The Search Part IV---Rhythm

The Search Part IV---Rhythm

Andy Dear | Sunday, 16 February 2020

Figure out the rhythm of life, and live in harmony with it.

---Lao Tzu

  When I first started thinking about the concept of rhythm as part of the reason we fish, I wasn't exactly sure what direction the topic would take. It's a concept that I hadn't really thought of as a possible contestant for being "a reason why we fish". Upon much further contemplation, however, I came to the conclusion that so much of what we experience during the course of a days angling involves rhythms. In fact, as I sit here and type this, more and more angling related rhythms come to mind. There is, of course, the rhythm of the cast, the rhythm of the strip, the rhythm of the waves, the rhythm of the tide. Not to mention the rhythm of the pulse of all living things involved in the act of angling. From the fish to the angler, to the prey we are attempting to imitate, everything has a rhythm.

  As it pertains to fly fishing, perhaps the most enjoyable part for me is the rhythm of the cast. I don't know how else to describe it except to say that it seems as if we impart a pulse of life into the line that takes on a life of its own. And I find in the rhythm of that pulse, a sense of meditative peace the likes of which I do not receive from any other form of angling. 25 years after I first cast my first loop, I am still utterly fascinated by the effect that the forces of physics impart to the ever-morphing shape of the line as it pierces the air. And perhaps the reason why I am most fascinated by it is that I still have yet to read what I consider to be an adequate and complete explanation of what exactly happens to the rod and the line during the cast. But I do know that much of the least, in my opinion, has to do with rhythm.

  As I continued to delve deeper into the concept of rhythm in angling, the former musician in me applied the concept of musical articulation to angling rhythms, mainly the concepts of legato and staccato. It dawned on me that the techniques of legato and staccato that uniquely define a musician's personal style can also define a fly caster's style of fishing. There are the Steve Rajeffs of the world whose style is defined by very short, hard, succinct stops with measured space in between (staccato) and then there are the Mel Kreiger's of the world who cast with a more fluid, languid, less defined motion. And as in music, the real masters of the art are the ones who can blend both techniques seamlessly into one to create a rhythm and pulse all their own.

  Many years ago, my friend Tom Morgan of R.L. Winston Rods and Morgan Rodmsiths wrote an essay on a technique that he termed "The Morgan Twitch". It was a technique that he developed for streamer fishing that gave the fly a very realistic "fleeing baitfish" type of action. One of the things that Tom noted was that the proper rod for this technique involved a very soft tip. He didn't go into the details of why, but I suspect that the rhythmic loading and unloading of the prescribed soft tip during the strip was one of the integral parts of the technique. Tom continued to write in his essay that "I move the fly in what I would call a very rhythmic and even pattern where the fly "pulses" through the water. The fly movement is only 3 to 4 inches with about a 1/2 second stop between movements. And it must stop! This is what is hardest. Most people move the fly 6 to 12 inches or more in almost even movements with the fly moving all the time. This pattern just doesn't work nearly as well. It must make the rhythmic start and stop movements to be most effective." In other words, to impart life to the fly, we have to mimic the life we are trying to imitate, which involves, you guessed it...rhythm.

  I guess in the end, I am attempting to make the case that rhythms, whether we consciously realize it or not, are one of the primary forces that drive almost everything we do as anglers...especially fly anglers. From the beating heart of the angler to the cadence of the rod during the cast, to the pseudo-life imparted to the fly during the strip, to the movement of the water that sustains our quarry, it is rhythms that pulse and flow through everything we do. And it may be the deep sense of tranquility, conscious or otherwise, that we find through the multitude of rhythms we experience as anglers that continues to deepen our immersion in this craft.


Hope you all have a great week,