So, EFFF Masters, FFF Masters, AAPGAI, CNL Masters. What does it all mean? Well, it's not a wank.
I originally took the AAPGAI (Association of Professional Game Angling Instructors – as it was then) because I wanted to teach flycasting and reach a recognised standard. Until you do this you never really know how good you are and I believe that the process of obtaining one of these qualifications is an important part in becoming good enough. And since we always want to become better – better teachers, better casters, better flyfishers and whatever else – being part of such an organisation is the perfect learning environment. Or at least that's how it should work.
I've always been impressed by the AAPGAI. It's not perfect of course and right now we're really struggling to maintain clarity in the UK. There are so many different qualifications here, one of which is even funded by the government, and none of the others actually mean anything. But we'll get through it, and the reason we'll pull through is that all the best instructors are members (Charles Jardine, Michael Evans, Oliver Edwards, Donald Downs, Gary Coxon etc etc), the entry standards are sensibly high and most importantly of all, the will to improve outweighs the ego. Mostly.
So I believe in the AAPGAI.
This is me setting the scene by the way. I think I know where I'm going but until I get there I never know for sure. It's an adventure.
The CNL (Comisiòn Nacional de Lanzado) is the flycasting certification program as set up in Spain. It was set up with Mel Krieger's help and I was invited to teach them last year. I, of course, did so and in the process they made me one of their Master instructors. The fact that they asked me over in the first place – and since – and that I'm continually bombarded with emails on a regular basis, clearly illustrates that they want to evolve. Some of these guys are amongst the best casters I've seen and being with them last year got me so excited about presentation casting that I did just about nothing else for months. I discovered new techniques in Spain, and through Carlos, a different perspective on teaching – which will be appearing here on Sexyloops – and I'm already taking some of the stuff Carlos uses and incorporating it into the way I teach.
And then the FFF blew me away.
In don't know if it was Bruce Richards or Bill Gammel or the dozens of other great instructors I met, but here I found an incredible program. And the thing that impressed me the most, was not simply the feeling that everyone wanted to learn something, or even that everyone wanted to share their experiences, but that here was a group of people who really get things done.
Bruce has told me that whenever they've had a problem in the past, they've solved it not through compromise but by using the best solution for the program as a whole. This really shows. And it's apparent that they want people to be successful. In fact that's an American thing. In Europe when you're successful people try to put you down. In America they admire it. I learnt an immense amount in the States. With Bill and Bruce in particular I've redefined how I teach and analyse casting – this is big stuff – and I picked up little nuances from many others, and a whole bunch of stuff from Macauley Lord.
The FFF is an instructors program. The Master's exam really assesses your ability to analyse casting and teach it. Going to the US was the best thing I've done in a very long time. And they've made me feel extremely welcome both then and since – I've had numerous congratulatory emails from various FFF Masters. I've been asked for my input into various things and they've even invited me to give a workshop and demo at next year's conclave in Montana. I've made many new friends there. Which is cool right? I think so. Of course that's exactly how it should be, and it's nice that it is so.
The EFFF is just not like that. It could be like that. In parts it is. Amongst the Basic instructors I find it. I'm not just talking about Viking Lars or Lasse but I've met dozens of other EFFF instructors, who really are good instructors, excellent casters, believe in it, want to improve and are genuinely nice people. But the program doesn't allow this to flourish.
And I don't feel welcome here either. Which is crazy right? I get the feeling that I'm a thorn which they'd rather have in than out because it's going to be easier for them, but really they'd just rather I went away. Thorns aren't like that. So I don't really know where I stand here. I hope we can put it right and I am trying. In my own way.
There were a few sparks on Saturday; I'd written to the examiners informing them that I'd be giving them the rod to demonstrate any casts I couldn't perform (remember the EFFF exams are conducted in public). They were not at all happy with me, but I think it was a fair request. They failed me last year on my inability to perform their test (which is stupid by the way) but I know they wouldn't have been able to do it either. I've done enough casting against an inch tape to know that sometimes you just can't hit those distances. Dampness plays a huge part in these things.
