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.
Bloody Hell, it’s a tough life being a casting instructor. I have been so busy lately that I haven’t had time to even go fishing let alone update this blog. I did start a piece about the ‘loops gathering in Strathdon but I didn’t get time to finish it and because it happened more than twenty-four hours ago I have forgotten what went on, except, we did have a good time, made some new friends and got re-aquanted with old ones. I didn’t do any actual fishing but I did watch some Aus lose a salmon, again. I will have to have a go at this salmon fishing lark. It seems you just keep chucking flies into a known pool and, eventually, one will get really pissed off at being continually buzzed by some fur and feather concoction and have a go at it. Getting it to stay hooked is another matter, apparently. Or, you just run a Woolly Bugger through some runs trying to catch a trout and a salmon decides it’s lunch time and before you know what’s what you have a seven or eight pound salmon on the bank Like Trevor Bourne did
. I did film Matt losing his fish but I don’t have the heart to put it up on Youtube.
I had a very nice weekend with the BFCC at Sportfish last weekend. Saturday was particularly hectic with virtually non stop instructing most of the day, even though we had help from various quarters as Paul Arden, Gilly Bate and Matt Howell stepped in to give me, Mark Surtees, Roger Miles ,Mike Marshall and Alex Titov a occassional break. One thing that really surprised me was the amount of women who wanted to have a go. In fact there were far too many for Mike Marshall to monopolise and we all had our share, for a change. I love teaching women, they are generally a lot easier than men. I was lucky to have a couple who showed real promise, one in particular was so good I stopped the lesson a bit early because I didn’t want to run the risk of it all going wrong. The BFCC really seems to be meeting a need at the moment as our meetings seem to be getting busier and busier, almost to the point where competitions are getting harder to organise around all the instructing going on.
I have just got in from running a casting clinic for a local syndicate water and I have other lessons in the pipeline. This has been my busiest year so far and my garden is suffering, I have seeds to sow and a lawn in dire need of a good mowing. Ah, I see I am free tomorrow afternoon. I bet it rains.
The BFCC had an excellent day in ‘alright my lover country’ last weekend. Devon is very green compared to my corner of the country. The only bugbear was that for some reason the lines just didn’t turnover despite a nice breeze. If a lot of the casts hadn’t just collapsed most distances would have been ten or more feet better. Still, those were the conditions on the day and we all did our best.
I have been mulling over what type of instructor I am. I have concluded that because a lot of the instructing I do is twenty-minute ones for the BFCC at our instructing events I tend towards the quick fix. Not necessarily a bad thing because you quickly learn to get to the nub of the problem and try to fix it. If the client goes away happy then it’s job done, if we enthuse them then even better. However, this short burst style instructing probably colours the way I approach my other instructing, which may or may not be a good thing. I have never used a lesson plan, for instance. I talk to the client and try to find out what they want from the lesson, mostly realistic but sometimes not. I am also a great believer in getting them casting as soon as possible which gives me a chance to assess their skill level. If I see a problem or two I address those first, hopefully sorted quite quickly before we move on to what they want, be it distance, double hauling, presentation etc. But, sometimes we never get beyond trying to fix the faults, which can be frustrating for both of us no doubt. This is why I can’t see the use of a lesson plan for individual clients or even couples come to that. In fact when having two or more I think it’s even more important to be flexible because so often one will progress much faster than the other. I know this can sometimes lead to me running around like a blue arsed fly and leaving me knackered after a couple of hours but if at the end of it I feel that there has been satisfactory improvement then I am happy to do it.
There has been some talk recently about teaching the mechanics to students. By this I mean we explain what they are trying to achieve and how to achieve it. I take this to mean the five essentials or a version of them. I have seen some clients eyes glaze over when I have tried to explain Straight Line (tip)Path (SLP), I think a lot of them would lose the will to live if I then went on to explain the other four essentials. In the last four years I can think of only four or five occasions where I realised the client actually needed to understand why before they could get to grips with the how, and a couple of those latched onto the theory as an excuse not to actually do any casting, they just wanted to talk (bollocks mainly).
There is also a huge difference between teaching beginners, intermediates and potential casting instructors. Beginners come in all sorts, from never holding a rod of any description before to those who come from another fishing discipline. intermediates also fall into several groups, those who have fly fished for years and are self-taught (me ten years ago), those who are competent casters but have a problem they want cured, those who want to add a few feet of distance, etc. Perhaps a few of the intermediate would benefit from an understanding of the mechanics. Potential casting instructors are the only group that actually have to understand the mechanics. They need to know to pass their assessment, they need to know so that they can see and fix casting faults, they need to know so they don’t look a complete pillock when discussing fly casting to other instructors (easily done btw).
