This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm

February 4th, 2002

Sour Grapes?

We had some interesting comments on our Bulletin Board this week regarding the columns both my husband JC and I had last week on bamboo (split cane) rods and their makers.

Since Fly Anglers OnLine is primarily an 'educational/information' website, we do try to bring things to our readers attention which may spark some thought, understanding and appreciation for those parts of fly fishing which may not have been considered.

As it turns out we also provided the folks on the 'rodbuilders list' with food for thought and discussion as well. Well, for most at least. One of the people who posts on that list took exception with my thoughts, and attacked me personally, to the effect that since he says I didn't like the FFF Casting Program he didn't believe anything I said and how much he enjoyed teaching and being part of the Certified Instructor program.

To that person, you are very welcome.

What you don't know, (besides the fact that I'm probably old enough to be your grandmother) is JC and I were 2 of a group of about 8 highly motivated FFF members who started the FFF Certified Casting Program. There was a 'board' which consisted of Rich Ward, Mel Kreiger, Bruce Richards and I think Al Rohr and JC and I. Al Beaty was President of FFF at that time and I believe he and Gretchen were involved too. I still have my little certificate of thanks from FFF.

Yes, I did take on the casting program after trying for a year to get it changed from inside the organization. However, the egos of some who just had to be so superior mandated the addition of Master Instructors. Unfortunately the 'masters' did not instruct. Anything. And no attention whatsoever was given to improving the teaching methods of those wanting to teach casting. After a lot of howling, FFF did offer a class for instructors at the Livingston Conclave a few years ago. The folks who already were instructors, who had paid their annual fee to keep their 'certification' were then required to PAY an additional fee for that class. If someone like Joan Wulff who does actually teach instructors was giving the class I would have been there too. But no, it didn't work out that way. Many people were 'certified' who couldn't teach, some couldn't even explain what a double-haul did, or what it's physical impact was on a fly rod. No matter, they worked for 'big companies' who contributed to FFF. It stunk then, and while I'm told the program is getting better, I really am insulted when someone accuses me of "sour grapes." For what? I left FFF when it became obvious they did not want to hear any criticism and where my focus was on teaching casting, FFF's was on making money.

Before you start writing me about how great your local chapter of FFF is, I do know there are some local groups who are doing a fine job. Who are teaching, who are encouraging youth to get involved, where everything the group does is not directly attached to how much money it will produce. If you are part of one, hurrah! If you aren't - well you can try to change it.

I was a "Certified FFF Instructor" as was JC. JC and I have been teaching fly casting and fishing for over 30 years. I was the first female member of TU, JC and I founded the 1st FFF Chapter in Michigan. I was the first licensed female fishing guide in Montana. I was the 1st woman outdoor fly fishing writer for Scripps/Howard newspapers. I believe I am the first woman publishing anything fly fishing substantial on the Internet or print. Kate Fox, (Publisher/vice president, Abenaki Publishing. American Angler, Fly Tyer, Saltwater Fly Fishing magazines) runs a close second, and she may actually be the first woman print publisher in fly fishing.

So where does the 'sour grapes' come from? Don't have a clue, but just maybe that person didn't like me telling the truth. And I was. ~ LadyFisher

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