I have just got back from a BFCC meeting in Oswestry which I will write more about on the BFCC website. One of the people attending was Steve Parkes who makes AtomSix rods, and, of course, he brought along a rod or two for us to play with. The standout one for me was the #5 Tachyon, which I am sure is capable of making some seriously long casts but when I talked to Steve I told him I thought that if the bottom two sections could be beefed up slightly it would make a wonderful comp rod. Later in the day he put a rod in my hands and told me to try it and lo and behold I had a real cannon in my hands. I could only play with it for a few minutes but it had so much potential I didn’t want to put it down. The only other rod I have had like it was the original silver Hardy Angel TE. It was the only rod I have ever owed that you could keep asking more from and it would give it to you…until it broke….and broke again, and again. I feel the rod Steve handed to me has the same potential (not for breakage). These are not easy rods to cast, you have to work them out. Nearly all the #5 rods I use for distance have some limitation that you have to recognise and work within, it’s nice to get one where you can go beyond the normal boundaries. If Steve decides to market whatever it was he put in my hands I will buy one.
Having a beer with a rod builder is interesting experience. I learned more about rods and how they are designed, blanks made and built in an hour than I have in the previous ten years. Steve is an enthusiast, I normally steer well clear of enthusiasts they can be a bit of a pain in the arse (where is a smilie when you want one? It would be an ironic one) but an interesting enthusiast is a pleasure to be around…especially if he happens to build bloody nice rods.
How does a loop work? What are the forces involved? What is a loop? You would think it they fairly straight forward questions. I have always had it in the back of my mind that someone, somewhere knew the answer. I just hadn’t heard it. It comes as a bit of a surprise to find out that in fact no-one knows how the bloody thing works. All very disconcerting for someone who bases his casting instruction around creating the things. However during the process of trying to find out how a loop works I have discovered a lot of things that aren’t involved in how they work. Centrifugal force for one. Apparently it doesn’t even exist. As far as I understand it the expression is just used to give a description of something revolving around a fixed object (like whirling a ball around and around attached to a piece of string while holding the string). The force involved in that is actually centripetal and there are no centripetal forces in a loop (so I understand). Apparently it’s not a wave either, verified twice, independently, within a matter of minutes last weekend. It is a kind of wave. What kind of wave it is was apparently unexplainable. Then there are the things that are actually involved like momentum, tension, drag and gravity, but not the conservation of momentum (or energy for that matter) because that (or those) are offset by drag and gravity and would also depend on which way you were casting in relation to any wind. Then there is the conundrum; is the fly leg pushing into the loop? Is the fly leg being pulled into the loop? Is there some sort of equilibrium?
All this leaves me in a bit of a quandary because, for me, the very essence of fly casting is creating a loop. I demonstrate how the loop is the fly delivery system. I eulogise on how beautiful they are, how dynamic they can be, that the rod is just a tool for launching loops. I now discover that that the whole thing is mysterious , ethereal, perhaps even magical. Certainly not the almost sentient, dynamic, living, breathing entity that I have been spouting off about to my students in an effort to get them to understand how vital they are.
Perhaps if I ever did discover how a loop works I will be so disappointed at the simplicity of it or overwhelmed by the complexity of it that I will give it all up.
So, if anyone tells you they understand how a loop works take it with a pinch of salt.
I went for another walk along the river today. This time I went a mile or so downstream of the factories. The river is in the best condition I have ever seen it, almost chalk stream clear. I saw some fish, not many, but at least I saw some. It would be an almost perfect trout stream, except there aren’t any trout. I spotted a lone Perch and not a very big one, not big enough to be solitary but unfortunately it was. I spotted a small shoal of Chub but not the bigger ones I have seen in the past. I did catch a glimpse of something of a reasonable size but we spotted each other at the same time and he melted away. I saw three or four dozen May Flies, I even managed to catch one. Three or four dozen may not seem a lot in the scheme of things but to me it was magic, I have never seen one on this river until yesterday. I saw several laying eggs so it looks promising for the future. I also saw a few mid sized olives coming off, again something I can’t remember seeing before. It’s a shame there are no trout to rise to them. Absolutely no sign of the shoals of small stuff I used to see. I will have to take regular walks along the river in future and see what transpires. I will take a fly rod and see if I can tempt a Chub or two. I found a few places I can get in and practice switch casting but there are no places wide enough to do any kind of change of direction casts.
Talking about casting, I have been out practicing with a 27g head. The BFCC are introducing it to replace the nine weight event we used to have. If anyone is interested Mike Barrio has the lines for the job, you get two in one. Cut it in the right place and you get two versions, one slightly longer than the other. You will need a set of scales because it will need to be weighed and cut to get it right. I suggest 26g or 26.5g to make sure you are within the regulations. I am getting quite good results from a 10′ eight weight rod but I think a ten weight or more might be better. That’s the beauty of this event, you can make up an outfit to suit yourself (within limits) the rules are now up on www.thebfcc.co.uk .
