Snake oil

Snake oil

Gary Meyer | Tuesday, 1 September 2020

Last weekend actually looked pretty decent for a fishing trip. I had some reports that confirmed what I expected, and the tides looked favorable for a specific location that was once a summer favorite of mine. The primary downside was the heat. Our recent weather has had daily air temperatures in the low to mid 90s and with the excessive humidity the “feels like” temperatures were topping 100. To say things have been uncomfortable would be an understatement.

So, I hesitated. I had everything packed and ready, as has been the case for weeks now, but I just could not get up the gumption to load up the canoe. To paraphrase an old saying… “My get-up-and-go must have got up and went”.

Additionally, I was sort of worn out. Luckily, we here in South Florida dodged a bullet when the tropical storm that would eventually clobber the Texas coast as a major hurricane drifted south and mostly gave us a pass. That was not how things looked at first and so, as is always the case, I had to prepare for the worst at my job. But the thing that I believe was the real demotivating factor was my expectation for what the fishing would bring. I foresaw a decent fishing day for ordinary fish, but with no new puzzles to solve. I knew what to expect from both the fishing and the weather. In the end it just did not seem worth it.


What was unexpected was a call from an old fishing buddy who stated he is now interested in getting FFi certified as a casting instructor, and he asked if I would I be willing to help. I think he would make an excellent instructor as he not only possesses a good understanding, but is easy going and has an ability to explain things in simple terms.


The problem is I have been out of the program for many years and I paid little attention to the changes in the tests. So, I decided I had better re-acquaint myself with the new exams. I knew that there was more emphasis on Spey casts, so that is where I began my search.


I never did get down to the specifics of Spey requirements of the FFi tests (yet). I got sidetracked into the almost endless Spey instructions now available via the internet. I literally spent days on UTube and Vimeo and there were even more than I never watched.


I could not help but compare the internet instructors of today with those primitives I watched and studied all those years ago. Don’t get me wrong, there appears to be some very talented casters out there, and while the understanding of casting seems to have improved a bit, I am not as impressed with the on-line level of instruction.


In fact, it almost seemed like the better the instructor was at casting, the less impressive they were as teachers. Some are truly exceptional casters. I wonder, has the emphasis on the visual aspects of today’s on-line world helped or hurt the quality of casting instruction?


That got me thinking about some of the better instructors of the past and how they went about teaching. Of course, they could demonstrate a nice cast, but where they were exceptional was in their delivery of their ideas.


Many of their ideas, or rules, or concepts have been shot down or even ridiculed over the years, but the fact remains they were quite successful at helping students learn to fly cast with what may now be discounted misconceptions.


Which begs the question: should the truly exceptional casters be the models for the beginner? I think the word “exceptional” might actually offer the clue. An exception is abnormal, unusual, uncommon or atypical. And in this case, well above the norm, but not always.


I suspect that all exceptional casters are a bit outside the norm. They likely possess specific physical attributes that allow them to excel at fly casting, much like the exceptional athlete in any sport.


The ability to execute a beautiful Spey cast does not necessarily indicate that someone can teach the average Joe how to do it. But, apparently, by the looks of it, that is mostly what gets someone in the videos today.