Here's why I support the AAPGAI and feel privileged to be a member. First and foremost all the best flycasting instructors in the UK are members. The list is long (well, about 80) and I hope to include it within these pages in the near future – it makes for some very interesting reading.
It is the qualification that everyone seems to want to attain. It is held in high regard within the UK (and internationally as far as I can make out; but only among those in the know) and this is because the entry standards are so exacting.
It is important to be able to teach and cast, but what makes exam so difficult is that you are expected to be extremely good at both. Crisp, neat, effortless loops are essential and they must be performed under pressure – which the examiners seem to take pleasure in applying! It is a small elite organisation and, as such, manages very successfully to maintain it's high entry standards.
In my opinion an AAPGAI member has to be a credit to the organisation; in this respect it is niche. But so is expertise.
There is a huge pool of knowledge and a personal affinity that I don't get anywhere else. However this is not why I respect them. I respect the open-mindedness and the thirst for improvement amongst the membership. Let me tell you a story…
When I first decided to become an instructor I rang Michael Evans and asked him how to go about this and was told that I had first to become a Stanic instructor before I could take the AAPGAI.
I took some lessons from Henry Lowe who is AAPGAI (and now friend) from Cambridge. I had two lessons of two hours and in that time I realised that I had no idea how to teach, I couldn't roll cast, cast into the wind or double haul. It was quite a revelation.
While taking the STANIC, I met Ali Gowans, Steven Mear and Jim Curry - it's a small world, but it was while watching Vic Knight, Henry Lowe and Robert Gibson-Bevan cast together, that I decided that I really wanted to become AAPGAI, and that here was another level.
It might interest you that after I'd passed RGB took me aside and told me that I should to dress smarter. Which I do of course ;)
I had an awful lot to do with the STA. I worked for Guide Flyfishing as Sales Manager and one of my jobs was to be their representative for the Salmon and Trout Association's children's courses. I did this for a couple of years.
One year after the Stanic I took and passed the AAPGAI. In preparation I'd another two hours with Henry Lowe, two with the late Peter MacKenzie-Philps (head examiner and then president of AAPGAI) and gave Vic Knight a fly rod (Vic was one of the examiners ;))
Later that year I met Mel Krieger and my perception of casting immediately changed. I changed from pushing the stroke to pulling. I learned something very new to me and I immediately took it back to the AAPGAI at one of the CLA Game Fairs. What followed impressed me, for although I was expecting criticism for a non-traditional cast, there was none, only a desire and willingness to learn (Peter Sutton BTW revealed himself to be already a puller).
This has always been the case as far as I can tell. During PMP's lesson I showed him how I overpowered the curved cast by pulling the rod tip back and under itself during the forward stroke – he immediately said that he had never seen this and wanted the rod so he could try it. When I first met Michael Evans he said that he wanted me to teach him my loops. Henry Lowe, who first taught me, is now a confirmed puller of the rod.
I've always found a love of casting, teaching and a thirst for knowledge across the entire membership. It is a state of mind and one I hope to to keep throughout my life.
That's why the AAPGAI is the dog's bollocks.