Archive | January, 2011


26 Jan


Black Belt – 5 out of 5 – A Must See

Friday, January 21st dawned cold and with snow falling. For most people, the day foretold a cold gloomy weekend. For most that is except for those consumed by the passion called “fly-fishing”.  For those driven by a passion to flick feather and hook, at the denizens of the deep, there was a warming respite from the cold, gloomy, snowy weekend; as warming as a steeping cup of coffee laced with a good Irish whisky (for medicinal purposes, of course). That warm respite was The 19th Annual Fly Fishing Expo held at the Garden State Exhibit Center in Somerset, New Jersey.

As I post this article, the snow continues to fall on the Garden State, so grab yourself a cup of java; better still grab a mug of java in the official FFD logo mug ( and allow me to tell you about this magnificent exhibition.

A shameless plug - I know

Over the course of many years, I have attended a cornucopia of expositions, to wit: fishing expos, hunting expos, gun shows, motorcycle shows, model railroad shows and the like. In evaluating any exposition, one must inevitably critique the promoter’s choice of venue. The Fly Fishing Expo’s choice of the Garden State Exhibit Center must be commended. The venue served to enhance the pleasant experience in attending this event. The Garden State Exhibit Venter is conveniently located and has sufficient parking for the anticipated number of attendees. Further, the parking is free. The venue provided readily available food, drink and refreshment. The floor plan for the exposition allowed for steady traffic flow, accessible lectures, and two well situated fly casting pools.

The next consideration I look at in evaluating an exposition is the quality of the “featured celebrities”. The Fly Fishing Expo provided access to a great many celebrities of every genre: authors, lecturers, fly tiers, artists, guides, lodges and even a master and a living legend. In fact, there were far too many celebrities to name each and every one of them here. That said, my two favorite dignitaries were a “Master” a “Legend”; both to be named hereinafter.

Due to my schedule I was not able to attend the exposition on “opening-day”, Friday, the 21st. I awakened Saturday morning, picked up my New Jersey comrade, Sensei Bob, and we ventured out. With each mile we drove down the NJ Turnpike, our anticipation grew. We arrived at the venue and were smoothly guided through the admission process and entered the vast exhibit hall.

Sensei Bob and I were soon standing aside the casting pool witnessing a stirring Kata performance by the Master, Lefty Kreh. What, you did not know that Lefty knows Karate Kata? Frankly, I do not believe that Lefty ever studied Karate. His Kata is the Kata of fly casting. There is a plaque in our Goshin-Do Karate Dojo which reads, “Only Through Man Does Technique Become Art.” Lefty is a living embodiment of this maxim. I will not divulge Lefty’s secrets in this article; it is not my province to do so. Having said that, I am sure his books, DVD’s and seminars will help everyone that just read these words become a more efficient fly caster.

My personal “must-stop-at” booth was the Cortland booth. I have fly fished with Cortland line since I first saved and saved and saved (that is pre-credit card days for you younger readers) to be able to by their 444 line when I was a boy of 14. Since then, Cortland line is always spooled on my reel.

Due to an overwhelming popularity of the event, during our stay, crowds were impressive. Sensei Bob and I negotiated the aisles as if they were swift rapids in a stream and went about the task of perusing vendors displays, watching the various fly tiers execute their craft and chatting with the various manufacturer representatives. As to the fly tiers, they all executed their craft magnificently. There were two talented and innovated tiers that stood out in my mind on this particular day.

This is not to say that the other tiers I witnessed on Saturday were less than talented; rather,  Pat and Steven’s skills and innovation with feathers and deer hair, simply struck a colorful cord in the dark recesses of my mind.

Steven Wascher holds one of his creations


Pat Cohen:

Pat Cohen

Pat's creations

After a few hours, Sensei Bob and I decided to take our leave.

I returned early Sunday morning. Given that it was early, the crowd was smaller than Saturday which allowed for a more direct and intimate contact with exhibitors.

