Zen and the Art of Angling

Paraphrasing the late great Robert M. PirsigI read "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" during the last year of my first degree. It changed the way I thought, although I doubt I understood half of it. I occasionally wonder why I didn't take the chance to visit other lectures and just listen, something I earnestly entreat the LittleAnglers so to do., despite this page's title, it should in no way be associated with that great body of factual information relating to orthodox Zen Buddhist practice, that is: rigorous self-control, meditation-practice and the benefit of others.

Plus, it is not really very useful for angling, either.

Not that this has anything to do with the price of fish. I suppose that the meditative state of Zen Buddhism could be compared to the state of mind occasionally reached while concentrating on a small orange blob on the surface of the water. More pertinently, I am prone to wild flights of imagination, that some describe as the product of a 'grasshopper mind'; a few of these are recorded here. I am comfortable with these meandering thoughts and notions, which can seem oblique to some. Possibly with good reason. Which is fine, apart from a tendency to attract hippies that I then swiftly disillusion.

Below is list of the 'things I have collected together under the misleading title of Zen', some of which might illustrate the general thrust of "Piscator non solum piscatur", that is, "There is more to fishing than catching fish".

"At the ancient pond,
a frog plunges into,
the sound of water." ~~ A translation of "Old Pond" by Matsuo BashöDuring his lifetime, Basho was recognized for his works in the collaborative 'haikai no renga' form; today, after centuries of commentary, he is recognized as the greatest master of haiku. ~~ 

Pronounced 'Zen'

Zen and the Art of Angling

Luck

Haiku

The Odd Perch

'The Buzz'

Reasons to Use a Float

Albert's Time

All Men Dream But Not Equally

All tench are good tenchAll tench are good tench...(and back to the top of the page) There are no bad tenchThere are no bad tench All tench are good tenchAll tench are good tench There are no bad tenchThere are no bad tench All tench are good tenchTinca tinca little star...

Zen and the art of anglingPronounced 'Zen'.

"Zen" (a Polish name, no idea of the actual spelling) was a fellow pike angler that I became friends with during the long 1993-94 seasonThe Long Dark Pike Season of the Soul..., by dint of the fact that for many of the long grey days I was out chasing Esox, he and I were the only ones on the water. It was a long pike season because I caught hardly any pike.

He almost invariably fished at the East end of Long Lake (a "hot spot") and I almost always ended up in the swim next door while we swapped pike stories, occasionally coffee (if someone had run out) and after a while, confidences. While I would swear that sitting in one place is generally less productive than roving [unless of course it's a very good spot ;-)], he almost always caught at least one and in my bad season, he often offered me the swim for the last half hour to try and break the run, an offer I usually declined.

He was an HGV driver and his wife was a receptionist at a local company. Later in that season, I came across him uncharacteristically pleasure 'fishing for bites' in the third swim on Pike Pit ('Hordens Mere') and setting up my sweetcorn wild-carp rig, while his good lady wife delivered lunch, I had the good and 'buzz-foreshadowed' fortune to snag a wildie, to the delight of all of us.

I very much enjoyed the company and it was a great sadness to me, that after setting a date for mine and Mrs. AA's nuptials, my pike fishing tailing off somewhat (that's the way of things...), I was unable to track him down to invite him and his wife to the celebration. I went to the lake a good number of times to find him, but I guess his piking had tailed off a bit as well.

If you read this mate, drop me a line - if you recognise us.

The Lady of the StreamThe Lady of the Stream...(and back to the top of the page) Thymallus ThymallusThymallus Thymallus The Lady of the StreamThe Lady of the Stream Thymallus Thymallusgrayling The Lady of the StreamThe Lady of the Stream Thymallus ThymallusThymallus Thymallus The Lady of the Streamgrayling Thymallus ThymallusThymallus Thymallus

Zen and the art of anglingZen

Once or twice elsewhere on this site I've mentioned "Zen moments" while fishing. By this I mean there are times when for no good or discernible reason you know that something is about to happen.

There is a need for care here. Most of us spend a lot of time at the water's edge, willing fish to take the bait and bob the float. When the bob happens, a good proportion of the time you were thinking it was going to happen just before. It's human to straight away forget all those times that you anticipated a bite but one didn't come. It turns out this is a known thing as well, 'hindsight biasHindsight bias, also known as the knew-it-all-along effect or creeping determinism, is the inclination, after an event has occurred, to see the event as having been predictable, despite there having been little or no objective basis for predicting it.' or 'confirmation biasConfirmation bias, also called confirmatory bias or myside bias, is the tendency to search for, interpret, favour, and recall information in a way that confirms one's pre-existing beliefs or hypotheses, while giving disproportionately less consideration to alternative possibilities.' depending on which way one looks at it.

