Archive | July, 2011


20 Jul

How does one improve fishing productivity and enjoyment? The answer is to learn to make fishing mistakes correctly.

It is inevitable that we will make mistakes. This is true not only when we fish, but also in life itself. We are human and thus, by definition, fallible. The key to mistakes is to make mistakes correctly and learn from them. If you make mistakes correctly and learn from mistakes, you will be on a path of continuously improving your fishing productivity and enjoyment.

At Canyon Lake, AZ, an observer waits for me to make a mistake while fishing

Training in Shihan Thomas DeFelice’s Goshin-Do Karate Dojo taught me many life lessons. Here is a story from Goshin-Do Karate oral tradition that will illustrate the need to make mistakes correctly.

In ancient Japan, the elephant was an unknown animal. The Shogun had heard tales of this mythical creature that lived in a far off land. Naturally, the Shogun wished to learn of this creature. He chose his three wisest ministers and dispatched them to find the animal and return to the kingdom with a description of this elephant. He instructed his ministers that time was of the essence. They should swiftly complete their task and report back to him. In a mythological twist of fate, the three wisest ministers were all blind.

The ministers arrived in the land of the elephant. Being blind, they began to feel this creature with their hands so as be able to describe it to the Shogun. The first blind minister touched the elephant’s ear and concluded that an elephant was a wide, thin and flat creature, much like an aquatic stingray. The second blind minister touched the elephant’s leg an concluded that an elephant was like a giant tree. The last blind minister touched the elephant’s trunk and describe the elephant as long and snake-like. They immediately returned to Japan and reported their descriptions to him. The Shogun was confounded by the differing reports and ordered the “incompetent” ministers to commit Seppuku (ritual suicide).

A depiction of Samurai seppuku

The point of this Goshin-Do Karate fable is, if the Shogun would have only allowed the ministers sufficient time to continue touching and describing the elephant, they would have made enough “mistakes” until they finally would have accurately described the magnificent elephant.

When we fish, whether on the water, or at home reflecting on the day’s fishing, we understand that mistakes are inevitable. In fact, sometimes mistakes are a signpost to great learning. It has been observed that, “A general of merit should be said to be a man who has one great defeat.” (See Endnote #1). So, don’t get frustrated when you are fishing and make a mistake. Take a moment, understand the mistake and learn from it.

In closing, I be out on the water once again making mistakes and learning from them as I pursue the next fish that is hiding around the next rock.

Sensei John

UNIQUE VIDEO: See an ancient fighting Kata translated within the context of a historical Okinawa fisherman – FISHERMAN AS WARRIORS, click this convenient link:


  1. Asakura Norikage (1474-1555), fromWilson, William Scott, Ideals Of The Samurai, (O’Hara Publications, Santa Clarita, CA 1982), p.81.

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8 Jul

Arizona, Valley Of The Sun, June, 2011, with summer rising upon us like the dawning sun, fishing in the Arizona desert crept along at an arduous pace. By the end of the month triple digit temperatures, more often than not exceeding 105 degrees, became the norm. The were a few consistent days that exceeded 110 degrees. This made for hot fishing, not necessarily meaning fast, consistent catches.

All species of fish, including, bass, perch, catfish, bluegill, crappy and trout,  could readily be seen cruising shallow waters or rising to the surface to feed. Some of the fish were of legendary proportion; at least large enough to brag about over a cold drink. Being seen is one thing being hooked another. Bluebird skies, and clear, calm water often made for difficult fishing that emphasized delicate presentation to the finicky feeders. When all factors converged, there was a reward at the end of the line that provided a respite from the heat. A joining of man and fish at the end of a line for a moment or two until each returned to their natural environment; the fish to the water and the man to the shore.

It’s too hot for more literary metaphors, so onto this month’s report

PLEASE NOTE: Unless otherwise indicated, all fish were safely released after being photographed.

LOWER SALT RIVER, Tonto National Forest, AZ

With the Salt River Tubing season in full swing, I fished certain sections of the river early in the morning and moved on to more remote (and not open to tubing) sections after nine o’clock when tubing gets under way. For areas unaffected by tubing, please consult one of the many online map resources. Also exercise caution as many of these areas involve varying degrees of hiking. Make sure you have an ample supply of drinking water.

I would note that the week of June 20th was the last stocking of rainbow trout for the summer.

At the Phon D. Sutton Recreation area I found small bass and trout that were willing to take a fly. That is until morning temperature soared and it was time to put down the fly rod and take a swim.

While wooly buggers and various nymphs produced with satisfactory results, the best combination I found was a # 16 tan scud tied behind a # 14 bead head (bh) rooks blueberry nymph.

At Water Users Recreation area, the same combination produced well. Occasionally, I had action on a dry fly with a # 16 foam ant, #16 foam beetle and # 16 bee. For my non-fly fishing readers, I note that Di had a few medium bluegill on a white swimmin’ squirt tied on a 1/32 ounce jig head.

With the fast water flow, I preferred to fish the lower salt river with my two longest fly rods, an 8 foot, Fenwick Ferrulite Rod and my monster-caster, a 9 foot, Sumo Distance XS fly rod.

Below is the water flow chart for the Lower Salt River for the month from WWW.Watershedmonitor.Com.

CANYON LAKE, Tonto National Forest, AZ

Fishing at Canyon Lake provided a regular opportunity to catch largemouth bass and panfish of various species on flies.  Depending on water conditions, depth, wind and temperature, these species regularly roamed from deep water to shallow water to almost hugging the shoreline. As such, the best locations were those where a shallow shelf fell off to deep water. I have several of these type of locations in my geographic arsenal. These location range from the area surrounding Boulder Recreation area to various locations along State Highway 88. When fishing these roadside locations, caution must be exercised when hiking down to the lake. Remember that hiking down to the shoreline is easier than hiking up from the shoreline. Also remember the natural invasive inhabitants, bees, snakes, and such, along the path and keep a watchful eye for them.

