WARNING: FLY LINE GEEKERY, PROCEED WITH CAUTION. In preparation for guiding in SW Colorado this summer, I’ve really been putting some lines through their paces. Without belaboring the details, In doing so, I have a new favorite line that I think just might be one of the best all-around lines for the type of fishing we do in TX…and lots of other places, for that matter. For bass fishing with “pick up and shoot” tactics and heavy flies, it’s hard to beat the extremely overweight lines like Orvis Bankshot, Rio Outbound Short, SA Grand Slam, etc. But if you do find yourself in a situation where you want to throw dry flies/hoppers, it’s like trying to carve toothpicks with a chainsaw. Not to mention the fact that many of these lines are only available in 6wt and up.

It’s like a shooting head line and a triangle taper
had a beautiful, chubby baby.

Enter the Scientific Anglers Amplitude Smooth Creek Trout. I know, I know, it says TROUT…but hang with me a minute. First of all, it’s overweighted by a whole line size. That means, for example, you have a 5wt running line, but a long rear taper that pushes out a short, 6wt head. That makes it great for sending loads. But wait, look at that long front taper. That’s what really makes this line stand out from the other overweighted “creek” lines currently on the market. It slims down just right to slow things down for better presentation when that matters. It’s like a shooting head line and a triangle taper had a beautiful, chubby baby. That might just be why it won the IFTD Best of Show Freshwater Fly Line for 2022. Side note: if you have a really slow/soft action rod, this is likely not the line for you…well, maybe. In correct line weight it will turn that rod into a noodle when casting at distance. That said, I have put the 3wt Creek Trout line on my 7’6″ S-Glass 4wt and it made me giggle. For real.

I know many find that they prefer lines that are 1/2 weight heavy because they load faster action rods better and let them do more of the work. This line makes throwing bigger streamers like child’s play…without sacrificing presentation when you need it. Wanna target trophy trout? This line will roll cast an indicator rig with ease and mend like a champ. So if you are struggling at all with your 5wt thinking you might need a six now that you want to target bigger fish with bigger flies…or have a six and want a seven, this might be $100 well spent…and dare I say, the only floating freshwater line you need.

There are lots of great lines to choose from in today’s market. And some for specific purposes. This may not be the best line for high-pressure, picky trout on technical tailwaters, but delivered with a decent casting stroke, it certainly does a lot of things well. This is my current favorite…what’s yours?

©2022 Cari Ray, The Fisher of Zen

I firmly believe that fly fishing within a context of mindfulness practice is immeasurably beneficial for mind, body, & spirit. Sometimes by offering low-hanging fruit like fly casting and being in nature. Sometimes by offering situations that border on tedious or frustrating, presenting us with the choice to get bogged down or to rise above. Like most healthy choices, it gets easier with practice. In the “Why Fish for Zen?” series, I’ll highlight just a few of the opportunities offered by the pursuit of fly fishing that give you a chance at that sort of mindfulness “practice” and help you become more balanced and centered in your daily life. Mastery is never about your relationship to anyone or anything else, it’s always between you and you.

The therapeutic aspects of fly fishing are well documented at this point. A couple of the most widest known examples of its application are the retreats and mentoring offered by organizations like Casting for Recovery, Reel Recovery, and Project Healing Waters. If you haven’t checked out those organizations, please do so. Consider supporting them financially or with your time.

Bring up any of those organizations to fellow anglers and they’ll say things like “yeah, that’s so awesome,” or, “I think it’s great how they help those people.” Yes, it is. And if you own, or can borrow, a fly rod, you have access to that very same support. Excuse the wordplay, but it’s just a cast away.

The activities associated with fly fishing offer ample balm for body, mind, and soul…wading, fishing, spending time in nature. But they are all, I wager, eclipsed by the moving meditation that is fly casting. The motion, the rhythm, the flow…the fact that when one is focused and connected with the cast, everything else effectively disappears.

