Disclaimer (this means I'm not responsible for my thoughts, only my actions): I was going to pass and then make the decision. This will be better, believe me.
If what I said last week is true, and it is, and if what I am going to reveal this week is also true, then I have a leading understanding of flycasting mechanics. I say this not because I have my head up my arse, you all know me better than this by now, but because I have a point to deliver.
This newsletter may make you a better caster. I think I may be revealing the missing link. Today I became a better caster. Reading this I hope you will too.
Saltwater fly is such a blast: it's a spiritual adventure.
You know how it is, when you fail something, you're in a weak position. Last September I failed the EFFF Masters examination. The examiners failed me because I didn't pass the 30-metre mark in my first three attempts (or all morning for that matter) and my backcast didn't go 25 metres. After that there was no point.
I couldn't say what I really felt at the time, because it would sound like sour grapes, but things have changed and I'm in the position where I now believe I can say it, and indeed I also believe that I must say it.
Bear with me...
I've been an AAPGAI instructor for eight years and have been “platform demonstrating” at shows for the last five. I demonstrated for the Chatsworth Angling Fair for three years and for the Dutch Flyfair last year. I am recognised as being one of the best casters in Europe. Viking Lars says he thinks I'm number two (thanks for that Lars ;). In terms of loop control and line control I am arguably the best in the UK. And for that matter I probably throw the tightest loops in Europe. I've been writing published casting articles for the last six years and have held a casting column alongside Charles Jardine in Flyfishing and Flytying Mag for the last three. Basically I know what I'm doing, even when I pretend I don't.
And the EFFF failed me.
Last summer I demonstrated in Spain and taught the CNL, which is their flycasting committee as selected by Mel Krieger. They made me a Spanish Master Instructor, and I don't even speak Spanish – well apart from one word: “Tortuga” – it means “Hot stuff”, or at least that's what I maintain. This honour they have only given to one other; Mel himself.
Do you see where I'm going with this? Hang on, because it gets better.
I own this website, which is one of the best collection of casting instructions anywhere on the planet (some of them even make sense), and certainly the best on the Net. I may actually have been instrumental in changing the way flycasting is understood, not only in the UK and amongst the AAPGAI, but also in the world at large (OK getting a bit far-fetched now, but this is for effect...)
Bruce Richards writes: “The understanding of casting has progressed more in the last couple of years than in the previous 30, in my opinion, and your site is one of the reasons. Thanks for making such a great forum available Paul!”
I have taught and given advice to more casting instructors than anyone else I know. I do this for free, partly because I believe in it, but also because every time I do so I learn something new and become a better caster and instructor.
The reason I wanted to join the EFFF in the first place was because I wanted to learn and join another body of knowledge. I believe that mainland Europe has much to offer. I'm particularly interested in some of the Underhand Switch techniques and the TLT casts. I also believed, naively perhaps, that I had something to give back.
Whenever I attend a fair or a show I love to cast with other instructors. In fact I love casting period. Of the three EFFF Master instructors who examined me back in the Netherlands, one would not cast in front of me, and studiously avoided me all weekend, another told me that “I wasn't as good as I thought I was” – although he wouldn't elaborate on this mysterious comment – and the third has my utmost respect, Jupp Verstraten, for he alone cast with me and together we discussed flycasting, which is as it should be, indeed it's what I expect.
Get this: I was examined on my abilities as a Master Instructor and not once was I asked to teach. I have a unique twist on casting. And I don't just mean that I take the piss by naming casts after my shoes, but I cast differently to everyone I have met, and for well thought out and considered reasons, I teach those reasons, and in Europe they just don't do it my way, which should only go to make what I do all the more interesting. And they weren't interested . That's actually the most damning thing I can say, and one of the reasons, and perhaps the only reason, why I feel free to write this.
When I attended the Flyfair I knew how well I was casting; you don't cast for three to five hours a day and not get finely tuned - knackered maybe. So I ask you, what sort of instructor's exam fails someone on his inability to perform certain distance casts, against the inch tape, and doesn't even question him on his teaching abilities Not only that, but I'm willing to bet I have one of the longest casts of any European instructor. It's what I actually teach for a living.
