April 21st, 2003

By James Castwell

I once ran a fly-fishing school on the weekends, once taught a thirteen week accredited course for a university, formed a FFF chapter, taught with some of the 'great and near-great,' was certified by FFF, ran a fly-casting school, did performances at major sports/fly shows, taught 'how to teach' to guides in the Bahamas; I did all of these things while I was incompetent. Still am, always probably will be.

There a whole lot of things I don't know about fly-fishing and all it encompasses, but I can handle myself fairly well under most of the situations I delve into. I can not twist up an Australian plait or braid or whatever it's called, can't do a Bimini twist either, have never needed to use one and no one has ever asked me to either. If asked about one, I would simply say I don't know how.

Can I cast a two-handed rod? Not really, I was shown (taught) about thirty years ago, but have never fished one. I do not teach it either. Lots of things I can't do.

However when I do teach, I spend the required time with each person to find out what they want to learn, where they are going and when. The most important thing I teach right off is where the restrooms are, and tell them that may be the most valuable thing they learn all day. Most folks are only with me a few hours at best, if they want to go all the way to the double-haul we do it, presentation can be brought in too but, mostly it's just how to control the shape of the front and back loop, how to know when they have made a poor cast and what caused it and how to fix it, a decent roll-cast, how to stop the rod to make a fly drop properly, a few knots and a bit of line mending.

I think today's instructors may know a lot more about the whole range of fly casting than I do and that's probably a good thing. But I can only teach just so much in a one day class, which, at best, most are.

Do casting instructors need to know everything to be competent?

Yes... but mostly just for the region where they are teaching.

So with that in mind, let me say this. When we have one of our world famous 'Fish-In's' we do not offer any type of organized instruction. No instructors, no masters, no guides, just plain folks. Don't get me wrong here, there is plenty of learning going on but it is never on a formal basis. There is a lot of lawn casting, some for distance, some for accuracy some just to try another guys fly rod. Fly-tying is going on every evening and sometimes during the day, not showing off, sharing. Oh yes, we do fish too. It is all very informal and easy going. And maybe that's my point.

Perhaps it is not really possible to have a 'one size fits all' kind of program; for casting instruction or guides either. The solution might be to continue with instruction just the way it always has been and is going on these days. Grass-roots stuff. The local club, fly-tying picnic, opening day, any gathering of fly-fishers, all just trying to help each other and sharing what ever they may have whether it is knowledge, equipment or just good companionship. ~ James Castwell

Till next week, remember . . .

Keepest Thynne Baakast Upeth

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