This past Saturday I did a ‘talk’ at the Natal Fly Fishers / Federation of South African Flyfishing annual general meeting. 

I’m not comfortable in rooms full of relative strangers. It’s not that I’m shy or anything, I’m just not great at small talk and making quick social connections. What I am is cripplingly self-conscious. Still, I was asked after a few pints (my Kryptonite) and a mix of that and a great respect for the guy who asked me (my other Kryptonite) had me saying yes immediately. 
While I quite often talk in front of groups of relative strangers in my business life it’s pretty easy to do; the subject matter is known and there are rules and a common culture that allows you to slip into it quite comfortably. In the instance of a room full of strangers the dynamics change quite a bit. Firstly, they’re there (one assumes) to be entertained as well as informed and secondly, you run a real risk of looking like a knob in front of your peers (at least 80% of people in corporate stuff look like knobs, but they’re protected by the culture). 
 Anyhow, I was asked to talk on how I make wooden landing nets. I’d hardly said yes to the idea when I realized that two problems immediately presented themselves:

1. It’s a mindnumbingly boring topic

2. Making nets funds my fishing addiction and the competition is already pretty stiff

I couldn’t just dismiss the request and do whatever I felt like doing (I’m starting to earn a somewhat less than exemplary reputation for being a bit ‘disrespectful’), as well as that respect thing that I mentioned above. 

No. Clearly I’d have to find a third option. I started working on the presentation far too close to the date of the event and covered the ‘how-to’ bit fairly quickly and, I think, succinctly.  The part that I was looking for as the main theme came to me almost immediately in the process. I’d like to share it again, with your indulgence, as I think that it’s important – rather, it is important; so pay attention. 

[It was written to talk to. It doesn’t read very well. But that’s not the point.]


My aesthetic does not require perfection. There is beauty in imperfection; often profound beauty. The principle that underlies what I do, regardless of what it is, is creativity. 

Creativity is the process making of entirely something new from something that already exists. 

You are a flyfisher. 

Your success relies on observing your environment (often down to minute detail) and by creatively mimicking this in your lure and its presentation to your target. By the fact that you haven’t given up the long rod in favour of a golf club leads me to suspect that you’re probably pretty observant and creative already. 

Fly fishing is the ideal vehicle for creativity. It is inherent in an activity that takes you to places and gives you experiences that raise the spirit and which fuels the creative process. Cricket has hollowed out watermelon hats. Rugby has – what? Blue balls beneath HiLuxes? No, no other pastime out there rivals fly fishing for the amount of creativity required to be remotely successful at it. 

Allow yourself to be inspired by these influences. Acknowledge them and seek them out voraciously. Immerse yourself in them until they overwhelm you. 

I urge you to then take these influences and to use them to create that which fires your soul – paint, draw, write, split cane, bend sticks, tie flies, take photographs, machine a reel, write a song (the “windknots-suck-and-I-lost-a-bloody-bus-in-the-weeds talking blues). Ok, Maybe not a song. 

Allow yourself to be creative and to create. 

I can almost guarantee you that you aren’t going to be the next Garrison, Hardy, Skues, Gierach, vom Hofe, Young, Maclean, Etc.. 

I can’t guarantee that you won’t be the next Sutcliffe, Brigg, Boschoff, Geldenhuys, Erwin, Bertram Smith, Fowler, Etc. 

What I can absolutely guarantee you that you’ll be a better version of yourself. 

In the end that’s all that matters. 


12 responses to “Create!

  1. Hi Andrew, wonderful. I was at the talk and I thought you did it brilliantly although I didn’t hear a word you said. When I asked if I could nick your notes, I certainly didn’t realize that you anticipated I would still find further gaps. For someone like me this is wonderful. Thank you.

    • Hi Roy, thank you, you are very kind.

      It is a topic that I’m trying to get my own head around; a developing idea. Sometimes when that happens I try to write it down. Writing crystallizes thought.

  2. Your presentation was thought provoking, refreshing and entertaining. Couldn’t have asked for more! I thoroughly enjoyed it, as did everyone I bumped into on the day.

    • Thank you for the opportunity Andrew. You certainly are a outstanding example of what I was trying to say. I had a lot of fun. I hope that my sheer terror wasn’t too obvious!

  3. What defines any man from the next, is the passion, commitment and drive with which he pursues that which makes him happy! Fly fishers and Fly Tyers share a common love in their pursuit of a wily adversary and more importantly where they are found. How refreshing to have you share another pursuit so closely related to fly fishing, clearly with the same passion you pursue the former. Thank you.

      • Hey Andrew managed to met half a dozen smaller fish, in a net not nearly as impressive as those you demonstrated … Couldn’t entice the bigger fish to follow suit …. and the queries of whether trout feed so hansomly at full moon that they listless during the following day?? The water was almost too calm for the better part of the morning and stunning o be out as always.

  4. Exactly Andrew agaim smacking the proverbial nail square on the head , Not sure about the reference to that ‘Brigg” fellow though? I tried tippexing it out, but just made a mess of my screen 🙂

    • I do that a lot. 😉

      I just wish that people would try stuff. Every time that they do they surpass their expectations. They just don’t try. All that latent talent in the world. How many more Monets or Rembrandts are there out there? Sigh.

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