Talking of which we (the BFCC) have their next event in Ashford next weekend. Come and have a go.
I have just come in from taking Albert for a walk. We often go via a route that allows me to walk half a mile of the river Stour where it boundaries farm land on one side and a perfume and food processing factory on the other. It looks, on the face of it, perfect. Deep runs, shallow riffles, gravel beds and four or five kinds of water weed beginning to grow quite profusely. I didn’t see any hatch but there were swarms of tiny flies just above the surface of the water. I was hit in the face by what may have been a sedge fly and, right upstream, I saw three May Flies, which I got quite excited about because I have never seen a May Fly on this river. I saw several Pied Wagtails flitting over the surface and a swan serenely…swanning about. You may notice something missing…fish. All the way to just beyond the last culvert that brings water in from the factories I never saw a single fish. Not the shoals of little Roach or Dace that are always over the gravel, nor any Pike lurking in ambush places. Nothing. Not until I got passed the last culvert and I spotted four Chub, not big, just a pound or so, but they were the first signs of anything fishy I had seen. I used to know this part of the river quite well, I worked for a while for a company that did the maintenance at the factories and I often used to go to certain spots to watch the Perch and good sized Roach and once even saw a Brown Trout. I don’t know if the fish have all been pushed out by all the flooding we had last year and over the winter or whether it’s something to do with the factories. I know they have to sample the water quite frequently and I would have expected the rules and regulations to be much more stringent than they were back in the seventies when I worked there so I am slightly baffled about the lack of fish. Next time I will go further down stream, below the factories, and see what’s happening. In recent years there has been a good head of Chub with a few in the four or five pound category. I hope they are still there.
There I was just sitting there chewing the fat and watching some nice casting when Magnus Angus from Fly Fishing and Fly Tying asked me if I would like to be interviewed. He had some new equipment he wanted to try out. So I was miked up and had a camera pointed at me. ’What’s your name’ was my cue to then babble on for thirty seconds or so and I found myself saying that, essentially, I was here for the older person. Basically I was saying I am to oldies casting what the Spice Girls were to girl power, a zig a zig ha. I really hadn’t thought of it in those terms until now. I think it’s fair to say I am often the oldest person at the annual Sexyloops gathering, the oldest competitor anyway, and I have been for a while now. I am still slightly perturbed that, at my age, I am still worthy of being a notch on someone’s rod butt. I am not the oldest, by some margin, at a lot of the BFCC events. It’s actually very rewarding to see someone as old or older improve their casting to a point where they are happy to compete but the BFCC seems to bring the older caster back into the sport for some reason and most of them improve tremendously with a little bit of guidance. Of course there are some who, once they have the ability, can keep producing some stunning casting. For instance Mike Marshall was 73 when he took my seven weight record off me and still casts the tournament gear better than pretty well everyone in the club regularly putting a T115 well over 200ft, to our continues awe. I still get to win the odd event although it peeves me to be asked if I want to claim a record based on my age (which I feel I have to otherwise records become meaningless).
So, if you are feeling you are may be a bit passed your best think again. Even as we slide into the autumn of our years we may still create the burst of colour that enhances and enriches our lives and puts the wind up some of the younger folk who think they have the right to beat us just because they are younger.
So far this year it has been quieter than last year. I haven’t done half as much instructing but I have been doing some traveling. Wales three times, one of them actually catching some fish and Scotland for ‘Loops gathering plus a trip to Devon and another to Hampshire for a day in the pouring rain. Apart from my holiday I don’t intend going aboard at all this year so I have plenty of time to add a few feet to the mature fly fisher who wants to go out in a blaze of colour by showing the youngsters that there is life in the old dog yet.
I sometimes wonder if I live in an alternative existence. I cast mainly on grass, which we all know isn’t real casting. I have taken to smoking electronic cigarettes, which we all know isn’t real smoking, and I own a Chihuahua, which we all know isn’t a real dog. I don’t look deeper than that because I may find a lot of the things I do aren’t real, like my fishing, which is mostly imaginary.
However, they all perform a function which keeps me (mainly) happy and sane. Casting on grass keeps me tuned up, allows me to work things out and often gives me some wind down time after a hectic day. The electronic cigarettes have saved me a shit load of money, don’t stink the house out and (until proved otherwise) are better for my health. The not quite dog is also good for me (I am sitting here quietly cooling down after taking him for a long walk).
