Fly Fishing and Tapping into your Subconscious Thinking

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Can Tapping into your subconscious thinking make you a better fly fisher? Photo Louis Cahill

Ever get that feeling, and you just know you’re going to catch a fish?

One of the most stimulating and interesting TV shows that I take the time to watch every chance I get is “Through the Wormhole” on the Science Channel. Go ahead and call me a geek, I find the show inspiring and can’t help to think if I’d been forced to watch this show as a kid I’d probably be three times as smart as I am today, and would have made it much further in my advanced education. “Through the Wormhole”, is hosted by the great actor Morgan Freeman, and it runs segments on all facets of life, discussing such topics as advanced science and mathematics, space travel and the human brain. The other day couch surfing and flipping through channels on the TV, I stumbled upon the show and quickly found myself glued to the screen as it talked about the mysteries of our subconscious, and how it’s used every waken moment of our lives.

Neuroscientists have prooved that the human brain constantly uses our subconcious to guide us and sway our decision making. The show talked about how it’s our subconscious that allows musicians to memorize and perform extraordinarily difficult pieces of music perfectly by keeping their mind and muscle control in harmony. I assume it’s very similar to how professional athletes are able to put themselves in a zone during a game by using their subconscious, then making game winning plays. It was explained that our subconscious always stays two steps ahead of our conscious thinking, and that it’s a major driving force that keeps us out of danger and allows us to use our gut feelings to make spontaneous decisions correctly when we lack the information needed. The show went on and on, in great detail about how humans benefit from their sub-conscious, and then backed it all up by doctoral research and testing. In the end, the show concluded that in the future, if humans can learn to regularly tap into their subconscious we’ll be able to be more healthy, become significantly smarter and more creative than we can possibly imagine.

After I finished watching that particular episode of “Through the Wormhole”, I began thinking about what degree our subconscious plays in our fly fishing. For years, I’ve felt like my subconscious has allowed me at times to put myself in a zone on the water. Allowing me to amplify my senses and get extremely focused when the fishing conditions demanded it. I now believe it was due to me tapping into my subconscious that explains how I’m able to look at a spot on the water and drop my fly with pin-point accuracy in an area the size of a dinner plate, over and over. Replaying years of guiding in my head, I can recall countless moments guiding when I felt like I had a six sense on the water that allowed me to make unjustified calls on the water that immediately brought fish to the net. It was kind of like an inner voice talking to me and strongly suggesting I needed to change my rig, fly pattern or retrieve. According to the show, we can’t tap into our subconscious if we fill our mind up with anxious conscious thoughts. That we have to let go of them, stay relaxed and confident, for us to tap into the power of our subconscious. The last post I wrote, I talked about how I recently battled nerves on the bow of the boat in the Bahamas at the beginning of my trip, and by having to fight my unstable mental state, it kept me from fishing at my best ability. I now feel like the reason I wasn’t able to perform well is because I wasn’t allowing myself to tap into my subconscious which would have had my body and mind working in unison, in turn, putting me into a fly fishing zone. It wasn’t until I was able to let my nerves go half way through the trip, that I was able to make the hardest form of fly fishing (saltwater fly fishing) feel like it was no big deal at all. I now understand when my clients are lacking confidence and not catching fish, why I regularly tell them to look into their own fly box and tie on the fly they always catch fish with. It’s my subtle way of getting them to tap into their subconscious, because when their fishing the fly they always have success with, they begin thinking about all the fish they’ve caught with it in the past, and they in turn, clear their mind. This gets them relaxed and boosts their confidence, and that allows them to get mind and body synergy, which ultimately puts them in a zone.

Next time you’re out fly fishing and you aren’t having luck or you’re frazzled, try focusing on just enjoying the outdoors and clearing your mind. Forget about catching that trophy or catching a ton of fish. Doing so, it should help you become more relaxed, which will likely amplify your fishing instincts and give you the ability to tap into your subconscious. Remember, that often the gut feelings you get on the water are usually your subconscious helping you to find success.