This year in particular I will have many opportunities in various scenarios to try to adapt my instruction to suit the situation. I am going to try a more formal demonstrate and explain at a couple of casting clinics. I will be doing the full on mechanics with Mark Surtees at the EWF in Munich where we are holding a workshop for CCI candidates. I will be doing loads of quick fixes at BFCC events and I will trying different approaches on the one to one lessons I do.
The more instructing I do the more I enjoy it. I just hope a few of my clients enjoy it as well.
Did you realise there were people out there who neither know about, or even want to know about, fly casting and fly fishing? I know, I didn’t believe it myself…..until this weekend. No, they are more interested in dogs, horses, owls, hawks, ferrets and wildfowling. It’s true, I’m not making this up!
It started auspiciously enough, sunny and warm, unheard of in living memory. Detling is where cold, wet and windy lives on a near permanent basis for most of the year. I guess it wanted a a day out on saturday and took itself off for day trip somewhere. I drew the short straw and had to do the first demo of the day in a small indoor arena with hardy anyone even at the show let alone wanting to see a fly casting demonstration. I was the warm up act with no-one to warm up. You would think that for a near demo virgin the idea of no-one seeing you would be quite comforting. It’s not, it is in fact quite unnerving to be talking to yourself for half an hour. However, I did discover a few hazards to avoid for my next scheduled humiliation, like overhead lights and roof trusses. I also discovered the limitations of using an MPR as a demo tool.
The next demo was in the outdoor arena. Much better all round. I actually had an audience, all three of them. Whoever you were, thank you. The last indoor demo of the day was an improvement on the first one by some margin, I actually heard a clap when I finished, only one, but I was grateful.
Heather and I then had to rush off to Muswell Hill to get to Marks reception before the food was gone, which thankfully we did as we hadn’t eaten all day. I will say no more about the wonderful evening other than to comment that Mark and Christina have some interesting friends and even more interesting relatives, and lots of them.
Day two started at a Hotel in Muswell Hill on the same morning the clocks went forward and we were meant to be somewhere else an hour ago, but we made it back to Detling where cold, wet and windy was back from it’s day off and had brought it’s mate, fog, for a visit. We could hardy see the area, just across the road, that had been set aside for the BFCC to give casting lessons. I was once again the warm up act in the indoor arena. Guess what? I actually had an audience to warm up. What a difference it makes to have some people to interact with. The demo had a purpose, and it showed. I even did a mini casting clinic for the last few minutes where I asked if anyone had any specific problems they wanted answered and tried to give them some solutions. Blessedly the fog decided to go home before my next outdoor demo and I was actually visible to those who were watching (yes, there were a few). I turned the wind to my advantage and focused on casts to cope with windy conditions and did the casting clinic again and overran my time by ten minutes.
Normal service was resumed at my last indoor demo. I was running out of steam and turned to one dogged spectator in the hope of ending with another mini casting clinic. ”Do you fly fish?”, he shook his head and I learned the real meaning of despair.
Ok, I have exagerated…slightly. I did enjoy it, I learned a lot. One lesson I am considering is training up something furry, feathery and/or cute for an audience to ahh at while I run through my program. I now understand why you never see Charles Jardine without his dog Midge.
On the plus side Mike Marshall, and Roger Miles with Terry Jenner snapping away merrily had a quite successful first year at the show providing BFCC casting instruction to those who were actually interested in fly fishing and fly casting. Nice one lads.
A few ideas have been on the back-burner for a while as I have been concentrating on other things, or, one other thing anyway (I am a one thing at a time sort of person).
Nothing is concrete, or even in the mixer yet. I have to discuss things with people I hope will also be involved before I can firm things up. I think my aim is to give something back to a hobby or sport, call it what you will, that has been the focus for a huge part of the last eleven years and has given me so much pleasure and personal achievement.
I have bemoaned the fact that my part of the country is not very well served for those of us interested in fly fishing and especially fly casting. If I had a pound for all the solitary hours I have spent practicing I would be quite a wealthy man. Unfortunately I wasn’t and I’m not!
The general idea is to help prepare people who want to become instructors by running mentoring sessions, workshops and pre test run throughs. I am hoping this will not be any association specific but there may be hurdles to this, we will just have to see how it pans out.
Another thing I intend to try to do in the near future is hold a BFCC regional event at the bottom of my garden. There is a cricket pavilion that can host a social event after the casting is over (bar and all). The lack of which is something I have heard a few moans about over the years. Provided there are three BFCC members present to ratify distances then casts will also be eligible for club records, if any are broken. There is enough space for all the events to be run provided I can get hold of the club T38 and T120 rods. I need to discuss possible dates with the cricket club before I can finalize details.
