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The FFF CI Examination
A guide to the test

If you are considering taking the FFF CI test then the best thing you can do is run through the test with a Master Instructor familiar with the test. However that is not always possible. So this is how I do it. I generally try to run through the test twice with a week apart. The first time I spend a lot of the time talking and questioning. The second time I try to say very little.

With regards your casting, your casts should look "effortless", straight, and most importantly your loops should look consistent. If your loops are constantly changing shape from one cast to the next that's going to make it hard for your examiner. This is not a difficult casting test, so make it look easy and fun.

When I examine, my bottom line is, can the guy or lady teach beginners to cast effectively? That's it for me. The test is about International consistency and it's really a tool for us to determine if you can teach. Of course having passed you'll want to take it further than that, because having met us you'll say "wow, what a nice bunch of friendly and knowledgeable people, I would like to take this further". Or at least that's what we hope. Really.

Now not every MCI will agree with everything I write below. And that's because we're all different. You may find that one of your examiners has a peculiar fetish that he insists upon. Hell we all have them! And it could be that you are right. As far as I'm concerned I'm not going to fail you if you argue with me, even if you are wrong, which you probably will be. And that's because you may be right, and if you are right, then I will thank you because the moment we stop learning is the moment we die. Grab a coffee or a whisky. This could take a while...

Fly Casting Instructor Performance Test:

    Rod: 9 ft. maximum
    Line: #7 floating maximum
    Leader: 7 ½ ft. minimum with yarn fl y

In all cases the candidate must demonstrate the good, relaxed form that would be expected in an FFF Certified Instructor, and which would instill confidence in students. The tasks should be accomplished quickly and easily.
This is not a matter of taking many trials in order to accomplish the task once.

    Indicate successful completion with a check mark
    _____  Attended a workshop on teaching and casting
    _____  Passed written exam

See? Relaxed and consistent. Marc La Mouche recommends relaxing your bum muscles, but this may not be such a good idea. I'd recommend 9ft leader, knotless and tapered to 10lbs tippet, use a 6-weight if it makes you happy, and a nice big bit of yarn that can be seen. Grease/gink the fluff so that it floats - handy if you're roll casting over water. Make sure your flyline is not invisible, this makes it really hard to examine. Don't worry too much about the tackle, it's not important - personally a nice needle or nail knot connection is going to impress me, a braided loop isn't - see I have peculiar fetishes too. But I won't fail you over it, I'll just think you can't tie knots. I've always spooled up a new line for these tests, at the very minimum clean it and dress it to make it slick.

Here's one tip that I think can make a big difference to your performance, it's something Lars and I talked about recently. There is no pick-up and lay-down cast in this exam. Lars thinks there should be and I think he's right. However every casting exercise starts off with the line on the ground. Make every pick-up count: start off with the rod tip touching the ground, with no slack line, and slowly lift the line off the water or grass before making the Casting Stroke. Your first backcast should be spot-on, every time you pick up the line. If you've thrown a slack line cast, straighten it up with a roll or an overhead cast before making your next demonstration.


Loops - Using Rod Hand Only

1. Demonstrate a minimum of six false casts with controlled narrow loops on both the forward and backcasts at 35-40'.
        Pass ____
        Fail  ____
Comments: (tailing loops, loop size (3ft), parallel loops, consistent speed on casts)

I'm going to tell you something. Almost every cast in this section asks you to false cast carrying 35-40 feet of line - measured feet to fly. So get good at it. If you cannot do this basic cast properly then you are going to struggle for the rest of the test. While this exam is "style-free" I want to see that you can throw that line over the tip of the rod, both back and forwards. If Lefty Kreh can throw the line over the tip of the rod then so can you.

You may get a question at this point. This depends on who examines you. Some examiners will ask you questions all the way through the test, others will ask you more questions at the end of the test when you are examined on your teaching ability. If you're going to get a question here it would be "what causes narrow loops?" Your answer is "TIP PATH". When the tip makes an approximate Straight Line Path during the Casting Stroke then the line follows that path and the loop is narrow. More? The rod bends when I cast and so I match the Casting Arc to the rod bend to get the Straight Line Path.

OK now I'm going to have a good day.

