Fly Fishing Jazz: “The Rest”

River Mur, Styria Austria

River Mur, Styria Austria. Photo by Karncikl

IN MY LAST “JAZZ” COLUMN, I wrote about Charlie Parker and the Be-Bop style, which described firing off notes (perfect notes), in rapid progression. And Be-Bop is amazing, if for no other reason than it demonstrates technical acumen on a level that can (and should) be appreciated, even if it cannot be duplicated. We fly fishers should strive to be able to play “Be-Bop” on the river.

But now I’m going to the other side of the musical spectrum, in order to focus on another, equally important, aspect of musical theory. Let’s talk about the “rest.”

In music, there is great beauty in economy of expression and effort. Sometimes, that lingering pause is there for a reason—it adds effect to what just happened, and what will happen. That’s also true with fly fishing.

Eric Clapton is not a “jazz man.” But he is one of the best blues musicians in the world, and one of the best rock guitarists ever—suffice it to say if he wants to play jazz, he can. Jazz and the blues are interconnected. Clapton also happens to be an avid fly fisherman.

They call him “Slowhand” for a reason, and that’s not to slam an inability to play fast licks in rapid progression (he can). It’s because he lingers on notes—accentuates the tone, for effect, before moving on to others. Clapton gets the most out of every note played, every time.

As a fly fisher, you should also endeavor to do the same.

That shot you drop in a run with a Parachute Adams: three seconds is average, four seconds is professional, but five seconds is music. When you’re committed to that cast, and that presentation, make it linger. That is, in musical terms, the tone, the vibrato, the effect. And this added time not only gives the trout more time to consider its course of action, it also increases your chances of hooking up.

When I fish with others, I like to see the ability to play licks at speed, but even more important to me, I like to see an ability to make a note (in this case, a cast) linger. Get the very most out of every cast you make. Make it linger, for effect. Make it ride higher, longer, and more naturally—just like Clapton works a chord, or especially a single note on his Fender Stratocaster.

Find the position, then work the tone, and make it reverberate.

Keeping dry flies in the music, as long as possible means more than landing on the note—it’s all about the tone and resonance that follows the splash.