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The Art of the Pause

How Slowing Down Elevates Your Experience in Fishing and Life



Interestingly, the most profound ideas on the subject of fly fishing often come from the most unexpected places. Those moments where no expectation to create or ideate are generally the moments where the greatest ideas come to fruition. It's a vacuum that the universe must fill.


The other day, as I was taking in yet another episode of the Tim Ferris Show and, seemingly out of left field, the notion for this little ditty became unbelievably apparent. Funny, I find it, that life and fly fishing are so very intertwined. 


Tim is well known for having in-depth conversations with high performers and profound thinkers so guest William Ury (co-founder of Harvard’s negotiation program, author, and master negotiator) didn’t disappoint. 


Ury shared story after story, situation after situation on how a life dedicated to negotiation and understanding human psychology has honed and sharpened his practice of business and life in general. 


According to Ury, during a 30-minute verbal lashing from then-Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Ury needed to calm the situation, listen to Chavez’s needs, and then decide that a pause was a profound way to release tension in the tense political negotiations. 



Hugo Chavez, former leader of Venezuela

The art of the pause is an underrated or even under-acknowledged thing.


There is great power in silence. There is great power in the idea of a pause. It keeps the equilibrium of power in check. "Let the discomfort work in your favor," urged Ury.


Correlations between the amount of pause/silence is directly related to the positive outcome of a tense negation. Contests of wills…Men who force the situation (and it’s often men or at least the masculine energy)…rarely make headway into the space of positive resolve. 


I tend to push the rod quite a bit. It’s why I prefer fairly stiff, fast-action rods. With said rods, you have to be a bit more accurate in motion but I find you can “force the cast” much more than with a slower rod.


So get to the fly fishing already, Nic!


Fine. Here it goes…


I often find that, when I’m struggling in something on the water, it’s akin to a contest of wills… my will… the rod’s…the prevailing crosswind, the lack of bug movement… on and on.


I often find that the more I force my will upon the (unnecessarily stubborn) river, lake, or salt flat, the more resistance I get and the further off my objectives become. Like Sisyphus's boulder that gains mass/weight in direct proportion to the force at which I’m pushing, ergo my objectives.


However, and with great relief, enter the notion of the pause. Life imitating art imitating fly fishing imitating life and on and on…


In great contrast to the above-mentioned struggle bus I (and many/most of us) unconsciously find myself upon, implementing the art of the pause brings …an equilibrium.


I’ve often alluded to the notion that I’m a forceful caster. I tend to push the rod quite a bit. It’s why I prefer fairly stiff, fast-action rods. With said rods, you have to be a bit more accurate in motion but I find you can “force the cast” much more than with a slower rod.


Taking pause to really see the beauty in things

Take a bamboo rod for instance. Ultra slow…like buttery slow. The flex is more evenly distributed throughout the entirety of the rod. Almost down to the handle vs toward the tip with a “faster” rod. 


I have little tolerance for such a slow flex. You aren’t able to force casts. You must be patient and wait for the rod to open up on each stroke.


And for that reason, I should probably buy and fish with a bamboo rod. But I'm stubborn so I'll continue in the hard way. Or purchase another new rod. I haven't yet decided.



I think my wife would probably tell you that I could implement the art of the pause sooner in all aspects of life, not just while tossing fuzzy hooks in the water.



The point is, whenever I’m feeling that I’m working too hard, or something isn’t going right, or I’m getting tired and frustrated, the power of the pause is maybe the most valuable arrow in the quiver.


Just the other day, the crosswind was ferocious. I mean a ruffling shirt, white-capped waves, blowing debris kind of ferocious. Naturally, I began forcing the cast…to fight harder against it only to watch the loop tail and pile up short of my target.


After a few red-faced choice words to self, I stopped moving to give my mind a break. I then remembered the aforementioned podcast episode. And rather than pretending I was in the gym and forcing and pushing harder to succeed, I decided to slow my tempo to make sure the rod was fully unloading and the line was fully opening and stretching on every. Single. Cast. Stroke. 


….A pause to remember and then implement a pause… Meta, bro.


And, what do you think happened? Yep… The rod did the work…the line unfurled perfectly. Target was hit.


Bazinga!


This is only one instance of how the art of the pause implemented into fly fishing was a smashing success.

I could bore you with countless stories of “this is the bug that should be working but the river had other ideas and if I’d just stopped forcing my will, took pause, and observed (we often observe but are we truly looking?? Or looking to confirm our preconception??) I’d have saved myself a hell of a lot of frustration and probably caught more fish or at least given myself the chance!”


Sometimes I find that pausing comes back with the answer, "It's just not going to happen today.”


This is a valuable lesson too. Some days the fish aren’t going to cooperate no matter what you do. A full moon the night before...the river jumped and doubled in flow... God and Mother Nature have conspired to turn fish against us. 


Then, if I'm okay with casting practice, I'm golden. But if I'm going to force my will, well, I might just be outmatched. 


Life is like that too, ya know. Some things I want or think I want but the season just isn’t right. There’s something there or not there that needs to be. I haven’t learned the lesson(s) yet to be ready for the thing. So I can force it and feel the frustrations, or I can pause and let it show up when I'm/it's truly ready. When I've learned and changed habits. Allowed.


There are days to fish hard sun up to sun down. This isn't one of those days. This is a necessary pause.

So (and this is more of a note to self than an instruction on how you should live your life) I’d suggest implementing the art of the pause in all aspects of your fishing endeavors. Earlier.


Even start with…a pause. Read the water. Let it tell you what's up today before you decide to force your will. 'Tis much easier...and more enjoyable... to flow with her moods than to fight against them.


I think my wife would probably tell you that I could implement the art of the pause sooner in many aspects of life, not just while tossing fuzzy hooks in the water.


So, next time you’re fighting your fly rod, the flows, the hatch/lack of, or your spouse,  see if you can let your mind dig up this little nugget.


After all, fishing is supposed to be fun. And it is. But it can also be frustrating. If you let it.


But that frustration is simply an immediate manifestation of what we need to learn. I wish life could always be that straightforward.


Cheers, and tight lines,


Nic


PS. It can be.

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I love the analogy Nic. So many folks I talk to say slowing down is the one piece of advice they’d give their younger fly fishing self. Your stories were a great reminder for me…Thanks for another thoughtful article.

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Thanks for the feedback, sir. Always happy to hear from you.

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