But: there are those times, when I am lolling around not paying attention and suddenly am very much alert. I find myself tightening the fingers on the rod, or picking out one bobbin rather than the other.

So: Can I tell when I'm going to get a bite? "Yes, sometimes" and I need to be relaxed for this to happen. Can I prove it to you? Probably not.

But I have, with four separate witnesses, gone from 'not paying attention' to 'hand on the rod' and fish on the bank for no obvious reason - and many other times without company. Once with a regular visitor on 'Pike Pit' - apologising for disturbing me and possibly the fish, "No problem", I said "there isn't one around." And then five minutes of inconsequential chat later, 'the buzz' came, I sat up, put my hand on the rod and said, "There's one around now", striking as the float slid off, landing a 6lb 'wildie' some minutes later.

This also happened with "call me" Zen and when I was with girlfriend on Pike Pit, as well as with the sibling, where we both found ourselves overtly and intently interested in the right-hand bobbin on the 'pod, shortly before it took off (I missed that one). Although not inclined towards irrational belief in the mysterious, but satisfied that the effect is there, I sought a rather a more rational explanation of these occurrences. So what's going on? I have theories...

OK, so in bowling a regular leg-cutter slaJAA was once a handy slow left-arm bowler with a mean arm-ball and two sorts of leg-cutters, one of which scuttled straight on. Sadly the wrist contortions required to really rip both the cutters, especially the top-spinner, did for my shoulder.  on a good length...

...the cliché is that one's subconscious is calculating a fifty foot parabola, based on an initial velocity (X) and a rotation velocity (Y) of the object, which is spherical, taking into account that the angular velocity of the object will affect the rate of curve of the parabola and the curve rate will vary as an inverse square of the speed of the object and gravity will apply...this is a good anecdote for matey maths teachers, deperately trying to link the sport-player de jour with maths. Probably cobblers.

It's rather more likely that one tries to bowl in a certain way, the brain notes what happened and that one needs to spin it harder 'by a bit' or 'a bit slower', and adjusts and remembers...it's still impressive how the 'procedural memoryProcedural memory is a type of implicit memory (unconscious memory) and long-term memory which aids the performance of particular types of tasks without conscious awareness of these previous experiences.' ('muscle memory') can be so exactly recorded and recalled.

So, if you pull this off, no-one is doing any maths, but templates are being slowly built up. Consider also, that most of us would have to bowl a good few deliveries to get close (even if you are Mr G. Swann255 Test wickets @ 29.96). On a given day, one bowls, the brain quietly notes that the action of the delivery matches very very well to the stored template for a 'good' ball and give itself a pat on the back. It felt 'right'. On another day, the delivery didn't match the template and you knew it was a long-hop the moment you'd turned your arm over...

This mechanism is, I believe the root of 'the feeling'.

You're float fishing in a light breeze with a 3BB antennae. The line's sunk, the float is behaving. Suddenly you think you're going to have a bite. You do... A pole float typically (for still water) has a bristle top and is shotted within a thou of its life can can be sunk by a passing gnat alighting on the tip. You see more float movement with one of these than with a regular float. Not all of this movement is a bite, as you discover when you strike at every twitch. Fish grub around by your bait, stirring eddies and swirls, which move the line and register on the float. Most fish will mouth a bait once or twice, carp are really pesty in this respect and perch can drive you wild.

Even with a less sensitive float your subconscious sees tiny movements and (figuratively) rings a bell to get attention. Some of these tiny movements are perhaps out of sync. with wind and current patterns. My own experience is that sometimes when float fishing the attention zeros in on the float which appears to be almost in a calm spot. Moments before the float pops under I suspect the fish holds the bait and the float's movements are momentarily stilled. The 'IDWhich, as Freud would have it, is the dark, inaccessible part of our personality...although most of his work cannot be experimentally proved and there was a LOT of sex. I consider a lot of his work to be one large 'Freudian slip'.' knows.

For bite indicators or bobbins the same applies - when ledgering I watch the rod tip, where you will see many tweaks and pulls that don't register on the bobbins or the alarms. The sharper the angle between the rod tip and the line, the more of these you will see due ot friction from the line passing over the tip ring. A good reason not to 'rod pod', but rather to use bank-sticks to align the rod with the line but only with line clips or bait-runners. A good yank on line, with no rod or clutch to absorb the shock, will snap line very easily.