So there we are. Big ideas and not much of a clue how to get them to fruition. Anyone with ideas feel free to email me.
Jeez, I wish it would warm up. I was out in the field with someone yesterday and the wind cut through me like a knife. I had a coffee in the pub afterwards instead of my usual. The problem with having a session with someone preparing for a test is that you don’t do much casting yourself, you just stand there (trying to look as if you care) and freeze your nuts off for two or three hours. I thought I would go out this morning and have a chuck, just to see if I remembered what to do. Half an hour was more than enough to convince me I was better off indoors with a bowl of soup!. One day I will find a nice indoor venue that I can pop to once or twice a week, preferably with heating.
It’s only about four weeks until the BFCC event in Newark. It’s being combined with a shooting show this year. Apparently tackle manufactures and suppliers are having a hard time and can’t justify an event on their own, or, the organisers can’t. I seem to remember the shows were combined a couple of years ago and we (the BFCC) did brisk trade as shooters tried their hand at fly casting. It will be all hands to the pump in our instructing sessions. Anyway, if you’re there pop over and say hello and bring me a hot coffee and two sugars please.
After Newark things start to get a bit hectic. I am going to Denmark in March for the FFF euro conclave. In March and April I must find some time to have a session with an FFF Master or two for my preparation for my test. April I have a long weekend in Amsterdam that has nothing to do with a fly rod. Mid May is test time in Scotland. Mid May to end of May is probably going be spent working out where it all went wrong.
The test is a bit of a conundrum. I am not too worried about the casting aspect. There isn’t so much wrong that a couple of weeks of decent weather and a bit if concerted effort can’t put right. No. It’s the bloody questions they are going to fire at me that has me more concerned. I could do the casting test in about half an hour, or less, but the test can last up to four hours. That’s a serious amount of time spent grilling the poor sucker (me). They are going to need a JCB to dig me out of some of the holes I am going to dig for myself.
Ah well, I had better be off and start cleaning the shovel.
I finished the old one off by having a day’s fishing at Stowting and hard work it was too. Fish are strange creatures. You would have thought that they would be in the 80% of the lake that was ice-free. I eventually found them on the edge of the ice up the shallow end. I was literally casting onto the ice and then retrieving the fly as close to the ice as I could. I eventually landed a ‘bow of about 4 1/2 lb and missed a couple of others.
The new issue of the FFF mag, Loop, is out
, if you want something to read. The FFF’s very own Lara Croft, Denise Maxwell, Blog Raider, has been pillaging the site again.
It seems the FFF want to create a list of ‘current’ or active instructors. There is a list of instructional activities that have been allocated points. The idea is that provided you can tot up a minimum of ten points a year you will be deemed ‘current’. One of the activities is writing, and getting published, articles on fishing or casting. I have no idea if publishing via your own blog counts or not but even without the blog it would appear I have totted up sufficient points to be deemed current. One great thing is that it does not have to related purely to FFF activities so the workshop I gave and those I attended at the GAIA meeting count, as does the instructing I do for the BFCC.
Harry Merritt described a nice excercise to get young students to control the size of their loops. Harry seems very committed to working with young people and bemoaned the fact that, apparently, the FFF seem to lack interest in interacting with youth groups such as the Scouts. I can’t help feeling they are missing a trick here.
Incidently, while on the subject of teaching the young, do Americans have to go through the same process as we (UK) do to teach youngsters. I pretty much have to prove I am not a pedophile before I am allowed to teach them, plus I have to go on a course or two and pass exams. They are not cheap either.
Peter Greenon’s article is especially thought provoking as it pertains directly to me and my quest to be a Master. The main thought being, am I worthy.
This blog has existed exactly two years now and after a frenetic period where I was writing something every few days it has settled down to being something I use to put some order to my disjointed thoughts. This is order? I hear you say. Compared to what goes on in my head sometimes this is very orderly.
I don’t think I suffer from SAD but I find it a real struggle to enthuse about anything at this time of year. With that in mind I have cleared out the green house, replaced some broken glass and I am going to get my heated propagator working. I am going to buy compost and seeds and sow them, then I am going to watch them grow. Spring is not that far away, thank goodness.
I’m still here, I just haven’t had much to write about. In fact it has even been a chore joining in some online conversations. That’s one of the problems of being a bit of a loner, you get out of the loop and have a job getting back into it again. However, this weekend I will be fully immersed in casting stuff again so hopefully I will be back firing on all cylinders and thinking, and talking, casting bollox again. It may even open the flood gates to a veritable deluge of bollox for you to suffer.
