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 http://friendlyflyfishing.wordpress.com . 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.
Perhaps I am in the wrong game, or the wrong part of it. When I reflect back on my fishing life I don’t get the same warm romantic/nostalgic feeling for trout fishing as I do for coarse fishing. I haven’t been coarse fishing for years so perhaps it’s a bit like looking back on summer holidays as a kid when it was always hot and sunny…when it obviously wasn’t…or perhaps it was..you never know with Global Warming being what it is…or isn’t. Anyway, when I think about my coarse fishing days it’s the mist on the water, the sunrise, the bubbles around the lilies as the tench rooted about, night fishing with a float that always seemed to be moving around. I have had a mole dig his way up between my legs because I hadn’t moved for hours. I have had Kingfishers on my rod, water rats within a foot or two. I had time to look up and smell the daisies. Fly fishing by comparison is all go, as Viking Lars says ‘you have to concentrate at all times’. The first time I fly fished a river (not that many years ago) I was astonished at how busy I was. No sooner had I cast upstream than the damn fly was back at my feet and I had to cast again..and again..and again. Bloody hard work if you ask me. At least on still water there is time to light a cigarette between casts, even smoke the damn thing occasionally. What I don’t miss is the dragging of a hundred weight of rods, tackle box, umbrella and bags of ground-bait and bait for miles to get to a good spot. Perhaps that’s why I saw so much wild life, I was too exhausted to move much once I had reached the spot. In coarse fishing you could bring the fish to you. Not so with fly fishing, you have to go and find them, which on several hundred acres of reservoir can be quite daunting if not damn nigh impossible at times, especially if, like me, you only fish them occasionally. In the ‘good old days’ when I used to fish Bewl every week I knew where to go, I knew the plot. These days I look at the vastness and wonder what the hell I am doing there.
I will never be a great fisherman because it’s never been about how many or how big, it’s just the pleasure of being there, but ‘having to concentrate at all times’ sort of takes away some of that just being there experience… and I miss that.
How did you start fishing? Father/uncle/brother used to take you now and then? Or perhaps you came at it sideways , like I did. None of my family fished as far as I know. I did occasionally fish as a kid. There was a pond near where I lived, I believe it was a bomb crater, or so legend had it. Thinking back I don’t think it was, unless it was from World war one, it was too overgrown and silting up. It was full of goldfish, big ones. How or why it only contained goldfish I never knew and I am never going to find out now because it’s been filled in. Me and another lad used to go there now and then and try to catch them and by pure luck we did manage to get the odd one or two. It was never a passion it was just something to do to fill an hour or two of the endless summer holiday. I do seem to be drawn to water for some reason. Perhaps that is why I became a plumber, or not. We lived in the sticks, two bus’ a day with a mile walk to the bus stop or a six or seven mile walk to the main road where there was one an hour. At the bottom of the field opposite our house was a stream. Even calling it a stream may be giving it a grandeur it didn’t deserve but I spent a lot of my childhood in it, one way or another, mostly deliberate sometimes by accident. I loved climbing trees and the best climbing trees were along the bank of the stream so now and then I entered the water from a greater hight than was good for me. I never saw a fish in the stream, not a Bullhead or a stickleback even though it was stuffed full of shrimp. You couldn’t turn a stone over without finding loads of them. The pond and the stream are linked, in my mind if not physically, because the stream is fed from a spring not far from the pond and when we heard the pond was going to be filled in three of us decided to save the goldfish and put them in the stream, and somehow, I don’t remember how, we did manage to put quite a few in the little stream. I also put some in a huge water-butt at home, where they lived quite happily for years. The stream wanders a long way, gradually becoming a proper stream. At one point it follows a road for a few hundred yards before it headed off across farmland and for years we enjoyed the thrill of spotting the odd goldfish as we walked or cycled by. One year I walked the stream for several miles and was astonished to find goldfish several miles downstream from where we had introduced them. I never once had the urge to fish for them. That stream was one of the sources for the Little Stour, which eventually becomes the Stour. I wonder if any of them made it to the big river.
