WELCOME TO MY FLY GEAR GAP YEAR (which I lovingly call My Floggy). I hope you will come along with me on what I’m sure will be a journey of self-discovery. I expect that through the tears, I will gain more insight than simply improved fishing skills… and I’m sure through the cussing, you will eventually hear the gleeful sounds of achievement and satisfaction. Let’s all hope so! Let’s also hope that I can inspire and encourage many other fledgling fly-fishers along the way.

Here’s a potted history of my fly fishing until now, along with my ambitions for this year: I first picked up a fly rod in 2010 and, like many, did not take to casting instantly. It took me some time, observation, contemplation and frustration to get my rhythm, understanding and timing in sync enough to propel any line whatsoever. I did it though, and the eventual sense of achievement was astounding.

Jo Starling practicing her casting in 2011. Picking your line up off water is very different to picking it up off the ground!

Practicing my casting in 2011. Picking your line up off water is very different to picking it up off the ground!

Since then, I would have to say that I have probably fished with a fly rod twice a year, on average. This sporadic approach has resulted in me notching up 18 species across salt and fresh water (which I’m incredibly proud of), but only attaining an adequate casting ability and a substandard understanding about the varied equipment I’ve been using. My life as wife and business partner of Aussie fishing icon, Steve Starling, sees me fishing many and varied locations, for equally varied species using whatever tackle and technique is necessary. I guess I can boast a surprising fishing repertoire… but fly-fishing requires more than ‘the odd dabble’ to attain proficiency and self-sufficiency. I believe that the only way I will ever be able to confidently and genuinely include it as a string in my bow is through complete immersion. Thus, I am pledging a break from traditional fishing and commit to a Fly Gear Gap Year! It will be tough! I fully expect tears and tantrums. I solemnly promise, however, to share those raw moments with you. That way, you can experience the truth of the highs, as you’ll have a genuine appreciation of the despair I’ve trudged through to achieve them 😉 I had better ‘fess up about one caveat, though. As a tournament angler, I reserve the right to fish whatever tackle provides the best chance to perform for my team and my sponsors during any tournaments. That includes fly, of course.

All the gear and no idea! A rather clumsy moment in 2014, illustrating my lack of dexterity. At least I've got a fish!

All the gear and no idea! A rather clumsy moment in 2014, illustrating my lack of dexterity. At least I’ve got a fish!

MY OBJECTIVES – Develop a strong understanding of technical fly fishing equipment – Build proficiency to a level of independence in all circumstances – Encourage more people to try fly-fishing by showing that the challenge is universal, not individual. Therefore, everyone can attain fly casting skills, with dedication and patience. – Provide infotainment and learning opportunities for novice fly-fishers. – Ultimately achieve Casting Instructor accreditation (a gauntlet thrown at my feet by Matt Tripet, upon hearing of my FLOGGY) METHOD I will achieve proficiency through a total commitment to fly fishing only for one calendar year, regardless of where or when we fish. This will mean that all filming, magazine material gathering and fun fishing will be fly fished by me, regardless of what method Steve chooses, or what the weather is doing. EXPECTATIONS I expect that this will be a very steep learning curve, with high levels of frustration brought on by the comparison of “traditional” gear versus fly. The temptation to drop the fly rod when the going is tough— in favour of the simpler methods — will be strong. Making a commitment to the broader public is my strategy for keeping me “honest” and “on task”. As I get towards the middle of the year, I anticipate that my learning trajectory will begin to flatten out and I will be able to fine-tune my casting towards the goal of sitting the Casting Instructor’s exam in October. I’m as nervous as hell at this challenge, but thank Matt Tripet for his encouragement and belief in me.

My smile in 2016 says it all! I've just successfully landed a stunning brown trout in

My smile in 2016 says it all! I don’t think you ever stop learning, once you “start to fly”. It’s a journey. Won’t you come along?

So, thank you in anticipation of your support. As you’ve made it this far through this screed, I can tell that you’re a stayer 😉 I’m grateful to have you in my corner.