On our spearfishing courses we of course at some point cover how to aim. I think most people are however pretty surprised when we kinda skip over it without a huge amount of detail thrown in. Now this isn’t because we are trying to get home early but because aiming a speargun, or aiming a polespear (even more so) is an instinctive technique, or at least it should be.
Spearguns don’t come with laser sights, or even something that could even be called a sight really. Some manufacturers have little notches carved out of the butt of the guns in an attempt to create a sight of some sort, but really they are not particularly useful.
When we are freediving with a speargun or polespear our body and mind is focused on all manner of things. Being quiet, smooth, finding cover, getting set up for a shot, our weighting, our breath-hold, our equalising. Adding aiming in the traditional sense of the word to the mix often creates tension and a sort of performance anxiety that tends to scare the fish away. So we have to start to aim instinctively.
What does that mean exactly? Think of it this way… When you throw a ball at a target, do you aim for that target or do you just look at it and throw the ball? Im guessing its the latter right? But how did you do it without ‘aiming’? Its a combination of muscle memory and the millions of tiny calculations that your body and mind collaborate on to get that ball to the target, or as close as you can manage. our two eyes can judge distance, we take in to account wind and the weight of the ball, the elevation of the target, the ground we are standing on, our posture… plus a tonne of other things that we don’t even realise.
In spearfishing there are just as many variations, and the environment and the equipment simply does not allow us to make slow and considered ‘aimed’ shots. Even a fancy top end speargun is in fact a very primitive bit of kit, it’s basically a bow and arrow! They are accurate but they are not easy to aim like a gun above water… So we shoot instinctively!
Instinctive isn’t shoot ‘from the hip’ per se , but simply something more deep rooted, something based in the subconscious rather than the conscious mind. We look at the fish, we bring our gun or spear to bear and we release, and most of the time… it hits.
When i started spearfishing i had a Cressi speargun that had a notch of sorts that could be used as part of a sight window. The combination of me being a rank amatuer and the time i used to take lining up my shots meant i missed more than i hit. In fact one of the things i try to remember to tell my students is to stop thinking, to not try to aim and to not wait too long before you take the shot. If you lay there and ‘aim’, the chances are you will stiffen up and scare the fish or simply give the fish chance to get away.
To learn the true art of instinctive aiming underwater, get yourself a polespear. It doesn’t have to be a fancy carbon Evolve polespear , you could even make one yourself, but what it will do is force you to ignore the rules of ‘aiming’ and think a little bit less, and believe it or not, but the less you think whilst you are spearfishing, the more fish you will get!