I was lost somewhere between the M25 and the A21 on one of Sean's mystery shortcuts – go this way Paul, it will save you 20 minutes, maybe 25, see you at 9 – and I was just beginning to wonder whether Sean had ever seen this side of London when the phone rang: it was Sean, “Where are you dude?”
“I have absolutely no idea and no you won't”
“I won't what?”
“See me at 9”
“Ah – you're lost!”
“I won't know that for sure, not until I know where I am exactly” – getting lost on one of Sean's Mystery Shortcuts is a bit like life sometimes, it was just possible that I was still on the shortcut and the narrow country lanes and the open countryside were all a part of it; I felt lucky to still have phone reception.
“I have some bad news” – in Sean's case this could mean anything from he's run out of claret Shipman's to he's broken his big toe; Sean always has some bad news but it's never really bad if you know what I mean.
“Go on Sean, do your worst”
“You're not going to like it” – he likes to build these things up, no doubt to make them sound worse than they really are.
“I think I can handle it"
"Bewl doesn't allow Catch and Release"
Now technically this could be a problem and could even be considered bad news however I'm very good at losing fish and I can always cut the hooks off, apart from which Sean is already there and waiting and I'm on my way to meet him – probably.
“Don't worry Sean, we'll work something out, if I ever get there”
That I arrived at all was impressive. That I arrived only 40 minutes late was nothing short of a miracle. Even Sean was impressed although he cleverly managed to conceal this, mentioning that if it wasn't for his clever little shortcut – that only he knew about by the way – he doubted very much whether he would ever have seen me again.
“Sean, you have to come back into this world, the real one, where people live and act and breath – you've been living in London for far too long mate”
Anyway, life huh? I know quite a few well-known flyfishermen and I reckon there are two ways you can go about it and it all depends on that great test of character, the ego. There are many “famous” anglers who are insecure; you know this because they go around telling you how good they are. I've often wondered about it, I mean we're flyfishing – does it really matter? Let's face it: no matter how good you become, you are still throwing feathers at fish. Get a grip – remember it is only ever a dumb thing to do.
I mention this because if you go around telling people how good you think you are people just think you are a wanker. Actually that's not true, I mentioned it for a totally different reason, I mentioned it because I knew that there were two approaches to the catch and release problem. I could go in there, start an argument, tell them that they are wrong and achieve absolutely nothing or go in there and listen.
The advice that has been given to the Manager of Bewl Water is that trout die after being released. Now I know this is wrong, you know this is wrong, the staff at Bewl know this is wrong. And although it's very unlikely that I shall ever get to fish Bewl again and certainly not in the foreseeable future – because I'm about to head off travelling and lead a different sort of life – I will send them a polite and informative letter before I leave.
Technically speaking you might think that I broke the fishery rules; in trying to land the fish, in my confusion, I forgot all the proper procedures and grabbed the hook and not the fish and they all jumped off – apart from one, which jumped out the net and needed stabilising before swimming off (but I didn't really catch that one; it caught me). I figured what's the worst they can do here? Well they could ban me and let's face it this is not really a threat; if I have to kill fish in order to fish there I wouldn't go in the first place – but that's me.
Of course they probably will ban me now, and there it is.
Incidentally Sean has a very strange habit of standing up and peeing over the side – “The fish do it – why shouldn't I?” – personally I don't mind a bit of peeing-over-the-side and am partial to a bit of it myself but not in mid-drift, not amongst all the other boats and never if my boat partner is casting.
I'm piecing this newsletter together from Sean's flat in London before heading north to the Tackle and Guns trade show and the AAPGAI AGM. Sean on the other hand is doing something completely different; Sean will soon be going to Australia for a couple of weeks of intense saltwater action and is preparing himself for this, you know tying hideous flies (which he is rather good at – I might add), bumming tackle off friends and daydreaming about big fish.
Sean is optimistic, brimming with confidence, thinks he will catch.
Of course Sean is a beginner at this sort of thing but it's great to see. I remember when I was a bit like it: childlike, innocent and deluded. But time is the only God that counts here and expectations will leave you twisted. I've been saltwater flyfishing in Australia for ten years now. That makes me a bit of a pioneer. Back in those days no one understood saltwater fly; they didn't think it was possible. “Saltwater fish – on fly? Impossible”
They were wrong of course and I've been more than unusually lucky; I've caught a remarkable eight fish in that time. The first was a small poisonous green fish out of a reef north of Broome on the West Coast. The West Coast is particularly noted for it's saltwater flyfishing action and so this spectacular success is actually believable to some.
A couple of years later I caught a decent trevally – of about six pounds – out of the Noosa estuary. I simply state this as fact. I can offer no further explanation. That same year, month actually, I also caught an enormous flathead. Many knowledgeable saltwater anglers have been stumped by these successes, offering LSD as the only possible valid explanation.
