FLY FISHING USING THE MUSHIN STATE OF MIND

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

ENDNOTES:

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.

One Response to “FLY FISHING USING THE MUSHIN STATE OF MIND”

  1. Allan October 2, 2012 at 7:03 pm #

    I enjoy, result in I discovered just what I was looking for.
    You have ended my four day lengthy hunt! God
    Bless you man. Have a nice day. Bye

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: