Learning to cast from a master of the craft

2013-06-05 00:00

A GROUP of 30 fly fishing enthusiasts gathered at The Oval on Sunday afternoon to learn from Peter Hayes, arguably one of the best fly casters in the world.

Hayes has been travelling across the country, exploring the local waters and hosting fly casting workshops for the last month. He was approached to share his skills with anglers in this country by members of the South African Fly Fishing teams who competed in the Commonwealth Championships held in Hayes’s own backyard, Tasmania, last year. They had been blown away by his eccentric and captivating style of teaching fly casting.

The hot and blustering gale-force Berg winds did little to dull the enthusiasm of this group of like-minded individuals though it did force us to leave the beautiful tree-lined Oval and seek shelter in a nearby hall as the wind whipped the last of the autumn leaves around us in a spectacular display of its power.

Hayes’s skill with a rod is irrefutable and the many YouTube videos demonstrating his skill do not compare with the thrill of watching this master of his sport in action. His innovative technique and charming coaching methods leave the conventional 10-to-two method dead in the water.

Hayes outlined the secret to being a successful fly fisherman in three key points. The first two are based on information. First, know your prey. Know everything that there is to know about the fish that you are targeting. What does it eat, where does it spend most of its time, and what temperatures does it live in.

Second, ensure that you are targeting the right areas when fishing for your prey.

His third key point, the most important, relates to presentation and it was paramount to success. Always place your lure within the line of sight of the fish. If you are fishing for trout, place the lure four or five feet in front of the fish.

Hayes was just 30, and a mechanical engineer, when he decided to pursue a career as a fishing guide. He quickly realised that he could obtain more repeat customers if he focused on the most important tactic in his fishing arsenal and taught his clients how to cast accurately and thereby catch more fish rather than merely showing budding anglers where to find the fish.

Hayes’s passion lies in inspiring like-minded fly fishers through his teaching. Most fly fishermen are content to fumble along as long as they manage to land their fly somewhere in the vicinity of a fish, but watching Hayes demonstrate his skill would inspire even the least skilled among us to raise our arms in the hope of one day attaining the same level of understanding and aptitude.

Hayes’s scientific method emphasises that casting has little to do with strength, power or distance, but rather relies on an understanding of angles while always remaining linked to the weight at the end of your rod. There are many little tricks to learn for the many challenging situations that a fly fisherman will find himself in. Casting is about timing as much as it is about accuracy.

Hayes began fly casting at the age of 13. A short while later he won a silver medal at the World Casting Championships and now, more than 25 years on, he still retains his enthusiasm for the sport. His demonstrative skills were more than impressive as he stood before us, arms moving back and forth like a conductor easing us through a rendition of Mozart’s sixth symphony as we gaped, open-mouthed while he effortlessly rolled out one perfectly straight cast after another.

It was easy to lose yourself in his skill. His passion is infectious and it would appear that sharing this enthusiasm long since stopped being his job, but is rather a pursuit.

He was once told by the renowned Lefty Kreh:

“Peter, don’t ever display your skills, but instead teach them.”

It would appear that Hayes has taken this to heart as he has dedicated his life to sharing his skills with fellow anglers and would-be enthusiasts with his highly hands-on approach.

“If you simply watch me, then I am showing off. Then no one wins,” he says.

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