2. Demonstrate very wide loops on the forward cast on command.
        Pass ____
        Fail  ____

Comments: ( non-loop, open loops)

Here's the situation: you're going to go from throwing the same loops you were in the previous exercise and that you are very good at, and then when we say so, you're going to throw very wide loops on the forward cast. "What about the backcast?" you say. No one has ever asked me that.

The usual mistake here is not throwing wide enough loops. The notes say "non-loop" - this means so wide you can drive a car through it, so to make it happen stroke the rod all the way down to the ground if necessary. If your loop can be bigger then it's not big enough.

Question: "How did you make that happen". Answer: "TIP PATH. I went from a straight line path to a large circular (draw it in the air, make it big) convex or domed tip path. The line followed this path and my loops were really ugly man."

Now I'm having a really good day. If you don't mention the words "tip path" then I'm going to have to find out if you know. That makes my life harder because then I have to think up cunning questions to ask you if you know the words without me actually saying them first. So just say them first and stop wasting my time.

3. Demonstrate tailing loops on the forward cast on command.  The caster is informed on which cast the tailing loop is to occur Saying…”after two good loops want you to cast a tailing loop.”                                
        Pass ____
        Fail  ____

Comments: (loops that cross bottom line, loop size)

OK so here we go again. You get to impress your examiner (I bet you hope it's not me) with your fantastic, consistent, apparently effortless 35-40 feet false casting and then you get to blow it all up with a tailing loop.

Since you've never done this before let me tell you some stuff about tailing loops. Tailing loops are caused when the tip of the rod puts a wave or buckle in the fly leg of the loop. It does this during the Casting Stroke - see our definitions if you are confused - this wave or buckle manifests itself into a tail by the fly-leg dipping down and crossing the rod leg of the loop.

[This is something you don't need to know for the test, and your examiners probably won't know it anyway, but if your backcast is off-shoulder travelling away from you - ie not straight - then the tail will cause a line intersection and a tangle. If however your backcast instead of being straight was hooked in behind you for some interesting reason, then instead of an intersection on the forward cast, what you'll actually end up with is a curved layout. If the Grand Old Duke of York was only half way up the hill, and miraculously your backcast was straight in-line with your forward cast, meaning that your tracking was perfectly straight, then the top leg will dump on the bottom leg and you'll end up with a tuck-cast layout configuration. Which is very useful for throwing big streamers with slack line incidentally.]

So back to the test, how do you get the rod tip to travel in concave path, because in this context that's really what we are talking about? (1) Too small a Casting Arc [for the bend in the rod] (2) Uneven/improper application of force - one example would be trying to punch the rod at the end of the Casting Stroke (3) Breaking 180 degrees, backcast trajectory is high, forward cast trajectory is high and the loop tails (4) CREEP. (5) Finishing the haul too soon.

The ones to demonstrate here would be (1) and (4). Creep is where the caster, during the pause and while the loop is unrolling, is thinking about his forward cast and involuntary drifts his rod tip forward narrowing the available casting arc. He doesn't compensate - because he didn't know he did it - and he throws a tail. Think of it as like waiting at the starting line for the gun: you're so keen to get started you accidentally creep over the line.

Now I'm going to tell you something that may be considered a "cheat". Well it kind of is and it isn't. Using (3) aiming too high on the forward cast is an easy and consistent way of throwing and demonstrating a tail. However, of all the causes of tails, it's the least likely. Still you can enhance your tail by just aiming up a little bit when demonstrating the other causes... take (5) Finishing the haul too soon - yes I can get a tail doing this most times, but when I'm teaching or demonstrating this I want it to happen every time. Finishing the haul too soon AND aiming up a little bit guarantees a tail. That's a little tip from me to you as an instructor, just don't make it too obvious in the test.

OK, so if you're going to walk this one, do your normal casting stroke, nice consistent loops that you are now very good at, and then make your Tailing Loop stroke with a very narrow casting arc. Don't compensate, don't reduce the power, don't aim too high; just make your casting arc much smaller than your previous arcs and the loop will tail. Easy.

"How did you make that happen?" TIP PATH. "Tailing loops are caused when the tip of the rod dips under the Straight Line Path and puts a buckle in the line path. In this case I used too narrow a Casting Arc forcing the rod tip to travel a concave path."

We will deal with tailing loops again in the Instruction Ability section, so don't panic.

