In this months interview series we have Peter Driver who is an excellent well known Irish fly angler, fly tier, guide, fly tying materials supplier and fly fishing tackle supplier who is based in Kilkenny.
Hi Peter, could you start off by introducing yourself and telling us a little bit about yourself?
Hi all, my name is Peter Driver and for as long as I remember I have been a fly fishing fanatic. I originally come from Rathdrum in Co Wicklow but I am living in Kilkenny now and plan to stay here for the foreseeable future. I wouldn’t say I strive for perfection in my fishing ability but I crave knowledge and to be learning more about this intriguing and ever developing sport. Also there is nothing more I enjoy than sharing some newly discovered knowledge to any one that will listen to me ramble on.
What are your earliest memories of fly fishing Irish rivers for trout?
Fly fishing is in my family, my dad and uncles are all passionate anglers. So I was introduced to fly fishing very early. I can vaguely remember being stood on the bridge of the Avonmore River in Rathdrum to watch the evening rise of fish while being explained to about what I was looking at. The club in Rathdrum always had and still does have a proactive approach to fly fishing and developing youths, so at a young age I was introduced through the clubs Saturdays mornings youth sessions with the senior members of the club.
What’s your favourite Irish river to fish and why?
While there are some amazing rivers around Kilkenny that I really enjoy fishing. The Avonmore River in Wicklow will always hold a special place in my heart, for several reasons. It is undoubtedly the most stunning river I have ever fished in Ireland. It is by no means an easy river to fish, slippy rocks and hard caught fish make it very challenging, but that is the kind of river I like anyway. I spent most of my youth on this river and still today when I return to it I get a sense that I am back in the days of a young lad adventuring through the woods discovering a new pool or big trout, I enjoy reminding myself of those days now and agin.
Do you think there’s a difference between how prolific fly hatches are now on Irish rivers compared to when you first got into fly fishing and is there a difference in the numbers, quality and average size of trout on the rivers you fish?
Yes I definitely think that the affects of pollution, farming, forestation, cormorants and other prey and invasive fish species among others has had a profound effect on the rivers quality and its inhabitants. I also think that a nostalgic memory is common for all anglers throughout the generations. My dad regularly tells stories to me of all the great trout in the rivers in his day and now I tell similar stories to the younger generations that the rivers are now nothing compared to what they used to be. However, poor water quality and poor river management on a national level is having huge effects on rivers in Ireland. I fear if a proper national strategy is not developed we will see the decline of our fresh waters even more.
You are getting a great reputation as “the man to go to if you want hooks and beads” through your online store Piscari-Fly . But you also sell quite a good range of top quality fly tying materials, can you tell us a bit about the products available and how you got involved with Piscari-Fly?
As a passionate fly fisher and dresser having the right gear and materials the way I wanted it was always something that I searched for, right beads for the right hooks and so on. It was something that I spent a lot of time working out and I guess when I began to bring in my own stuff I wanted to share it with others that I fish with and it just took off from there really. I am a bit of a fanatic when it comes to hooks and beads and I tried and tested a lot of beads and hooks before I got them right and was finally happy with them. Also as a fly tier I like to tie on the best hooks and use the best beads I can for my customers.
So since the start I was always looking to develop my business and offer more products mostly to do with nymph fishing to anglers of Ireland at a good price. Everything that I have to date in the business is stuff I use myself and I think that is important when recommending the products to my customers. It is something that I hope will continue to grow and develop with the great support of anglers in Ireland.
You are also involved with Syndicate which now have a great reputation for being excellent quality rods, particularly the light nymphing rods. Can you tell us a bit about how that came about?
As everything else I am doing and selling it begins with me always looking for something to improve my fishing first, then if my discoveries are good I share through my business. I was researching 2 weight rods and came across Syndicate and some great reviews in various forums about their ability, weight and of course cost for a great rod. I couldn’t justify the price of other 2 weights on the market and I was not mad about some of them I had tried. So everything about this Syndicate rod and the ethos of the company justified the very competitive price and so I bought one.
The moment I put the rod together I knew it was exactly what I was looking for and after fishing it for a few days I was compelled to email the company to say how nice the rod was. Following a series of emails it was decided by the guys from Syndicate they wanted to meet and got on a plane to Ireland, after that week Syndicate Ireland began.
Syndicate is not just a rod company; it is a family, one that I am very proud to be part of. It is not just another rod company that want your money and offers little else. Apart from the great warranty they offer and top class rods, they have great plans for the future for Irish anglers and really want to invest in the youths of our sport. So there is some exciting stuff to come from the guys.
You offer a range of tuition and services including guiding, casting instruction and coaching. Can you tell us a bit more about that and also do you see many world class anglers coming up in the Irish youth team?
As I have said since the first question there is nothing more I like to do than share the knowledge I have gathered over the years from travelling and competing. I really enjoy meeting a young angler that is mad to learn and will put in the time to develop their skills as I did many years ago and still do today. But like a lot of other sports youth involvement is on the decline in fly fishing too. We do have some great and exciting young angler coming through the ranks in clubs, however, keeping them in the sport is difficult and the majority of them move on to other sports or interests. In some ways there is little encouragement for them to stay in the sport only for the love of it.
