I learned to swim properly at the age of 27. Before that I could float around and that was about it. Nowadays I can swim a couple of miles without any problems whatsoever. I don’t consider myself to be a great swimmer – triathlon tells me that I’m not! But I’m ok. And let me tell you swimming is 95% technique and 5% effort. If you can’t swim then go and get lessons – please – it’s one of the best things you will ever do in life.
Being a relatively strong swimmer I feel very comfortable in and around water. When I say that I can swim a couple of miles without problems I mean it. If you are not a strong swimmer then you should always wear an inflatable life vest. I have fallen into a countless number of rivers. When I was fishing hard in New Zealand, I would fall in at least once per week. Anglers drown when fishing and it’s normally panic that kills them.
The other thing I mention here is eye protection. Not only do I always wear sunglasses when I fish (I have dark ones for bright sunshine, and light tinted ones for evening and overcast conditions) but I also have clear lens safety glasses for night fishing. The fly can be moving at speeds in excess of 100mph. I know a magazine editor who lost most of his vision in one eye when he took his sunglasses off to photograph an angler casting – and took a Clouser to the eyeball.
Even when not casting flies, but also when practising with wool on the end of the line, I will wear sunglasses. This is because knots sting like hell when they whip you and a knot travelling at 100mph clipping your eyeball will cause damage. In these videos I am not wearing eye protection only because I am teaching you and I know from experience that eye contact from teacher to student is essential for good instruction, but under all other circumstances I always protect my eyes while casting.
Finally – barbless hooks. I haven’t fished a barbed hook in 25 years. You land more fish, you don’t lose any more (ok, maybe for the first week you might lose a couple more until you adapt your technique). It’s extremely good practise to fish barbless; it better for the fish making it very easy to safely and quickly remove the hook. Barbed hooks really are a thing of the past – they were predominantly there for holding bait on the end. And you are a fly fisherman, right? So please fish barbless – and you will thank me the day when you hook yourself in the arse.
The very best fly rods in the world…
Not enough? Still think it’s a good idea to fish without sunglasses? I searched YouTube for a video with a fly, which I’ve seen before. Can’t find that one but hopefully this should make you think again.