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Saturday, January 27, 2018

Zen and the art of jig fishing

A little weirdness from my new book to brighten up a rainy day...

Zen and the art of jig fishing....
Jig fishing can be a bit like the rabbit hole, you can go deep. So let’s drag out our inner Alice for a few minutes and go deep.
In fly fishing just about the most effective technique you can employ is to nymph fish with a "dead drift". That is a drift where you try to let the nymph drift along freely with the current. Not sinking like a rock but not being pulled along by the line either. But instead floating along like it was unattached to anything at all. But in conventional fishing there are very few ways to do this effectively.
This is what I strive for when fishing a grub in deep runs. That is, a free and natural drift down the run. I stand not upstream or downstream but roughly across the stream from where I expect a fish to strike. I then make a short cast across and upstream. I then flip closed the bail and do not reel, or at least reel as little as possible. Instead of being retrieved the grub should sweep down and across from me on a tight line. Well not really a tight line. Instead try for a line with no slack but not tight. If the lines tight it will pull on the grub and it won't drift naturally. But if the lines too slack you will not be able to detect the strike. Reel just enough to maintain a taut but not tight connection to our jig. now a jig's by definition a hook with a big hunk of lead attached so it's going to sink not drift right?
Well, we have to stop for a second and at least subconsciously match the size of our jig head to the force of the current we are fishing. Too light and the jig will zip along too fast over the fishes heads. Too heavy and your jig will just hang up on the bottom. In most medium sized rivers something in the 1/8 to 1/4 ounce range will let you fish the faster deeper runs that often hold the very best fish.
But I will often search out the deepest fastest water in miles of river. Here I might even go to a 3/8 to 1/2 ounce jig head. It's amazing how often these spots hold trophy fish, and how little these areas are ever fished. After all, a huge smallmouth is still only twenty inches long. It doesn't take a very big spot to shelter it from the current, a calm spot barely bigger than a shoebox in all the turbulence is all we are trying to find. A single big rock or a pile of smaller ones is really all we need. A place where a big fish can lay and then murder any unsuspecting prey floating along in the current. Or even better our jig.
Now I know it's hard to fish a jig like a curly tailed grub wrong. You can just chuck it out and reel it back in and catch fish. Or better yet slow your pace and swim it back just off the bottom. But a grub fished like that is almost a completely different lure than our dead drifted one. Our grub is drifting along with the current. The tail is working but because of the current, not our reeling it in. Just drifting along just like a helpless juicy delicious minnow being swept down the run. For me this is much more effective than bouncing a heavier lure along the bottom of the run. I think the look is just more natural. Not only does the size of the jig head affect your drift but you can also change the quality of your drift by the soft plastic you use, sometimes quite dramatically.
As a general rule I try to match the soft plastic I use to what I might expect to be swimming there. But it's sometimes better to forget that rule and instead match the size and shape of the bait I'm using to the drift I want. If you put on a three inch grub you get one drift. If you put on a four inch one you get another. I carry a couple sizes of grubs, A couple sizes of paddletail swimbaits and a curly tailed swimbait like the curly shad. If you jig fish long enough you can tell which style is giving you the freest drift in the particular run you are fishing.
Different sizes and styles of bodies will also change the depth in the water column you are fishing. Often instead of tying on a lighter jig head I will instead go with a bulkier bait like a curly shad if I'm dragging bottom instead of drifting. This lets me still fish a heavier jig which in turn lets me feel the bait batter.
Pretty simple isn't it? Cast across and let the bait sweep down on a tight line? Reel in and repeat. Nothing to it. Well, the problem with this is staying connected and yet unconnected to the lure at the same time. I'm not sure there is a shortcut here for experience and time on the water. The good news is that the lures soft plastic body will often feel lifelike enough that you will catch some fish you didn't even hook. Fish that just hung on long enough till you felt a weight on the line that eventually turned into a fish. Try this different twist on an old favorite. It might just completely change the way you fish many parts of the river.

Mushin: a Zen expression meaning the mind without mind and is also referred to as the state of "no-mindness". That is, a mind not fixed or occupied by thought or emotion and thus open to everything.

That's really what we are after. Nothing other than the lure floating along down there. Use that big mind of yours to decide where to fish. What seam you need to set up on. Where to stand, what to use, etc. Then just let all that flow down the river. Take a deep breath and the slowly relax and exhale. And let it all go. Flip open that bail and cast that jig and then lose everything. Don't think about about how your buddy might be doing, how your marriage is going, work, none of that bullshit. Just be in the moment with that jig. Feel the calm spots in the current, feel the bottom, feel the lure free floating.
Sometimes, if I think no one is around. If I think no one is around to see me that is, I'll cast, take a deep breath close my eyes and just imagine my lure down there. I know it's more effective to watch your line, watch the river, watch everything. But sometimes when I'm having trouble getting that connection with my lure it helps. Close your eyes and picture that lure down there on the end of your line. Lose everything but that lure. Once you have that you’re ready to fish.
Hopefully then our Mushin becomes Zanshin.

Zanshin refers to a state of awareness – of relaxed alertness. The literal translation of zanshin is "remaining mind".

Like a deer feeding in the woods. Watch a deer which thinks it's alone in the woods. Even though that deer might be completely relaxed it is still totally and completely in the moment and aware. This is what allows a deer to react to the twang of a bowstring so well that the deer is no longer there when the arrow gets there. Too tight, too keyed up, too much wanting to catch that fish gets in our way. I know I've been there. Just relax, exhale, lose everything but the jig and the rest will take care of itself.
Let's face it. It's just fishing. We are going to let that fish go anyway. Why do think they call timeouts before free throws? To let that guy at the foul line think about it. Let him get in his own way and miss that shot he can make in his sleep. Don't put that pressure on yourself. Then we might fail. Just another failure we don't need. Let's face it your probably out here to forget that job you don't like, hiding from that life you never imagined for yourself at eighteen. Another failure is the last thing you need. But if you just let it all go and become the jig you lose all that. Even if you don't catch a thing you have succeeded. And at the same time opened the door for more. Opened the door to catching that trophy smallmouth you've dreamed about. But forget about that and become the jig. Then you'll step thru that door when you are ready and not even noticed that you have.

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