Today, we introduce the hard-working EFFA founder Günter Feuerstein. A perfectionist who polarises. He is very sceptical about the general development of fly fishing. His credo: "To fly fish you have to be able to cast and so the central element is the fly line, which serves as the casting weight, and nothing else. Full stop!"
Nymph and huchen fishing is his great passion. Günter Feuerstein (54) lives in Oberriet, CH, grew up in Dornbirn (AT) and is a teacher by profession. He started fishing in 1971 and has been a convinced fly fisherman since 1978.
Günter is a co-founder of EFFA, served as EFFA President from 2006 to 2014, is now EFFA Honorary President, Chairman for the Fly Casting Department and former President of the Rhine Fishing Association on the St. Gallen Rhine and the IKFA (International Conference of Fishing Associations on the Alpine Rhine). In his advisory work for various governments on fisheries and tourism with a focus on fly fishing, he is a sought-after expert. Günter is the author of books "Successful Fly Fishing For Salmonids" and "Successful Fly Fishing For Salmonids" (available soon) and has produced several videos. Günter is also a RIO and CTS Ambassador and Field and Fish Consultant.
We talked to the jack-of-all-trades and asked him a few questions:
How did you get into fly fishing?
Günter Feuerstein: I was trolling for baitfish and since nothing was happening on my porcupine pose but there was a lot of activity on the surface, I tied one of three flies I had in my bag to the end of the line and tipped it on the water. I caught more baitfish than ever before. Then I made my own fly tackle. That was 1978. Here's the whole story: https://www.g-feuerstein.com/de/Günter-Feuerstein-Fliegenfischen-Anfang.html.
You are known worldwide in the fly fishing scene and have achieved a lot. Is that a curse or a blessing?
Günter Feuerstein: Both. When you play in the top league, of course you have many enviers, and they shoot across from time to time. That's just part of being in the limelight. I know what I can do and what I do as an instructor, and I don't care about anything else. In the past, many people tried to prevent any examinations for instructors, so of course, as the head of FFF-Europe and later EFFA, I was a red rag for some people. I am also very sceptical about dubious developments in fly fishing and do not mince my words. This generates opposition, but someone has to defend fly fishing. Blessing in that my statement carries a lot of weight when I take a stand on something.
Every fly fisherman has his own views, experiences and philosophy. Opinions are often controversial. Is there a fundamental right or wrong?
Günter Feuerstein: If you don't have to be able to cast in order to fly fish, something is simply no longer right. For me, the central element of fly fishing is the fly line as a casting weight. It goes without saying that I do not accept Czech nymphing as fly fishing, nor do I accept casting 30 g Huchen streamers with a fly rod. These developments are simply just as wrong as tying a flasher, twister or worm to the end of the fly leader. Otherwise I am very tolerant.
You are a strong advocate for fly fishing, especially for the continued existence of this beautiful sport and an intact nature. What is particularly important to you and where do you see the biggest challenges?
Günter Feuerstein: I think fly fishing is a very graceful and beautiful "sport" that is increasingly being squeezed by fishing at any price. I am clearly in favour of banning all techniques that exclude the fly line as a transport medium. When we EFFA instructors teach how to speed up and stop the rod and how to influence the unwinding of the fly line, we do it to preserve fly fishing. If someone on the water then says to you that he catches his fish even without being able to cast, and then lets a point fly weighing several grams with a dropper drift under the fly rod tip, then I don't understand what that's about in a section of water reserved for fly fishermen. Thank goodness more and more water owners understand this problem and are adapting their fishing regulations.
You are one of the driving forces behind the foundation of FFF-Europe and EFFA. Tell us briefly how the foundation came about, the challenge and what finally emerged from your drive?
Günter Feuerstein: In 1995 I went to the FFF Conclave in Livingston, Montana, to see the new Master Instructor Programme of the FFF, which was presented there for the first time. It was supposed to replace the previous programme, which had failed miserably due to completely inadequate requirements. As the programme was also unsuitable for Europe, I spoke to the then Fly Casting Chairman of the FFF, Tom Travis, about it. He finally suggested that we should create our own test programme adapted to Europe. It was clear to me that I would have to gather the best known casters in Europe. This was not easy, because we had to get representatives of different throwing styles and techniques to work together. Since Sepp Fuchs was also present at this Conclave, I talked to him about the idea. As he was immediately enthusiastic, we tackled the goal. The rest is history.
Fly fishing, especially fly casting, is a complex subject. What is your philosophy? How easy or difficult is it to develop casting techniques and ultimately to pass them on and teach them?
Günter Feuerstein: You can't develop a casting technique any more unless the tackle is going to change fundamentally. Skagit has brought the last big inputs, even if you cannot compare it with the other three techniques in terms of complexity, because it contains elements of very different techniques. Styles are expressions of basic techniques. But there are not many of them. If a person's casting is fundamentally different from what is recorded in literature, but does not require special rods, lines and leaders, then it is called a style. Here, too, the possibilities are limited. I developed many casting styles as a teenager and it was only the internet that enabled them to spread rapidly. For me, casting creations arose either from the joy of playing with the tackle or from special situations on the water. Some techniques/throws are less complex, some are very difficult and it takes years to really master them. And by mastering, I don't mean on the grass or at a pool under "sterile" conditions, but on the water in a situation where the first cast has to be 100% correct and many influencing factors have to be taken into account. Teaching these techniques is something completely different. Of course, my profession as an educator suits me very well here. The bottom line is that only a few instructors can stay on the market for a long time. This is only possible through good work.
An excellent fly fisherman masters a wide variety of casts and techniques and chooses what he thinks is best for the situation at hand. That is my philosophy. This also means that he should not only master one technique, but he must be open to new things. It is not about choosing one technique and then it fits for everything. It probably fits up to 90% of situations, depending on the technique, but that doesn't satisfy me on the water when I see a big fish but can't reach it. You should always set yourself goals, even when casting. As an instructor, you should always strive to learn.
But there are also excellent fishermen who can't cast very well. It takes both to be successful on overfished waters.
Where or even how can EFFA develop further? What still needs to be done? What potential does EFFA have?
Günter Feuerstein: I would like the organisation to be able to build on active members in many countries again. For me, that would be the most important goal of a European organisation. The focus should be on area coverage. But for that we need active members who also write something for the website and contribute to the dissemination of EFFA.
How do you see the current ecological situation of European waters and their fish stocks?
Günter Feuerstein: Herbicides, insecticides, softeners, hormonal substances, soil compaction, too high a cutting frequency when mowing, destruction of riparian woods and erosion of the sward during flood protection are just some of the problems of our water bodies. Then there is the greed for profit of the electricity industry, which has still not understood what it is doing to nature with its fragmentation of our rivers and small water bodies and above all with the flood. The changing temperatures are not good for our salmonid waters either. Then there are the fish-eating birds and, more recently, the otter as negative influencing factors. On my website I keep pointing out the various problems. We all need to be much more active in defending our habitat and that of the fish.
Do you have any advice for your fellow fly fishers? What is an absolute no-go for you on the water?
Günter Feuerstein: Acting arrogant or bragging about your catches. Good streamside etiquette and correct casting with the fly line are core elements of our "sport" and it should be a concern for everyone to maintain and defend these.
What could you never do without when you are on the water?
Günter Feuerstein: My poling glasses, because I am also on the water a lot without a rod.
Interview: Stefan Schramm
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