Sure I know what they'll say; they'll say that they question one's teaching ability after the casting tests. But the information I have is that they don't really do this at all. I know that this stuff is damaging. And maybe I should just let it slip. But I have decided that I will NOT be taking the exam while demonstrating at the Denmark Flyfair next month. It would be the wrong thing for me to do, because I just don't believe in it any more.
I apologise to Viking Lars – and Jupp actually and the few other EFFF instructor friends I now have; it would be really great to be a member of the same instructor's organisation, but as it stands this one just isn't right for me: I hear it that of all the Master Instructors only two have taken the exam under test conditions. Although I can put a loop through a hullahoop at thirty yards (the body ring, not the crisps... come on get real) this is no indication as to how I perform as a teacher.
I believe that having an open mind is everything and that the best teachers are the best pupils. I am driven to learn and understand flycasting because this is what I do and why I got into it in the first place. If you're a teacher, understanding flycasting mechanics is not enough, and being able to cast is certainly not enough; you have to understand people and be able to teach them. When Sepp said he though I wasn't as good as I thought I was, I instantly asked for a lesson. It didn't happened.
Taking this exam now, and passing, would be completely the wrong thing for me to do, and in any case I would have to return it. Yes I'm vocal and yes I'm damning the EFFF. I'm sorry but there it is, I have no choice; I only say what I believe in. It's quite simple boys, you should have passed me, and I think you know it.
Q. “If I invent you are you there?”
A. “Yes I am, and you'd better believe it buddy”
I have a lot to thank Roy Sommers for; he has been drilling me time and time again over one thing in particular: the Stop. He has been telling me that any stop is a deceleration to a stop, and finally, I'm listening.
Graham Anderson has been suggesting that the rod may be unloading before the stop. On the Board, Herb and I have been questioning the same thing, suspecting that flex is greatest when the rod butt is perpendicular to the line.
There are a lot of unanswered questions here.
Most current flycasting understanding states that the squeeze-stop works because the squeeze is a moment of rapid rod rotation and therefore intense loading (I used to think however, that since the rod has already reached maximum flex, we are solely accelerating the tip at this point) but I'm changing my mind on both counts.
Have you ever stopped to consider the Stop? Why for example do we teach that we want an “abrupt” stop? When Al Kyte wrote about the “good and the great” casters he discovered that the better casters all had a more abrupt stop, and that the angle of rotation was 1.5 degrees for the greats compared to 10-15 degrees for the good.
Why is it then, that a lazy stop is not as effective as an abrupt one? I think it's because the hand is absorbing the rod's stored energy with a lazy stop, or in otherwords the squeeze-stop is directing the stored energy up through to the rod tip.
Last summer Jon Allen built a casting machine “no way of stopping it” which is ironic since it was just about the only thing at which it was efficient. Jon created the most abrupt stop in the world and it simply didn't work. It was too sudden, and in order to fix it we had to cushion the stop. So it wasn't an abrupt stop at all.
Here's what I'm suggesting: when we squeeze the hand the rod begins to unload. And if you can think in terms of squeezing the stored energy out through the tip of the rod, which is quite literally what you *are* doing, your casting will immediately improve. Mine has (note well Lars ;).
Furthermore, is it not conceivable that we can squeeze the hand and rotate the butt at the same time? And for all those familiar with the ponderings on the Board, is this not Carl's whiplash effect? (See Carl I do listen – sometimes :)
Okay: go on, shoot me down :)))
“At first when you strike into the Kahawai, it's as if they don't believe it.”
“I'm already doubting it Tom.”
And so with complete scepticism (on my part) we promptly arrived at the river mouth. The river mouth's on the East Coast of New Zealand are quite interesting, for one thing they are lined with very old men casting enormous spinners, hoping for Salmon, all of whom have apparently arrived by quad bike. We trundled merrily past the long line of salmon anglers.
“What are you up to boys?”
“Won't work around here.”
“Don't I know it, buster.”
And then at the mouth itself we started fishing away. Now I should make it perfectly clear that I was only doing this to humour Tom, maybe to teach him something, you know like the fact saltwater fly doesn't work. And it didn't, not for a while at least. And then something else happened.
It's hard to explain exactly but I had finally reached that point within me where I completely knew that saltwater fly doesn't work. Up until then I had only thought that saltwater fly doesn't work, you know not really believing it, in spite of thinking that I did. And then only when I really positively knew I knew it didn't work, completely and totally, and without a shred of doubt, did I have a take.
