Every golf course has the local pro who will show you how
to correct your deficiencies for a small fee. Thirty to fifty dollars
a lesson will go a long way toward making a person a better golfer.
Each golfer accepts this as a way of life. The golf-pro is a teacher,
not a person who will play with you to make your two-some a
lower scorer. Boy have we missed the concept in fly fishing. Our
pro's are guides who help a person catch fish or in some cases
actually catch the fish for them. Where is the teaching aspect?
Teaching seems relegated to schools offering group lessons at
seven to eight hundred dollars a person for a two day period,
mostly aimed at beginners. There are few fishing professionals
who either can or will analyze a persons 'game' and then provide
the two hour lessons needed. Casting lessons that cover specific
subjects such as right and left-hand mends, tuck casts, indicator
nymphing as well as the cerebral aspects of the sport appear to
be offered by few. My observations conclude that one-on-one
teaching is the only thing that works. It just takes a real sharp fly
fisher to be able to fulfill this function and one-on-one lessons are
expensive. Most students are not smart enough to realize they need
the help, and those who do either don't know where to find it or
can't afford it.
Our professionals write, give clinics, run lodges, guide, tie flies,
etc, but don't fulfill the real need. Today we need an instructor who
says, "Let me watch you fish for an hour or two and then I'll discuss
what you need." When the observation period is over a quick turn at
the tying bench and a short discussion of leader making and entomology
should produce an evaluation of the students abilities and a list of
things he needs to improve.
The instructor would then present a plan which would rectify the
problem. A series of intensive half-day lessons with time in between
for the student to practice and correlate what he has learned. This
learning process may be spread out over a period of time. I could
even visualize parts of the teaching process being farmed-out to
others with the instructor carefully monitoring the process. The
student would then have to decide how far he wanted to go.
The beginner would need a different program which would allow
him to experience the sport in sufficient depth to see if fly fishing
was his thing. A later desire to improve his abilities would place
him in the observation and improve scenario.
I can also visualize interesting individual presentations such as 'How
to Utilize the InterNet and the Personal Computer to Expand a Fishers
Horizons,' 'Accessing the World Wide Fly Fishing Data Base in Print,'
Rod Building and
Fly Tying ' (see Al Campbell's act
on this site), 'Advanced Fly Fishing Entomology', 'Stream Improvement
Strategies,' 'Bamboo Rod Building' (bamboo questions can be answered
here weekly real-time by Ron Kusse, an expert who
has built the world's best rods before most of us were born). The list
goes on and on. Some subjects lend themselves to group learning and
some do not.
Why not have a program to show prospective fishing professionals
how to apply behavioral objectives to the teaching process, and how
to evaluate objectively their own teaching performance? What about
a national fly instructors certification board that would over-look
the profession much like our state medical boards do our doctors?
(No, FFF doesn't do that.)
Today the level of instruction is much better than it used to be.
Forty years ago there was none. There has to be a realization from
the fishing public that quality instruction costs money, and like the
golfer and tennis player. The fly fisher should be able to come
to the fly fishing pro-shop and get the specific help he wants. It
may be a lesson on how to elevate the back cast or how to tie a
certain type of fly or a integrated program designed to match his
long term goals.
Few are qualified to teach and those who are today usually can't
afford to. I don't mean to dismiss the role of the guide. Guides serve
a useful function and some like Al Campbell are not only guides but
teachers. I guided a little at one time but seldom had the opportunity
to teach. At that time fly fishers just didn't charge to show others how
to play our sport.
I remember the time I was fishing and my wife was relaxing in the van
below Stephan's Bridge on the AuSable River in Michigan. She called
to me from shore and I came over. It seems she had talked to a man from
downstate who had bought the equipment but was sitting in his car too
intimidated by his lack of skill to get out and try it among all the posturing
fly fishers present. She asked me to please help the guy. After fifteen
minutes he caught his first fish and after ten trout or so I left him on his
own. Now he wasn't the 'complete fly fisher,' but he was catching more
fish on that hard-fished stretch than most of the others present. Ten fish
from 100 feet of water at the canoe take-out wasn't bad for a beginner.
I even gave him 10-15 flies.
That kind of help is still present on the stream today, for free, but some
want and need more. It's great to see that people like Ron Koenig from
Pennsylvania still gives away more flies than he uses. Dave Ulmer
actually came to my pharmacy looking for containers to hold Albolene
floatant to give to those he meets on the stream. I've seen Tim Heenan
give over two hours of free instruction to a beginner on indicator nymph
fishing. What a lucky beginner to have accessed an expert of that stature.
I've been the recipient of Al Campbell's free day-long lesson on how to
fish pocket water. I couldn't have been more fortunate. With people like
these out there our sport will survive.
I think we should take the teaching and guiding privileges from all
those who fail to stress good stream etiquette. I don't need road rage
on the stream.
Look out you golfers, in the future you will see our professionals
designing interesting stream sections and using videos and computer
programs to correct casting faults. Four passes over a trout will be
looked at like four-putting a green. A guide in the future will serve
more and more the function of todays golf caddy, handing the fisher
the right rod and fly for the situation.
Please try to remember the time when some of us old codgers fished
the rivers for the love of the sport, and when socio-economic status
and ethnicity didn't really matter. A man was judged by how he laid
out the fly.
Like it should be.
P.S.: There should be a required list of books and articles
concerning "why we fish" which fly fishermen must read before they
are allowed on the stream. Maybe a drop of bourbon from a tin cup
should be mandatory. Robert Traver it's a shame you are gone. ~