18 Jun

Whether one is a casual fisherman, a competitive angler, or a “weekend-warrior”, one’s state of mind is an all important element of successful fishing. The various states of mind experienced and cultivated by the martial artist can uniquely improve one’s success on the water and also one’s enjoyment of the entire fishing experience.

I had previously explored an omnipresent state of mind within the martial arts known as Mushin (pronounced “Moo-shin”) and how maintaining Mushin can enhance the fly fishing experience. (here is a convenient link to the article: (See endnote # 1)

There is an additional state of mind derived from the martial arts that can increase the productivity of a day spent fly fishing. This state of mind is known as Zanshin (pronounced “Zahn-shin”). The kanji (Japanese writing) of Zanshin translates as the “remaining mind”.

Kanji for ZANSHIN

Within the martial arts, Zanshin refers to a mental state whereby the mind “remains in the battle”. A very simple example of martial arts based Zanshin is as follows. One may strike or disable one’s opponent and victory may appear to be at hand. Although seemingly victorious, one’s mind must remain in the battle so that one is not lured into complacency by a wily opponent.

Zanshin applies equally to fishing. At the moment a fish strikes your lure or your fly, or takes your bait, invariably, one’s mind flashes thoughts of excitement and jubilation. It is at this most jubilant of times that Zanshin is called for. One’s mind must remain attentive to the circumstances that led to the successful encounter. What was different from every other cast? Was it a difference in specific location that led to success, or as it the manner in which the fly drifted or was retrieved. If retrieved, was the retrieve steady or was it paused? If paused, did the fish strike the fly or lure on the retrieve or the pause. If the fly  or lure is fished below the surface, at what depth in the water column did the fish take the fly?

Zanshin can foster a greater productivity when on the water and enhance your overall fishing experience.

Largemouth Bass caught with a #14 Bloody Mary Nymph

For the competitive fisherman understanding and using Zanshin means more fish in the live-well, which means more money earned. For the weekend fisherman, this means a more enhanced fishing experience. By being attentive to the circumstances that led to success, one can replicate the successful technique so as to hopefully once again be productive and lure a fish to the fly.

Until the next article I (and my mind) remain,

Sensei John



DOUBLE BLUEGILL (2Flies – 2 Fish), Link:


  1. For those interested in a more detailed exploration of the Mushin state of mind, here is a link to a four part article that I had previously posted on my Sensei John weblog:

Sensei John is available for lectures on the interrelationship of fly fishing and martial arts protocol, ideology and philosophy. Please see the “LECTURES & LESSONS” Page tab above for more information.

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You are also invited to read my martial arts protocol, philosophy and ideology weblog for non-martial artists at WWW.SenseiJohn.Wordpress.Com.


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