I’m a Brooklyn boy at heart and part of that heart belongs to hip-hop. I remember being huddled up on the block in a lyrical cypher of street poetry, AKA freestyle, while the neighborhood stopped to listen. For those of you that may not know about freestyle, it’s basically “Who’s Line Is It Anyway” for hip-hop lyrics. For those who love listening to the greats like Biggie, Mos-Def, etc., you know not only are the lyrics tight, but the fact that it’s off the top of the head makes it that much better. I know you’re wondering, “what the hell does this have to do with fly fishing?” My answer, everything!
The ability to adapt to various situations on the drop of a dime.
A freestyle is like a living organism and you must react to your environment, just like you should do fly fishing. Adaptation is a key skill in the battle of words, it’s what keeps you on your toes. So like the freestyle session on the corner, you can’t drop the ball. In fly fishing, the environment is the freestyle session. It’s full of random situations in which we have to adapt to in order to stay in the battle. Otherwise, you lose your spot in the circle and get dissed.
Don’t get complacent.
Too many anglers get stuck in a routine. While it may be working for them now, it is bound to hurt them when the conditions change, and they are not prepared to switch it up. We’ve all been there before. I’ve lost battles that I should have won, but I was caught sleeping. Sometimes it can be the weather or the fact that previous pressure has made the spot you chose to fish a little tougher. In these situations, you’re in need of switching up your approach so you can stay on top of the situation. For example, if you are prone to step out on the water and do a fast strip retrieve yet the fish aren’t buying it, you have to be able to switch retrieve styles and speeds just like a nymph angler would switch weight to adjust depth and drift speed. You have to keep changing up until you find whats working in that particular set of circumstances.
Too many times, myself included, we get comfortable fishing a particular stretch of water. We never venture out to hone our skills by fishing different styles of water with a different set of challenges. This is what we call in boxing, “conditioning”. You need to constantly keep your skillz sharp or you’ll be the knife that can’t cut it.
Don’t get discouraged, use the loss as a lesson
Whether it’s the street or the stream, just because you get dissed by a few bars or a few fish, you can’t just run away with your tail between your legs. You have to pick yourself up and keep working at it. If you fear defeat from a stretch of water or from a lyrical opponent, you need to force yourself to face it. You can’t let it get in your head and tear down your confidence as an angler. Use every failure as a lesson in which to improve upon for the rematch. It won’t always be fun but the next time you face this challenge; it will be in your favor.
When the topic changes in a freestyle cypher and it comes around to you, don’t be spitting rehearsed lines that are off subject. You will be kicked to the curb. Change of beat or subject means lets switch it up. Same thing on the water. If you’re fishing in certain conditions and those conditions dramatically change, you need to be able to switch it up. Maybe a favorite hole is not producing the way it should, time to reach in your bag of tricks. This will keep it fresh, especially on relatively pressured water. If you can’t switch it up you will find your days of success are less frequent.
Learn from the best.
My friends and I would always test each other’s freestyle game to make sure we didn’t get weak; you can’t roll up on the block and be weak like crackhead teeth. This same thinking should apply with our angling friends.
Listening to some of the greatest artists come up out of NYC was a great experience for me. I really learned to appreciate the art and it became a part of our culture. Same goes for us that fly fish. Read and learn from authors and more experienced anglers that have mastered techniques that you are trying to improve upon. If you humble yourself and connect with anglers that are just as passionate as you, it will amaze you at how fast you can improve in a short amount of time. Always surround yourself with great anglers. There are many anglers that have become proficient at certain techniques and specific pieces of water. They may have never been published, or seen any sort of public acknowledgement, but they know their stretch of water well. We all learn from each other in this fly fishing culture. Collaborations are the best, like Jay-z and Biggie Smalls in Brooklyn’s Finest.
you heard about staying the course, if you can’t adapt to the battle, you’ll be full of remorse.