I first ventured into the world of teaching fly fishing three and a half years ago when I sat my Game Angling Instructors’ Certificate in single handed fishing with GAIA What followed after that was an intense few years of teaching, fishing at home and travelling across the world fishing in New Zealand twice, Australia twice and going the opposite direction, the USA! Back in June I decided it was time to test myself again and do a more advanced casting instructor assessment. I chose to do the Master Casting Instructor (MCI) assessment administered by the International Federation of Fly Fishers (IFFF) an American based body. The IFFF are perhaps the best known instructor body globally and their highest achievable level is the MCI.
Testing was to be carried out in Ireland on the banks of the River Suir by Kilsheelin. A gorgeous place as it turned out! I had allowed myself a two month cramming period to polish up on the casting front, practice explanations and refine teaching techniques. Teaching and casting skills are something that you refine all the time, I don’t believe there is an obvious end point but rather a continual journey of learning and adapting. Signing up for assessment really makes you focus on crossing the Ts and dotting the Is though, you want to really show off your best!
Anyway, aside from the practice over those two months, the main event was the testing. We flew over to Ireland on the Thursday with my testing being on the Saturday morning so I had a few days to stew and over-think things. Saturday came about, I was up early, had a little breakfast and went down to the area where we set up the course and started a few warmup casts. I was then introduced to my assessors, Casting Board of Governors member Chuck Easterling, Der Casey and Bryan Martin. A multinational assessing team composed of the USA, Ireland and the UK! They made me feel very welcome starting with a little introduction about each of them, myself, a reading of the assessment rights a candidate has and the format the test would follow. We were going to start with the oral examination comprising questions of casting mechanics, teaching, equipment, fly fishing and etiquette. At this point I had a little nerves but I had a surprise ice breaker up my sleeve. Chuck asked me his first question and whilst he was asking I noticed my rod sitting against the fence on the other side of the field! A casting assessment without a rod is an interesting proposition, especially when you intend to use it as a prop. I politely answered Chuck’s question in the manner of “Yes I do have an answer but I’ve just remembered my rod is on the other side of the field so I’ll answer as soon as I get back!”
This was a great way to break the ice, get a few laughs, let me chill out and get on with the assessment in an easy manner. Right enough I don’t think I’d recommend it as the best way to start your assessment.
The rest of the questions went well, we actually diverged into a bit of a technical discussion at one stage discussion each others opinion but we soon came back on track and then progressed to the performance side of the exam. I just took my time through each task, thinking about the environmental conditions and how best to use the wind and then perform the task. It ran through smoothly too and truth be told I really enjoyed the experience. I got right into a couple of my explanations and almost found myself daydreaming being back on the front of a flats boat casting at big salt species when I was explaining saltwater quick casts! For a few of the tasks such as casting in wind, changes of direction and curve casts I had a number of different ways of achieving the desired result but more often than not I was told I had covered the task and the extras weren’t needed, shut up Scott was more like it! I just started wanting to show off but the danger there is you dig a hole for yourself.
The roll and spey casts were all assessed on water which was great as sometimes FFF exams are held purely on the grass where water is not available. I’m not keen on this as it does not give a true feeling or execution of the casts.
At the end of the test the three guys asked me to stand to one side whilst they had a quick discussion and then they called me over and announced I’d passed. I was delighted, what a great feeling to pass another casting assessment. It was a combination of delight and relief! It took me a while to get the smile off my face that’s for sure. I wasn’t the only pass of the weekend either, congratulations go out to John Boon, Rene Gerken and Phil Ratcliff who also got their MCI and Ally Bremner who got her THCI. It was a top weekend and brilliant to catch up with a lot of great people and meet new friends too. And I can assure you a few well deserved beers were sank on the Saturday evening…
I’d like to write a quick thanks in particular to Brian McGlashan for his help and advice in the lead up to the test, Craig Brown my good mate for all the back and forth casting chat and casting and videos and all kinds of nonsense and Alan Brown too for his involvement in the casting club and putting up with all the same stuff as Craig.
Thanks to John Symonds for the photos.