My first stop was the booth of the local chapter of Project Healing Waters. I first learned of this organization, that assists our veterans in finding solace and enjoyment in the fly fishing experience, on a television episode of Curtis Fleming’s Fly Rod Chronicles. David Bucko was at the booth and gave freely of his time to further acquaint me with this organization. Take a moment and check out their website and Facebook pages (

The Project Healing Waters Booth

The highlight this day was stopping by the booth of a living legend. I have known his name since the first time I purchased one of his books and tied one of his innovative fly patterns. The legend is, the distinct, Dave Whitlock ( In Karate there is a saying,  “It was my mother who bore me, but my Sensei who made me a man.” Well, since Sensei made me a man, Dave got me playing with feathers, hair and hooks – and – I am the better man for it.

The Legend, Dave Whitlock's, Booth

I very much enjoyed all of the people I spoke with. Several of them even greatly assisted me in purchasing a few Valentine’s gifts for my charming wife. Now, since this article will post well in advance of that most heartfelt of days, I cannot divulge certain facts that pertain to these vendors, less my spouse gain advance knowledge of the gifts that I will rain down upon her. I will, nonetheless, give a special “shout-out” (to use the modern vernacular) to: Scott Cesari (WWW.ScottCesariFlyTying.Com), Fish Pimp Co. (WWW.FishPimpCo.Com) and Bill Black (WWW.OTETackle.Com). Thanks in advance for helping to make February 14th great.

While shopping for gifts, I was intrigued by the use of flies as jewelry as displayed by Shawn Davis. His designs and jewelry are magnificent. They can be seen at

In addition, I spent a delightful time chatting with a talented artist who deserves a mention. She absolutely sparkles and her artwork is inspiring. She is Anne Dixon.

Before leaving the exhibition, I was treated to a glimpse into the very near future. Cheeky Fly Fishing will soon be debuting a new light-weight, technologically advanced fly fishing reel. I spent a few minutes with Ted Upton enraptured in a discussion about the technological marvel that this reel is. Look for it in the near future. Perhaps I will post a review of the reel upon its debut.

And, thus, my visit to the exhibit drew to a close. It is impossible for me to mention all the people I spoke with or encapsulate the great time I had at the exhibit in this short article. As such, if you are not mentioned directly, please forgive me.

Until the next article, I remain,

Sensei John

If you have a minute, check out my “Sanchin Kata For Fly Fisherman” video. Proper breathing will help, not only your fly fishing, but every aspect of your life.

Please feel free to “window shop” our unique logo products by clicking on the “SHOP” page tab above.



19 Jan

Futanren is a term derived from Goshin-Do Karate. It is used to define one of three martial , combat-related, fears. The within shall explore Futanren as it applies to fly fishing. Futanren describes the fear derived from inadequate training. Training in this context can also be read as “preparation”; thus Futanren can be used to described fear derived from inadequate preparation. (See Endnote # 1).

Anytime you have hooked “The fish of a lifetime” and wondered, “Did I tie that knot properly?”, “Is my reel mechanically sound?’ and similar questions, you are engaging in Futanren. I think back to my early years of training in Goshin-Do Karate. My Sensei would use various means to motivate us. One of his favorites was to rhetorically ask, “If you knew you would be attacked by an assailant first thing tomorrow morning, how earnestly would you train (at the Dojo) tonight?” Sensei’s motivational question can be applied directly to fly fishing as follows, “If you knew that four days from now you would be fly fishing and HOOK the biggest fish of you life, what would you do now to prepare?”

The answer to the question invokes a related question, namely, “When would your preparation begin?” Would you begin to prepare now or wait until the fateful day that you will set out to your favorite water? Perhaps you would immediately begin to check the physical integrity of your fly fishing equipment. For example, you may inspect your fly rod for nicks or gouges on the guides that would cut into your leader or fly line. You may also inspect the fly line for signs of wear and tear. Your fly reel should be inspected for mechanical integrity. You may also choose to examine your older flies for soundness. Perhaps you would inspect all hook points and sharpen those that require sharpening. You may inspect the new flies to insure that eyes of the hook are free of dried head cement.  So, knowing that you would hook the fish of a lifetime, you engage in such preparation to avoid Futanren invading that momentous moment. But, is such preparation enough?