Somewhere in the Mt. Hood National Forest

You don’t have to wait until you go fishing to tap into that zen. In fact, it would likely help your angling game as well as your mental state if you didn’t wait. Casting, to me, is almost its own pursuit. Even before I was training to become an FFI Certified Casting Instructor, I kept a reel spooled up with some “lawn line.” Not just to practice a particular casting style in preparation for a planned trip, or to work on casting in windy conditions, but as a stress reliever. If you’re having trouble knowing where to start or wondering if you’re even doing it right, I highly recommend investing in a session or two with a proficient casting instructor.

And now that so many of us work remotely, it becomes possible to access this support just about any time. Look at it like a modern-day “smoke break,” only without the health risks. If it’s not something you’ve done before, it might feel a little strange at first to stand on the lawn making casts. And if you do it in public, it can take a little time to get used to the occasionally annoying but good natured “Hey there, you’d have better luck if you cast that into the water,” or “Um, you know there’s no fish there, right?!?” But I promise you, it’s totally worth it, and learning to chuckle along with the peanut gallery is its own zen practice.

To listen to the whole series, check out our podcast:
“A MOVING MEDITATION: Fly Fishing & Mental Health”

©2022 Cari Ray, The Fisher of Zen

I firmly believe that fly fishing within a context of mindfulness practice is immeasurably beneficial for mind, body, & spirit. Sometimes by offering low-hanging fruit like fly casting and being in nature. Sometimes by offering situations that border on tedious or frustrating, presenting us with the choice to get bogged down or to rise above. Like most healthy choices, it gets easier with practice. In the “Why Fish for Zen?” series, I’ll highlight just a few of the opportunities offered by the pursuit of fly fishing that give you a chance at that sort of mindfulness “practice” and help you become more balanced and centered in your daily life. Mastery is never about your relationship to anyone or anything else, it’s always between you and you.

I’ve long said that a fly rod, and more specifically a fly cast, is the best barometer for my state of mind I’ve ever found. I’m a casting instructor, for heaven’s sake, and some days I swear I couldn’t land a fly in a kiddie pool at 10 paces. Among other things, a fly cast is so much about proper timing. When I’m tense, by rhythm goes to pot. My loops get ugly, my flies land ugly. I may even (for shame) throw a “wind knot.” Isn’t it cute how we like to blame our casting mistakes on the wind. Hard to tie knots without opposing thumbs, I say. And in those instances, if I’m not careful, my mood gets pretty ugly, too…which makes my performance even more dismal.

Casting back in the skinny water

But here’s one of the great things about a fly rod. In addition to being a good measure for your level of tension, if you’ll let it, it’s also a good tool for releasing tension. And that effect is compounded when you put a slower-action rod in your hand—especially one made of fiberglass—that commands you to take your time. To wait. To relax. When the fishing scenario allows for it, that’s what I’ll choose every time.

Job number one in this situation is raising your awareness enough to realize that you, not the fly rod, are both the problem and the solution. Then you have the opportunity to choose. You can stay tense and stressed, be victimized by your equipment, or you can choose to use the tools at your disposal to help you find your way to a balanced state of mind.

To listen to the whole series, check out our podcast:
“A MOVING MEDITATION: Fly Fishing & Mental Health”

©2022 Cari Ray, The Fisher of Zen

I firmly believe that fly fishing within a context of mindfulness practice is immeasurably beneficial for mind, body, & spirit. Sometimes by offering low-hanging fruit like fly casting and being in nature. Sometimes by offering situations that border on tedious or frustrating, presenting us with the choice to get bogged down or to rise above. Like most healthy choices, it gets easier with practice. In the “Why Fish for Zen?” series, I’ll highlight just a few of the opportunities offered by the pursuit of fly fishing that give you a chance at that sort of mindfulness “practice” and help you become more balanced and centered in your daily life. Mastery is never about your relationship to anyone or anything else, it’s always between you and you.

I was guiding a couple of folks from Houston for trout on the Guadalupe River this season past. They said they wanted to learn how to become better independent fly anglers, and I believe a wade trip is the one of the best ways to do that. So we made the plan and met up bank side. We had just begun to practice the modified roll cast I like to teach clients for indicator fishing. As they practiced the cast and learned to anticipate the mends necessary to manage a good drift, one of them (who was doing quite well, I might mention) was growing frustrated at an apparent lack of perfection and confessed that they were really competitive and often hard on themselves.