But my amazing success story went further still and I have caught not one but two (TWO) dart on the fly (albeit in separate millennia). This astonishing fact only goes further to suggest that saltwater flyfishing is a truly remarkably effective and exciting adventure experience. Also there was the outstandingly incredible Garfish of last year, one tremendously dazzlingly stunning baby flathead and unbelievably yet another trevally (of about one miraculous and astonishingly, barely credible pound).
So Sean: good luck in your quest – you are on the road to ruin :-)
I'm writing this in two parts and this is the second part, straight from the Tackle and Guns Trade show in Stoneleigh. It's been an interesting day and not least because this morning there was an AAPGAI AGM.
Okay, I'm back. It's Monday night and I'm finishing off the newsletter. I only just managed to get it out last night and with a couple of typos and no images.
The show was a good one. It would have been better with a casting pond of course. We had to take rods outside and cast in the car park. I tried out all the Redington rods – including their new 800 quid one which you shouldn't buy and a more recent version of the Nti, which is actually damned good. Guide Flyfishing have some great tackle and at Sexyloops we are about to do something exciting in the Tackleshop.
But as interesting as all of this was, what I would like to talk about is the AAPGAI AGM or to be more accurate the GAIA AGM or GIA AGM so that we don't confuse flyfishing with the Mother Earth Goddess. That would upset some people, since they are different apparently.
Here is what has happened as far as I can understand it – and you have to remember I'm just a flyfishing instructor in the UK who also happens to own the largest flyfishing site in Europe which also happens to be a flycasting website and so one would have thought that I would be fully aware of what is going on. Maybe I am, but only in some parallel universe where life makes sense and people talk to me and tell me what they are really thinking.
Many years ago the AAPGAI was formed. AAPGAI stands for the Association of Professional Game Angling Instructors. Our aim was and is to create and maintain professionalism in flycasting instruction in the UK.
The STANIC stands for the Salmon and Trout Association National Instructor's Certificate. This came about because various people believed that in order to bring more people into flyfishing we need more instructors. Whether we actually want more anglers is debatable of course but this is not the place for it – we definitely want more aware anglers…
There are 300 STANIC instructors and about 100 AAPGAI. Most of the 100 AAPGAI are also STANIC. I am not, for personal reasons; having taught at perhaps 30-35 of their children's days I felt shafted at the end of it. I also have strong personal views against the STA; I particularly dislike the elitism: remember flyfishing is a stupid thing to do – one should never lose sight of this blatantly obvious fact.
I also feel very strongly that I am not a hunter; I am a flyfisher. My views on hunting are completely separate from my views on fishing and because I am a flyfisher does not mean that I naturally have to support hunting. I do not in fact support bear bating or dog fighting for example and these arguments are separate from the ethics of flyfishing.
Of greater significance in this is that I believe that there are many STANIC members who are not capable of teaching at a professional level. In fact no one disagrees with me on this. Even Malcolm Hanson who you will hear more about shortly agrees with me on this point. This occurred because (a) the entry standards were too low (b) they had a separate objective: they simply wanted lots of instructors and quickly and (c) when the STANIC was formed they gave various existing instructors the STANIC qualification.
Many years ago in order to counteract the STA the AAPGAI cleverly made the STANIC a prerequisite to the AAPGAI examination.
A few years ago AAPGAI changed its name to Advanced Professional Game Angling Instructors: this was to get there first and before the STA made a higher level of their own.
It didn't quite work.
Now there is government money at stake. Over 100 grand for flyfishing, coarse and sea angling. Malcolm Hanson gets paid Ł18,000 per year to set up the fishcoach licensing scheme (the flyfishing side). He is a STANIC instructor and an ex-teacher. There are going to be 4 or 5 levels of flyfishing coach in the UK. No one knows what level 1 is. Level 2 is assistant coach (ties up shoelaces) – I have just been handed the paperwork. Level 3 is supposed to be STANIC. Level 4 is supposed to be AAPGAI. It is not that simple of course (thank goodness) and we can expect lots of red tape, arguments, resignations and underhandedness.
It amazes me. I think there are 5 full time professional flyfishing instructors in the UK. The demand for flyfishing instruction is not particularly high. We really don't need this coaching scheme and people are getting very upset over it. Guess what, we're all people here. I won't support this scheme because I don't believe in it. I understand that in order to teach flyfishing to school children it is a government requirement, I also see how it could be something really worthwhile, but too many people are being dishonest and playing games with one another.
I am sorry but there are many genuinely honest people being mislead to and this is totally unacceptable. It's an interesting world – if only people would realise that we can all be read like books.
Well I'm busying myself tying up loose ends and shoelaces before heading off again…