So far the analysis of the method of preparation has looked to the tools involved in the process of fishing. In addition, preparation would encompass external factors. These factors may include advance knowledge of the weather forecast so that one may properly dress. It may also include advance knowledge as to the tides in the case of salt water fishing. To be sure, advance preparation is limited only by the imagination of the fly fisherman and one’s individual comfort zone as to the extent of variables to be considered and prepared for.

As to the extent of tangental preparation, permit me to submit the following observation from perhaps the greatest fishing author there was, Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway thought deeply about fishing. His thoughts, and advice, even extended to the type of breakfast one would eat prior to a long day of fishing for marlin.

There are two opposing schools about breakfast. If you knew that you were not going to be into fish (Marlin) for two or three hours, a good big breakfast would be the thing. Maybe it is a good thing any way but I do not want to trust it, so drink a glass of vichy, a glass of milk and eat a piece of Cuban bread, read the papers and walk down to the boat. I have hooked them on a full stomach in that sun and I do not want to hook any more of them that way. (See Endnote # 2).

If your preparation to meet the predestined encounter with a once in a lifetime fish is detailed and thorough; it is now time to ask, “Why not prepare in that manner prior to every fishing oddessy?” You may not have knowledge aforethought that you will hook a magnificent fish; but isn’t it better to prepare for each fishing adventure as if you did.

Preparation is the means of eradicating Futanren from your fly fishing. Such eradication will increase not only your productivity, but also your enjoyment of the overall fly fishing experience. Certainly you want to be able to hook that wonderfully majestic fish and  be fulfilled in the moment rather than be enveloped with Futanren.

Sensei John


1. There are two other identifiable martial fears, to wit: Kiki Oji: The fear of an enemy’s reputation and Mikuzure: The fear of an enemy’s appearance.

2.    Lyons, Nick, (editor), Hemingway On Fishing (The Lyons Press, New York, By, 2000), p. 102. There is a full review of this book on my weblog archived in the category “Sensei’s Reviews”.


9 Jan

New videos released this month:

The following videos were released during this month. Convenient links are provided below. Hereafter, the links will be archived on the “Video & Media” Page.

  1. Sanchin Kata For Fly Fisherman. Link:
  2. Urban Lake System, December, 2010 Supplement. Link:

Arizona, Valley Of The Sun, December, 2010, the sometimes wild winter weather heralds wild fly fishing. December saw tempestuous swings in temperatures ranging from average highs in the mid-seventies early in the month to highs of only in the fifties later on. There was even one week of record high temperatures in the low eighties. In addition, rain, fog, winds and a winter storm all contributed to the atmospheric excitement.

By New Years Eve, there was snow on Four Peaks

Fishing was equally turbulent. Early in the month, there were good catches of largemouth bass. Throughout the month, thanks to a biweekly stocking program, there were excellent catches of rainbow trout. I was even surprised to see an occasional catfish caught by bait fishermen despite the lower temperatures. On and around Tuesday, December 14th early risers were treated to a spectacular celestial show courtesy of the Geminid Meteors. I was awe struck as I watched this dramatic, cosmic display.

Fly patterns that produced well this month were those that had some flash or sparkle. The following patterns worked nicely: Nymphs: JuJu Bee # 14, Rainbow Warrior # 14, Myosis Shrimp # 14, Perfect Scud (pink) # 14, BH Bloody Mary # 14 and Swimming Roe # 8. Wet Fly: Alexandria # 14, and McGinty # 14 Streamers: Sparkle Shad # 12, Sparkle Claret BH Wooly Bugger # 12, and Hot Flash Minnow # 12. I always fish these pattern in tandem, usually with the streamer at the head and the nymph as a dropper. On the Lower Salt River, I would dead drift them while on the Urban Lake System, I would retrieve them with a twitch of the rod tip and a pause. More often than not, the fly was taken on the pause.