“Okay,” I said, “let’s just stop for a second and look around at the beauty that is all around us. Take a deep breath. There’s nothing to worry about here and now. You’re doing better than you think. But either way, if you make this trip all about perfecting fishing techniques and landing fish, you’ll miss out on a lot of what’s available to you. The river can both soothe us and teach us if we’ll let it. In your case, I encourage you to focus on the flow. Just flow with the river today. The rest will come.” 

Some fly anglers would tell you the release is the best part…

And it did. Both clients landed their personal best rainbow trout that day, but more importantly, they let go of their attachment to results and allowed themselves to be immersed in the moment, to “go with the flow”. And in choosing that, they were bound to have a great day on the river…that had nothing to do with counting catches.

To listen to the whole series, check out our podcast:
“A MOVING MEDITATION: Fly Fishing & Mental Health”

©2022 Cari Ray, Fisher of Zen

I firmly believe that fly fishing within a context of mindfulness practice is immeasurably beneficial for mind, body, & spirit. Sometimes by offering low-hanging fruit like fly casting and being in nature. Sometimes by offering situations that border on tedious or frustrating, presenting us with the choice to get bogged down or to rise above. Like most healthy choices, it gets easier with practice. In the “Why Fish for Zen?” series, I’ll highlight just a few of the opportunities offered by the pursuit of fly fishing that give you a chance at that sort of mindfulness “practice” and help you become more balanced and centered in your daily life. Mastery is never about your relationship to anyone or anything else, it’s always between you and you.

We’ve all been there. Maybe it’s a windy day. Maybe there’s a high bank, or a tree, or brush, or sometimes it’s a single blade of grass. And it seemingly snatches your backcast out of mid air. You look back, and not only are you snagged, your tippet has wrapped and tied itself around that snag no fewer than 800 times. For folks who live in places where the vegetation is “tender,” perhaps a little twitch or tug will free you up. But I don’t live in one of those places, I live in Texas. Things that grow here are tough. A necessary quality if they are to thrive, or at least survive, in the often harsh environment. Which is another metaphor worth pondering…another time.

So you’re quite convincingly tangled. Maybe for the umpteenth time that day. If you want to save your flies and not risk snapping your rod tip, you have no choice but to wade back and/or climb over to the tree-bush-thistle-grass (or, if it’s the Llano, maybe the granite) to take care of business. Once you get there, you have a couple of choices. Option A, you can cut the tippet, pull out the flies, and re-rig. Or, option B, you can attempt to untangle the nest of tippet until you either succeed or resign yourself to the fact that it is beyond saving and circle back to option A. But it’s not really those external choices that hold the most valuable opportunity.

If you’re anything like me, by this point, your temperature (literally and figuratively) is starting to go up along with your level of frustration. If you raise your awareness, you can notice it, feel it. And in that moment you are given the opportunity to make a truly valuable choice. Behind door number one, let it overtake you, and maybe build to ruin your entire outing. Behind door number two, a slightly less damaging choice, to do what needs doing, get over it, and get back to fishing. But lingering behind door number three is the kind of choice that, made frequently enough, can start to rewire the way you go about your entire life.

That choice it to turn the entire experience on its head. It’s to decide that this happening is not an interruption of your relaxation, your zen. It’s part of it. The mindless, and meditative, if you’ll let it be, activity of twisting and threading, of weaving in and around until you have freed your flies can do the same for you. To put it a little more succinctly (not my strong suit), it’s a “so what, now what?” mentality.

