Feel vs. Real

Feel vs. Real

Andy Dear | Sunday, 27 January 2019

In last week's front page, I detailed my return back to fly fishing after several years of being obsessed with the mechanics of the golf swing. In this week's Front Page, I'd like to detail one of the first light bulb moments I had that I think lends itself really well to fly casting.....the concept of feel vs. real.

   In Nick Price's wonderful book "The Swing" he talks briefly about the first time he ever saw his golf swing on videotape, and how that experience in his words "made me want to throw up". Evidently what he felt he was doing was not at all what was really happening. Not long after I read that quote from Mr. Price, I stumbled across a video on Youtube of Tiger Woods and Butch Harmon talking about the swing changes he had to make back in the early 2000s in order to become a more consistent and accurate ball striker. Again they emphasized this concept of "feel vs. real" and how the disparity of what Tiger felt he was doing, and what he was actually doing created a bit of dissonance in his ability to adjust to the new and improved mechanics.

   The feel vs. real topic is a common one in the golfing community, but I've not seen it discussed as often in fly casting circles. When I came back to flyfishing a few years ago, I began to think about how those concepts from the golfing world could possibly translate over to fly casting. The feel vs. real idea was the one that REALLY stood out over the others in an obvious way. I decided that it was a worthy pursuit to put some golf exercises to the test in fly casting. Over the years I have intermittently struggled with precise tracking on my back cast, and due to a lack of real diligent examination, I have never really implemented a permanent fix. Many fans of Homer Kelly, author of the famous book, The Golfing Machine recommend an exercise known as "the flashlight drill" to help folks feel the proper plane in the golf swing.  I'm not a fan of The Golfing Machine as an instructional text, but the flashlight drill seemed like a good candidate to use for shedding some light (pun intended) on a tracking problem in the fly cast.  

To test it out, I grabbed a flashlight, turned out the lights in the room, looked straight into a mirror and began to execute the moves of a basic overhead cast in slow motion with the flashlight. I watched intently as the light moved across the ceiling above, and then behind me and onto the opposite wall. To my surprise (but not really), the light did NOT go straight back over my shoulder on to the opposite wall but disappeared in a slight curve around the back of my head. The funny thing is that it didn't FEEL this way at all. It really felt like I was going straight back, but clearly, that was not what was happening.

When I actually did move the flashlight straight back over my shoulder correctly, it actually felt like I was moving my arm much further out and away in the horizontal dimension from my head and body. Obviously, this was clearly not an accurate "feel" either. After being away from casting for almost 6 years it wasn't really surprising to me that I had fallen back into some bad habits without the regular, regimented training I had engaged in for so long. However, as I had just experienced, through implementing some very simple exercises that tap into multiple sensory channels, it is completely possible to have a "lightbulb moment" that links the correct motions with the proper feeling(s) for both quick and effective change.

Below is the link to Tiger Woods & Butch Harmon discussing this topic. Fast Forward to the 5:00-6:25 mark


Up next ...the role of INTENTION in precise athletic motions. Hope you all have a great week!