So, when did I become a ‘proper’ fisherman? A proper compulsive fisherman. Believe it or not it started on my honeymoon. We couldn’t afford to go away so on an impulse I bought a load of second-hand gear from an advert in the local paper. £5 bought me a rod, reel, floats, tackle box and loads of odds and ends (this is 1971 btw) and my new wife and I would go down the canal and she would sunbathe while I tried to catch fish. I don’t recall how I became addicted, perhaps like addictions it creeps up on you without you realising it. I knew I was in trouble when my wife put her foot down when I was playing cricket Saturday and fishing Sunday. One of them had to go and I had to spend a bit of time with her……goodbye cricket.
Does two years on the trot count as a tradition? I hope not. I don’t want to have to get up every Christmas morning and write something on here. It just so happens I was awake with at least two hours to kill before there are any signs of life in the household. Well, me and Albert are awake, or he was before he fell asleep on my lap to leave me in peace while I tap away.
It’s raining…so what’s new? I often dream that when I win the lottery I will buy a house with a lake or river, or both. But seeing the floods on the news this year may make me revise my dream. Once is bad enough but recently it seems to have been every other week for some poor people and it’s especially tragic at this time of year.
This last year was, for me, quite a hectic one. For some reason I found myself doing something fly casting/fishing related nearly every weekend from February right through to July or August. Everything except fishing. I have tried to work out how many times I actually went and it may be as little as five times. That’s bad, even by my standards.
I popped my demonstrating cherry at the spring show at Detling thanks to Charles Jardine being unavailable. I did another one at Peterborough, thanks to several people being unavailable!. The IFFF event in Munich was a blast, great location and great people. Scotland was great (twice) and Wales and Southern Ireland and so were the various places I cast in England. If I had never got caught up in this fly casting lark I would never have gone to any of these places or met such a group of wonderful people.
The highlight was only a few weeks ago when we had the first meeting of the, as yet unnamed, group of fellow instructors at Reading. I was astonished at the support and very grateful to everyone who made the effort to be there. There will be a piece about it in the January issue of Eat, Sleep, Fish. The one benefit of the group is that I may actually get to do some fishing. There’s a novelty.
Have a Happy Christmas and a successful New Year. I hope Santa was kind
I want to go fishing. Perhaps not so badly that I am willing to go out in the pouring rain and a howling gale but badly enough that the moment it eases I am off….maybe. Something always seems to get in the way at the moment. I did actually set off the other day, hit a puddle hidden pot hole, smashed a wheel and buckled another. Volvo alloys are bloody expensive! I am fed up with fishing puddles for stocked trout so my target is Pike. I have the Royal Military Canal quite close. I used to fish it a lot in my course fishing days. I don’t expect any big fish. I suspect ten pounds would be as big as it gets, but it should be fun. I have tied up some flies, dug out my seven weight and await an opportunity.
I have joined AAPGAI as an associate member. Because I am an IFFF Master I would be entitled to take their Master assessment. I think that’s a bit presumptive so I will aim for the Advanced. When I think I am ready. I have to get my head (and the rest of my body) around spey casting. In the IFFF we only need to show we know the basics but I believe the AAPGAI assessment is 60% or more geared to speys in their various forms so I have a lot to catch up with. I have commented before that I don’t have much use for spey casting in my normal fishing life, plus I have very limited locations where I can practice on water. Mind you, there are some big puddles around at the moment. It’s no longer a stroll to the bottom of my garden to get to the cricket field. Grass has its uses but spey casting isn’t one of them, unfortunately.
Albert the wonder dog shows no sign of being easy to teach. His natural inclination is to chase the line around and, if he catches it, chew it. Either that or chase birds, which don’t seem to see him as a threat. They just fly ahead of him just out of reach, which spurs him on to greater effort. My God he can run, he is like a mini Wippet.
I am going to create a blog dedicated to ‘The Group’ over Christmas. I say I but I mean she, Robyn, my son’s girlfriend. She does this sort of thing for a living and knows about these things, which is more than I do. I suspect my neighbors three-year old son knows more than I do. I visit other blogs, like Jim Williams and Marc Fauvets, and envy the many pics they put up. Another skill to learn.
I hope you all get want you want for Christmas. Don’t get too drunk.