To listen to the whole series, check out our podcast:
“A MOVING MEDITATION: Fly Fishing & Mental Health”

©2022 Cari Ray, The Fisher of Zen

I firmly believe that fly fishing within a context of mindfulness practice is immeasurably beneficial for mind, body, & spirit. Sometimes by offering low-hanging fruit like fly casting and being in nature. Sometimes by offering situations that border on tedious or frustrating, presenting us with the choice to get bogged down or to rise above. Like most healthy choices, it gets easier with practice. In the “Why Fish for Zen?” series, I’ll highlight just a few of the opportunities offered by the pursuit of fly fishing that give you a chance at that sort of mindfulness “practice” and help you become more balanced and centered in your daily life. Mastery is never about your relationship to anyone or anything else, it’s always between you and you.

It was the knot-tying portion of one of my beginner workshops. I think it was Lefty’s Loop in this case. I demonstrate each step of the knot and wait until everyone else completes it before moving to the next. All but one student was with me, and as he struggled and restarted the step several times his frustration was palpable.

Learning fishing knots at a “Try The Fly” Clinic

As I always do, I had told the class that I had pretty much a bottomless pit of patience on their behalf, so it wasn’t me he was worried about. It was his own lack of patience with himself that he was wrestling with…along with likely other internal messages he was making up about being the last to complete it and pondering what everyone must think of him. 

“Hey,” I said gently, “Look at me. Now breathe with me. That’s right. We’re not in a hurry here. We’re all sitting under a shade tree next to a crystal clear lake on a beautiful Spring afternoon in Texas with nothing on the agenda but being here. Now, let’s go through that step together. Slowly.” In that very moment I watched his shoulders drop, his eyes soften, and the redness in his cheeks begin to fade.

Much of our frustration in life isn’t about “what is,” it’s about what we tell ourselves about what is. In fly fishing, there will always be something new to learn. Some of those skills are easier than others. When faced with a particularly frustrating “other,” we can use it as an opportunity to change our internal narrative and cut ourselves some much-needed slack. We need only choose it.

I had someone tell me the other day that they just didn’t have the patience for fly fishing. I say that sounds like as good a reason as any to take it up.

To listen to the whole series, check out our podcast:
“A MOVING MEDITATION: Fly Fishing & Mental Health”

©2022 Cari Ray, The Fisher of Zen

I firmly believe that fly fishing within a context of mindfulness practice is immeasurably beneficial for mind, body, & spirit. Sometimes by offering low-hanging fruit like fly casting and being in nature. Sometimes by offering situations that border on tedious or frustrating, presenting us with the choice to get bogged down or to rise above. Like most healthy choices, it gets easier with practice. In the “Why Fish for Zen?” series, I’ll highlight just a few of the opportunities offered by the pursuit of fly fishing that give you a chance at that sort of mindfulness “practice” and help you become more balanced and centered in your daily life. Mastery is never about your relationship to anyone or anything else, it’s always between you and you.

As I approach the river, my mind is filled with all of the usual noise. Annoyance about the bill I left unpaid on the counter before I headed out this morning. The three emails waiting in my inbox waiting for a response. The self-judgement about often being terrible at follow through. The big question about what I’m going to do with myself now that traveling the country playing songs is no longer the viable career it once was. Chuckling a bit at the idea that it was ever a truly viable career. 

Somewhere in the San Juans

About this time, I reach a spot that requires a crossing. It’s mid summer in the high country of Southwestern Colorado and, against better judgment, I’m wet-wading rather than enduring the bulk of waders for a hike into the backcountry. As I make the first step into flow, mind still an echoing cacophony, the icy stab of water as it soaks quickly through my wading socks demands my attention…all of it. In this moment, there is no more room for the noise, only the singular focus, the shock of cold on hike-heated toes.

This is just one snapshot of albums full of mental polaroids depicting moments where the pursuit of fly fishing has practically slammed me into the present. I say the path to inner peace is paved with presence. And getting grounded in the moment is a pretty good start. I believe one of the best ways to get grounded is to put your feet in a river. To connect with all that is around you. To notice the beauty, the ruin, and to allow yourself to feel a part of it. 

