I recently received a letter from the Federation of Fly Fishers, (FFF) a
"Final Notice", that my fee to keep my "Official Casting Instructor
Certification" current was past due.
A bit of background here. JC (or Castwell if you
prefer) and I were among the first to be "Certified Instructors." We were
proud to be part of what we then thought was a terrific way to get new
people involved in fly fishing.
Teach them how to cast, get some basic information on rods, reels, lines,
leaders to them and get them on the water fishing.
The first people certified were asked to serve on a 'board' to
help set up some kind of teaching standards across the country, to help run classes for
certification of other instructors, and to share teaching methods. The idea was
to improve everyone's teaching ability. We were
honored to serve on that board.
The concept was great. And perhaps still is. Unfortunately
it only lasted about a year.
Then certification became a political situation where
who you were, whom you worked for were more important than your
knowledge or ability to teach. If the person to be certified worked for
a major manufacturer, retailer, or catalogue the barriers were lowered.
FFF certainly did not want to insult any possible financial supporter.
So the "certification" process suffered, and the losers were/are folks
who might have wanted to somehow learn how to fly fish.
Before the next FFF Conclave, JC and I suggested
some sort of a no-host breakfast or round table for the certified instructors
attending to present their best teaching technique to share with the others.
That was shot down on a purely political basis.
(A company we know had offered to pay a reservation fee to a local
restaurant in Livingston MT to have a breakfast function during what was
normally a closed time. FFF declined since some other company might
be insulted if this companies name was mentioned - like
saying "Thank You" to company X for helping out.)
Just so you know we are not quitters, a bunch of the instructors
did get together, without the sanction of FFF, in a motel parking lot and had our
little get together.
A dollar shortage in FFF, along with ego flexing on the
part of some "certified" instructors who felt they were so much better than
other "certified" instructors brought a new category for "Certified" instructors.
The Master Casting Instructor. Rather, I should have said MASTER.
Cost to take the test for Master Casting Instructor is
$100, plus $50 if you pass. (The cost now for just "Certified Instructor" is
$50 to take the test, and an additional $50 if you pass that one.) I have a
memory lapse on what it was in the beginning, but I'm sure not anywhere near
that. You do have to be a member of FFF to take the tests, another $29.
What wonderful advantages did having a "Masters" category
bring to the average Joe out there who wanted to learn to fly fish? None.
Or something great for the lesser casting instructors? Nothing.
Did anything bad happen? In my opinion, you bet! Some
hard feelings among those who were certified which didn't help the
program or FFF, and sadder still, those who could now call
themselves "Masters" could raise their prices for teaching their classes.
After all, they certainly are "Masters" - FFF says so. The potential
student loses again. Not that FFF cares in the least. It makes them
Sitting out here on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, far
removed from the politics of FFF in Bozeman MT, I probably would not have
let all of that bother me too much, but the final straw came last Friday.
FFF publishes a little bulletin a couple of times a
year, just for Certified Instructors, it is called the Tailing
Loop. Jason Borger is the Editor. There have been some
interesting articles in the Tailing Loop over the past few years, (we
originally became certified instructors in 1994.)
When I read the request for articles on teaching casting by
Jason Borger the hair stood up on the back of my neck and gave me absolute
shivers. I can't quote it exactly - because I was so furious that I tore it up and
threw it in the trash. This is very close: we would like your articles and ideas on
teaching casting for the Tailing Loop, unless they are proprietary
What happened here? The whole bloody idea
was to teach folks how to cast. To share information with the intent to
improve the sport. To improve casting instruction. To bring new
people into fly fishing. To improve the skills of those already in fly fishing.
The best idea FFF ever had!
Proprietary Teaching Methods? Who do these puffed up,
egocentric, self-centered, arrogant, elitist, holier-than-thou (and better than
thou too) so-called instructors think they are? Do they have each person
taking a class sign a non-disclosure and swear in blood they will never
use any of "those methods" to teach their child or buddy? Or tell any living soul?
It seems someone forgot something. Sort of like the old story
about it's hard to remember your job was to drain the swamp when you are
up to your butt in alligators. It looks like the whole certification program
forgot what the job was. It was to form a group of people, representing
FFF who could go out and teach folks how to cast. PERIOD. Not to
stroke their own egos, or feather their own nests, or to pump up the FFF
treasury. Greed is such an ugly thing.
I choose not to be part of such a group. It is a matter of
principal and ethics! JC and I will continue to teach as we always have. We
will continue to do it for less than the going rate, because we feel the "usual"
prices most charge are directly responsible for discouraging folks from taking
a class - plus it just reinforces the elitist, rich-man's- sport image, erroneously
flaunted and touted by some.
We have also choosen not to renew our FFF memberships.