And I missed it.
And then after almost no time at all, certainly within the hour, when I had managed to convince myself that I hadn't had a take after all, and that I had just made it all up, I heard angels and I had another. This one stuck. Not much happened at first, it was almost as if the fish didn't quite believe it. This I can understand perfectly. Then it took off, straight out into the six-foot surf where it could play in the waves and perform spectacular and thrilling summersaults. I've never had a fight like it. I shouted to Tom, who came running because he thought I must have fallen in, and he appeared quite disappointed to discover that I hadn't.
Tom was impressed with the fish, when I landed it, and he discovered it wasn't foul-hooked, and together we admired the impossible fish, before quickly popping him back again.
We spent three days last week fishing for them, and every day we actually caught some, the biggest was about eight and a half pounds, which I think was enormous. Without a doubt it is the toughest fishing I've ever experienced. The surf crashes up the beach both soaking you and showering you in stones, which bruise your feet. The casting is tough; long casts with heavy flies and it's relentless, long cast after long cast. Real man's fishing. Whenever you hook a fish you strain your arm fighting the fish in the heavy pounding surf, and you bruise your knuckles on the trusty old rimfly handle which spins faster than you ever imagined possible. All your backing goes out time after time. Basically three fish and you're knackered; four and you're fish-fucked.
Having experienced this, I want to do it all over again. Saltwater flyfishing is sexy. Well not in NZ of course, where it's too cold for anything to be sexy, but in the tropics, lounging about all those sun-drenched islands, hooking up with hard fighting fish, meeting interesting and intelligent women, basically on the strength of seven or eight kahawai I'm thinking about completely changing my life :)
Free to change
Talking of changes, and guides actually, I've changed my mind. Incidentally I think that changing your mind is not a weakness but rather a strength, and so I do it quite often, just for the hell of it. Anyhow, I've said some pretty tough things about the guiding market in NZ, in fact I've questioned the need for guides period. I firmly believe in self-discovery, and I reckon that it's far more fulfilling. However in stating my views I was wrong.
I often ask for guidance, in other things, you know complicated stuff like women and life, and to my mind flyfishing is every bit as complex as both of these things, maybe more so. I still believe in self-discovery of course, but a good guide is only a path.
So I take it all back :)
(I still don't believe in helicopters or private fishing however – you know, as concepts and you won't catch me paying for sex either, so I'm not getting married or anything like that:)
Flyfishing Brinkoff International
The reason I'm returning to the UK (this is a long newsletter isn't it?) earlier than normal this year, is of course the fact that I have been asked to demo for Flyfishing Brinkhoff in Germany. This in a recent email:
“The event takes place on Saturday 22nd March and Sunday 23rd March 2003. The
show commences at 09:00 and finishes at 18:00 each day. The shop is open
from 11:00 onwards.
We are expecting a few thousand keen flyfishers and will be offering a full
programme of events over the weekend to keep them entertained and informed
of all the latest flyfishing innovations.
There will be casting demonstrations from the likes of yourself, Charles
Jardine, Roman Moser, Rudy van Duijnhoven, Häkan Norling, Kate Blubaugh,
Leif Stavmo and Andre Scholz , flytying specialists, for instance, Nadica
and Igor Stancev, Paul Procter and Pierluigi Pironi amongst others. We have
arranged for a bus to travel to and fro from our shop to the Moehne River where the demonstrations are taking place.
There will be in addition to this various booths from flyfishing suppliers,
for example, Partridge and Pro-Flyfishing Vosseler.
During the day there will be film or slide shows from other experts offering
travel tips or general flyfishing advice.
We will be presenting some pictures from Bernard Dodiers art gallery,
offering cooking tips and will be raffling a year's license to some lucky
See? Just has to be done :)
Have we got an excitement packed week in store for you?:)) There will be a review of Jason Borger's Nature of Flycasting (finally!!), the Saltfly series will continue (explode your mind:))), Lars will further his exploration into Shooting Heads!!, I'll try to write something for the Flow, I want to talk about sinking lines (I've been asked to!!), every day there will be a brand new Pic of the Day, and the Bulletin Board is on fire!!!
Hang on to those waders, we've got a website to deliver…
Further reading: Last week's newsletter :).