I've been concentrating on my flycasting for the last three weeks in preparation for the EFFF Masters exam this coming Saturday – I haven't done this sort of intense flycasting practice (work?) for a very long time – and so the obvious question is will I pass. Well that may not be the obvious question to you but it's one of the ones running about my head.
I dunno is the honest answer.
I know one thing however, not passing would be a far greater test to my character than passing. I don't draw much comfort in this reasoning. In fact I think I've had my character tested enough in the last year, thank you so very much, but it has crossed my mind this week that it may happen that I don't pass. I mean let's face it, this is the hardest instructor's exam in the world, of that I'm convinced, and I've been measuring myself up against the tape and I'll have to cast well to get through this, and that's before I start trying to convince these guys that I actually know what it is that I'm talking about - I have enough trouble convincing myself sometimes.
And that's how it should be of course (yes even the bit about convincing myself).
Funny thing life, or at least my one (here we go); I can only have something when I don't want it. In some ways I think this is pretty cool – you know, the no attachments thing/homeless brother/flip-flops and sunglasses approach to life – I was telling Karate Mark Whittaker about it, he said that he's not so sure about it being pretty cool; in fact he thinks it sucks. He may have a point actually. Problem is I do kinda want to pass this thing – it's the Holy Grail in flycasting instruction – and so I'd best not think too much about that, this or what that could mean.
And if I don't pass – what then? Well I got to muse over this prospect when my casting first collapsed against the inch tape early on in the week and then again later, when I perfected the Arden tailing loop overpowered Switch Cast. I suppose I'll say, “Oh well, I tried, now I'll try again, I learned quite a lot, obviously I've got some more to learn (and that's a good thing of course), it's obviously not my time yet and bugger” – you know contemplative all-round intelligent thinking.
Public and grilling
It's hard. No question (the exam). Just the casting bit alone is hard in fact, let alone being examined on your teaching ability. And it's public. And I expect to be grilled. I don't mind either but the strange thing is that during “high stress casting moments” I always have my casting to fall back on – I relax when I cast. This may not be the case on Saturday. The distances involved are neither comfortable nor relaxing and that, I suppose, is the whole point. You are stretched and that's when they get to see how good you are. Just about every good instructor I know can make a 30 metre overhead cast (even with the imposed tackle restrictions) but under exam pressure that changes. And you get three shots and you're out buster.
Actually the 30 metre cast is the least of my worries (he says lightly) and it is – I can do that without false casting and it's “my thing” – if I have one that is – and so I am bound to come unstuck here. Where I might come a cropper is with presentation casts. Sure I write a series on presentation casts in FFFT magazine with Charles Jardine, but I make these up, I don't actually do them. And then there are the Roll/Switch casts. OK Roll casts. Switch I'll walk. Funny thing that 18m roll cast. It bothered the hell out of me and to the extent where I got DT lines sent down from Guide and yellow ones sent over direct from Rio.
Today I realised that the Windcutter goes 18m so long as I feed the D-loop at the right moment. Thank goodness - for although I started to think that I liked DT lines, I was wrong and I'm back to thinking they suck. I like the feel of overhang. I like what it does to my loops. What do I care that you can turn DT's around when one end is worn? This has never happened to me. What do I care that they may or may not deliver the fly more delicately? And no I'm not being flyline-ist when I say the only good DT is shooting head.
You know there are several things in life that can really make you think. Nearly dying is one of them I suppose – and that can get you thinking pretty hard. Losing everything would be another I reckon. But the inch tape is the one that will set you back on your arse and make you reconsider everything you hold true – even the very basic values of life itself.
What's particularly hard about the inch tape is that not only do you realise that your not quite so good as you once thought you were, but your casting falls to pieces. Am I pleased that I tried this earlier in the week and didn't wait – you know, until the exam. There is something about a tape measure and the little marker sticks that makes you try too hard. And that's no damn good.
