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Part Ninety

Randy Fratzke

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Yoga, Tai Chi, and the Art of Fly Casting

By Randy Fratzke

As most of you know, I fight a daily battle with a disease called Multiple Sclerosis. It's not something I 'caught' from someone, nor can I give it to someone (if I could, my ex would be the first to be in trouble). It's just one of those things that occurs to some of us, and apparently my number was picked. I always figure there are a lot of diseases out there that are a heck of a lot worse!

Recently though it has really started attacking my balance, agility and muscle control. So, as I often do, I talked with my MS counselor about it and she suggested that I start working out with some gentle, low impact, Yoga and Tai Chi exercises. She assured me that by forcing the mind to relax and communicate with the body, in most cases, it prolonged a persons stamina, range of motions, agility and balance, all the things I needed to work on.

The first thing that came into my mind was someone who could tie their bodies into a pretzel shape while balancing on one hand, upside down. Or of David Caradine walking through the old west, kicking the butts of all the bad guys with his bare hands and feet without ever loosing his temper or breaking a sweat. Wrong images!

What I have found out is there are probably as many forms of these exercises as there are states in the US. They range from very simple, slowly executed, muscle stretching and body toning exercises to the 'show boat' body twisting, pretzel nuts and Kung Fu butt-kicking. For those of you who know me, and the physical shape of my slightly rotund body, you already know there is very little chance I could twist my body into much more than a pudgy bread stick and the only butt kicking I could do would be to a very small dog, if it stood still long enough!

The point of this is, I've been using these two methods for about a month and a half now, pretty religiously, each morning, before breakfast. I vary them, using one for a couple mornings, then the other. The benefits are I've become more limber, lost some weight, and managed to start toning up a little. The third set of 'love handles' is also actually gone and, according to my wife, (and this is a real scary part to me!) my overall disposition has actually improved!

A really remarkable thing happened a few days ago when I went out to the front yard to start practicing my casting. I try to do some warm up casting each spring so I get rid of the winter rust and I don't scare the fish away the first time I walk down to the water and flail away. The practice sessions also help me keep from winding up with a lot of sore muscles and joints from trying to cast a couple of hundred times after not picking up a rod for the last 3 or 4 months. No hooks or flies on the line, just basic casting techniques. After the first couple of casts I noticed I was a lot calmer and I was concentrating more on my form and style and the muscles I was using to perform the different types of casts. I was using a more natural rhythm during the false casts and feeling the rod load more in my back casts. Instead of forcing the cast and muscling the rod I was letting it do the work (something JC and Ladyfisher pointed out to me in South Dakota last summer). I felt my breathing slow down and my body relax as the casts I practiced became more "advanced" and longer. After looking at my back casts a few times I could visualize the loop shape and associate it to the load in the rod. I could almost tell the size of the back loop by the shape and load in the rod. It was, as the younger set make so many references to, really awesome! I'm sure all of this was there before, but I was definitely not concious of it.

Now before you start thinking I'm trying to get everyone reading this involved with Yoga, Tai Chi, or some other form of exercise, I'm not. If your in good shape, good for you! If you do decide to start some new exercise regiment please get some advice from your physician or a professional to make sure your body can take it. For your own sake, start out slowly at the lowest level and work your way up. Trying too much too fast only damages your body and the failure damages your self esteem, especially if you've been out of it for a while and your body looks like mine - a genetic cross between the Pilsbury Doughboy and the Michelin Tire guy. Most of all, take some time this spring and practice, before you head for the water. If your lucky enough to live where the fishing is year round then you've probably been fishing continuously and don't need this. But if you live in the north and are required by nature to take a 3 to 4 month sabbatical every year, trust me, you need to prepare a little for it. If you head for the water and try to make a hundred casts the first day out, your arms, back and shoulders will remind you of it for the next couple of days!

If you see some guy along a creek doing a one legged, 'Crane Stand' double haul or a 'ward of left with lunge' cast, please, be assured, it's not me! But if you see a slightly less rotund version of that genetic blend described above, with a balding pony tail blowing in the wind, calmly waiting for the back cast loop to load to the gentle rhythm of some inner feeling given off by the rod, perhaps it's me. Of course it could be someone else who's found a way to cast better, farther, and more accurately. Regardless, stop by and talk with them. On the flip side, if they're flailing away with 20 foot casts, cursing themselves, the rod, the line and everything in sight, maybe stop by and help them out. Who knows, maybe you can mentor them or give them a few pointers. ~ Randy Fratzke

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