Bobbins can sway in the breeze, seldom are they completely still, then may even tremble imperceptibly with the movement of the line caused by eddies caused by a fish. The same reasoning applies - you pick up that one bobbin is out of sync. with the other's movement in the draught, or that the movement is stilled. A tiny back and forth oscillation caused by tiny pulls. Twitches on the line or rod tip. And suddenly you are very interested in the left hand rod for no good reason...and then the bobbin whangs upward...

So not so mysterious.

There are other manifestations of this surrupticious pattern-matching machine. Working out where fish are is a good example. Returning to a recent trip, we wondered around the lake and only at one point did we really think it felt "fishy". However some surface ice put us off. We then watched a later arrival pull three carp out of that spot. I have no hard evidence but it's probably as simple as a slight water colour from stirred up silt or possibly even seeing fish that don't quite register. Either way, next time maybe go where you think it feels right.

 di·vid·er: (noun): a thing that keeps two spaces or areas separate... Page dividerdi·vid·er: (noun): a thing that keeps two spaces or areas separate (...and back to the top of the page)  di·vid·er: (noun): a thing that keeps two spaces or areas separate...

I wonder about other possibilities. You've all seen that shark homing in on the buried flounder by detecting its electrical field aloneThe Electric and Magnetic Sense of Sharks, SkaS, and Rays by Adrianus J. Kalmijn (1974). Likewise, all fish have some kind of standing electrical fieldThe 'Sixth Sense' of Weakly Electric Fish - In addition to the five senses humans and most other vertebrates experience, some fish have a sixth - the ability to detect electrical fields in their environment..

Anglers have an electrical field, so I postulate it's possible that the electrical field of a large fish interferes with the angler's and that some part of the brain can detect this. If this 'detection' coincides with a bite/fish, a template is formed, which starts to match conditions with the 'right' ones for a bite.

I've no idea what such a detection mechanism might be. It might be a signal in the nerves in the little finger (for all I know) or an interaction with the brain's electrical field itself. It doesn't matter per se, only that something changed and that change becomes associated with 'a bite'.

If there is such an effect, then it would be strongest when the fish and bait are nearby. The electrical field strength decreases as a function of the square of the distance, so that which is 'detectable' at 1', is a hundred times smaller if you go another 10' further away and 20' away the field is 1/400 of the signal at 1'.

My experience is this 'feeling' occurs most often when you are fishing close by.

Two perfectly good theories. It might be one, the other or both in tandem. Or neither. However, the 'template' may includes what you can see along with what you 'detect'. If small movements are the key, then you would also expect being close to the bite indication to improve the 'Zen' effect. Which in my experience, it does. None of this is a substitute for observation and experience, you'll catch more fish if you examine waters with care and pay close attention to the bite indicator you are using.

Does any of this matter a jot? Not really, but just in case my subconscious is watching, quite a lot of my floats have an extra black and white band on them now - I give myself the biggest chance of seeing smallest movements, consciously or otherwise. A slight curve of the float-tip is no bad thing, it'll curve away from the wind - and when it doesn't, it's more interesting to look at.

Oddly, I can't recall a 'Zen' experience with pike - that could be for a number of reasons, but typically pike do not fool around with bait. They pounce on it, which is often your first clue they are there. Pike also sidle up to dead-bait before pouncing, with hardly any discernible movement. I wonder if pike supress their own standing electrical field or if it's weaker than other fish?

Anyhow, most importantly, enjoy your fishing. If you reach any kind of enlightenment as well, then that's just a bonus.

Carp? What addiction?I am content to wait. I am well used to it...(and back to the top of the page) Carp? What addiction?...a very subtil fish Carp? What addiction?Watch for magpies on your path. Throw salt over your left shoulder. Walk around ladders. Carp? What addiction?if you will Fish for a Carp, you must put on a very large measure of patience Carp? What addiction?I am content to wait. I am well used to it.

Zen and the art of anglingLuck

'Old BobOld Bob has his own page...' used to say, if asked about his fishing or shooting success, "I've had a bit of luck." if he'd caught something, and "I didn't have any luck today." if he didn't. I liked that. It's why I prefer "good luck" to "tight lines".

