It's all in the mind

It's all in the mind

Tracy&James | Sunday, 27 September 2020

I’m beginning to come to the conclusion that the last 10 percent or so of distance during competition casting is all in my head. By that I mean that something must activate in the dark recesses of my brain to tell my body ‘you’re in a competition now – tense up a little bit so he has to start fighting for the distance that he was hitting easily just a couple of minutes ago in practice’. After many years competing it’s telling that I’ve never hit a personal best, or indeed get anywhere near one, in a competition. In fact it gets worse (for me) in that I think most of my personal bests are when I’m casting alone. Now I do practice on my own quite a lot, and I probably go out in weather that Tracy would not consider casting in, so perhaps that last bit is not that surprising, however I do notice that when Tracy joins me my distances almost always drop.

Today was a classic example of my brain messing up my casting.  On my usual North Wales practice ground there was almost a perfect wind for some very long #5 weight casts.  Within a few minutes of setting out the tape I was banging out a series of very long casts (or long for me).  As it was going so well I decided I’d set up a camera to do a bit of video.  I fancied trying to do one of the short videos that focus on the running line disappearing from where it’s been placed on the ground, followed by a decent length of backing following it out through the tip ring.  Well that was the plan.  My brain had other ideas though and as soon as the camera was recording the instruction came to reduce my distance by a good 10ft.  After a number of failed attempts a message appeared on the camera to say ‘card full’ (to be fair there’s stuff on it going back a couple of years at least).  Once the filming stopped, the switch was flipped and the big casts came back out – typical!

During lock-down I’ve done quite a bit of work on my #5 distance cast, to the point where I thought I’d definitely made a step forwards.  In fact earlier in the year I had set a new PB in the event – not that anyone was there to see it.  As such, I was confident that going into the UK championships, a couple of weeks back, I was going to cast the #5 better than I had done previously at Port Haverigg in Cumbria.  In fact I was reasonably confident in cracking the magic 40m mark that I’d been woefully short of in all my prior attempts there.  On the day that counted though things went their usual way.  I remember standing on the bank and looking down the measuring rope and thinking that the 40m buoy looked an incredibly long way away.  In fact it looked an unfeasibly long way, a stupid distance to even attempt to cast the #5 weight.  Blaine, the new UK champion and all-round superstar of UK fly casting, was up before me.  In his typical style he didn’t just get a 40m cast he smashed one well past.  I suspect you can guess my result, yes nowhere even close.  My disappointment was only slightly tempered by the fact that everyone else seemed to struggle as well and I ended up in second place, albeit not exactly in the same ball-park as Blaine.

If anyone has any tips on ‘brain training’ then I’ll be interested to hear them, otherwise I think my only recourse is finding the optimal alcohol level that switches off the messages to ‘cast worse’ but doesn’t actually impede my ability to wield a fly rod.

Have a great week, James