If you want a long cast you don't think “long cast”. You think “stroke”, “loops”, “where are my feet”, anything but “long cast” and in fact the best thing to do is to think “nothing”. Which explains why so many of the world's best casters, when caught in the act, have a vacant expression upon their countenance - their tongues hang half out of their mouths and a little dribbles of spit dangle from their chins. It's not a pretty sight.
So I've been casting next to a tape measure, not to measure my casts, but so I can get used to pretending that it's not there.
The best thing is that I have learned new stuff about flycasting, stuff that I didn't know before. I don't care how good you get at something, there always has to be something new to learn, otherwise why bother dude? This week I had a couple of breakthroughs. I hinted at them on the Bulletin Board but no one picked up on them. Or at least no one picked up and ran with them.
The first is pulling back when applying the forward stop when Switching. The completely changes the dynamics of the stop, has narrowed my loop and sharpened the point. I've reverted back to the Underhand style of Switching. I've increased the anchor time and I'm releasing line instantly on the shoot. I'm the first to admit that I'm not particularly good at this – I'm knocking off 85 ft with a 5 weight – on the Continent they are that good. Some of those dudes Switch over 100 feet. Next weekend I'm looking to learn and I'll be videoing them :-)
So, erm, yeah, bit different this newsletter so far, probably because it's not different but normal-like. Next one will be different too - but because that one will be one day late.
Fly Fair Demonstrations
I'm not entirely certain of the schedule next weekend at the Fly Fair. I know take the Masters exam on the Saturday morning and then I give a demo in the afternoon and another demo on the Sunday morning. Rudy van Duijnhoven wrote to me saying that the Sat demo was 3.15 – 4 pm and the Sun 11 – 11.45 am but Simon Gawesworth has just told me that he's over demonstrating as well and he's not on my schedule listing (yet) and so don't believe a single word that I have just written.
What will I be demonstrating you may be wondering and will it be worth watching? :-) I have absolutely no idea. I've always tried to be spontaneous with these things. I guess I'll be doing some flip-flop stuff. There'll no doubt be some Sexyloops stuff too. I always talk about drifting and of course my interpretation of the double haul. At one point I shall stop thinking and go into a trance. There will be some long far-away stuff, some funky stuff (such as quintuple snake rolls) and maybe a mouth cast or two. I'll be witty and sassy. A little bit controversial. Some stuff I'll say will be confusing - other bits won't make sense. I'll probably say “bollocks” a couple of times and I'll be casting off the left hand as well as the right. I said I would do this back in May and I meant it. Although at that point I didn't realise that I would be doing it at perhaps the most prestigious flyfishing fair in Europe. Oh and I may take my shoes off.
I'm hoping that it's cold and then I can wear my funky black hat.
So the other question is how do I prepare for a large demo like this. Well actually I normally work on my casting quite a bit, but this time I haven't had to of course since I'm already doing this. I really do make it up as I go along. I have an entry figured out (usually – but not always) -sometimes I come on at the wrong time for example - and I have a few middle bits that I can draw in upon when I get lost. But I have never had a prepared ending. Maybe this time I'll work one out for a change. Falling off the platform springs to mind and would go down well I'm sure.
I wonder what they'll make of my ladder.
Wow I'm looking forward to this stuff AND I'm looking forward to when it's all over. After this I'll be free! I'll be packing, tying up loose ends and large and exciting flies and flying out to New Zealand. Of course I suppose one shouldn't look forward - why wish your life away? :-)
Talking of which, it's been an interesting 12 months for me - I feel like I've been run over (by myself – bad steering that one) and it's taken me this time to pick myself up again. I may or may not still be in the same car, but it's still got no brakes! Who needs brakes anyway? Besides, in this game getting run over is how you learn to drive and it's half the fun...
This week there will be some more EFFF flycasting stuff at least , there will be some more flytying stuff at least (from Ben – who'll be teaching us how to catch heffalumps) and there will be some other stuff that we haven't thought of yet at least - which will be good.
Oh and the Contents Page is almost ready! :-)