However skilful and prepared you are, luck plays a large part. All the skill and preparation serves to reduce the odds of a blank, but never entirely removes it. There are apocryphal stories of the reverse case, of the heavily encumbered and possibly over prepared angler getting nothing, then 'the lad' turns up with a bent pin bpModern dress-making pins cannot be bent into hooks, they tend to snap. The old-fashioned pins, slightly thicker and softer in the wire, can easily be bent into a decent hook. I've got a few of these and plan to catch fish on them just to see how well this works.  and sugar-string ssI've never found out exactly what 'sugar-string' is. Even google hasn't helped.  and banks a good 'un. 'Old BobOld Bob has his own page...' used to chuckle about Jack Hargreaves pike fishing with no luck, then a boy turning up with a worm and simple tackle then banking Esox right off the cuff (I don't know if this is true mind).

Digressing, 'Old Bob' mentioned the "bent pin and sugar string" more than once, not that I ever saw any or knew what it was exactly. Even 'the internet' could find only a couple of references in a fishing context, one of which was an online archive of a "Supplement to The Fishing Gazette, July 6, 1907. Vol. LIV, January to June, 1907".

Even in our more zealously stocked commercial fisheries, there's still a piscine lottery at work, with the right place and time playing a part. It's part of the fun, as if there is no chance of blanking, then catching has no worth.

So all that preparation, knowledge and tackle boils down to improving the chances of a catch or decreasing the odds of a blank. Odds are a funny thing - it's always possible to blank, however well prepared you are. It might just be the fish never spot your bait. I mean, we're smart, but how often do we find a big bunch of car keys hard to spot? The chicken brained carp (smart for a fish we are told, certainly intelligent enough to train to eat certain things at certain times) could easily miss seeing a particle, even a big one (that's more likely than you think, which is why we use flavourings that travel - the odds of a fish not smelling something that wafts over a large area are smaller). It's one reason why the ever-visible yellow corn continues to work year in and out, it's easy to spot, even in deep water and by the stupider than average fish. Which is around half of them.

On larger ('un-stocked') waters, even if you have a plan, finding the fish at all can involve a good bit of luck. Like finding wandering shoals of bream or tench in a five acre, 15' deep lake. After a while you'll find the places they tend to turn up eventually. But will it be today? You've improved the odds by fishing a good few times and noting where and when you caught various fish, even if you are not writing it down and making a conscious decision. obAnd you should write it down or note it. Memory is fickle and we tend to associate a good catch with a swim long after we've had half-a-dozen blanks on the same spot.

This can work against you as well - you turn up, fish, catch and spend the next umpteen goes in the same spot or near it, when you might learn more about the water by moving around a bit, which would improve your chances in the long run.

[Somewhere out there they may well be the fishing equivalent of Douglas Adams' "rain god" lorry driver ("Goodbye - and thanks for all the fish"), who despite all the best methods and application, simply doesn't catch. Equally of course there is the hypothetically fortunate angler who always catches whatever he does or wherever he goes...rather more like the perpetually fortunate 'Tom Chance' of 'Chance in a Million'. I digress. ]

A good way to evaluate any new idea or item of tackle or change in method is to ask oneself - "Does it improve the chances of catching fish? Why?"

Of course life's not that easy, with many ideas in angling being based on at least one supposition, so trying things out is the only way to know for sure. If you have a tackle-based idea or theory, why not track down a 'fish-in-a-barrel' lake and use it to road test the method? I recently read of someone practising their fish playing by getting someone to run around a field trying to break the line. I suppose you could use a sheep...

This sounds silly, but how often do you play exceptionally large fish? Practising on the fish itself has significant potential for disappointment. Another thing you can improve the odds with.

It's why it makes sense to take that extra bit of care with the bit of the lottery you can exert some control over. That is to say your tackle - care and inspection of line, knots, checking the line hasn't whipped itself around the reel handle on the last cast. Will the hook take the strain? And how do you know that by the way?

Always have a selection of baits - I keep corn, hemp, pepperami and tins of mussels and various meats in the back of my car, so if my first choice bait doesn't work out I have a choice. Again, just improving the odds.

Likewise you can do much to avoid scaring the fish - I'm slightly sceptical of the full commando camouflage stuff I see, down to rod rests, torches and the ends of bleepers. But it is certain that vibration on the bank plays a part in scaring the fish and sudden movements and unnatural colours will startle any prey animal, above or below water.

