25 Years of Teaching Fly Fishing

25 Years of Teaching Fly Fishing

Paul Arden | Monday, 8 March 2021

So yep 25 years to the year, next month actually, is when I took my first instructor exam. I knew that I wanted to teach fly fishing and try to make a career out of it. It’s had its ups and downs! I was 25 years young, had been fly fishing for 15 years and was already travelling. A few seasons in New Zealand and a van drive around Australia.

The photo in the POD was taken a season or two prior to this, in NZ. I’d just spent a month fishing with an American friend, Johnston, and I bought this “car” from him. He’s just got back in touch recently – which is cool and how I have the photo! It’s funny how life comes around in circles.

It’s definitely taken me a long time to work out what and how to teach. It’s a constantly evolving skill set, as is our own personal casting too of course. I’m very pleased that I started when I was 25, because by the time I’m 75 I might be half way decent.

I think the only advice I would give to new teachers of fly fishing (and not just fly casting by the way), is to find your own way. Teaching is a very personal thing. You make very strong bonds with your students - and I believe that you must do so in order to be effective. You should and hopefully will make a friend.

Actually I have some more advice!

Teaching casting is like giving a dancing lesson.  I’ve never actually given a dancing lesson, and I wouldn’t know how to, so it may in fact be entirely different, but learning to dance with a fly rod, is what I think we really teach.

Some people can’t dance too well. But everyone has a dance. Mine is leaping around very fast.

I think maybe the most important thing I’ve learned over the years, is that you can’t do it all there and then. Some things you teach take tens of hours to ingrain. So give a practise plan! Your lesson is a little bit about what you teach on the day and FAR MORE about what you have them practise afterwards. If you can make jumps forward during the lesson then great – many students learn this way, but the rest of us climb the mountain one rock at a time.

I used to give people written notes. Now, with Zoom teaching, immediately after the lesson I make a short video, recapping key points made, subjects covered during the lesson and things to practise, then blast that back over whatever channel we are communicating. (This is also useful for me too, in order to remind myself what we did before giving the next lesson!)

Given the choice between taking someone fishing out here on the jungle lake and teaching advanced casting techniques via Zoom, then of course I’ll go fishing!! But as an effective teaching medium it’s really first rate and it’s actually thoroughly enjoyable.

I wouldn’t have been able to do this, say, ten years ago. I think (for me certainly) I would need a lot of experience seeing the big picture - the back loop, the front loop, walking around to see tracking and so on. Also I think that the last ten or fifteen years of competition casting has given me a better "eye". Incidentally I believe that the level to strive for, as an instructor, is to be a competition coach! For me that’s the top of the game and I feel that I’m only just getting through that door myself.

The ultimate level, of course, and something that might take me another 25 years to achieve, will be to coach competition coaches. That’s surely is the ultimate level in fly casting instruction. I’d put John Waters up there by the way. John may not know this (in fact he almost certainly won’t know this!) but he’s become my coach on the Board.

So those are rules: never stop learning and never stop giving credit! If you ever stop learning then stop teaching, because the most important thing to teach is that we are all continually learning. And if you can’t give credit to those you learn from, then you are definitely in the wrong game!

My students of last week are from Australia, Hong Kong (/USA), Slovenia and the Netherlands. A very interesting mix indeed. Two are preparing for instructor exams and two are hard core anglers and all are really looking to improve their cast. I have room for six more! Drop me an email on paul@sexyloops.com if you would like to learn more about this. I will be doing this for the next six months and then we shall see.

You will need a measuring tape, some hula hoops, a stand for your phone, tablet or laptop (so that it’s about three to four feet above the ground), 4G phone coverage (if I can get online in the jungle then I’m sure you can too!) and Bluetooth earphones. I give one hour lessons. You really want to book a block. I have guys booking 7 lessons, 10 lessons. This is really the way to do it. The cost is 50GBP/hour and I really would suggest a minimum of 6 lessons. It’s also possible to send me video during the week which I’ll analyse.

On a personal note, it’s some of the most interesting teaching I’ve done! Have a great week :)

Cheers, Paul

PS Sungai Tiang should be open for guests soon and certainly later this month. If you want to visit then let me know! Thanks.