Without further fanfare, here’s a synopsis of the waters Fly Fishing Dojo fished. PLEASE NOTE: Unless otherwise indicated, all fish were safely released after being photographed.

LOWER SALT RIVER, Tonto National Forest

Fishing the Lower Salt River continued to be a joy. Each trip I made was one enraptured with the spectacular natural environment.

I will; however, note one disturbing trend. Those familiar with the Lower Salt River know that during summer months, she is used and abused by recreational water craft users. Last month I wrote that with the colder temperatures and the end of river tubing season, she was, finally, being restored to her quasi-virginal self. Now, it seems that some selfish persons, who purport to call themselves fisherman, are electing to use her as a depository for their negligent disposal of waste.

fishing waste is replacing the empty beer cans of summer

Again, as a few of the recreation areas are closed, when I make reference to a location, it is for informational purposes. More often than not, the reference is to the recreation area where the official FLY FISHING DOJO vehicle was parked rather than a specific location fished. These areas included: Water User’s Recreation Area, Bluepoint Recreation Area (provided parking for the down and across river hike to Sheep Crossing), Phon D. Sutton Recreation Area and Granite Reef Recreation Area.

Using the fly patterns referred to above produced reliable catches. Largemouth bass and nice sized bluegill were to be found at Water User’s, Sheep Crossing and Granite Reef. Rainbow trout were found at Water User’s (on occasion) and Phon D. Sutton.

Water flows remained low, but consistent. Below is the water flow chart for the Lower Salt River for the month of October from WWW.Watershedmonitor.Com.


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

This lake continued to provide a regular respite from my daily routine. Early in the month, largemouth bass and bluegill would regularly take a fly, particularly a rainbow warrior or perfect scud nymph. As the temperatures decreased, these fish moved to deeper water, but could still be lured to a fly late in the day, about and hour before sunset.

While trout fishing on this lake is always enjoyable, one or two days in particular were truly memorable. The first memorable day was the morning of December 23rd when the lake was enveloped in a shroud of fog.

That particular morning, while standing on the shoreline casting into an etherial vapor that rose from the lake, I almost had the feeling of being in a vintage horror movie where surely a sinister creature dwelled within the fog.  Naturally, such was the result of my overactive mind at work. In reality, the only creature that dwelled within the depths of the smoky water was a nice, playful rainbow.

This was 1 of 2 fish harvested in December for supper.

The other memorable day was the first day that a huge school of baitfish, that I believe to be shad, first appeared.  From that day, about mid-month, and continuing to the day this report is being generated, this huge school could regularly be seen. A welcome indication of a healthy eco-system. There is a brief clip of a small portion of this school of baitfish on video link above.

The morning of New Years Eve was fun at this lake. Temperatures were in the mid to high twenties. The cold temperatures made for difficult casting as ice built up on the rod guides. Yes, ice on the rod guides, in the desert, in the Valley of the Sun!

Yes, its ice on the rod guides.

Rainbow trout fishing was slow on this particular morning; however, for some unknown reason, fair sized bluegills were extremely active. In a period of about twenty minutes, I had caught and released about a dozen on a BH Bloody Mary Nymph, size # 14. That was fun especially since I could only spare an hour and a half to dedicate to fishing. It proved to be a fun way to end 2010.

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

In my August, 2010 fly fishing journal I wrote about a unique inhabitant of this lake. That inhabitant is a large Koi that I nicknamed “Oishi” after the leader of the infamous 47 Ronin of Japanese history. I am happy to advise that, although I personally have not seen Oishi recently, several people I spoke with have reported seeing him. This month I can report of another unique inhabitant. It is an osprey. Several people, including myself having been shaken from our dogged fishing determination by a loud splash upon the otherwise calm surface of the lake. Seconds later, the lake erupts with the osprey rising from its depths with a fish in its talons. Now thats a real “FLY”-fisherman! When fishing this lake, remain vigilant and you may be treated to a remarkable sight as nature unfolds its drama.

