Tag Archives: Fishing strategy

A FISHING BLACK BELT – DON’T FOCUS ON IT

25 Jul

Whether we are fishing in a tournament for money, with a group of (competitive) friends, or simply out for a day of fishing, we all want to be successful on the water. Despite the many intangibles (such as being out in the natural environment, or amongst friends), success on the water is usually measured by one simple benchmark; namely, the number of fish caught. When you are on the water fishing, are you over concentrating on this benchmark? Are you obsessed with winning the tournament or catching more fish than your friends? If you are, you may have noticed that the more you concentrate, the less fish you are catching. If so, here’s a story from the martial arts that should be beneficial to a more successful day on the water.

The story is the lesson of the novice student and the black belt.

At the end of class, before dismissing the student population, it is customary for Sensei to ask whether there are any questions. One night, a novice student asked Sensei, “Sensei, how long will it take me to earn my black belt?” Hearing the question, Sensei looked at the novice and said, “Based upon all my years of practicing and teaching karate-do, I do not know how long it will take you to earn your black belt.” Although the student was somewhat taken aback by the non-answer of his Sensei, he thought it best to accept the answer.

As he lay in bed that night, the student thought about Sensei’s reply. The truth be told, the student felt Sensei had dodged his question. He was determined to  get Sensei to commit to a specific time period.

At the end of the next training session, Sensei again inquired as to whether the students had any questions. It seemed no one had a question, so Sensei was about to dismiss the class when suddenly, the novice raised his hand and said, “I have a question Sensei.” “If I work twice as hard as every student in the Dojo, how long will it take me to earn my black belt.” At first, Sensei was annoyed by the novice’s question. Class that night was particularly sweat-filled and overflowing with information. “Surely, some one must have a worthy question instead of this drivel about belts?” thought Sensei. Sensei hid his disappointment, looked at the novice and answered, “If you train twice as hard as every other student I know you think you will earn your black belt in one-half of the time, but you are misguided.” “If you train twice as hard as the others, it will take you double the time to earn a black belt.” While the senior students nodded knowingly at Sensei’s reply, the novice was clearly frustrated with Sensei’s answer.

That night, at home the novice realized his patience was exhausted, he asked a simple question, he thought Sensei should give him a simple answer. A few of the novice’s friends also studied karate but at a different dojo. At their dojo, a new student signed a contract enrolling them in the “black belt club” for four years and at the end of the four years, they were guaranteed to receive a black belt. If only the novice enrolled in that dojo, he would be a black belt in four years. Better still, logic would mandate that if he worked twice as hard as everyone one else, he would have a black belt in two years. Sensei did not use such financial contracts. Students trained on a month-to-month basis and could leave Sensei’s dojo at the end of any month. The novice was determined to leave Sensei’s dojo at the end of the month, but first, he would get to the bottom of the question as to the time period for earning a black belt from Sensei.

At the end of the next training session, Sensei asked his customary question. This time, the novice did not pursue his question with Sensei. Sensei dismissed the class. As the class left the formal training floor, the novice approached the most senior student, the Dai Sempai. “Excuse me, Sempai” the novice said. “Yes”, replied the Dai Sempai. “You seemed to understand Sensei’s reply as to how long it would take me to earn my black belt, is that true?” “Yes”, said the Dai Sempai. “Can you please enlighten me?” asked the novice. As the Dai Sempai turned away from the novice, he answered, “If you do not understand Sensei’s answer, then you must, once again, ask Sensei.” The Dai Sempai continued to exit the training floor, but looked back to the novice who seemed frozen in place and said, “That is, if Sensei feels your question worthy of further explanation.”

As the students entered the changing room and began to change from their gi (uniform) to street clothes, the novice remained standing, perplexed on the training floor. Noticing this, Sensei asked, “Is there anything else my novice?” The question awoke the novice from his puzzlement. “Excuse me Sensei, but I still do not understand how long it will take me to earn a black belt.” Somewhat exasperated Sensei looked at the novice, “Your question is the answer.” “You are focused on the black belt and not obtaining knowledge in karate-do; rather, you are focused on a symbol of the knowledge.” “That is why should you try twice as hard as everyone else, it will not take you half the time, but rather double the time.” “It is the knowledge that should be desired and not the symbol.” Focusing on the black belt will only distract you from the knowledge symbolized by the belt.” The novice thanked Sensei and entered the now deserted changing room.