Of course these alternatives do have some down sides. Spey casting on grass is very far from being the same as doing it on water. For the first time ever I have been frustrated by the weather because the only place locally I can practice speys on water has been unusable because the river is running too high to get to the spots I can wade. I may have found a still water but I am waiting for conformation I won’t be seen as a potential poacher and suddenly have the police turn up to arrest me.
Electronic cigarettes have to be charged up and I occasionally revert to the real thing while I am waiting, and, why are they charged via a USB which means I must have the computer on to charge them? Especially as I smoke the most while on the computer in the first place.
The down side to owning a Chihuahua is trying to remember how to spell it. Apart from that it’s nearly all good. Nearly.
I think I have written about this before but it has never, to my knowledge, been picked up on and discussed.
I was doing some filming a few years ago to see if there was a visible difference in casting angle between hauled and un-hauled casts to the same distance. I cast 20/30/40, up to about 100′ hauled and un-hauled. I could not see any visible difference in casting arc between the two although theoretically there should be. But that’s another story. While I was doing all this it gradually dawned on me that line fall (the time it took the line to land from the stop) was pretty much the same regardless of how far I was casting. About three seconds. I suspect that many of us assume the further we were casting the longer the line was in the air. I did a series of casts trying to keep the line as horizontal as I could and was slightly taken aback when I realised the time frame from stop to line land was pretty similar no matter how far I was casting. Of course we can give ourselves a little bit more time by altering trajectory upwards but this will only give us another second or so. If we fired a bullet for maximum distance I understand that the trajectory would need to be about 45deg upwards. The bullet is only taking itself along so is only subject to the laws of gravity, air resistance, drag, etc. A loop has all these plus it’s trying to drag an ever-increasing mass behind it as well (as we shoot line) so a 45deg trajectory is far from the best angle of delivery, in fact I would be surprised if even 20deg was the upwards trajectory for distance. But there again this is not what I want to discuss, better brains than mine can work that one out.
What is the difference between a 20′ cast and a 120′ cast if they only have a similar time frame to get to where they are going? It can only be line speed. The problem is that to achieve maximum effective linespeed* we have to increase everything and increasing everything (stroke length, casting angle, haul speed and length) means more margin for errors in things like tracking, application of force etc. The little things that you can get away with on your fishing casts become magnified to major efficiency problems when you go for distance. Linespeed isn’t about adding brute force to the casting stroke it’s about adding speed. To get this speed we need the whole of the overall casting stroke to be effective, we need to be moving a taut line 180deg from the backcast. We need to add the haul at the moment it is going to add directly to line speed and we need to release the line at the perfect moment of maximum linespeed.
The various parts of the casting stroke now break down to exquisite peices of timing and once you release the line you only have three or four seconds to see if you got it all right.
* Maximum effective linespeed. Believe it or not linespeed can be too fast. Not so much on full lines but certainly on some weight forward lines and shooting heads. Basically loop speed is half linespeed on a unhauled cast plus whatever your haul speed is on a hauled cast. If loop speed is too fast it will turnover before you have reached maximum distance and all you have left is line momentum which almost instantly dissipates and the line collapses in an ugly pile. The opposite can happen as well, loop speed too slow…with similar results.
I remember the first time I was asked if I had ever considered being an instructor. I laughed. I was not instructor material. Too impatient. It was four or five years later that I did finally get around to the idea that I might like to try it…properly. I say properly because I found I was one of those annoying gits that can’t keep their mouth shut when they see someone struggling and whenever there were a group of us together, usually at one of Paul Ardens shootouts, I would find myself offering all sorts of ‘useful’ advice. I was, by then, a decent distance caster and was only too eager to pass on some of the knowledge and experiences I had in an effort to help the person short-circuit some of the problems I had had. I was also mixing with a lot of instructors by then and wondered if I could actually cut the mustard fly casting wise. Proper fly casting. The twiddly stuff. Useful fishing stuff, not just banging it out as far as I could. So I printed off the FFF CCI assessment and set to it. One thing I read (somewhere) was that the candidates nearly always did better on the test if they had actually done some instructing. Apparently (and it’s true) that when it came to the teaching parts of the assessment your answers would be coloured by the experiences of the problems you had found when instructing and you were less likely to give a purely theoretical answer. I found I was in a bit of a spot. I didn’t know if I could instruct and I didn’t feel it was right to charge for what was probably going to be sub service value for money. As luck would have it, because of my distance reputation, I had a few guys quite locally who were willing guinea pigs. I owe them a lot. I discovered I was right, I was too impatient. I wanted instant results, if one thing didn’t work (almost instantly) I quickly moved onto another way…and then another. And all the time I was jabbering away and never giving them space to work anything out for themselves. If they were having a two hour lesson them by God they were going to have two hours.. full on. Poor sods. It gradually dawned on me that if I was the client being treated this way I would never have another lesson. I never got it instantly (or ever in some cases) when I had lessons. I would pick up some tips, learn a layout, be enlightened on some point or other then go home and work it out in my own time. That’s how I learn. |The big discovery was that everyone is different. I have a couple of friends who you can describe a cast to and you can see them visualise it in their heads and then do it (bastards), I have others that you need to demo it several times, then there are others you need to demonstrate and explain it and a few, like me, who rarely get it on the day but they get the idea and will eventually work it out for themselves.
