Fd: How did you start in fly fishing? Who got you interested in the sport?
Charles: That’s an easy one. My father. He was an avid salmon angler who, even in the 1950’s travelled the world for fishing – mostly salmon- especially Norway, but also big game fish in Africa. He was one of the first fishers that I heard of fishing in Alaska in the early 60’s. An amazing man and astonishing painter and just a huge inspiration. But I suspect it was the fact that: A) He bothered to take a kid of four fishing - a rarity in itself - and, B) The fact that we had our own little river in Kent - a tiny chalk-stream where I learnt that it was just as important to conserve and manage trout and their habitat as it was to catch them, I like to think - hope - that this ethos has stayed with me.

Back then - and before anyone says it… yup. The last dinosaurs had indeed just died out, it was that long ago. People took you fishing. And that is just it… We did not “specialize”, we just went fishing for the fun of it. Now? Everyone seemingly wants to specialize and be an instant expert. Back then, we learnt our craft as one would with an apprenticeship. No short cuts: just hard time on the water and listening to others to gain knowledge. I well remember at the age of six or seven sitting watching the Welsh dry fly fishers on the river Usk tie flies in their fingers to match the insects on the water. Things like that get seared into the mind and memory.

Fd: How did you develop your skills in casting?
Charles: I am not sure that I have any! However, I would say, that I well remember the first time that I picked up a fly rod (in my parents garden - I stole my fathers favourite Hardy CC D’ France), the movement and “feel” of the line and split cane flexing in my hand was a thing of sheer poetry. I just loved the feel of line and rod weaving patterns in the air and how one could create shapes. I guess it wasn't pretty: a cast from an eight year old seldom is. But that feeling… Oh! That has stayed with me to this day.

I love the synergy. That is why I just loathe Tenkara. I am not a huge fan of Czech Nmyphing either. Why? Well I know both are effective; but it’s just not casting, is it?

But in terms of development, I have always seen myself as a perpetual “student”. I am willing - even now, after all these years - to learn from absolutely anyone – and I do. I hope that I am never blind to the amazing opportunity to learn. I am in absolute awe of the fly casters within Europe and the USA. Fly casters that are so competent that they have elevated our fly cast to something almost approaching a religion. It is from these great people like the Rajeff brothers, Joan Wulff, Henrik Mortenssen, Paul Arden, Jerry Siem, Jason Borger, Sepp Fuchs, John Field, Ian Gordon, Roman Moser, the list is long and inspirational. And from folks such as these and others like them, we can, and should, learn. They all set a “high bar” but that is not to say that one should strive to “jump” that bar. After all these years, I am still just the student… still that sponge for knowledge. Oh and let us forget style in all this: good casting is just that… GOOD CASTING. No style or a defined “correct way”: just good casting.

Fd: What casting schemes are you involved in?
Charles: If you mean by that “organizations”, then The International Federation of Fly Fishers: who I readily accept, have brought casting education to a global stage. I remember all of that codification starting at Kalispell, Montana in what now seems a lifetime ago. There we all were, in a room with a sheer burning desire to make standards better and bring a tiny bit of order to the casting chaos that we saw permeating the sport. Bruce Richards (still one of the neatest, and elegant fly casters you will ever see – and arguably, the most erudite). Tom Jindra, Lefty was there, I think Joan Wulff, certainly Mel Krieger, Bill Gammell, I think; I am not sure about the Rajeffs. I do know it was a very heady brew of casting talent. Oh! and little me (I stayed very, very quiet!!!! in such distinguished company). These were and must be seen as the “pilgrim fathers” of the FFF casting that has evolved so successfully today.
In the UK, I do recall being one of the youngest APGAI members. Back in the seventies the organization was a very real “closed shop” (1978). Two things worked against me: I was from the south and my age. Thus: I had to prove myself and endure some very stern tests from fly casters that were my UK idols. I have never forgotten the abject terror and studying that I undertook to pass those exams. I guess that they did their job. I have never forgotten the study, their input or those lessons learnt over thirty-five years ago, now. What I have done, subsequently, is make myself open to any and all fly casting associations and exam boards (that will have me!) and be tested. That way you progress and learn. Like I said: ever the student.

