Why Old Toms?
For any first-timer, having an experienced teacher to guide and prepare you is worth it’s weight in lessons, research and practice. While I’ve naturally taken to casting (apparently that’s cos I’m a girl, so I listen to my instructor) there are many different casts and then there’s hauling – I can pat my head and rub my belly, so why can’t I haul?! But casting only gets you on the water, how do you know where’s best to fish from, which flies to use, what to do when the fish is hooked and why do I use a Priest to dispatch it?!! Learning from a book is one thing, but really I’ve found it so helpful to have met so many “Old Toms”, experienced anglers who want to help me learn, and I’ve found them in some strange places.
Old Teacher Toms
My first Old Toms were Tom and JT at Sportfish. Charming, witty, patient, determined and knowledgeable – and they tolerated my belly laughs when it all went wrong. They helped me improve my overhead cast, taught me to tie a Surgeon’s knot and a Half Blood knot, showed me how to read a lake and, most of all, walked me through which rod, reel and line to buy and then let me try them to be sure I was comfortable. The ideal Old Toms for me as a beginner, because they never made me feel like a beginner and were always encouraging and celebrating my successes with me.
Old Friend Toms
Finygo’s Chris and Harry are friends who are also fantastic fishermen. I’ve learnt so much from them about the intricacies of fishing – no maggot warming for me in my mouth or anywhere else, cos it’s cold as soon as it hits the water! Chris made for the perfect Trout when teaching me to strike. They push me to be better, they advise and teach me and take great delight in taking the piss out of me too.
Generally Helpful Old Toms
Nick, Ian, Jim and Tyrone introduced me to two-handed casting (which I’m much better at than single-handed), made me question buying a long thin flicky rod, given I can handle a thicker more stocky rod better. Hywel Morgan, the calm, insightful, gentleman whose advice has been invaluable – “Only practice your casting for 10 – 15mins otherwise you’ll build bad muscle memory which is really hard to get rid of” – let alone his insight into equipment and his introduction to the French Leader.
Old Toms Are Everywhere
My Uncle fished as a child using string on a stick. The Bailiff, the waiter at a restaurant in the middle of London, even the local gardener, he’s an angler, and so’s his girlfriend. They’ve shared their tips and they celebrated as much as me when I caught my first fish. And Nigel at the Fleet Tackle Shop spent so much time with me so I was prepared for my first day’s fishing by selecting my flies, getting a back-up rod (it’s shorter and thicker for the river) and not once laughing at me trying on chest waders – no matter how much I laughed at myself.
They all share a couple of things in common – a love of fishing and the patience with us newbies as we learn how to fish well, so we too can become passionate anglers.