Fishing at Water Ranch proved relatively consistent with catches of small largemouth bass and rainbow trout. The later being particularly susceptible to taking a fly, particularly a sparkle shad streamer, in the first few days after being stocked.

I was fishing Water Ranch Christmas Eve morning and was greeted by a truly beautiful sunrise on that auspicious day. Prior to sunrise, I also received an early gift from Santa when I happened upon a school of bluegill lurking in the reflected light under one of the park lights. Casting a # 16 JuJu Bee Nymph in the pre-dawn dark I caught and released about a dozen and a half palm-sized bluegill in a twenty minute period. Not big fish, but, as I said previously, “Catching and releasing bluegill consistently will make an otherwise dull day of fishing.”

Water Ranch Lake was also the location for my first video in the “Fly Fish Like A Karate Master” series entitled “Sanchin For Fly Fisherman.” You can view this video by clicking the link at either the beginning of this article or on the “Video & Media” Page tab above.

RED MOUNTAIN LAKE, Mesa, AZ (See Endnote # 1)

I did notice a marked decrease in the number of largemouth bass that I was able to catch and release at this lake. In fact, such catches were unremarkable. Rainbow trout provided good sport in the first few days after stocking with decreased numbers being caught about a week after a stocking. The rainbow trout at Red Mountain Lake seemed to favor a # 14 Myosis Shrimp fished behind a # 12 Sparkle Shad Streamer. Each fly was taken equally.

KIWANIS LAKE, Tempe, AZ (See Endnote # 1)

I fished Kiwanis Lake on December 11th with okay results. I had lost one rainbow trout due to a “quick release” and caught and released another in about an hour and a half time period walking around the shoreline. Static fisherman, those sitting on the shore casting bait or scented baits, reported mixed results. There were; however, a few static fisherman with catches of three and four supper-sized rainbows.


I had not fished this lake in two months. So, one rather slow morning at Veteran’s Oasis Lake, I decided to take the twenty minute ride down Greenfield Road to see if I could discover fish at Discovery Lake. All during the drive I thought of the many monumental largemouth bass that I had caught and released all summer. In the extreme heat of summer, this small, almost swimming pool in appearance, lake unveiled a cornucopia of “bass-tastic” delights. I wondered if such finned opulence would still be present. Upon arriving at Discovery and fishing for about an hour and a half, I soon discovered that the lake was a small remnant of itself. The water was filled with dead and decaying leaves, branches and reeds. The natural decay was highlighted by man-made decay in the form of the occasional plastic bottle bobbing on the water’s surface. Even a bloated football and a half deflated soccer ball played upon the surface of this watery field. Gone were the largemouth bass of summer. The melodramatic metamorphosis of this lake from summer to early winter was distressing “. . . It was as though a young person had died for no reason.” (See Endnote # 2).

And so, this concludes another monthly fly fishing journal. It is now 2011, what natural wonders will reveal themselves as we continue to flick our feathery flies in pursuit of finned quarry? 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

Again, you may wish to view the video supplement to this month’s journal by clicking the link at the beginning of this article or on the “Video & Media” page.

You can follow the DAILY adventures of FLY FISHING DOJO on FACEBOOK, See the Video & Media Page for details.


1. For exact locations, please see the 2010, 25th Anniversary Urban Fishing Program booklet.

2.  Hemingway, Ernest, A Moveable Feast, (Touchstone, New York, NY, 1996) p. 45.

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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.


6 Jan



Green Belt – 3- Average (Please refer to the new symbolism in the post below)

The Plano Dry Fly Box is day-in, day-out, my “go-to” dry fly box. It is simple, durable, priced right and functional. The box is both practical and affordable. It retails for less than $ 10.00 in most stores. The box is made from durable, semi-transparent hard plastic. It measures 6” x 3 1/2” x 2”.