Myself and Mike Marshall have been invited to by Gaia to represent the BFCC and give a couple of workshops at their get together in Wales. MM is doing tournament casting, the big stuff, and I will be doing one on full line distance casting, the less manly five and seven weight stuff. I have never done anything like it before, in fact I have never even attended a workshop before; so it could be very interesting….for all the wrong reasons! If anyone reading this is attending then please be kind. Mind you, they do have a choice between me and Frank Williams, who is giving another workshop at the same time. That’s a bit of a bummer actually because Frank and I have been trying to have a cast together for the last couple of years.
I also have another interest in the meeting, Roger the Dodger is taking his assessment tomorrow. I have just seen the weather forecast and it ain’t looking good. I hope to goodness they can find somewhere that is a bit sheltered from the wind. Rather him than me. A strong wind would be my worst nightmare. Good luck Rog.
I will let you know how Rog and I got on.
Fly casting is such a simple thing, on the face of it. Yet even after ten years of pretty intensive casting, discussing, instructing and being instructed something comes up to make you look at everything again but from a slightly different angle. The odd thing is you may have to make only some very minor adjustments to what you are already doing. It isn’t necessary to make wholesale changes, it may be as simple as a slightly different visualisation of the whole process of casting a fly line.
The case in point, at the moment, is head casting. I have always appreciated the necessity of slowing down loop speed and I have tried lots of different devises to try to achieve it, none of them particularly effective. For those that don’t understand the dilemma, here is the problem. Once a loop is formed it will travel to the end of the line and turnover. While the loop is unrolling it will pull the shooting line along. Once the loop has unrolled the whole lot will just collapse to the ground way before it would have done if you could have delayed the turn over. Heads, by definition, are much shorter than a normal fly line. They can vary from 30′ to 60′, more or less. Once a loop has formed there is only a very limited time before it turns over and collapses. The shorter the head the worse the problem. This was why I used long heads when trying to discover a way of winning the CLA saltwater comp. It was always a compromise solution and never very satisfactory (and I never won, though I got close one year). My hatred of the T38 and the T120 events at BFCC meetings stem from the same problem, only exacerbated by the fact both are high density lines where line speed and turnover are phenomenally fast and I would watch the loop turn over like lightning and collapse in a bloody heap at a distance I could sometimes achieve with a conventional seven weight. Those of you with a sharp eye may have noticed I cast a reasonably respectable distance at last weekends Brentwood meeting with both the T38 and the T120. Neither are earth shattering but both, as far as I know, represent personal bests. The best thing about them is that I was consistently in the same ballpark with pretty well every cast rather than just managing to get one to a bit further than the others.
Now, apparently, this phenomenon I have finally discovered is not such a big secret. I have discussed it with one or two friends and they have told me they have known about it for years. Well, thanks for telling me about it guy’s. Thank you for making me sweat blood and tears. Thank you for making me look a complete amateur. Thank you for letting me waste endless hours throwing lines that collapse in a mess. Thank you for the disenchanted trudge back home after another hour of pointless practice.
Thank you Ruddi Ferris for finally showing me the way to enlightenment and competence and restoring some self-respect.
Sometimes, just sometimes, it all seems worthwhile. I usually get one worthwhile moment during a BFCC instructing weekend and maybe one or two a year from my own instructing. This is not to say I don’t enjoy all the rest but a few outstanding moments really do make it all worthwhile. And then I get two on consecutive days. Yesterday I had the pleasure of taking a group at Walthamstow. One young lad, Ben, was the only one who had done any fly fishing so had a bit of a head start on the others but he was as keen as mustard and soaked up information like a sponge and then put it into practice. Today I witnessed something quite magical. I gave my usual demo to a couple of students then used Lee Cummings method to get them keeping a line in the air. The young lad, Bobby, was using a cheapy glass fibre rod that he had recently bought while on holiday to have a go at fly fishing a stream. It actually cast quite well but was a bit heavy for a beginner to be casting for a long time so I lent him mine and left him to get used to it while I concentrated on his friend. I kept an eye on him and gave him the bit of advice and I suddenly realised he was casting the sweetest loops. ‘Ok, clever clogs, pull of another three feet and see what happens’. Then minutes later the fantastic loops are back. ‘ Make your back cast a bit higher’. And he does, just like that. These are really nice, tight, loops and consistent. I was more than happy with his progress but thought I would push my luck and teach him to double haul. He had never heard of it but picked up the concept quickly. We did half a dozen pantomimes and then moved on to hauled back cast/drop the line, hauled forward cast/drop the line. Bobby soon had the rhythm so we moved onto continuous false casting. We sorted out a little timing problem and, hey presto, perfect double hauling and beautiful loops. We finished off by casting and shooting to targets to about fifty feet or more. As a final challenge I got him to pick up his own rod and cast it. He could, and did. Fantastic.