1. The pool noodle. Dayle Mazzerlla uses this very inexpensive tool extensively in his teaching. It gets the fly rod out of the hand of the student because, as we all know, as soon as you put a rod in the beginner’s hand, things go wonky. I used this tool a lot in my own training to learn how to demonstrate creep. I’d ride the stationary recumbent bicycle at a steady strength-training pace and practice creep. (Multitasking.) Because it has a bend to it, it loosely mimics the feel of a rod’s flex and counterflex.
2. Walter Wedge. Jonathan Walter, MCI, CBOG, came up with this idea. It’s a wedge shaped from a pool noodle. Cut a cross-section piece about 2-3” wide, then trim two “sides” of the circle so that it forms a wedge. A serrated bread knife works great for this. This little tool is especially helpful for “wristy” students who have no control over their wrist. The student is instructed, “Don’t drop it. Don’t crush it.” Unlike putting the rod butt in your shirt sleeve or using some other gadget that holds the rod in place, this tool actually teaches the brain and muscles to hold the position. When the wrist opens, the wedge drops. It is an external cue that the wrist opened too much. Soon the student tires of bending over and picking it up, they realize they have a problem to surmount. Holding it in place is the internal cue. Once the student has better control of his/her wrist, they can stop using it. The point is, they need to be in control of their wristinstead of the wrist being in control. I had to use this tool daily for a month before I could begin to stop using it. I continued to resort to it on occasion when falling back into habits. Those occasions become increasingly rare. (Now my problem is habitual drifting.)
3. Roll cast tool. This is a heavy magnetic binder clip that can be used inside at shows or outside in the grass. I added the pink duct tape over one side to make it easier to find the tool in grass and duct tape of any color over the magnet so it doesn’t pick up dirt and rocks. It’s not as good as water or a more sophisticated roll-cast tool, but it’s cheap, easy, portable and obviates the need to reset the fluff after each cast. It’s not ideal, but not everyone is near water every day and we have to meet students where they are while encouraging them to practice.
4. Echo Micro Practice Rod. As I’ve mentioned before, it cannot replace practicing with a regular fly rod, but it does help a lot when practicing motions and actually seeing some results, as opposed to pantomiming where you perform the motion but don’t see results. I use this extensively to practice the roll castand used it a lot when it’s too dark or cold outside.
5.The most important tool is the student’s (and our) brain. We use our brain to figure out how to teach their brain. We use our brain to figure out how best to get them to remember and practice what they’ve learned. We use our brain to figure out how best to help them deal with frustration, etc. This is where we can shine as instructors/coaches or fail miserably. It can involve the use of tools or shaking things up a bit, such as holding the reel upside-down or casting with closed eyes, or standing on one foot, or watching a video of themselves, or flicking the cap off a pen or squeezing Tweety Bird (ala Mary Ann Dozer, MCI), or anything else that might help them.
There are many tools to try. Some may be helpful, some not so much. It depends upon the student and your comfort in using them. So far, I’ve only taught with tools that have been helpful for me.