Line Control

4. Reach mend left at 35-40'
        Pass ____
        Fail  ____

Comments: (explain purpose, straight line, shoot line, without shooting line, rod reach)

This used to be called Reach Cast until we became all pedantic about terms and definitions. If you're an anal person then please don't take the test because there's too many of us here already.

So what we're looking for is a vertical overhead cast, the one you are good at, and then reaching the rod way over to the side so that it looks like you cast from that position. The line should be straight.

Now there are two ways of doing this, one is to false cast with 35-40ft of line and then shoot when you make the mend - with this one it's easier to be accurate - and the other way is to false cast beyond the target and instead of shooting line pull the fly into place with the mend. You could argue about the differences but I think that's outside the scope of the test and between you and me nobody cares.

Reasons for a Reach Mend: not lining a fish, as a presentation cast to avoid drag, casting upstream along a bushy bank without placing the line over the bushes - would be the main ones. All of which would be an indication that you're casting from the wrong position, but sometimes it's like that.

Difference between a "Mend" and a "Cast" - a Cast is something you make during the Casting Stroke and affects the fly-leg of the loop, while a Mend is something you make after the loop has formed and affects the rod-leg of the loop. And that's all we'll say about that.

When a student fails to make this cast properly it's usually because he hasn't stopped the rod high enough giving himself enough time to reach.

5. Reach mend right at 35-40'
        Pass ____
        Fail  ____

Comments: (explain purpose, straight line, shoot line, without shooting line, rod reach.)

The other side.

6. Side arm cast at 35-40' (at an angle of 45 degrees from the vertical or greater. Using rod hand only.
        Pass ____
        Fail  ____

Comments: (side arm angle, tailing loop, loop size)

Get the rod over to 45 degrees or more, Lars says you have to speed up the tempo a little bit to stop the line snagging the grass. Uses: dense vegetation, casting close to the fish without spooking it. Not difficult but make sure your backcast is tight.

7. Pile cast at 35-40' or greater (high trajectory forward cast, with slack line presentation). Using rod hand only.
        Pass ____
        Fail  ____

Comments: (high fwd cast, loop size, leader piles, explain purpose)

What is being looked for here, is to see if you know that you have to make an adjustment to your backcast, because if you aim higher on your forward cast without delivering a lower backcast then your loop tails. So false cast, deliver a low backcast, throw a high forward cast and lower the rod. The purpose of this cast is downstream dryfly and it's useless in any sort of wind.

8. Demonstrate slow, medium and fast false casting at 35-40' on command. Using rod hand only.
        Pass ____
        Fail  ____

(tailing loops, effective speed change, loop size)

Now we're talking. This is a great exercise and the best so far. Once again you have your 35-40 feet of line. Start off s l o w l y, nice tight loops, then increase speed, keeping the loops tight, and then increase again or as you are asked. I can tell you right now that this is a question about Casting Arc.

"How do you get a tight loop?" TIP PATH. "When the rod tip travels in a straight line path the line will follow this path and the loop will be tight. When I increase speed [really acceleration] my rod will bend more and so in order to maintain the Straight Line Path I must widen my Casting Arc."

So, knowing that, and that you are being checked for this knowledge, make sure that you do widen your Casting Arc as you increase line speed.

You could be asked a question about drift here. "How do you adjust your available Casting Arc between Casting Strokes?" Answer: "Drift"

Roll Cast - Using Rod Hand Only

Considerations may be given if casts are not performed on water. In all cases, caster must demonstrate the correct form.

9. Demonstrate a normal roll cast at 40' with leader straightening completely.
        Pass ____
        Fail  ____

Comments: (loop shape, straight leader, rod stops, power application, purpose)

When I read the word "demonstrate" I expect an explanation. I like to hear, D-loop, anchor, maybe a little bit about how you apply the power. Purpose of the roll cast: can't make a backcast because of vegetation or wind, straightening a line, as a pickup, lifting a sinking line, hell you can even use it to set the hook. A neat way of teaching it is to break it into safety and function (thanks Henry Lowe) - things that make it work, D-loop, anchor - things that make it dangerous, crossing the line, D-loop not downwind.