You’ve also competed yourself in World and European Fly Fishing Championships as well as many other competitions over the years. What would you think are the biggest changes to the competition scene now compared to when you first got involved with the competition scene?
Oh there have been unreal developments in competition fishing over the years since I began in the World Championships Sweden in 2000. This year I am the captain of the Irish team heading to the World Championships in Italy in September and what I see now is anglers from around the World who are athletes and spend a lot of time and focus on their body and training for this level of fishing. Competition fishing at this level has a lot involved in it, psychically and psychologically for a competitor; so most of the guys at the top address these and really put a lot of work into a lot more than just their fishing techniques.
Then you have the developments in fishing gear and fly-tying materials when I went to Sweden we didn’t use 2 weight rods or have any great understanding of modern nymphing that exists nowadays. I guess now with social media platforms emergence a lot has changed as information is readily accessible for anyone who wants to learn.
Have you any advice you could offer for someone who might be thinking about getting involved in competition fly fishing?
I love competition fly fishing, I find it pushes me to develop and learn to be better. But it also has a great social side to it; I have met some great people over the years through competitions home and abroad. It also gives an angler the opportunity to travel to destinations around the world that you might not have been to if you were just a pleasure angler. I would advise anybody wishing to get involved in competitions to begin by linking up with some other anglers that are involved in the scene. The best place to start is to look to your local clubs and see what competitions they might have, these will give you a taste of what competitions are like; they are for some and other anglers find that they don’t like them. If you do enjoy them then I would recommend keeping things simple and focusing on the small details of your fishing and the results will come.
I will say that it is a great experience representing your country in World and European competitions, and one that I would encourage other anglers to try and have a go at some stage of their fishing life.
As a full time fly tyer you obviously know a thing or two about flies. Do you still tie for pleasure and can you share with us a couple of your favourite flies for Irish river trout?
Over the years I have tried to simplify my patterns and approaches to catching fish as much as I can and I am catching just as much now or more even with simple flies and less flies in my boxes. I love fly-tying and I could sit at the desk for 12 hours straight no problem several days a week. I often say that I could give up fly fishing if I had to but I could never give up fly tying.
I do a lot of commercial tying but I also make time for my own tying and experimenting with old patterns trying to make them more productive or trying out new materials I have found somewhere. I often get together with a few friends and we have fly-tying sessions sharing and developing our skills, they are a bit of fun and great for sharing and learning.
Here are a few well proven patterns that always gets fish for me….I like a bit of a soft hackle on my nymphs
You are probably better known as a nymphing man. Is the majority of your fishing with nymphs or do you also enjoy other methods too?
I have spent a lot of time nymphing and it would be my go to method, but as a competition angler you must be able to fish all methods and fish them well. I like to fish all other methods just as much as nymph fishing, and there is something special witnessing a nice fish coming up to your dry fly. I was born and bred wet fly fishing and still enjoy trying to outsmart trout with a couple of spiders swinging them down and across the river. I think it is important for a angler to fish all methods as some days one will out fish the other and it can get boring going onto the water fishing the same way all the time, you are not developing or learning that way.
You have fished in many different parts of the world. Which countries outside of Ireland did you enjoy fishing the most and is there any country in particular that you keep returning to for pleasure fishing?
I have been to countless destinations over the years and a few always draw me back time and time again. Poland and the River San is a common destination for me, as too the River Dee in Wales. However fishing in Slovenia is something special, and I try and get there at least one time a year. This place not only has good sized fish, with several species but the scenery here is amazing and the people are so welcoming, I would recommend it to everyone to get there at some time of there lives.
We often here about things not being as good as they used to be for trout fishing in Ireland with pollution, poaching and declining fly hatches in particular. But can you see any positive changes in recent years?
I do see that catch and release is much more widely practiced across the country. Social media campaigns have assisted its popularity and it is a good thing. There still is some who wish to take a couple of fish for the table and that is not too bad, but there is others that will kill a lot more than they need and it does have an impact. The exposure of pollution and other negatives on social media do raise good awareness to the problems but I think the action to remedy the problems is just not there.
Besides fishing related things do you have any other hobbies?
Very little, I live, eat and breathe fly fishing. I do some training in the gym and some running but that is related to fishing too for competitions and to try and stay somewhat fit. I do like a bit of game shooting and I keep Springer’s so I get out with them as much as possible. I used to play a good bit of golf but due to the increase demands of my fishing that went by the way side as few years ago, but I get out now and again sometimes. It is hard to have any other hobbies really when you put in as much time as I do into fly fishing and have a family too. I married the most understanding wife on the planet thank god.
Thanks very much for taking the time to answer these questions. The last word is yours. If there’s anything you would like to add please feel free. And tight lines for 2018!!
Thanks for the opportunity to give you some insight into my fishing life, I hope you get something from it and if you would like any more information in relation to any aspect please feel free to get in touch. To end, never stop learning, and sharing is learning for us all. Encourage youths to give it a try and do your bit to protect what we have left, or for the next generation it will be a lot less. Safe and tight lines for 2018 to all.