Stick to drab colours (I favour musty greens), avoid short sleeved shirts (arms being easy to spot), a hat won't hurt, move slowly and with care and avoid clumping tackle box lids or hammering in bank sticks and similar. Keep your shadow off the water. Better still keep back from the edge and keep the rod tip only by the waters edge. If you scare the fish, you'll wait half an hour for their return, more often you'll just miss the chance of catching the scared fish at all. You'll never know, but if you are quiet you might be surprised (in a good way).

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[Brightly coloured tackle boxes, trolleys (bump bump), chrome fittings that glint in the sun (paint or tape them over), watchstraps and rings, none of these are my favourite things. Folk who clump around the bank in bright colours talking in loud voices ("Any good?" "Not now" you mutter quietly to yourself). I've had more than one dithering developing bite startled into stillness by a friendly approach. If you talk to someone on the bank and they seem a bit anti-social, maybe that's the reason...

Finally on this rant, if you should have the great luck to get a fish so close you can see it, DON'T look at it's eyes. If it sees you looking at it, it'll know something's amiss.]

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If you are very quiet, you'll often get a bite sooner than you think - cast in and then start sorting out your tackle or a cup of freshly brewed and you might miss the best chance you'll get. Put up your landing net before the rest of your gear. It's much less unlucky than hooking a good fish and have to deal with it without the net...or put up a net one-handed.

None of these things will make you a great angler, but doing them improves your chances of landing the great fish and the good fish - you still have the 'right place and right time' lottery to beat, but it's a good start. And the more of these things you manage, the 'luckier' you will get...

I know only one thing with complete certainty when I go out; that I don't know what I'm going to catch, if anything, even on waters I know well and fish often.

As my youngest daughter said to me; "You have to enjoying fishing as well, because you spend a lot of the time fishing NOT actually catching fish". Exactly so.

Why would you have it any other way?

Good luck.

small split shotmedium one, small one, tiny one, silly one...do keep up...(and return to the top of the page) small split shotmedium one, small one, tiny one, silly one...do keep up... small split shotmedium one, small one, tiny one, silly one...and wait for it... small split shotmedium one, small one, tiny one, silly one...do keep up... small split shotmedium one, small one, tiny one, silly one...and wait for it... small split shotmedium one, small one, tiny one, silly one...do keep up... small split shotmedium one, small one, tiny one, silly one...and wait for it... small split shotmedium one, small one, tiny one, silly one...do keep up... small split shotmedium one, small one, tiny one, silly one...and wait for it... small split shotmedium one, small one, tiny one, silly one...do keep up... small split shotmedium one, small one, tiny one, silly one...and wait for it... small split shotmedium one, small one, tiny one, silly one...do keep up... small split shotmedium one, small one, tiny one, silly one...and one more time... small split shotmedium one, small one, tiny one, silly one...got it?

Zen and the art of anglingHaiku

The mythical pool
the carp pierces the center
of widening rings

I like porcupine quill floats...I like porcupine quill floats...(and back to the top of the page) I like porcupine quill floats...I really like porcupine quill floats... I like porcupine quill floats...I really like porcupine quill floats... I like porcupine quill floats...I really like porcupine quill floats...

Zen and the art of anglingThe Singular Perch

Sometimes on a long colourless day, almost pre-destined to be a blank, there's a small, sharp movement of the float, a sudden dart under and there is that perch. It's often, but not always, around 1-3oz, with an over-sized gob and all Tod Sloan. This is singular. But for that odd perch though you'd have blanked. Let's face it; the fine line between 'a blank' and 'not a blank' is often merely a technicality. We've all blanked. But a single perch has saved me from a significant number of blanks, which has bothered me for some time.

One quiet grey day on Pike Pit a single perch saved me when I had poled up and got fishing while the sibling was still thinking about it. I may have overstated the value of being first in the water - would have been rude not to. I was almost driven from the bank by the fusillade of bets laid in response. The most fish. The biggest fish. The largest bag overall. The best specimen. The most different species. The first fish. Probably even the best-dressed fish. Each punt a pint of Tetley's Best, to be consumed in 'The Chequers' that evening.

Tweak. Plunge. There was the 2oz perch, first cast, inevitably, amusingly, the first and last fish of the day. Never had an afternoon of watching a motionless float been more interesting. The brother of course claimed he extracted all the evening's beer money from the fruit machine anyway, so it didn't cost him a penny. Of course mate, whatever you say.