In the scope of this examination I would look to see that your D-loop is setup and your rod canted such that the D-loop, anchor and rod tip are all in plane. Outside the scope of this examination but while talking about this cast I mention Drag [rod translation during the early part of a Casting Stroke] and Pull-back [pulling back with rod at the end of the Casting Stroke] because these really help you, the candidate, have a nice looking roll cast.

10. Demonstrate a normal roll at 40' with leader straightening completely over the opposite shoulder.
        Pass ____
        Fail  ____

(loop shape, straight leader, rod stops, power application,explain purpose of cast)       

Purpose: mainly to keep the line downwind but is also important for change of direction static rolls (to stop the line crossing over itself).

11. Demonstrate a wide loop roll cast to 40'
        Pass ____
        Fail  ____

Comments: (loop shape, straight leader, rod stop, power application)

This is a question about Tip Path. But you knew that. Uses for a wide loop? Heavy fly, multiple flies, sink tip line, casting in the same direction as the wind. Also if your loop is wider you need apply more force to get it to unroll. This is not a difficult part of the test, but you do have to be able to show wide loop rolls and narrow loop rolls. Which is quite difficult to do over grass.

12. Demonstrate a narrow loop roll cast to 40'
        Pass ____
        Fail  ____

Comments: (loop shape, straight leader, rod stop, power application)

This is also a question about Tip Path. [Obviously I'd like to talk some more about Pull-back here but I'm not going to. This is outside the scope of what is expected of you. If you are interested we'll talk about it on the Board.]


Present the fly within 18 inches of marker or within a 30 inch ring.
Complete three Target sequences using a maximum of six casts. Complete the task in 3 attempts

13. False cast 5-6 times using rod hand only (no doublehauling). Present the fly accurately to targets at 20',30' and 45'
        Pass ____
        Fail  ____

Comments: (accurate, # of false casts, consistent loop, size, parallel loops)

From a Board post this is my take on the accuracy component of the exam.

Actually hitting your target is only a small part of the exam. Getting close may actually be enough because what is really being looked for is change of plane/trajectory, consistent loops both back and forward and technique. Once you have those three things nailed hitting targets is both pretty easy and becomes irrelevant.

To hit the first target I'd recommend getting down on one knee, however in the Hungarian exams the examiners didn't like that for some reason. But I still think it's "good form" and recommend it.

To hit any target there are three techniques:

1) aim for the closest part of the ring, hover the fly/fluff over the ring and then when you are comfortable with alignment smack the fly into the target. This is the one I use - and most others too I believe.

2) pick an imaginary part in the middle of the ring, and aim for that. Simon Gawesworth uses this.

3) aim for the furthest part of the ring, hover the fly and allow it to fall into place. Ian Walker uses this.

To "hover" the fly, use a well tapered leader, and a large bit of fluff, or preferably a competition fly (which isn't allowed in exams). Cast rotating through the stroke with a firm wrist and excess force, this forces the fly to unroll and hover fractionally. Watch the bottom leg of the loop and the fly to gauge distance. Concentrate on a firm straight over-the-top backcast with good stops. Make adjustments with the flyline trapped below your index finger, if you hold the line in you line hand only then the length will be constantly changing - you are not allowed to do this in the exam anyway, but neither should you want to! The longest cast backhanded takes practise.

If you miss the first shot you should never miss the second so long as your leader straightens because that first shot allows you to gauge length perfectly. If it's too long pull in so that the fly is exactly level with the centre or the ring. If it's too short add the line before making your next backcast and attempt. You will now have the perfect length.

One other thing, make sure that you have enough line off the reel to hit the furthest target before you begin. If you are really smart here you can gauge that length perfectly by reeling in so that the amount of line off the reel is exactly the amount necessary to put the fluff in the centre of the last ring. Best not to practise that too hard in case you get picked up on it for some reason and have to make the length adjustment during false casting.

And if you follow the rest of that thread you can see that some examiners would like you to start off with the incorrect length of line, because despite being illogical, starting off with the correct length of line they consider a "cheat"! Well anyway, if you've understood the rest of the post hitting the target shouldn't be a problem. (And between you and me, the end of the rear taper is often the perfect length to hit the final ring).

