zen fly fishing

Why Zen?

Zen immerses you in the moment with total awareness of events. To fly fish effectively, your focus must be on the bite and every change in your fly's dynamics. You must get into this zone and stay there to consistently catch fish.

My first attempts to fly fish the surf were lessons in humility. I did catch one fish on my first trip - a small halibut. I also caught occasional perch on subsequent trips. By far though, my friend Jim was consistently hooking and landing perch while I was cluelessly trying to emulate him. I figure now that the occasional fish just hooked itself and that all the other fish just went unnoticed which gets me back to the Zen idea.

How many fish mouthed my fly in the course of all of those fishless days? Much of the time, I had too much slack and I wasn't connected to my fly to have the ability to feel a grab. Slack also puts more line out there for surf hydraulics to grab and cause your fly to sweep over the target area too fast. It was as if Jim was magnetically attracting fish and I was not. Clueless and distracted by worldly thoughts, I was there with potential for decent action but unaware of grabs. Awareness was missing. I could imagine a Zen master asking, what is the sound of perch laughing? intending to awaken me.

Anyway, in the course of a year's intensive fishing, I have learned Zen fly fishing. I can see beach structure. I can read water. I have line control, can feel grabs, catch a lot of fish and catch big fish. This picture shows the biggest so far - a 2 3/4 pound Barred Perch caught at a Santa Cruz California area beach in June 2002. And still I am learning and will always be learning.

Glenn with nice barred perch in front of the water where it was caught.

We have had a fantastic year fishing Monterey Bay beaches this year. Our fishing last year in July and August 2001 was much better then we expected. Last year, a good day would have been 15 fish to 1 pound. We caught a few large ones to 2 1/2 pounds but not many. This year (2002) a good day got us into many tens of fish (30 and up) with the best days approaching 100 and many fish over 1 pound with quite a few over 2 pounds with the largest over 3 pounds. We have been surf fishing 1 to 3 times a week from April through August 2002.

Thoughts about the state of the perch fishery are like a Zen koan. I wonder if the fishery has really come back or if it has ever declined. It may be that the fish have always been around and we are just fishing differently to find them consistently. It also may be that by chance we have stumbled across the only magic spots around, and if others knew of them this would all soon just be memories. I suspect that the fish have always been around at most beaches in our area but that is my optimism showing.

I discuss Zen fly fishing techniques on other pages at this site. The emphasis is on how to think about finding fish and catching a lot of fish. I do believe that anyone who is willing to put in the time can learn to fish well and that those with less time that us can use information at this site to learn much faster. I've heard of some Zen fishermen who fish without a hook - the goal being the grab. I tried that one and it is not enough for me so I have to be content with catch and release (and being thankful as I free the fish).

Welcome to the Zen Fly Fishing site! I hope you are entertained and find interesting and useful information here. I plan to write and publish on a continuing basis. If you have any comments, questions or request for special topics to be covered, please feel free to write. Also, if you would like to be put on a mailing list to be notified of updates, send mail with that request.

Most of the information on this site results from a on-going collaboration with Jim T., I express my appreciation for the experiences (including the lessons in humility) that we have shared.

Glenn Yoshimoto
Los Gatos, California

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This page © Copyright 2002 Glenn Yoshimoto