During the month of May, many fly fishers around the country got the rare opportunity of witnessing some dynamic skills and new techniques from arguably one of the world’s best casting instructors. Described by some as charismatic and charming, or cocky but infectious, Peter Hayes from Tasmania certainly offered up some impressive stuff with what he very nonchalantly described as “just a bendy stick with a bit of coloured line.”
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At age 19 Peter was a silver medalist at the World Casting Championships, but thirty years on and a few more attributes to his name, he still enthralls with a fly rod.
Peter was approached to visit our shores and share his skills by members of the South African teams who competed in the Commonwealth Championships in Tasmania last year. They had been blown away by his eccentric and captivating style of teaching fly casting. Sold out workshops were held in Pretoria, Johannesburg, Durban and the KZN Midlands and Stellenbosch. Peter also gave extra time to meeting with the Junior Protea team whilst in the Cape, offering a new dimension and challenge to their preparation for the upcoming World Champs in Ireland.
In Kwazulu Natal, he visited community projects initiated by the KZNFFA in the Underberg and Kamberg areas where his effortless skill was much appreciated by youngsters learning to fly fish.
Between the hard work of presenting these workshops, were precious days spent enjoying local waters, local hospitality and some of South Africa’s tourist treasures.
Hayes’ skill with a fly rod is irrefutable and the many YouTube videos demonstrating this don’t come close to watching him in action, but his real passion lies in inspiring like-minded fly fishers to become better casters through his innovative technique and charming, almost unconventional, teaching methods.
Peter described the success to catching more fish as having three distinct elements. First, know the quarry – know everything there is to know about the fish you are targeting. Secondly, understand the environment and conditions in which your quarry is found. His third key element, and that which he can assist with, is to make the perfect presentation to the fish.
Coming from an engineering background, Hayes understands the mechanics of a cast all too well, and emphasizes that casting has little to do with strength or power, but rather an understanding of the angles or “arc” that creates the perfect loop and most importantly, casting is about timing as much as it is about accuracy. Peter has an energy and passion to impart his knowledge that is seldom seen, an enthusiasm that inspires people to go out there and practice.
Organizer of the KZN Midlands Workshop, Graeme Steart, had this to say the following day…
It is not often in life when you are witness to an experience that can transform the way forward, a sort of bend in the road, a road that before lay straight, merging with the horizon. This bend suddenly offers perspective and a clarity that inspires an individual's path, not only to better yourself, but to share this perspective as an integral tool to enlighten others travelling this same road.
I can’t help to think how one dimensional our previous attempts have been in teaching casting to newcomers to this sport, a method of ... Here are the rules (10 & 2 o'clock positions) and as you persevere you will hopefully grasp an understanding of what works and what does not. Alternatively your method breaks the boundary of "do's and don'ts" and lets people get comfortable with line behavior, paving an easy pathway to building on ones own abilities. With your tools, people are now able to shed the "rules and restraints" of casting and to understand the demystified dynamics of casting.
So Peter, on behalf of the Natal Fly Fishers Club (NFFC) we would just like to say a great big thank you for sharing your "disease" with us and offering a fresh and rejuvenated perspective on fly casting. I have even brought my rod and line to the office today to spread the disease to my poor work colleagues and teach them a thing or two that I was once taught by an “arrogant Tasmanian " who had a dynamic passion for casting and teaching.”
There are many tricks to learn for the challenging situations that a fly fisherman may find himself in. Learning these delicate presentation casts from a master such as Hayes was exciting. Kezia Fitsimmonds form the Natal Witness wrote:
“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 that enthusiasm long since stopped being his job, but 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 he has taken this to heart as he is dedicated to sharing his skills with fellow anglers and would-be enthusiasts with his highly hands-on approach.
Says Peter...”If you simply watch me, then I am showing off. Then no one wins”