Fd: What would you advise people learning to cast?
Charles: Seek help from a qualified instructor. Period. Do not thrash about in the vain hope of getting somewhere. See fly-fishing like any other skill based precise sporting movement - Golf, Tennis - anything. No one would dream of trying to get “good” without seeking prior help. Do it with fly casting!

The caveat being; choose both a style of teaching and a coach/ instructor that suits you. Not all do, or will. But you must have that empathy of mind action and enactment.
Fly casting should be fun… and there is fun in learning. Make sure that you have, well, fun, too, as well as education. But learn those basics from someone who has an intimate knowledge of the manoeuvres. NOT family or well meaning friends. Preserve both and do NOT go there!!!!

Fd: Tell us about the tuition program you have?
Charles: My coaching/tuition is chaotic. It’s like me! However, mostly, because I am so heavily involved in Fishing 4 Schools, the charitable foundation that I created and still direct, I am working with young people - many of whom have profound learning disabilities; so that my approach is very different, than say, a more formal day coaching or guiding on the streams near to my home in the South of England. I would say that I need both sides of the coin to give me polarity and resonance to these counter points to my life; it is “Ying and Yang”. I am also enjoying, hugely, mentoring like-minded coaches within GAIA. These regular sessions enable me to dig deep into the various skills we develop as fly casters, and come up with advanced solutions for kindred spirits. It is challenging and hugely satisfying. So in answer to your question: as varied as my life, really.

Fd: What is your motivation behind teaching?
Charles: To see a smile. To see someone succeed. To see someone laugh… then catch something.

Fd: Teaching fly tying can sometimes be difficult. How do you show steps or help people with adding materials?
Charles: Start with that hook in the vise! Lord knows that can be a trial for some. I do go on to explain that fly tying revolves around three basic functions: winding, spinning and knotting.
But I have found that one must simply break things down into manageable chunks and do not advance too quickly. Get to know, intimately, the basic steps. Touching turns of thread, the various properties of various threads. Tying in a tail, proportions hackling, evenness of material placement, wraps and turns of rib. Dubbing. Learn your craft before even thinking of finishing an actual fly. One of the best patterns I know to address a good many fly tying basics: is a basic ribbed, floss body, black spider. Then do the exact same pattern, only with a dubbed body. Keep the theme going by substituting the hen hackle for cock hackle and construct a dry fly.

The basics done well… and always get your student with sufficient room to finish the fly off… they never do! Advise against the newcomers desire to try doing a fully dressed Jock Scott, perhaps?
Importantly, though, find out what your students “want” to tie. Where their passion actually leads… and then build a simple route towards that goal.
I always explain that fly tying is exactly like building a house. Procure the right materials: secure good foundations. Then step by step: brick by proverbial brick, build the floors, ceilings and finally the roof and then and only then add the decoration. In other words, matter the basics… before anything else!

Fd: As an artist, where do you draw your inspiration from?
Charles: Life, really. Everything and everyone around me. Like casting, I feel that I am the perennial student.
On a more serious note; my inspiration comes from many sources. Fellow artists – like my good friend David Miller who is exceptional, Rodger McPhail who is our “god”, really. But those no longer with us – Rien Portvliet who in any genre or time, was and is exceptional. Personal favourites – Edward Seago and Ogden Pliesnner. Great artists, all. Every single one of them, an utter inspiration and misery; as I will never be able to match their consummate mastery or emulate their genius.
But finally, my greatest inspiration and hero: My father. Someone whom is still with me every line, brush, stoke or squeeze of paint. He was also my harshest critic. But was the person that galvanized me to be better and to settle for nothing other than my very best. His ethos was simple, strive to do your best always and never settle for “that will do...” A term that never entered his lexicon. Ever. I try to emulate that.

Fd: Talk us through your process when beginning a painting?
Charles: I want to say “well…you have this blank space and you kind of fill in bits of it!” Oddly, that is all there is to it. The biggest terror for anyone is actually starting a painting; it is the sheer nothingness in front of you that is so daunting. Those are the moments when you doubt your abilities and question your technique as a painter. It is, actually, terrifying. But – as someone on stage might also say – just as soon as that first mark is made (or note sung or said from a stage) your confidence floods back and you start to believe in your own technical ability. If you asked me how things “happen” when you are “gripped” by a picture? Then I have absolutely no idea. None. Sometimes you are just overtaken by the subject matter and the moment; and then just utterly immerse yourself in the subject matter, the place and the time. Things seem to happen outside of your control. It is a very weird and unnerving experience. Does that sound fay? Stupid? Hmmm. Probably. I also enjoy happy accidents and the secret there, is to have enough “skill” in the proverbial “tool box”, to turn it to ones advantage. You can do wonders with some water and a paper towel or trimmed toothbrush head!

