Henk Verhaar, the Netherlands
From the Netherlands
Henk Verhaar was born in 1960, into a non-fishing family.
He was trained as a chemist and currently works as an environmental toxicology researcher at Utrecht University.
His first steps as an angler were set in downtown Leidschendam, at the ripe old age of 6, where he fished for small roach and rudd with a 3 piece, 10 foot cheap bamboo pole with float (bobber) and pieces of bread. This was after passing my first swimming test... Holland has enough water that swimming lessons are an integral part of Dutch upbringing. At the age of 12 he first learned about spinning gear, by reading fishing books, and quickly adopted spinning tackle and lures for pike and perch over other fishing techniques. And this while living in 'Limburg', where at the time almost no spinfishing expertise was to be found. Progress therefore was slow and tedious, as he had to reinvent many wheels himself. Not that he was very good at that, too. Reading yet another fishing book first brought him into contact with flyfishing for trout and other species. When he visited England on a family holiday and actually saw someone fly fishing for trout (in a small town called Bourne-on-the-Water) he was sold. Shortly thereafter in 1977, he acquired his first flyrod -- a lemon if ever there was one.
Apparently the tackle shop owner knew about as much about flyfishing as Henk did at that time, since he was sold an 8 foot, 7/8 weight glass ABU Lapplandia Zoom rod, coupled with cheap japanese Hardy-imitation reel and a 6 weight line. All this for Dutch types of flyfishing, which usually (he now knows) call for 9-10 foot #4 rods. Between 1977 and 1990 he tried to develop his flyfishing and flytying skills without much success (acquiring two other rods, a 7' #4 glass rod and a 7'6" 5/6 fibatube rod, both as kits; in hindsight these weren't the right rods either, but he now is happy he still has them; also acquiring a flytying kit that hindered more than helped). His advice, learned the hard way, is to never ever try to teach yourself flytying from a book, especially a bad book!
In 1991 he finally smartened up and joined a local flyfishing club. This was the wisest decision he ever made during his whole fishing career (and probably the most costly as well...). There's nothing like hands on tuition for learning flyfishing and flytying. He currently has more rods and reels, tying vices, fur and feather material and flies than he's willing to acknowledge. Being the inhouse computer 'expert' at a toxicology research institute, he also quickly found out the opportunities the Internet holds for flyfishers, spending countless hours on mailing lists, checking out web sites and chatting away in chatrooms...
He currently lives in Ankeveen, in the central part of the Netherlands (close to Amsterdam and Utrecht), right in the middle of some of the better 'polder' and fen water systems that offer excellent fly fishing for rietvoorn (rudd, Rotfeder, rotengle) and snoek (pike, Hecht, brochet).