14. Same as above over opposite shoulder.
        Pass ____
        Fail  ____

Comments: (accurate, # of false casts, consistent loop, size, parallel loops)

There are a couple of techniques, you can either tilt the rod or bring the rod hand over to the opposite cheek. Personally I go for the cheek because I find it easier to hover the fly with the wrist in plane and it keeps a more vertical loop alignment, but the choice is yours.

15 Roll cast to a target at 45-50' (Must land close within 3 rollcasts)
        Pass ____
        Fail  ____

Comments: (straight leader, loop shape, rod stop, power application)

There's a bit of inconsistency on how this task is administered. Sorry. Some examiners will expect and require a static roll cast, others will expect a dynamic roll cast with the option of a haul. Personally I'd like to see a dynamic roll cast because you're going to have to teach it - you know, if you pass. This of course makes the performance easier but the teaching aspect harder. So you should be prepared for both, which shouldn't be a problem for you anyway.


16. Demonstrate continuous double haul casting. Make 6-8 false casts at 45-50'.
        Pass ____
        Fail  ____

Comments: (no tailing loops, haul timing, haul smoothness, loop shape)

I look for a nice double haul here. Not too fast a Casting Stroke, the sort of double hauling that you would use to teach a beginner.

How do you teach the Double Haul? First you explain what it is and how it works (speeds up the line). And then you have some choices: Mel's pantomime and down-up routine, doing the haul with the student while he/she casts, side casting laying the line down between Strokes (that's the fail-proof method). You may need them all when teaching. Two main faults are slack line between the line hand and butt ring, and not returning the line hand after the first haul.

Practise your explanation.

17. Demonstrate a distance cast to a minimum of 75'.
        Pass ____
        Fail  ____

Comments: (required distance, tailing loops, front, back, loop size loop shape)                                                               

This should be really smooth and appear effortless. If you're busting your balls at 75' there's a problem. Concentrate on your loops and a slick haul. You'll find that one examiner is down the end of the tape, pretending he's interested in seeing where the fluff lands, when what he's really doing is checking your tracking. So bear that in mind when you make your backcast.

This is not a long cast. This is about "good form".


18. Explain and demonstrate how to cast narrow to wide loops.
        Pass ____
        Fail  ____

Comments: (communication effectiveness, straight path or rod tip, teaching fundamentals, cause of changes in loop size analogies, student involvement, line, rod, body)

OK here we go. There are six questions on your ability to teach. They're not surprise questions. There is no mystery. You know they are coming. So be prepared. This is your opportunity to shine. If you want to carry a small notepad and pencil so you can draw stuff then great. If you want to bring along some huge posters of loop shapes then that's fine too. This is how you teach. And the examiners will love it.

So when one of them asks you to "explain and demonstrate how to cast narrow to wide loops" don't look surprised. You should already have worked out what you're going to say. It can be a paragraph that you've written down and learned by heart - you've been carrying these notes around in your pocket for the last month. Every time you've been practising, you've been talking to the rose bush pretending it's your examiner and he's just asked you this question. So be prepared.

In formulating this answer I would expect to hear TIP PATH and Casting Arc. You could also mention Drift. Personally I use the rod and line as teaching tools. I will place the line on the ground and use it to show wide and narrow loops. I'll bend the rod in my hand to show that it bends during the Casting Stroke. But that's just my way. Do it your own way and get the message across. If for whatever reason you were borderline up until now, this is your chance to get it right.

19. Explain and demonstrate the cause and correction of tailing loops
        Pass ____
        Fail  ____

Comments: (communication effectiveness, cause, correction, teaching, fundamentals, loop size, analogies, student involvement, line, rod, body, concave, path of rod tip, ways achieved)

Well I've given you five causes. They all come down to TIP PATH. So say those words and your examiner is going to relax. How do you fix them?

(1) Too narrow a casting arc [for the bend in the rod] - use a wider casting arc

(2) Less than 180 - adjust trajectory

(3) CREEP - the best way of eliminating Creep is to teach Drift. Then you can say, "hey there's a problem in your cast, it is this... [explain Creep] ... you could just stop the rod and wait for the line to unroll, or I'm going to teach you something better, and it is Drift." Now you're teaching something positive.

(4) Uneven application of force - teach being smooth. Jon Allen, Flycasting Athlete, says it's smooth like touching a woman's thigh. And he's pretty smooth, surprisingly. When you apply power (or technically, "force") to the rod apply it in a rotation. Then you can apply as much as you like.

