first Sensei, Sensei Nick D’Antuono, had passed away. This weighed heavily on my mind and I had a restless night, sleeping maybe three hours at best. At sunrise, I decided I would combine my morning Karate training with fly fishing in the hope that the combination would somehow waken my body and depleted spirit. I drove the short distance to the lake at Veterans Oasis Park. I decided that I would walk around the lake a bit to get my blood flowing. After walking the lake three times, I performed a Karate Kata called Sanchin. The Sanchin Kata takes less than five minutes to perform and is an excellent way to oxygenate and invigorate the body and mind. Sanchin also facilitates attaining the Mushin state of mind. (See Endnote # 1). Now I was ready to fish.

I selected my favorite double nymph combination, a # 14 Rainbow Warrior followed by a # 16 Ju-Ju Bee and tied them to the end of a 5X Tippet (See Endnote #2). For this outing, I was using my 7 ½ foot Cortland Pro-Crest Fly Rod with a five weight double taper floating line. I began casting and presented the brace of nymphs in an area that I know holds fish. Within in the Mushin state of mind, I was able to appreciate the sound of the water as it cascaded down the rocks from the recharge facility to the main lake. The air smelled sweet and clean. Even the sun lightly heating my body felt welcome. I was being absorbed into my environment and it into me. I caught a few bluegill and small bass. From experience, I knew it was time to change tactics and decided that my best chance of hooking a larger fish would be to walk along the lakeshore and sight fish for larger fish that may be cruising the shoreline.

I kept my fly rod at the ready holding the rod in my right hand and a few coils of loose line in my left hand. In this manner I would be able to immediately cast to any fish I might see. I walked along about three feet from the waters edge. In the Mushin state of mind, my mind was unoccupied by any thoughts, it simply perceived my environment. The sound, smell and rhythm of the lake simply entered my body. I walked along the gravel shoreline when I suddenly perceived a different sound. There was a unexpected slight splash from the lake, approximately twenty feet from the shoreline. I looked and saw the slightest ripple on the water. I inhaled in the special method of Karate breathing I call “Issho-ibuki” (Lifetime breathing) and cast to the ripple. The brace of flies landed delicately on the water. After a brief pause I began a melody of retrieving the flies whereby I would twitch the flies and pause and repeat. After three twitches, the line grew heavy. After an additional five minutes or so a decent size largemouth bass was in my hands. I persuaded the fish into posing for a picture and saw to his sound release.

Mushin allowed me to locate this bass.

After releasing the fish, I continued to walk the lakeshore. I walked to the opposite shore which is bordered by a concrete walkway and rounded, walled patio. For reasons unknown to me at the time, I decided to pause and again perform a Sanchin Kata. After the four minutes or so that it took to perform Sanchin, I bent down to pick up my fly rod. As I faced the lake, I immediately noticed a largemouth bass cruising along to my left. I remained crouched low close to the wall so that cruising fish would not see me. After it crossed in front of me, I again, inhaled in the unique manner of Issho-ibuki and began to false cast. I was able to use the rounded configuration of the patio to cast ahead of the fish without casting on top of it. I again paused and twitched. The fish immediately hit. After a few minutes of reconciling of desire to catch the fish and its desire to get away, I eventually won out. I walked the fish to a comfortable and adjacent grassy location where he posed for a picture. The photographic fish was then returned to continue on its journey. In less that twenty minutes I successfully procured two fish at opposite ends of the lake.

A hot 100 degrees, but Mushin provides again

I released the fish, paused a moment and considered my decision, if my act can be called decisive, to perform Sanchin. Had I not done so, I would have walked on before the fish cruised by. I came to understand that by having Mushin as a state of mind, I unknowingly perceived the fish. That is not to say that I foretold the fish would cruise by. Rather, Mushin allowed me to perceive and unknowingly read the lake. Perhaps I perceived the fish’s dorsal fin moving on the surface, or perhaps I perceived baitfish scattering, or saw a heron look interestedly at the water. This is the different between “seeing” and “perceiving“. I firmly believe that the state of Mushin dictated that I pause at that time and place.

After releasing the second fish, I decided that I was fulfilled by the mornings activities. I did not want to over stay nature’s welcome of me at her doorstep, so as is my custom, I turned and bowed to show my respect to the water. I drove home feeling physically, mentally and spiritually better.