Instructing isn’t a science, it’s an art. There is no right way (although there are a few wrong ways).First of all you have to be comfortable in your own ability and then you have to have a realistic expectation. Accept the bad days and enjoy the good ones. I have had days where I wanted to give the money back because I didn’t feel the client had achieved what I had expectations of them achieving and I have had days where I wanted to give the money back because the client had far exceeded my expectations and I had enjoyed myself too much.
With the advent of the internet anyone is able to offer advise. If the person who posed the question is a beginner they have no way of judging if the advise they are receiving is good or bad. They don’t know if the advise is from an instructor or just someone with an opinion (that often conflicts with the instructors advice). This is a problem on some forums. Until quite recently I generally only offered ‘advice’ on Sexyloops where I knew and accepted that if it was wrong or bad advice I would soon know about it. On other forums I have seen good advice criticized by armchair pseudo instructors. If you are one of these I suggest you offer your services to a paying client. That will give you a whole new perspective on instructing, or it should do if you have any sense of obligation to give value for money.
Either that or put yourself up for assessment.
Well that will teach me to try to pander to the masses. Not one solitary hit from Australia since the last post.
Some of you may have wondered if I have done anything about creating the blog for the instructors group. I have and here is a link
. There is not a lot on there yet but there is an ‘events’ tab that may interest some of you. I have listed all the events to do with fly fishing/casting/instructing that I know about but there will be a lot I don’t know about, especially regional ones. If you email the details to me I will add them.
The group has members from all the domestic casting associations as well as the IFFF so if any of you want to become instructors you can come along and find out which one is the best fit for you. Keep an eye on the blog for details of our meetings. If you want to be added to the list of people I send out emails to let me know.
What’s worse, the waiting for the snow or the anti climax when all you get is a dusting? I know some of you have had it quite badly but to watch the weather forecast is akin to being warned about Armageddon. Then the BBC decide it’s bad enough to have a special news program about how the snow had brought Britain to a halt. Are they determined to make us a laughing-stock? What the hell do you expect in winter, a bloody sun tan? Mind you I might change my tune tomorrow when it’s our turn to get dumped on.
I don’t know if any of you use WordPress. When we check the stats there is a world map and countries get coloured to show where the site hits have come from. Yesterday Australia was the hottest. Half my hits came from Aus. I don’t recall that happening before. I haven’t had a lot of contact with our Aussy friends, the ones I have met (apart from one, I will get to in a moment) seem pretty normal, in an Aus sort of way. Some of them seem to have a problem keeping salmon on the hook and make strange horsey noises as they fish. I can’t say whether that’s normal or not. I had a brief encounter with a couple in New Zealand which coloured my opinion for a while. We were touring South Island and gone to look at a waterfall somewhere down south As we walked towards it the Aus couple were walking back to the car park. As we passed he said’ g’day mate’ and I replied ‘hello’. He instantly turned to his wife and said ‘f’kin poms everywhere’ in a tone I used to moan about f’kin sandflies everywhere. I’m still a bit nonplussed about it even after all these years. On the premise that God created all things for a purpose what did He have in mind when He created f’kin sandflies? They serve no purpose other than to irritate. A bit like a Brit to an Aus…perhaps. Anyway, g’day and welcome.
I can’t really give Matt any flack for losing a couple of salmon, at least he hooked them. I have traveled quite a bit and I don’t remember even hooking a fish outside England and I mean England. I’ve fished in Scotland and Ireland (not Wales yet) and haven’t hooked one in either. Now, when I say ‘fished’ I mean I have snatched the odd hour or two on an otherwise non fishing holiday. It’s possible I hold the world record for countries I have blanked in. There are some impressive ‘fishy’ countries on the list apart from Scotland and Ireland, like New Zealand and Cuba. You may put this down to incompetence, I just put it down to bad luck. Perhaps I could make catching a fish in any county I visit my New Years resolution. I can’t come home until I have caught one. I wonder how much the flight is to Australia?
I tell a lie, I have caught a couple of Asp in Hungary, probably the only two there, and I nailed a six inch brownie on a small loch in Scotland. I feel much better now.