As the novice changed from his gi to street clothes, he decided to remain at Sensei’s dojo.

Applying the story to fishing, one will appreciate its very simple lesson. In a competitive situation such as a formal fishing tournament, an informal day with friends  or even being on the water alone when you are “competing” solely against the fish, do not concentrate on achieving the final objective. Concentrating on the final objective, such as winning the tournament or catching more fish then your friends often results in loosing the tournament or catching less fish than your friends. How do you achieve success in these situations? Remember the novice’s desire for a black belt and the words of his Sensei; do not concentrate on winning the tournament (the black belt), rather concentrate on simply catching the first fish. Once that fish is caught, concentrate on catching the next fish and so forth. In this manner, the chances of success improve.

Respectfully submitted,

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.

Follow FLY FISHING DOJO on FACEBOOK, please send a friend request on Facebook; see our “Video & Media” Page for more information.

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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BLUEGILL TO BASS – A Martial Arts Based Fishing Strategy

21 Sep

I thoroughly enjoy fishing for a variety of species of fish. In my opinion, the freshwater king of the hot, hazy, humid, dry and long summer is the largemouth bass. I whole heartedly enjoy pursuing this prize fighter of fresh water lakes, rivers and streams. For a brief time I was also a competitive bass fisherman. I often fished in the now defunct Bassin’ America Tournament Circuit on the east coast.

Here in Arizona summer is a brutal, challenging season. Fishing provides a respite from the dry heat of the arid desert known as “The Valley Of The Sun.”  It is a great pleasure to fish in the early hours as the sun rises over your favorite water and the temperatures are “only” in the ninety degree range. While being on-the-water, in nature provides a welcome diversion from the heat, it does not provide a guarantee of success on the water. Bass can be especially finicky at such times. To add to the frustration of casting spurned flies to these finicky bass is the fact that you can often see them cruising in the shallows. After observing the behavior of these fish, especially their aggressive and territorial nature, I devised a strategy for fly fishing for them. “Bluegill To Bass” is a fly fishing strategy that I employ on days when you can usually see bass but catching them is slow. This strategy will apply to fish of any species that are categorized by a symbiotic relationship of predator and prey. Further, while my “Bluegill To Bass” strategy is discussed in terms of fly fishing from the shoreline, with a little imagination, it can be applied to casting artificial lures from either the shoreline or a bass boat. It can even be extended to saltwater fishing and any other fishing that involves an aggressive or territorial predator fish in search of prey.

The “Bluegill to Bass” strategy finds its roots in the ideology of the martial arts. In a famous work entitled Go Rin No Sho (A Book Of Five Rings) the legendary sword master, Miyamoto Musashi defines and analyzes the strategy of the sword.

Miyamoto Mushashi, "Ken-Sei", "Sword-Saint"

His strategic analysis is a defining work of martial arts strategy and ideology. The strategies of Musashi have been extended into ventures that transcend the martial arts, including sports and business. Now, it can be used to apply to specific instances of fishing. In fact, one such strategy described by Musashi is the cornerstone of the Bluegill To Bass strategy for fly fishing for bass.

Musashi described a strategy he termed “To Move The Shade.” “To move the shade”, in the martial arts genre, is used when you cannot see the enemy’s spirit. In single combat this means that when the enemy takes up a position so that you cannot see his intent, you make a feint attack, and the enemy will show his spirit thinking he has seen yours. (See Endnote # 1).

I extended the strategy of “To move the shade” to fly fishing for bass. This strategy is used when you can see fish that the bass prey on or otherwise exhibit aggressive behavior towards, namely panfish and specifically, bluegill. You may or may not necessarily see bass when you begin to fish; however, employing this strategy is meant to flush out bass by targeting and tempting their predatory, territorial and aggressive instincts. The targeting of the prey species represents the feint attack described by Musashi. This feint is meant to draw out the hiding predator (the “hidden spirit” in Musashi’s description). Since I use this strategy to target the prey species, the bluegill, with the hope of drawing out the predator species of bass, I call this application of Musashi’s “To Move The Shade”, the “Bluegill To Bass” strategy.