Before concluding this installment, I would like to give you another scenario to contemplate. The above example illustrated a benefit of Mushin through an enhanced fly fishing experience. In the following imaginative scenario, I would like to illustrate how Mushin may be used to prevent danger. Imagine fly-fishing on a beautiful remote mountain trout steam, perhaps in Alaska. Imagine further that your mind is clouded and thus not open to absorbing nature through the use of Mushin. You are so focused on the trout fly as it floats on the surface of the water, and so determined to catch a fish that you know must be right there, that you fail to perceive the smell of the clean, pure air, the cool feel of the water against your legs, or fail to see the stray grizzly bear sneaking up for a view.

Until the next article, consider Mushin as a state of mind when fly fishing. May your flies always be on or in the water.

Sensei John


1. Mushin is fully discussed in my book entitled Sanchin Kata: Gateway To The Plateau Of Human Serenity. You may preview thee book by viewing on my martial arts weblog and clicking on the Sanchin Book page. You may visit the weblog at WWW.SenseiJohn.Wordpress.Com.

2. For those of you that are not familiar with the fly patterns mentioned, they are available online through Big Y Fly Co.


1 Oct
Arizona, September, 2010, Temperatures “cooled” to a high in the lower triple digits with cool mornings in the high seventy, low eighty degree range. With cooler morning temperatures, not only was fishing physically more enjoyable, but the results greatly improved. Unfortunately, during the last week of September, temperatures again surged to almost record high. The corollary increase in morning temperatures again resulted in smaller catches. I hope you enjoy the within journal as much as I enjoyed “researching” it. REMEMBER – ALL FISH WERE SAFELY RELEASED AFTER BEING PHOTOGRAPHED.
LOWER SALT RIVER, Maricopa County, AZ

Due to the Lower Salt River flowing too high and too fast for my tastes, I did not fish the river in September. For purposes of consistence in my fishing reports, here is the water flow chart for September from WWW.RiverMonitor.Com.


With the cooler morning temperatures, fishing in the urban lake system steadily improved throughout the month. Bluegill were plentiful and provided consistent fun on light fly equipment. My outfit of choice for these tempting little fish morsels remained my six foot Fenwick Ferrulite rod, a double taper, five weight floating line and a nine foot leader ending in a 7X tippet. It is axiomatic that bluegill readily take a fly. My flies of choice for these bluegill generally fell into the sub-surface category and involved fishing the flies double in a head to tail configuration. The specific sub-surface patterns that I favored were a # 14 McGinty, # 14 March Brown, # 14 San Juan Worm, # 16 Rainbow Warrior*, and # 16 Ju-Ju Bee*. There was also early morning action on dry flies. My patterns of choice consisted of a # 16 purple Haze*, # 16 Mosquito and a # 16 Adams Irresistible. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the patterns indicated by an asterisk (*), they may be obtained though Big Y Fly Co at WWW.BigYFlyCo.Com.

To my extreme gratification, Bass fishing greatly improved. In the beginning of the month, small bass could be taken on using the light fly tackle described above.

Early September, temperatures exceed 105 degrees.

As the month progressed, not only did the size of the largemouths increase, the tenacity with which they fought after being hooked amplified. After breaking a fair number of larger bass off the 7X tippet, I modified my fishing strategy. I began to bring two fly rods to the lakes. The first fly outfit I carried with me was the ultra-light outfit mentioned above. I supplemented that outfit with a sturdier outfit designed to catch a larger bass for photographing and subsequent release. My outfit of choice for these larger bass was my nine foot Sumo Distance XS fly rod casting a seven weight floating weight forward line with a nine foot leader ending in a 4X tippet.

Slowly, the size of bass caught increased.

I employed two strategies to find and catch the bass that these lakes had to offer. The first strategy was to locate bluegill using the lighter tackle. Inevitably the excitement of the hooked bluegill would draw a larger bass out of cover. Once a larger bass was sighted, I switched to my heavier tackle. The second strategy was to walk the lake shore with the Sumo XS at the ready and sight fish for bass. This sight fishing strategy is similar to wading salt water flats and sight fishing, only instead of wading, it involves walking the soil and/or concrete walkways of my urban lakes. Again, similar to the salt water flats, once a bass is sighted, an exacting cast, with accurate and delicate presentation often resulted in the satisfaction of a bass hook-up.

I used this sign as an impromptu measuring device before releasing this bass.

