Riverbank conversations (3rd part)

A unique personality

Roberto: There sure is a lot more to a trout than I imagined at first.
Antonio: That's right, Roberto, and learning about its biology and behavior may help you discover one of the keys to why trout fishing is so different.
Roberto: Are you referring to only trout or to salmonids in general?
Antonio: I'm not referring to salmon or even sea trout; just trout. This fish is unique.
Roberto: What do you mean, Antonio?
Antonio: Trout behavior is the most predictable of all fish. Amidst lots of uncertainties, we can learn why a trout does what it does and apply that knowledge to catching it. That's marvellous and doesn't happen with any other fish.
Roberto: You mean the others aren't predictable?
Antonio: The salmon sure isn't. A sea trout becomes a little more predictable the longer it stays in fresh water, gradually acquiring trout habits.
Roberto: I thought the salmon was the queen of fly fishing.
Antonio: Just the biggest. The biggest thrill while you're playing it. The biggest angler testosterone outlet.
Roberto: Nothing wrong with that, man.
Antonio: That's right. I just mean it's not my cup of tea. Not long ago, a guy told me all about a salmon he hooked in Chilean Patagonia. The big thing for him was that it took him an hour and a half to land it. I thought to myself, "Good God. What a tedious fish."
Roberto: Antonio. Does everybody get so particular after so many years of fly fishing?
Antonio: Ha, ha. Could be.


Roberto: In other words, trout smell long distances.
Antonio: Especially those you leave in the trunk of your car.
Roberto: God! What did I do to deserve this?
Antonio: So, what do you want to know about a trout's sense of smell?
Roberto: At a fly-tying session at the Association the other day, an expert fly tyer asked me, "Did you wash your hands before manipulating the material?" If I didn't know him, I'd have thought he was off his rocker. He said the smell of our hands sticks to the flies and trout can reject them because of it. You know, those trout that come right up to the fly, but don't take it. Do you believe that's possible?
Antonio: Well, they sure do have a strong sense of smell. The clearest example is when you see trout holding minutes before a hatch starts.
Roberto: How's that?
Antonio: Pheromones.
Roberto: I've read something about that.
Antonio: Pheromones are odoriferous compounds used also by insects to produce responses and behaviors. They're fundamental in the mass hatches of some species of ephemeroptera.
Roberto: And trout detect them?
Antonio: Not only do they detect them, they know what they mean. They're equipped with an olfactory system capable of reading those messages.
Roberto: Fascinating.
Antonio: But nosing up to our flies to smell them sounds like nonsense to me. That isn't how they smell. If they had to perceive odors that way, their olfactory system would be very limited and not very effective.


Roberto: What book would you recommend I read?
Antonio: Do you read English?
Roberto: No. Well, a bit.
Antonio: Then, learn. If you want to be an up-to-date fly fisherman and keep learning and improving the rest of your life, you'll get much further with English. It's sad, but that's the way it is.
Roberto: Shoot, Antonio. Lots of books have been translated and there are Spanish fishing magazines.
Antonio: Yeah, but I'm not referring only to books and magazines. Contacts, forums, videos, courses and so on and so on. You see, in the United States, they're way ahead of us in all aspects of fly fishing, number of practitioners, publications, Internet portals, etc. ... It's another world. Unfortunately, they talk another language too.
Roberto: OK, then. What book do you recommend I read in English?
Antonio: There are many, and very good ones too. To mention but a few: Presentation by Gary Borger, Troubleshooting the Cast , recently translated by Aitor Coterón, The Essence of Flycasting by Mel Krieger, The Dry Fly by LaFontaine and one of my favorites, Zen in the Art of Archery by Eugen Herrigel.
Roberto: Come on. You're joking.
Antonio: Not at all.

Zen in the art of fly casting

Roberto: Aren't you going a bit far associating fly-casting and Zen? Tony: Nope. On the contrary. I think it's a way of going back to the beginning.
Roberto: Hold on. I've only been at this three years. This can really throw me off.
Antonio: Quite the contrary. It can help you a lot.
Roberto: Let me sit on this rock here a while and meditate.
Antonio: Fly-casting can apply a lot of aspects of Zen philosophy: meditation, relaxation, visualization, practice, inner peace, etc. When a caster wants to learn or improve his fly-casting, he's overwhelmed by endless technical aspects, names, physical parameters and so forth. Many find it impossible to digest it all. They simply choke on it. A better way for many is to reduce the technical expositions to a minimum and focus more on the psychological and emotional aspects.
Roberto: I'm listening...and meditating, sitting here on this rock.
Antonio: A lot of learners can't get the rod tip to follow a straight path with explanations about wrist angles, flexions and stops. But then you tell them to lay the line down between those two rod socks stretched out over there and to visualize what they're going to do, to breathe deep and to take up the most comfortable stance possible, they do it. Without realizing it, they've made the rod tip follow an absolutely straight path.
Roberto: I think I'm already visualizing where you're going.
Antonio: A lot of fly-casters at all levels screw up on the last cast before laying it down. Why? This requires a more psychological than theoretical treatment. When casting far, the last thing to think about is distance. It's much more important to think about breathing and learning to do it. Presentation casts are pure inspiration... a creative inspiration to nurture and learn to control. Too much energy is a very common error at all levels of fly-casting. Relaxation is paramount. You have to mentally dissociate the function of your hands in the double haul, train each of the parts of your body so they all work in harmony. You don't think a good cast. If you have to think about it, it won't come out perfect. Lots of examples and aspects of fly-casting are intimately related to this philosophy. They should never be forgotten and should always be included in all fly-casting courses.
Roberto: You've convinced me, master.