Before employing this strategy on your favorite water, you will need a little advance preparation. I prepare two fly rods that I will use during my bass fishing. The first fly rod is used to target the prey species, in this case panfish. To this end, I prefer an ultra-light fly rod in the six to seven foot range, a four weight floating line and usually a nine foot leader ending in a 6X tippet. Unless there is an indication of dry fly action on the water, I start by fishing with two subsurface flies, tied in-line, one about 5 inches behind the other. For the head fly, I favor a small streamer or larger nymph, usually about size 10 or 12. For the tail fly, I favor a small nymph or wet fly in the size range of size 14 to 18. This light weight outfit makes catching the panfish fun and enjoyable. It is the actual hooking and catching of the prey species that acts as a catalyst to catching the predator species of largemouth bass.

My second fly rod is ready and rigged to target the bass. I prefer a larger, longer fly rod; usually an eight or nine foot fly rod with a six weight floating fly line, seven and a half foot leader with a 4X tippet. Again, unless there is an indication of dry fly action, I will have two sub-surface flies tied onto leader. For the head fly, I prefer a big, usually “flashy” streamer or even a salt water fly. This fly should resemble the prey species as much as possible. The tail fly is streamer, wet fly or nymph in a size range of size 10 to size 16. While targeting the predator species of bass, these flies will continue to interest the prey species. Thus, bluegill may still pursue these flies. In the midst of the bluegill’s interest in the pair of flies, the bass may be lured out from its cover to pursue the flies. The head fly is meant to target the bass’ desire to pursue the prey species and the tail fly is what I call a second-chance fly. In the event the bass misses or turns away from the head fly, it may be interested in the tail fly.

The above tackle is what I prefer when I fish for largemouth bass using this strategy. Again, depending upon the species of predator and prey fish you are targeting, you should adjust your specific tackle accordingly.

Once “on-the-water”, the “bluegill to bass” strategy begins like so many other fishing strategies; to wit: working water quickly and efficiently to locate and catch fish. I employ this strategy while walking a shoreline casting flies in areas that I know from experience to be productive or casting flies in the most productive looking water (on water that I have not fished before). The point of departure from other strategies to find fish is that in the bluegill to bass strategy, during this exploratory phase, I am specifically targeting prey species while looking for lurking predators. When hoping to catch and release a few bass, my initial target species are panfish, bluegill, crappie and the like. I use my most productive fly patterns to target these fish as a means of luring and seducing a predatory or territorial bass from its safe and secure hiding place. Naturally, I am excited to catch and release a few of the larger members of the species; however, with each hook-up, I purposefully play the fish so as to infuse its immediate environment with the”tension of being hooked.” I pay particular attention to the water so as to be able to see any quick rush, turn or other sign of a bass that is attracted to the tension of the hooked prey fish.

In the event that a bass makes its presence known, I immediately land and release the prey fish in a manner so as not to disturb the immediate environment. I then pick-up my bass fly rod and cast my bass flies into the tension-filled water in the hopes that the bass will still be excited so as to strike. More often than not, the bass is excited by the tension in the water and can be induced to strike. I find that you can usually cast two to three times during this phase of excitement. Once the tension dissipates, the bass may once again return to its lair. If so, then I once again change fly rods in favor of the lighter rod and again begin to target the bluegills. Once I feel that the potential of a particular section of water has diminished and is exhausted; usually indicated by fewer catches of the prey species (the bluegill), then I move on to another stretch of water.

Here is a “Rogues Gallery” of bucket-mouths caught using my “Bluegill To Bass” strategy.

The PREY (including a Double!)

      

The PREDATOR:

      

If you find yourself fishing for a predatory species during the “dog days of summer” with less than favorable results, then remember the sword master Miyamoto Musashi. Try the strategy of “To move the Shade” and target the prey species. Do not simply locate the prey and hope that a predator is lurking near by. Affirmatively fish for the prey species and hook a few. The tension of a fish trying to escape the taste of a hook in it’s mouth may sufficiently infuse the water with sufficient energy and excitement to spark the interest of  the predator species. If so, land and release the prey and immediately target the aroused predator. You may just be surprised at the results. At the least, you should have a fund day on the water catching and releasing a species that would otherwise be dinner for a larger, more aggressive and hungrier fish.

For your viewing pleasure, there are links to several bass & panfishing videos on the “VIDEO & MEDIA” page tab above.

Until the next article, I remain, “moving the shade”,

Sensei John

ENDNOTES:

1. Musashi, Miyamoto, Go Rin No Sho (A Book Of Five Rings), Translated by Victor Harris, (The Overlook Press, Woodstock, NY 1974) p. 76.

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.

Follow FLY FISHING DOJO on FACEBOOK, please send a friend request on Facebook; see our “Video & Media” Page for more information.

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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