PHOTO: Tim Angeli
Before I start, I would like make it clear that these are my own experiences on becoming certified by the International Federation of Fly Fishers as a casting instructor. Countless people have become certified before me and again, countless people will become certified after me, all of which will experience different challenges along the way. I write this to encourage anyone who has thought of taking the journey to do so and to give an insight as to what I believe it takes to be successful in the certification process.
FIND A REASON TO DO SO
Obviously, the first step in the journey is the decision to become certified. I think having a personal reason, will help you stay on course during those times when you can’t be bothered practicing or are having self-doubt. The best thing about this reason, is the fact that it’s your reason. You may want to pass on valuable knowledge and skill to future generations, become famous for having the tightest loops on Instagram, make as much money through lessons as you can or simply improve your casting to further enjoy your personal fishing, it really doesn’t matter.
For me, coming from a non-fly fishing family and being self-taught, I sought out a way to further my learning of the sport and the mechanics of casting within a set time frame. I wanted to be the best caster I could be, knowing that I have armed myself with the knowledge to correctly present a fly in most situations.
Make sure your reason is enough to push you through the entire process as the Federation only allocates a certain number of spots per examination weekend and it can be quite expensive to sit the test when you include travel, accommodation and fees.
FIND A MENTOR
Trust me, this could be the single best piece of advice I give you. Find someone who knows the mechanics of fly casting. Get to your local shop, ask around or research on the internet. Whatever you do, find a mentor. You may think you’re a good caster when you start out, but believe me the sooner you realise you’re not as good as you think, the sooner you can start learning. You may even need to break your casting down and start from scratch (like I did), but having a mentor will give you direction and steps to rebuild without including those nasty, bad habits.
Daily sounds like a lot, but I highly recommend always having a rod set up in the garage, at work or in the car. All it takes is 10, 15 or 20 minutes a day to really drill in that muscle memory required to be a skilled caster.
20 minutes a day is far more beneficial than spending 2 hours twice a week. The physical movements need to become second nature and to achieve this you need practice, practice, practice. What you decide to practice is up to you and your mentor, making sure to change it up regularly so it doesn’t become a chore. I recommend picking tasks at random from the test to practice, this will help keep it fresh and will keep you thinking.
Make sure to practice in all wind conditions, you never know what the weather will do on your exam day.
TRY DIFFERENT ROD LENGTHS, WEIGHTS AND BUILD MATERIALS
This may seem controversial to many instructors out there, but in my experience changing my equipment was extremely helpful in nailing the fundamental physics of fly casting. However, make sure you have your bread and butter rig available to you at all times. I chose the Scott Radian 9ft 6-weight and after much deliberation, strung it up with an Airflo Distance Pro WF6. The rod speaks for itself, but I chose this particular line because of its delightfully long belly for those 75ft casts and the fact that it’s bright green so I can see all the mistakes I am making.
I would have a few different rods set up at work including a Scott F2 7’2” 3-weight glass rod, a 9’ 5-weight Scott G2, a 10’ 6-weight Airflo Nemesis all the way up to a 9ft 10-weight Scott Meridian. Not only did this help me fully understand the physics of a flexing fly rod, but it is also kept things fresh on the practice front and helped to push through those inevitable moments of my learning plateau.
Choose your examination rod early, get to know it like it’s an extension of your arm. But make sure you experiment with different length, weight and even the build material of your fly rod. It will provide you with a deeper understanding and make you a far superior caster.
Easier said than done? Hardly, go to your local fly shop and try them all! Trust me, anyone working at these shops will be itching to get out and cast some fly rods with a customer.
READ ALL THE ARTICLES ON THE IFFF WEBSITE
Everything you need to know about the fundamentals, physics and more importantly, teaching aspects of the exam can be found on the IFFF website. All of these articles are written by the movers and the shakers in the fly casting/fly fishing world. I implore you to read, re-read and re-re-read these texts, as they will become increasingly clear as you progress and become a more competent fly caster.
Another thing, become familiar with the particular lingo the IFFF choose to use. No doubt during the process your reading will become broader as you tap into the inter-web, just be sure that you can relate what you’re reading back into IFFF terms for use in the exam and beyond.
BE COMFORTABLE IN YOUR OWN STYLE
Style is very personal and important. I believe it is why we continue to fish with different people. Fly fishing is all about learning from one another, if we all had the same style of casting, how boring would that be? However, be wary of the difference between being comfortable with your style and being stubborn in your ways. If your style is contributing to tailing loops or other common problems, then perhaps its time to break your casting down and rebuild, ridding yourself of bad habits. Conversely, if your style is considered ‘unorthodox’ but you manage to control your loops by maintaining a straight line rod tip path, then your fundamentals must be solid and you are on the right track to becoming a competent caster.
I will offer one piece of advice, during my process I discovered a distinct difference in my ‘fishing style’ as opposed to my ‘casting style’. I found it far more beneficial to practice my ‘casting style’ as close to vertical as possible. This makes it far easier to see loops from an examiners perspective and in my opinion, shows a higher level of loop control than that of a severely cantered style.
IN SUMMARY, ENJOY IT
Make sure you enjoy the process, otherwise what’s the point? Be patient with yourself and acknowledge that learning new things takes time, no matter how good you think you are. Be prepared to start from scratch and try to remove all ego.
Also bear in mind that the becoming a Certified Casting Instructor is simply the first step of the journey. Who knows, you may want to continue your learning and become a Master Caster, or even end up on the Board of Governors, if that’s your thing…
Any questions about casting and tuition please contact Gus: email@example.com