Keep it Reel,

Kent Klewein
Gink & Gasoline
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18 thoughts on “Fly Fishing and Tapping into your Subconscious Thinking

  1. Absolutely. I divide my time fairly evenly between fly fishing and conventional bass fishing in the late spring/summer/early fall (blasphemy, I know), and I’ve found that I don’t actually consciously think a spot will hold fish. I can just look around and know there will be a fish waiting in a particular spot. Throughout the rest of the year, I concentrate on fly fishing. As my stream reading skills continue to develop, I am starting to be able to do the same thing on the river. I don’t usually think when I’m fishing well. When I over-analyze, that’s usually when I stop catching fish.

  2. Great post, I totally agree with you that your subconscious guides you through fishing trips. It seems like if I have an injury, or some pressing issue with family or friends, it is so much harder to make that perfect cast or think my way through an issue on the water such as a mess in my line. If I’m stressed, I’m setting myself up for a bad day. Fishing relieves stress, but stress inhibits fishing. The two just don’t belong together.

  3. Through the Wormhole is definitely in my top three…
    I think there is something to fly fishing and the subconscious…I don’t know why, but it seems that after awhile you can walk 2 miles of trout stream without pause and then you’ll see THE spot. But it’s not the looks that are different, it’s the feeling-or knowing about it. I’ve fished a number of places that have felt right and did very well, only to come back later and not catch a thing. Why is that? It looked exactly as how I remembered it…the only difference being that this time it just feels empty somehow. Maybe this is what they really mean when they discuss “confidence.”

  4. I’ve always been a firm believer that as you gain experience, you file stuff away in your subconscious mind, and regularly tap into it. My favorite example of this is when you set the hook on a fish for no reason at all: you don’t remember feeling a tug, you didn’t see your line move at all, there was no slack where there shouldn’t be any, it’s just one second your standing there, and then you have the urge to set the hook…

    I think it comes from all those times that we feel those tugs and see those takes, our sub-conscious mind files it away. If you haven’t had the experience, you don’t have the instinct, that 6th sense. It’s like fine tuning a machine, and when you warm yourself up and feel comfortable and aware on the water, when you get in tune with the water and the rod, that’s when the fishing gets good, and you get good at fishing.

  5. Answer – Yes. Maybe sixth sense. One day on the Taw River, South West England looked up at the sky, the mix of cloud and sunlight felt perfect, level of the wind on the water felt just right as well. Just had that “inner moment” that something was about to happen. 10 minutes later two beautiful Atlantic Salmon back to back.

  6. I lived in NW Montana for three years and fishes with people who could catch trout in a parking lot mud puddle. It amazed me. In my last year, I knew I was moving back to the Adirondacks for NY, I forced 289 days of fishing (not all with a fly rod, but more than 3/4 of the time I did). That’s when I developed a fish sense. I just knew where the fish were and which drift to make.

    Since then I had to take a hiatus to help out with out two newborns. I lost my fish sense in two seasons of only fishing less than 20 times (not days, just random breakaway outings). I lost my Mojo.

    I got some of it back this summer while road tripping and trout bumming in MT. The Mo got me good for two days, before I felt my fish sense begin recirculating. By the time we fished the Boulder, Madison and Ruby it was back in full force. Rock Creek only posed a challenge when I experimented with new patterns and used unconventional techiques when standards consistently brought fish to hand. Two of my buddies had their first taste of subconscious fishing. The other two couldn’t feel the “force”.

    Great write up! Thanks for validating that experience!

  7. You would enjoy “Blink” by Malcom Gladwell. Very much along this line of thinking and also an instruction manual as to when to rely upon the different parts of your brain.

  8. Pingback: Tippets: Tying for Spring Stripers, No Myth, Conquering Mind Games, “Top Hooker” Review | MidCurrent

  9. Pingback: Tippets: Tying for Spring Stripers, No Myth, Conquering Mind Games, “Top Hooker” Review - Skiff Life - Flats and Back Bay Fishing

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