My flies of choice for the larger bass included # 14 Wooly Bugger (in caret color), # 12 Muddler Minnow, # 12 Lite Brite Zonker*, # 12 Alexander*, # 14 San Juan Worm and # 10 Silver Epoxy Minnow Streamer. Again, I fished these flies double. I also had a few heart stopping thrills using a dry # 14 Foam Dragonfly. The colors blue and tan produced the best. The dragonfly had to be well presented with no ripple to be effective. When so presented the strikes were fast and almost instantaneous. Once the fly hit the water – Bam, the game was afoot.

Bass could not resist a well presented Foam Dragonfly.

Arizona Fish and Game stocked catfish during the week of September 20th and provided bait fisherman with ample opportunity to take home a catfish or two. Anglers are encourage to selectively harvest the catfish. Di was able to catch a few that we subsequently harvested. The meat of these fish was clean and tasty.

Di before releasing this urban catfish.

With the sun setting earlier in the sky, I began to fish the Urban Lakes at sunset. Ernest Hemingway once observed that “The setting of the sun is a difficult time for all fish” (See Endnote # 2). Perhaps this is so because, as the sun descends to sleep, fish shed natural inhibition and will readily take a well presented fly, or even, artificial lures.

           Bass at Sunset          

VETERAN’S OASIS PARK LAKE, Chandler, AZ (See Note # 1)

Early in the month was the start of dove hunting season. I spent many early mornings on this lake casting to the rhythmic pow-pow of hunters shooting at their tasty quarry. Mid-month early mornings provided the slightest whiff of steam coming off the lake close to the reed beds. Bass fishing was somewhat sporadic with some mornings being better than others. The morning of September 14th provided me with a classic example of how the martial arts state of mind called “Mushin” can be of benefit to fly fisherman. Using this state of mind, I was treated to sight-fishing two back-to-back largemouths as I walked the lake shore. The subject of the martial arts state of mind called “Mushin” and fly fishing will be addressed in my next article.

Bass loved a Muddler Minnow.

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

Fly fishing this lake was satisfying with consistent catches of bluegill and a few small bass. In addition, I was privileged to view nature’s spectacular awakening and subsequent slumber at sun rise and sunset.

Nature prepares to sleep at the Water Ranch.

The magnificence of nature’s display was diminished by the increasing amount of trash and waste being left lakeside by those that pretend to call themselves “fisherman”. No-one who takes the noble title of “fisherman” would denigrate the sport with such lazy, selfish acts of pollution. The sad part is that these lazily, slovenly lake visitors carried the trash with them and after use, simply discarded it. Garbage consisted of off-the-shelf fishing rod cases, folding chairs, worm containers and an assortment of drinking bottles. In one instance, a broken chair was thrown into the lake. The people that left their garbage certainly are not qualified to call themselves “fisherman”. They clearly have no idea of what it feels like to loose a natural resource to careless pollution. Stop for a minute and think about what this particular park would be like if the lake was too polluted to fish in, and the trails were over run by garbage and the vermin that seeks such garbage. Look well.


RED MOUNTAIN LAKE, Mesa. AZ (See Note # 1)

This lake was the slowest of all lakes in the urban system that I visited. Perhaps this was due to fishing pressure or perhaps due to limited catch and release philosophy. I do not know the exact cause. I like to think that October will be better for this lake.


This small lake, or perhaps I should say pond reminds one of a backyard swimming pool. It is one of the most fruitful ponds for fishing excitement for its limited size.

Having said that, it MUST be nurtured and cared for. There must be careful resource management and a MANDATORY catch and release policy for this pond to continue to temporarily surrender it‘s bounty. Enjoy it as you will, but, please think of the future and carefully release all fish from this facility.

Sensei John takes a line from the Godfather movie - not quite "Sleeping With The Fishes".


September 20th was my first visit to this lake. I visited it a few times thereafter. It produced bluegill consistently. I also had a thrill of catching a carp on a # 14 Rainbow Warrior but “quick-released” it about a foot from shore. I will continue to explore this lake in the coming weeks.

Until my next submission, I hope you continue to enjoy the articles I post on this weblog. 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.

2. From, Hemingway, Ernest, The Old Man And The Sea, (Simon & Schuster, New York, NY 1952), p. 73. Also Hemingway On Fishing, Lyons Nick (Editor), (Nick Lyons Pres, New York, NY, 2000) p. 222. You may see my review of Hemingway On Fishing by clicking on the Sensei’s Reviews category.

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

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