Top view - closed position

It has two internal main compartments, each having 10 miniature compartments , measuring 1 1/4” x 1 1/2” x 1”. Therefore, the total number of interior compartments is 20.

Interior view - 1 of 2 main compartments

Each side is secured closed by a sturdy snap-lock mechanism; as such, it is not prone to accidentally being opened, even when dropped.

View of locking mechanism

Given the open unencumbered manner of storing dry flies, the hackles of the flies are not crushed as in the case of foam or similar fly boxes. I find that the open compartment design allows my thick fingers ample room to probe around, find a particular fly and fetch it from amongst its brethren. This is in contrast to an individual compartment design which is found in the “high-end”, more expensive type dry fly boxes. My fingers find that maneuvering to retrieve a fly from these boxes is quite cumbersome. The downside to this type of open compartment design is that it is vulnerable to creating an “artificial hatch” in sufficiently high wind conditions. Having said that, care in using this box in such conditions mitigates such predisposition.

All factors considered, and with particular emphasis on price, function, durability and practicality, this is my absolute favorite dry fly box. Having said that, you may wonder, “Why did the Plano Dry Fly Box “only” earn a green belt rating?” First is the possibility of artificial hatches when carelessly opened in windy conditions. Second, it is somewhat bulky and thus, may not fit easily into some access pouches of a fishing vest. On my part, I prefer a pack over a vest, so this is not a problem for me. Third, it is simply an average fly box that serves the purpose for which it is intended without unnecessary accouterments. In the Dojo, the green belt was the halfway point to a black belt. Thus, the practitioner that wore a green belt was often the unrecognized workhorse of the Dojo. The green belt simply did what he was supposed to do without being overly praised and accepted that status. Thus, for this workhorse of a dry fly box, a more than worthy green belt is earned. I believe you will be more than satisfied with the Plano Dry Fly Box.

Respectfully submitted,

Sensei John

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3 Jan

After considerable thought I have decided to revise the FLY FISHING DOJO rating system to be used for product reviews. The old system awarded a “Tori” as a symbol of the product’s review status. This new system embraces that Karate-Do idea that accomplishments are “earned”. In Karate-Do, such accomplishments are symbolized by a colored Obi, or belt, worn around a practitioner’s waist. Thus, the new rating system will still be based upon a numeric factor from 1 to 5 (1 being “poor” and 5 being “excellent”) and will be symbolized by a colored belt commensurate with that product’s review. The symbolic rating is as follows:

WHITE BELT: Symbolizes a numeric rating of 1 – Poor: In the opinion of FLY FISHING DOJO, this product performed sub-par and is not worth purchasing.

YELLOW BELT: Symbolizes a numeric rating of 2 – Passable: In the opinion of FLY FISHING DOJO, this product performed marginally. Purchasing the product would be an example of Caveat Emptor – let the buyer beware.

GREEN BELT: Symbolizes a numeric rating of 3 – Average: In the opinion of FLY FISHING DOJO, this product performed as represented. Purchasing the product would be a matter of the buyer’s personal choice and financial capability.

BROWN BELT: Symbolizes a numeric rating of 4 – Above Average: In the opinion of FLY FISHING DOJO, this product performed above average and exceeded the expectations of the product. Purchasing the product is recommended based upon the buyer’s financial capability.

BLACK BELT: Symbolizes a numeric rating of 5 – Excellent: In the opinion of FLY FISHING DOJO, this product performed in a manner far exceeding expectations. It is a “must-have” product; subject only to the buyer’s financial means; buy it, but don’t mortgage the farm to do so.

I hope you enjoy the new symbolism to be used in future product reviews.

Please note, I have edited the prior reviews to include the new symbolism.

Sensei John

Please feel free to “window shop” our unique logo products by clicking on the “SHOP” page tab above.

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