Fd: What is the element you most enjoy about painting?
Charles: The fact that one is NOT a camera. We have to go beyond. Why on Earth do a job, that a mechanical contrivance can do so much better than we can? Madness. My job as a, let’s be honest, figurative painter (and one with “L” plates still on!) is to portray the subjects that are familiar with and in a way that does not alienate the viewer, but still give you, that viewer, a suggestion of “Well what happened next?”. A camera will capture the moment (and far better than I ever could possibly do), but seldom the soul. That is our job as artists – and hint at the “unknowns” and the “what if’s”… we are the shadow walkers of reality and tip-toe through unseen worlds.

Fd: Where and how do you get your inspiration for fly patterns?
Charles: Certainly, the natural world. But the fish themselves and the reactions to various stimulate be that movement, colour, or shape. Of course other fly-fisher’s styles are instrumental to the process.
I guess, it is rather like the mathematically driven “Chaos Theory”, with everything flying about in seeming madness, but inherently linked. I like the challenge of bringing that chaos together on a hook that fish might (I stress: might) find attractive.

Fd: What do you enjoy about creating new patterns?
Charles: That occasionally fish are kind, and let me know that they, the patterns, work! Actually, I just like the way in which you can start a path of exploration via materials and stream knowledge and bring it all together at the vice…only to find, that it actually, works!

Fd: Can you tell us about any new patterns you have designed?
Charles: Grayling have taken over my life at the moment. What a species! I think, like so many UK river fly fishers, we are seeing the grayling as a defining point for our creativity. It is fun just seeing what colours will work and in which configurations. The fact that colour preferences and designs seem to change from year on year, is an added bonus: a fun part of the conundrum. At the moment, I am besotted with river pike fishing with a fly. What beasts: What excitement! And all tied with as much material in one fly as ordinarily I would use for trout patterns in five years! And what is more, using hooks that I can actually see (given my advanced years) in the vise!

In reality though, how many of us can truly - and I mean TRULY - say that we design “new” patterns? I think that is rare. Tiers like Ollie Edwards, Dave Whitlock, Bob Popovic, Marijan Fratnick, Doug Swisher and Carl Richards, Roman Moser, Many of the Czechs, Kelly Galloup, Frank Sawyer – to name a few - now these fly fishers were - are – real innovators. The rest of us “tinker” at best with designs, I think. We re-work old themes, with a perhaps slightly new vision and materials… Sometimes we go beyond and touch innovation… but that is it, I think. Just when someone leaps and screams “Eureka… I have discovered a new fly pattern” History will invariably prove that someone, long ago, beat them to it. The same with knots; I have seen a few “new” knots attributed to modern day luminaries that bears more than passing affinity with a knot used years ago – under a different name.

Fd: What are your favourite materials to use?
Charles: Simple: Natural materials. I just love using natural fur dubbings, feathers and winging materials like Snowshoe, CDC, Rabbit, Hare, Deer, pheasant. I use synthetics: Of course I do. But I do like nature’s natural design and variety, slightly more.

Fd: You have written a variety of books about fly fishing. How did you get into writing?
Charles: It was odd really. I was a guide, Sales person, Ghillie, instructor, occasional illustrator, car washer, weed cutter… to the famous Dermot Wilson when he had the first mail order specifically fly fishing company in the UK. Dermot also had water on the Test, Itchen and Wallop brook. Each year a whole litany of global angling glitterati would accept his invitation to fish the fabled waters; which, let’s not forget, you simply could not ordinarily wave a fly across in any way shape or form in those days. Private was very private, indeed. Thus, I came into contact with so many inspirational characters of influence: from Ed Zern, through to Hoagie Carmichael, Lee Wullff, John Goddard, the list went on and on (many staying firm friends) but it was a chance days guiding John Wilshaw the then editor of Trout Fisherman Magazine, that lead to the career in angling writing and illustration. From that came the contacts that just gained momentum and opportunity to this day.