My fly rod of choice for fishing Canyon Lake and targeting pan fish is my ultra-light 6 foot Fenwick Ferrulite fly rod. I also fished the 9 foot Sumo Distance XS to throw larger flies in and around bass locations.

The most productive fly patterns were determined by adaptability. Conditions changed often with the increasing heat. However, it seemed that in the morning hours, a nymph tied behind a streamer and fished from deep water to shallow, twitched and paused, produced the best. The most popular patterns were a # 14 or 16 bead head (bh) tan caddis nymph tied behind a # 10 bh claret wooly bugger, a # 16 bh rainbow warrior nymph tied behind a # 10 apache lady wet fly and a small wet or nymph (# 16 red serendipity nymph, # 16 juju bee nymph or a # 16 red ass wet fly) tied behind a # 10 sparkle shad streamer. The sparkle shad seemed to get the attention of the fish who then took the smaller trailing fly.


On June 10th, I was fortunate to hook two panfish at once on my 6 foot Fenwick Ferrulite fly rod using a #16 wired caddis black/pink nymph tied behind a # 12 claret wooly bugger. There is a link to the video entitled “Double panfish” below and on the VIDEO & MEDIA page tab above.

As morning progressed and temperatures warmed, dry fly action could be fast and furious. I had the most success wit # 16 and # 18 foam ants. Again, I fished the dry flies with my 6 foot ultra-light Fenwick Ferrulite fly rod, a 9 foot leader with a 7X or 8X tippet.


I began to experiment using large saltwater flies to catch the many large bass I could see cruising the shoreline.

The bass would often chase these flies but not take them. I began to tie on a smaller trailer fly and was very surprise that while the bass would flash and chase the large fly, they ultimately took the smaller fly. I was able to get video and photos of one such bass that flashed on a # 10 sparkle shad streamer but took a small # 14 bh bloody mary nymph that was the trailer fly.

I saw this bass cruising the shoreline (in the area of the first one lane bridge on Highway 88). He was only in about 5 inches of water! I slowly twitched the flies with long pauses to allow fly to sink. I saw the bass turn and take the nymph off the rocky bottom.Below is a photo and there is a link to the video entitled “Bloody Mary Bass” at the end of this report and on the VIDEO & MEDIA page tab.

For those readers who are not fly fisherman, Di was able to regularly catch all species of panfish on either Gulp maggots or Bass Pro Shops’ “Swimmin’ Squirt” soft plastic tube in red/sparkle and sparkle colors on a 1/32 painted jig head.


This month saw the last stocking of catfish into the Urban Lake System until September.  My fly rod of choice for the urban lake system is my versatile 7 1/2 foot Cortland Pro Crest fly rod. It is light enough to make pan fishing enjoyable and sturdy enough to handle the occasional bass.


Maybe it was the great fishing on the big waters, but my experiences at this lake in June often were not slow, but, S-L-O-W. I often wondered, “Where are the fish?” This has left me more determined to fish this lake more frequently in July.

Based upon last summer, when I had many memorable mornings at this lake, I anticipate better fishing.


I fished Water Ranch on June 8th and was shocked to have other fisherman give me reports of dead catfish from a recent stocking and green algae.

I walked the shoreline casting about and fished my preferred spots with some determination, but there was nothing to be seen or enticed. When I was leaving, I saw a clean-up boat arriving. The crew was going to prowl the vegetation and remove any remaining dead fish and otherwise clean the lake.

After seeing the above, I had not fished this lake for the remainder of the month. Given my fond memories of fishing this lake last summer, I will make a point of making a few trips to the lake in July.


Fishing Red Mountain was somewhat slow although several large bass was seen very close to shore. Several smaller bass were caught on various nymphs and streamers that had some sparkle to their pattern. Di also had success with the Gulp maggots.



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

IMPROVE YOUR HEALTH – check out the “Sanchin Kata For Fisherman” Video, link:

July teaser, without jinxing future success, largemouth bass action has been hot in July. As of this posting several nice-sized bass and one over five pounds, have been caught on various flies.

While you will have to wait for the full July report, you can preview a video of a bucket mouth caught on a small, size 26 red serendipity nymph at Canyon Lake, by clicking the following link,

Until the next article, I hope you continue to enjoy reading FLY FISHING DOJO and may your lines be tight. I remain,

Sensei John

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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5 Jul

Fishing is where, when and how you find it. You take what Mother Nature gives you rather than attempt to make her conform to your wishes. Fly Fishing Dojo’s New Jersey correspondent Sensei Bob knows this maxim well. He is often required to draw upon his extensive martial arts training to tap into his abilities to persevere and adapt so as to find fishing opportunity.

Recently, Sensei discovered that big bass can again be found in the midst of New Jersey’s most populated county. Big bass are again on the prowl at the man-made lake at Hudson County Park. Admittedly, the location, set against the New York City skyline and nestled in amongst condominiums of various size and shape, is not the most pristine of natural environments.


But, as much as “Home is where the heart is”, I say, “Nature and beauty is to be found all around you, if you open your eyes to it.”

Sensei Bob, reports that while fly fishing for these nice-sized urban largemouth bass is presently slow, they are eager to take a well presented Gulp worm.


Sensei Bob also advises that when fishing for these bass with a Gulp worm, don’t be surprised if you happen to hook one of the monster sized carp call this lake home. He has already caught and released two of these monster sized city-carp. Photographs of future catches of these huge carp to follow. Good luck Sensei Bob!


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