(5) Finishing the haul too soon - make sure that you haul past Rod Straight Position and don't finish too early in the Casting Stroke. This is only really a problem when first teaching the Double Haul, but it does happen: teach for longer hauls. [Fortunately you're not going to need to know this yet, but finishing the haul pre-RSP doesn't always cause a tail because the loop doesn't always form at RSP. Your examiner probably won't know this however, unless it's Lasse].

This list is not exhaustive. It's not the FFF list (they don't have one). It's just a list that should help prepare you for the exam.

20. Explain rod-loading
        Pass ____
        Fail  ____

Comments: (communication effectiveness, error recognition, teaching fundamentals, analogies, student involvement, line weight, air/water resistance, bending of rod)

From the Board...

I think when the rod loading question was written it was thought that rod loading was much more significant that it is known to be now. In fact I suspect that many believed that rod loading was everything: bend the rod, stop the rod, unload the rod and that's your cast - I believe that to be the case because it was said that the Double Haul worked simply be increasing rod load.

However that idea didn't taken into account line speed delivered through leverage - ie as the casting stroke is made the tip moves the line, not just bending the rod. Bruce and Noel worked out rod loading to leverage being around 50/50, but it appears that there was an error in that calculation and the spring only really accounts for 15-20% of the cast, while leverage is 80-85%. Torsten came up with that figure through calculation a number of years ago and Grunde later backed it up with high speed video analysis. What this means is that the main purpose of the rod bending is really about turning rotational motion into a straight line tip path.

That's too much for a CI exam and it may or may not create an argument, even here. So I think it's enough to say that a loaded rod is a bent rod.

21. Explain and demonstrate the casting stroke as it relates to changes in distance.
        Pass ____
        Fail  ____

Comments: (communication effectiveness, movement analysis, changes in stroke, error recognition, teaching fundamentals, loop size, casting angle, analogies, student involvement, line, rod, body, stroke length to line length)

Short answer: Short cast, short Casting Stroke Length, narrow Casting Arc. Long cast, long Casting Stroke Length, wide Casting Arc.

For a longer answer you may want to talk about stances, haul length, trajectory, Drag and body weight shift. Hell you can even mention the Big Fish - just so long as you mention the first part I'm happy.

22. Explain and demonstrate good timing when false casting.
        Pass ____
        Fail  ____

Comments: (communication effectiveness, error recognition, teaching fundamentals, loop size, analogies, student involvement, line, rod, body, long verses short stroke)

Your loop must have straightened before you make the next Casting Stroke. Easy.

23. Explain and demonstrate casting into a head wind.
        Pass ____
        Fail  ____

Comments: (communication effectiveness, analysis, error recognition, teaching fundamentals, loop size, line speed, power, analogies, student involvement, line, rod, body, double haul, rod position other casts, casting angle)

High line speed, trajectory - line straightens just above the water, and a tight loop are the three things your examiner is expecting to hear.

If you have been failing to remember Tip Path for all the exam I would be questioning you about Drift and why it's important now. Personally I don't think that the tight loop is important; line speed and trajectory will put the fly anywhere. Messing around trying to get a tight loop when the wind is blowing hard in your face is a recipe for disaster. But we'll just keep that between ourselves.

24. Explain and demonstrate casting with a crosswind blowing into the casting side.
        Pass ____
        Fail  ____

Comments: (communication effectiveness, analysis, error recognition,  teaching  fundamentals, loop size, analogies, student involvement, line, rod, body, other casts, casting angle)

Keep the line downwind. You have a number of ways, you can tilt the rod from the wrist, you can bring the rod hand to your opposite cheek, you can turn around and deliver on your backcast - which gives a wicked haul.

Remember: keep all your explanations simple and to the point. Long winded and complicated explanations often mean that the candidate really doesn't understand the answer. If the examiner wants to hear more he'll ask. More often than not they're only looking for a couple of words which shows you understand the question.

Here's one final piece of advice for you: whenever I get nervous or anxious about a demonstration or competition, I see myself casting really well. Nerves and excitement are physically the same thing. Mentally nerves are negative, excitement is positive. You've got to love the adrenaline; that's what makes it fun.


21st Sept 2009

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