with ATSUSHI HASEGAWA
I think I should say that I don’t want to fish with other techniques at all. Fly fishing is completely different from other fishing. It is more technical, more intelligent. There is a lot of history around fly fishing. There is more skill, more culture.
In coarse fishing when you cast you have the weight, so you throw the line. But with fly fishing you are sending the line. Putting the hook in front of the fish is very difficult, very complicated. Basically, we are not sitting in one place all day, we keep moving, keep observing and arranging. I want to change all the time, I’m not necessarily calm. I have to keep thinking, keep understanding.
Many people ask ‘Why are you fly fishing?’ But I'd reply, ‘Why are you not fly fishing?’
FLY FISHING, IT IS SIMILAR TO EVERYDAY LIFE. YOU HAVE A PROBLEM SO YOU NEED TO THINK HOW TO RESOLVE THE PROBLEM.
When I was young, five or six years old, I started lure fishing. My father would take me to the lake and he would leave me there and pick me up later. He wasn’t a fisherman himself, so I started on my own, but got to know people who would fish with me. I moved on to fly fishing because it was more interesting.
In fly fishing there is a very traditional English style. In the 1960s to 70s the American style of fly fishing became very popular all over the world. It is a much more sporty way to fish compared to the more reserved English style, so you fish for lots of different types of fish in a range of situations. Being Japanese I liked the traditional English way, though I was absorbing two cultures of fly fishing.
I started to work for L.L Bean, and they have a fly fishing section and I became an instructor. When I was fishing a traditionally English-type chalk stream in Japan I was wearing Barbour and it was about British style and technical equipment. But then when going to a rocky mountain creek I was wearing Patagonia and using American tackle.
I would go on a lot of fishing adventures with my best friend from school. We would go away camping and canoeing. I decided to move to France and about a year later my best friend died in a car accident in Japan. Since then I have not fished in Japan because fishing in Japan was something I did with him. Perhaps this naturally pushed me to stay in Europe.
Whilst still in Japan in the early 1990s I found a small article about fly fishing in France which talked about Charles Ritz, the once owner of the Ritz hotel. He was a big innovator of another style of fly fishing, the high speed/high line technique, and was friends with Ernest Hemingway and Coco Chanel – both of whom went fishing with him quite often. I became really fascinated with this French culture of fly fishing. I discovered that they went to one shop in Paris, a really famous shop, La Maison de la Mouche Dubos. ‘The fly’s house’ was Charles Ritz’s favourite shop. I then discovered the name of Jean Michel Dubos, the son of Rene Dubos, the shop’s founder. I tried to contact him by letter, and after writing a couple of times I got a response. We had a correspondence and then he said, ‘Why are you not coming to Paris?’ And of course I wanted to go. So I worked hard and saved some money. In the mid-90s I went to France to meet him. It was amazing! He said, ‘YOU FINALLY CAME!’ And we hugged each other and kissed each other, meeting like old friends. Through fishing with him and his friends I discovered so much about French outdoor culture. When Jean Michel passed away and the shop was taken over by his son-in-law I became an instructor for the shop. I really enjoyed living in Paris, giving fly fishing lessons in Normandy, Germany and Switzerland.
I got to know some really good people in France through fishing. One guy in particular also had his best friend pass away, from cancer. With this hobby you need a friend to spend time with. But now finally I am happy to go fishing on my own. It is similar to something like skateboarding – you start off with friends to do it as it’s more fun, but as you get older you are happy to do it on your own.
Now that I live in the English countryside, I find that all my friends live in the city. So I have to go fishing on my own. I have started to enjoy another way to fish.
When you start fly fishing you do it because you want to. Then you begin to understand that there is a really strong culture for the English, the American and the French style of fly fishing. What I am doing now is a real mix of all these cultures.
I JUST AIM TO ENJOY CATCHING ANYTHING IN A MUCH MORE SPORTY WAY, RATHER THAN BEING SO TRADITIONAL.