Then there was that solitary 6oz perch one cold day in Cookham, the only fish either of us caught. The sole perch I had on a grim day on Long Lake. The single perch last September at Breech Pond, the only thing between me and a blank. The one and only perch caught on the Thames at Marlow when the line was freezing in the rod rings. The small and gobby perch, the total catch on a horizontally windy day at Trout Stream, when not even an eel could be pried out of the bed-stones. One perch from the Drabe'd Ditch. There are other examples: I carried out an informal random survey (I asked Bob in the office) and this has happened to him as well. There are simply way too many 'one perch' days, often when you'd swear that no fish were within a mile.

I remembered a distant beer-facilitated conversation and someone had mentioned the Wheeler-Feynman insight - this suggests that all the electrons in the universe may be viewed as one electron that is continually jagging back and forth in time as it weaves the fabric of the cosmos. You can't prove it isn't, but I suspect that with Richard Feynman's sense of humour, this may be the point.

What though, if there is just one perch, nipping back and forth in time around the Northern hemisphere, whose purpose is to alleviate those otherwise fishless days? Of course it couldn't do every blank day, even time is finite (eventually) and good company, pleasant weather or a really good cup of tea will redeem a blank. But the first trips of small fisher-folk, those drawn out sombre days that sap the will to fish, they need assistance.

Is this the purpose of the mystery perch, to materialise briefly beside your worm or maggot, snatch at it and redeem the day? It would explain several things; the "What, again?" look that one-off perch have, the very definite (only) bite and also the odd way that solitary perch get 'slightly foxed' as they get bigger. My lonely perch on Long Lake took a single maggot and surrendered gently, a shade over 2lb and seemed to have an air of resignation as well as fins that had seen better days...

Of course, the peripatetic Perca might understand its fate, a near-eternity of passing baits and blurred skyward journeys, on release, slipping along the weird of the Nornir, the three Disir fates; that-which-is, that-which-is-becoming, that-which-should-be; on towards another dent in the fabric of space-time, a moribund angler hunched at its nadir.

Perhaps its aware of the relief it brings, bringing meaning to the world streaming by? Or far worse, a cursed and wailing soul condemned to eternal impaling, the only sustenance for the journey found on cruel steel hooks. Perhaps a punishment for some transgression against Njörd1Njörd, the Norse god of fishermen, seafaring and storms had 10 daughters, three of which are the Nornir, the three Disir Fates of Norse myth known as Urdhr, Verdhandi and Skuld and representing the past, present and future; Urdhr (that-which-is), Verdhandi (that-which-is-becoming) and Skuld (that-which-should-be) who shape the turnings of Wyrd through the worlds. the Norse god of Storm and fishing, a slight to one of his ten daughters maybe, three of which now gleefully shape destiny.

Today, the blank-saving perch is less necessary; commercial fisheries have consigned many fishless days to the past, if they pain thee so much. Perhaps a good thing for the small spiny totem; the journey is wearying-long, however carefully managed. But there are, will and should be occasions where just one perch helps.

So just in case, slip that solitary perch back with care - it could be a small moment of satisfaction or a short period of blessed relief, but either way, it may yet have a long way to go and may again save your day.

Silly idea right? Here are the 'odd perches':

Zen moments on200617th September 2006. Breach Pond.

Zen moments on200823rd November 2008. Dairy House Lakes.

Zen moments on201313th August 2013. Luckfield Lake.

Zen moments on20154th April 2015. Kingsbridge Packhorse.

Zen moments on201723rd September 2017. Barton's Court Lake.

Zen moments on202029th September 2020. The Saxon Ponds.

Another Crucian Carpcrucian...(and back to the top of the page) Crucian CarpCarassius Carassius Crucian Carp againCrucial crucian Another Crucian CarpCarassius Carassius Crucian Carpcrucian Crucian CarpCarassius Carassius Crucian Carp againCrucial crucian Crucian Carpcrucian Another Crucian CarpCarassius Carassius Crucian CarpCrucial crucian Crucian CarpCrucial crucian Another Crucian Carpcrucian Crucian CarpCarassius Carassius Crucian Carp againCrucial crucian

Zen and the art of angling'The Buzz'

I've already discussed the sudden certainty that a fish will strike. This seems at its strongest for carp but I've felt the same for crucians, roach, tench and bream.

It only happens when you are completely relaxed; if the myriad inconsequential worries of life harry you the buzz won't come.

But when it comes, the world shrinks to the small area around the float and there is the faintest shimmer or buzz. The best description I can muster is; it's like the slight dizziness you experience when standing up too quickly, mixed with the distant thrum of the honey-bees that, for a few years, nested in our chimney.

It's wyrd; you just know.

Then you are angling.