Fd: What is your motivation for writing?
Charles: The constant question “why” and a feeling that we might (arrogantly) have the odd answer to those time honoured of questions. And, of course, the writers Achilles heel: vanity!

Fd: How do you get the topics?
Charles: Time by the waterside. Fishing as much as possible, responding to trends, keeping eyes and ears open, asking questions… noticing gaps or huge holes in “presumed” theories. Just being observant. The process is identical to painting pictures or crafting fly designs. I see no difference whatsoever.

Fd: Do you collaborate with other anglers/writers?
Charles: Absolutely. I love the process. In the past I have worked with Bob Church; however, I seek advice and support from a vast sweep of fishers that I respect – and not necessarily ones that are well known or heard of… just fishers. Certainly, collaboration is immense fun and that has been the case when illustrating other fly fishers’ books; which I have done some 15 or more times now.

Fd: Do you have any future plans to write any more books?

Charles: I really do think it might be time for an autobiography, don’t you? What changes I have seen.
As far as actual books are concerned – “how to” ones. I really do think that the world has had a quite enough of me! Maybe a fusion of writing and art might work. But I do fear for the printed word. I would far rather explore other media – iPads…Short Video feeds, and so on. Use what is out there. Be brave and just a wee bit original. The sport does not stay still, then why, as chroniclers, should we do the same.

Fd: You have such a variety of experience and time in the fly-fishing industry. How do you feel it has changed in your time in it?
Charles: If I have noticed one thing, it is in a word: “professionalism”. And some extent that has been the sports downfall. Not entirely, but a bit.
When I first came into the whole thing, I guess I was one of the first “guides” per se on the Chalkstreams: we had ghillies, of course and river keepers, but Dermot made it abundantly clear I was a “Guide”. Then came the advent of Carbon fiber, that too was a “game-changer” (cheaper tackle for all and mass production) as were, the opening of more Stillwater trout fisheries and reservoirs. It was a sporting revolution. The rise of sponsorship and competition has gone way beyond what anyone would have dreamt of, in those far off, slightly “tweedy” days when I started.

The big question is how sustainable the whole thing is. Of course the advent of new frontiers and saltwater fishing and other species, has made the whole thing global, as has ease of air transport.
But… and it is, indeed the elephant in the room. We are getting older. There are proportionately fewer young people coming into the sport. We desperately need to rethink what we do and where we are going and ensure that fishing is available locally and bring about a media acceptability of what we do. I simply do not see TV shows appealing to young people. Sure, there are the “odd” short films through the Drake tours and so on. But we need invigorating images of our fabulous sport on our small screens and laptops and tablets. But this needs the Angling industry to invest. Stop looking at the continual bottom line growth and profit, but set aside funds to grow the sport: meaningfully. A few rods and reels here and there is simply not enough. We need funding, support of school initiatives and organizations like the International Fly Fishers, Trout Unlimited Chapters and so forth. We MUST invest in youth… and reach out in a decent, active way.

How has the sport changed, since I started? It has shrunk, become more polarized and losing, I believe, just a little bit of its mystery. The younger fisher is getting just a little hubristic. And that is utterly hypocritical from someone whom, by one avenue or another, has derived their income from the angling. But it is ONLY fishing. I recall Taff Price (an Idol of mine when first coming into our sport) saying: “never forget that you are .5% of the .5% of the rest of the world. That sense of grounding and smallness has stayed with me. People should also remember how small fishing is, compared to other sports that occupy the sporting “back pages”. At best we are a cottage industry that is fun…not the be all and end all, and certainly not a corporate juggernaut of profit and loss and the next new toy.
I came into the sport as a wide eyed innocent, that suddenly became caught in a web of fishy wonder. I have never stopped being that wide-eyed kid. That “awe”, I would like to see installed in the young of today. A legacy. Not counters of fish caught…but memories stored, for future generations. And places that stay breathtakingly lovely; and not just playgrounds for those that can afford them.

Fd: Finally, what does fly fishing mean to you?
Charles: Simply: everything.
Oh! And not growing a beard… way too many of those in fly fishing as it is!
And never having to say you are sorry (to a trout)?

To learn more or get in contact with Charles Jardine visit his website at: http://www.charlesjardine.co.uk