To listen to the whole series, check out our podcast: “A MOVING MEDITATION: Fly Fishing & Mental Health”

Recently, I shared an open letter to Texas Fly Fishers on a social media group of which I am a member. It’s really fly anglers everywhere, with the addition of a few Texas-centric topics. When it had been up for a day or so, I received the following comment from a gentleman name Keith: “Well said in general but let me ask this, as a new fisherman and very new to fly fishing, at what point does not catching anything at some public park that is over fished lead to disappointment and giving up?” Great, thoughtful question that really got my wheels turning. Too many thoughts were swirling to put them all down right then and in the format of a comment. So I promised to publish a respond when I had a little more time to think about it, and asked him to sit tight and not give up just yet. This is my reply. Like my last post, there’s also lots here that will apply to beginning fly anglers everywhere.

A heaping helping about overcrowding, a dash about “spot-naming,” and a pinch of perspective from a gal out here trying to stand for these beautiful places while helping you land your personal best.

I recently had a few rather unpleasant interactions with a member of a fly fishing social media group. This letter isn’t about those, exactly, but more about my reflection on a few take-aways from that experience. I didn’t quite see eye-to-eye with that fellow, and his communication style left much to be desired (to say the least). But as I read between the lines of vitriol, I found some things I considered worth my time to ponder. 

I’ve had lots of questions about lines since the White Bass have started running. Like, “Do I need a full sink or sink tip line,” or, “Can I fish the floating line I already have?” The short answer is “yes,” but like lots of things in fly fishing, it’s a little more nuanced than that. But we like nuance, right? That’s one of the reasons we choose fly fishing over conventional tackle. So, I thought I would offer a bit of info in the hopes it might help. Again, this are just some high-level suggestions/options for those that might want a little guidance about rigging for targeting White Bass on the fly.

For those with a 9 foot 4, 5, or 6wt who want to try chasing white bass. These fish primarily hang out and feed on or near the bottom, so it is important to get the flies down to the fish in the feeding zone. I prefer to use full sinking or sink tip line in this scenario. But to the novice and intermediate angler, it can not only be tough to justify the expense of additional line and reel or spool, it can be confusing to know what sink rate to choose, and they are more difficult to cast than floating lines. Here are some viable options that will help you get the flies down without the additional complexity/investment of a new line. I’ve arranged them in order from easy to ideal.

  1. HEAVY FLIES. (no additional cost) The simplest way to get down is weighted flies…choose patterns with barbell eyes, for example.
  2. SPLIT SHOT. (less than $10) Add split shot about 12-14 inches ahead of your fly to help get it down faster. You can also slide a weighted cone on the tippet before tying on your lighter fly and just let it slide down.
  3. SINKING LEADERS: (about $10) Most of the major manufacturers make sinking leaders. I’d go with 1.5-3 Ips (inches per second) for water up to 4ft and 4-7ips for deeper or faster water.
  4. MICRO TIPS: ($$$) These are a relatively new option. The one I’m recommending for 9ft rods in the 4-6 wt range is the Sinking OPST Commando Micro Tip. These attach via loop-to-loop connection to your fly line on one end and your leader on the other, creating a sinking section between them (they can also be used with an intermediate sinking leader, if you like). It’s important to remember that “mass moves mass,” so you’ll be most successful casting these heavy tips if you have a line that is at least weight forward, and even better if it’s short-headed for streamers/poppers or if it’s a half line heavy like some of the “creek” lines or lines like SA MPX, etc.

OPTIONS
Please note, these are just a few options I am suggesting to help clarify what I’m talking about. There are other brands in most cases, and I have no attachment to these products nor do I benefit financially from you purchasing any of them.

SPIT SHOT:
Micro Split Shot (should cover most situations)

SINKING LEADERS:
AIRFLO BASS POLYLEADER (If using alone, choose fast or extra fast sink, in conjunction with a micro tip, use intermediate clear) Scientific Anglers also makes “Sonar” sinking leaders and Rio makes their “Versileader.”

SINKING MICRO TIPS
OPST Pure Skagit Commando Micro Tips 7.5 ft. (Choose either Riffle (S2), Run (S4), or Bucket (S6) that sink at 2, 4 or 6 Ips, respectively). The deeper the hole, the faster sink I would choose.