FleuronsFleuronsFleurons

Here are some of the times I've really noticed this...

Zen moments on200527th May 2005. Milton Abbey.

Zen moments on20068th October 2006. Wytch Farm.

Zen moments on200714th April 2007. Milton Abbey.

Zen moments on200713th May 2007. Wytch Farm.

Zen moments on200730th September 2007. Gold Oak Farm.

Zen moments on200826th May 2008. Arfleet Mills.

Zen moments on20087th December 2008. Wytch Farm.

Zen moments on20093rd January 2009. Horton Lake.

Zen moments on200910th May 2009. Milton Abbey.

Zen moments on20127th April 2012. Luckfield Lake.

Zen moments on201315th November 2013. Vale Farm.

Zen moments on201728th September 2017. Edmonsham Smallbridge.

Gobio GobioGobio Gobio (and return to the top of the page) GonkGonk Gobio GobioGobby GonkGonk Gobio GobioGobio Gobio GonkGobby Gobio GobioGobio Gobio GudgeonGudgeon GudgeonGudgeon Gobio GobioGobio Gobio

Zen and the art of anglingReasons to Use a Float *

I'm a float tart. That is, I find floats hard to resist. Consequently, I have over 100 and have no idea why or indeed what some of them are for. At least 30 are splayed in an old tankard atop the bookcase and at least another 30 are foundlings. In use, I recycle a few sorts and don't even use all the ones in the tackle-box, never mind the ones in my 'collection'. Sure, let's call it a 'collection'.

For instance, for one season I almost exclusively used insert-loaded crystals, which seemed like a good idea at the time. There was a spell of margin-carping using pole floats. No reason. For three months I exclusively used my own porcupine and goose-quill floats. The sibling however, prefers to ledger, all other things being equal; sat in identical and adjacent swims with the same conditions he'll ledger and I'll float-fish. Of course he's a philistine.

If 'separating float tarts from their cash' is discounted, there are three principle reasons for using a float. These are:

Bite Indication

Bait Presentation

Something to Look at While Waiting for a Fish

Everyone knows the first two, although I've seen some folk clearly aware of the first but not, apparently, the second.

The third; I'll often choose a float based on its appearance plus some vague viability in respect of the first two items. That old saw 'as much weight as required to make casting easy' doesn't wash, as I'm firmly in the 'smallest mass that I can cast to the right spot' camp. Plus, I like a nice colour. If signs are unmatched, a fluorescent blue tipped float will get the nod, because I like the look of it. Today, anyway. Also, a float is a far better bite-indicator than anything used for ledgering (with the possible exception of the 'index finger').

Floats generally move about a lot more than we give them credit for; still-water is never completely still and the area above the bait is of particular interest and is coveniently marked by the float. When fishes truffle, the float wobbles, dithers, often too slightly for us to notice in a conscious way, but the subconscious sees all and can tell something's afoot. As it were.

The id's muted voice can barely get our conscious attention, all we get is a hint that a bite is coming without knowing exactly why. It might be the float moves out of sync. with the passing wave front, perhaps it's leaning ever so slightly against the wind, maybe that this water is a tad smoother as something riffled the oil out of the hemp or luncheon meat. Likewise the slight curve on a crow quill will tend to curve away from the wind. When it is not, it's more interesting to look at...the float keeps your gaze where it needs to be.

Fleurons  Fleurons   Fleurons  Fleurons  Fleurons

A lake I know becomes gin-clear in winter; I'll take an afternoon to walk and mark rarely visible details - subtle ledges, variations and clear trails in the leaf litter, showing where the fish regularly pass. These trails change little year to year, become small ledges in otherwise uniform patches of the bottom, perhaps etched by successive years' fishes and give better results come the spring, even when close to the bank. It would be wonderful if all waters had just one such clear-water day each year.

Fleurons  Fleurons   Fleurons  Fleurons  Fleurons

Mankind a long established fascination for water. We've been chucking stuff (and some less fortunate folk) into water for a long time and there is some evidence that water was once seen as a boundary between two worlds. Certainly none of us really know what it's like living beneath the surface. It's a mystery still and from this side, it's like looking at something on the far side of a frosted window - if up close you can see through pin-holes of clear resolution and from a distance a vague overall picture, but never both at once.

This sense of mystery is why I and the similarly afflicted like deep waters better than the shallows. You can hide bigger monsters in greater opaque depths. Knowing there is 15 feet of water under your feet generates more awe than 15 inches. It's why saucer-shaped commercial fisheries, with no depth, no variation, known stock, no thread to unravel, no enigma to decode.

