I noticed that a piece that I wrote was published in Fly Fishing and Fly Tying December 2020 and I had completely forgotten about it. When I looked into it I realised I had sent it to the magazine in 2010!

I´m sorry about the format. I have tidied it up a little but it still looks a bit odd. I don´t wish to blow my own trumpet here but the subject of mentors is a chapter in my book where discuss it in greater depth. It was the most personal part of the book for me.

Anyway here´s the article as published in the magazine:


There are two gentlemen living on the other side of the world from me who I am
unlikely ever to meet. They are Al Troth, the inventor of the elk hair caddis, and his
son Eric. I became acquainted, quite by chance, through a short piece of film on the
internet featuring these vastly experienced fly fishermen. Eric spoke fondly of his
initiation into the world of fly fishing in the company of his father. Both would spend
much of the hours of darkness tying flies and watching old movies before heading off
at dawn to float the Beaverkill. After a few hours it was time to head back home for
some sleep before returning to the river in the evening. And, in this idyllic way, one
day would follow another.


To me this is a dream. Who could ask for, or even imagine, a finer way to learn the
craft of creating flies and of trialling their effectiveness?

My own father was not a fisherman. A few years back now, before his time, he passed
away. I am deeply indebted to him. He taught me just about every important lesson I
have learnt. But he couldn´t teach me how to catch fish. The man who would do this
lived a half a world away.

Some years ago, I taught at a school in New Zealand. Through our town the Mataura
flows, one of the finest brown trout rivers in the world. Initially I fished alone, with
little success. It was clear that I had much to learn. And then my fortunes changed as a
result of being introduced to the man who would serve as my mentor. With his
guidance and experience, my fortunes would improve no end. His name was Michael
Roche.

Roche was well known in Southland and contributed a weekly article on fly fishing in
the local paper. We had much in common. He too was teacher, although now retired,
and we were both hailed originally from Ireland. Both of us had been seduced by the
appeal of catching trout and had crossed the world to square up to the famous browns
of the South Island and both of us were fond of a drink and, under its influence, the
music in the poetry of W.B Yeats.

Roche took me under his wing. He allowed me to look again at the river but through
new eyes. This was at a time, I later learnt, that his own eyesight was beginning to
fail. He took me to places I had never visited and taught me where to find fish when
they were keeping to themselves and how to catch them with small nymphs among
the shallow riffles. He fished little himself but didn’t tire of spending time on the
banks keeping watch over my inexpert efforts. For this he asked nothing in return, not
even a contribution towards fuel for his truck.

All too soon a new job became available in Europe and our little family prepared to
make the move. I knew we would be unlikely to meet again. When I did return five
years later I was told he had died. His friends had erected a small bench in his
memory close to the river but I do not need to visit it. Like the things my father
taught, his lessons accompany me wherever I go.