I'd decided not to retake the exam but changed my mind following the Danish Fly Festival. Contrary to what they may think, I actually like the people involved and there's some amazing talent. It would be a shame to walk away from that. I've said it before that Sepp Fuchs is one of the best presentation casters I've seen and Günter Feuerstein is an outstanding Switch caster. There's real talent here.
The crowd didn't know all the background of course, but could probably sense the underlying tension.
They were fantastic and really made my day. I didn't count them all, although I had planned to, but I imagine there was a hundred or thereabouts and they wanted me to pass. There was complete silence when the casts were being performed and whenever I made the successful cast they would clap and cheer enthusiastically. The 30 metre wasn't a problem; I “hooked one up” that cleared the 30 metre line and went into a hedge and when I'd passed the casting exercises many of the crowd came up and congratulated me.
So if you were one of the spectators then THANKS!!! :)))
So here's the problem: the test has become more important than its objective, which has been lost. The objective of the EFFF should be to set up a program of expertise in flycasting instruction. The test doesn't reflect this. The casting and the instruction have been separated. The casting performance comes first; instruction follows. They didn't give me the theoretical part of the test, although I tried to insist upon it. They stated that it was the same as the US Masters and that they were on a tight schedule. It's not the same; I can't see how it can be. The US Masters takes two to three hours.
It's great to have passed, really, and in Germany it matters. I know it matters because everyone asks me about it and tells me that it doesn't. But for people who define life this stuff is important. And I'm going to try to change it. The solution is quite easy: maintain the distance requirements, they are about right, but instead of three shots and you're out, make it teaching orientated. For example “teach me the switch cast and let's see some casts to around 22m”. Remove the public; they shouldn't be there. This is a professional teaching certification, not a spectacle. As soon as you remove the public you have flexibility; believe me I cannot pass this test every time I take it (and if I can't the examiners can't either) and that's kind of the point.
And these things take time; it takes hours to test an instructor. You can't do this during shows but have to do it separately on a different day. Even if it's just one intake per year, like the AAPGAI, and run it in conjunction with teaching workshops, which will encourage the friendship and the progress that the basic instructors obviously want.
This certification program is orientated around the Master instructors. That sucks. It is the Basic instructors (those of them that actually use the qualification to teach, not the third or so who simply use it as a badge to satisfy their ego) that can make this program really happen. These guys are genuine and this is a very important point: we have to want them all to progress to become Master instructors. And that is what this program is lacking. You have to want people to succeed, encourage them to become good enough and show them how. They want this too. As I see it, as things currently stand, this program is designed to keep Master instructors out, and use the Basic instructors to fortify their position.
This can all be changed; all it takes is the will to do so. And this I believe is where respect will eventually lie.
I didn't leave the EFFF feeling inspired or elated, I left with the feeling that I had done a job. What a pity. But there's a spark there too, because I met some really nice people and I hope this thing works out because I could make some really good friends here, I can learn a lot and it's almost always better to fix something than destroy it.
Let's face it; the EFFF could be fantastic. What an amazing network casters, teachers and some of the best anglers in the world. What prevents this from happening is ego. You must really want others to succeed; that's what life's about, right?
So positive and negative, that's kind of what it's all about too I suppose and from a personal perspective it's nice that life has taken me down this road; I feel very fortunate indeed.
This week I'll try to make sense of Viking Lars' tip from last week, I'm hoping to start a new series from Carlos – if we can make the translations in time! – there will be a Fly (with a difference), Sean's hinted at a Flyfair Fishmail and on Friday I have one of two videos, either some unique underwater photography or else an into-the-hedge distance special.
Ps Many people in Holland commented on my Flipflops. Flipflops are the secret to distance casting. Not clogs.