Fleurons  Fleurons   Fleurons  Fleurons  Fleurons

During a family trip to Oxford, we took lunch behind the botanical gardens; there, a thread of the Cherwell curls around a corner on its way to the Old Father. Water in un-natural channels will run straight and true (subject to chaos), but as soon as there are curves, the water zig-zags, coursing from one bank to the other, the bends hurling the current back and forth like passengers in a rollercoaster. The river was in spate and the water on the bank nearest us was a writhing muddy snake, spiralling as the water rebounded off the opposite bank from the last curve, before rebounding again by my feet, twisting up from the bottom and over by the bank, off the next curve and downstream. Opposite me was a small oasis of smooth stewed-tea coloured calm, sliding under a small overhanging bush and I watched that rolling glass table-top while eating a pasty, imagining a grayling-bobber skittering under the bush for an imagined chub. That image stayed, fixed, until on the point of sleep that evening, I imagined the cast, the float gliding under the bush and its plunge pulling me through the surface, down into sleep...

Fleurons  Fleurons   Fleurons  Fleurons  Fleurons

A pleasing appearance notwithstanding, a float provides a focal point and sits (prettily**) on a boundary. It connects the piscator to the elegant and mysterious world below. A keyhole though which we spy, with our float, in the hope of seeing something otherwise invisible.

The bob, the sudden dip, the dart under the water, or even better, the slow but deliberate down-and-sideways slide... are moments quite on a par with the frisson from that moment in an evening when you know you don't have to go home, the 'maybe' now a 'yes'.

The float's movement is a thrown switch, a pulse of electricity on the line now connected to the rod-lengths distant special world. In that instant it could be anything on the other end, a monster, Grendel's mother even, still yet seeking revenge.

This brings us to the fourth reason for using a float:

It's the Liminal Point Between the Ordinary World and the Special World ***

 

* Originally written for 'Pure Piscator'in 2008, then re-written in 2021. Because it wasn't well written and was a bit Madeline Bassetty in patches. It may still be, though I prefer the new shorter version.

** You could use an ugly float, just feels a bit rude though.

*** Jungian meta-narrative doncha know?

All tench are good tenchAll tench are good tench...(and back to the top of the page) There are no bad tenchThere are no bad tench All tench are good tenchAll tench are good tench There are no bad tenchThere are no bad tench All tench are good tenchTinca tinca little star...

Zen and the art of anglingAlbert's Time

"There exists, therefore, for the individual, an I-time, or subjective time.
This in itself is not measurable." ~~ Albert Einstein ~~ 

If you're an angler, you already know that.

swivel...and...wait for it...swivel ;-)...(and back to the top of the page) swivel...and...wait for it...swivel :-) swivel...and...wait for it...swivel :-) swivel...and...wait for it...swivel :-) swivel...and...wait for it...swivel :-) swivel...and...wait for it...swivel :-) swivel...and...wait for it...swivel :-) swivel...and...wait for it...swivel :-) swivel...and...wait for it...swivel :-) swivel...and...wait for it...swivel :-) swivel...and...wait for it...swivel :-) swivel...and...wait for it...swivel :-) swivel...and...wait for it...swivel :-) swivel...and...wait for it...swivel :-) swivel...and...wait for it...swivel :-) swivel...and...wait for it...swivel :-) swivel...and...wait for it...swivel :-) swivel...and...wait for it...swivel :-) swivel...and...wait for it...swivel :-) swivel...and...wait for it...swivel :-)

Zen and the art of anglingAll Men Dream...

"All men dream but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their mind wake up in the day to find that it was vanity; but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes to make it possible." ~~ T. E. Lawrence ~~ 

I just liked that. Interesting chap.

hookJust another fish-hook...(and back to the top of the page) hookJust another fish-hook hookJust another fish-hook hookJust another fish-hook hookJust another fish-hook hookJust another fish-hook hookJust another fish-hook hookJust another fish-hook hookJust another fish-hook hookJust another fish-hook hookJust another fish-hook hookJust another fish-hook hookJust another fish-hook It's a space. Accept it and move on. hookJust another fish-hook hookJust another fish-hook hookJust another fish-hook hookJust another fish-hook hookJust another fish-hook hookJust another fish-hook hookJust another fish-hook hookJust another fish-hook hookJust another fish-hook hookJust another fish-hook hookJust another fish-hook hookJust another fish-hook hookJust another fish-hook