An old Field & Stream story (2012) was recently republished. It had a familiar theme: ”What Keeps People from Learning to Fly Fish?” by Kirk Deeter.
Several authorities, which Deeter is certainly one, have addressed that question. It is a perplexing one if you are prone to long-thinking. Take it, though, in its simplest form as a statement of fact (paraphrasing) from the authority of the American Sportfishing Association (ASA): “It is the difficulty of casting and the complication of flies and fly tying.” Oddly, though, that is also the attraction for those of us who have stayed in the game for an eon. But the question remains . . .
. . . How to recruit new players? Something the fly fishing industry is not adept at
Wanda Taylor is the Federation of Fly Fishers first female ‘Master Fly Casting Instructor.’ In an interview with her at a Don Reed sponsored (Saltwater Fly Tyers) ladies only fly casting clinic event held at “The Fish Camp” just south of St. Augustine, Florida last spring, Wanda said: “It was a real challenge for me to roll back the decades and rediscover just what it was that was so challenging about leaning to fly cast”?
Here is how the fly casting whisperer addressed the question of how to teach fly casting with a lasting affect. More than a year later all but one of the ladies fly fish regularly.
Wanda took the ladies through those introduction steps as if she had access to Doctor Brown’s plutonium-powered DeLorean time machine (Back to the Future). She’s a teaching natural – not a word waster. The ladies, always better listeners than men, picked up those assembly steps in one day run through.
Wanda teaching method could be summed-up with the two words; enjoy – relax. She adds: “There are several ways to successfully cast a fly. And in the real world of actually fly fishing multiple techniques have to be known, understood and applied to be successful. To suggest that it’s all overhand with an occasional roll cast thrown in is not correct.”
She started the ladies with The Office, a short, low weight and specially constructed reel-less fly rod by TFO with a length of yarn attached to serve as the fly line. Taylor proceeded to have the gals tuck that rod butt under a wrist locking bracelet (also a TFO product). Wanda specifies that there’s no wrist action and that you don’t engage the shoulder. She had the students initiate the back and forward casts (using pre-rigged medium-flex 6-weight TFO rods) by having them do it paralleling the ground. The amount of line out (line was fingered) varied with each student. Remarkably, the catch-on rate, doing it that way, was 100%. The students got the feel of rod bend, line weight and were able to see both back and forward cast unfurl. Wanda deftly coaching each individual.
She used the following steps of instruction which cleverly tricked the students into incorporating the haul without creating the tenseness associated with telling students they were now going to learn a new technique. It worked like a charm. The haul is not an intuitive motion, but once learned, it is easy. The feel of the rod bending and line weight eventually gains credence with the angler.
Taylor’s teaching progression is a good pre-flight checklist for beginners. Use it to teach your son, daughter, niece, nephew or the kid next door
Rigging your gear rod, reel, fly line, leader tippet, fly – tapered leaders come up to 12-feet long with better products already having a Perfection loop tied in.
Use of TFO Office, use of TFO wrist lock, level line casting practice, shooting line, single haul, water haul, double haul
Casting large flies, casting with the wind, casting from a kayak, roll cast, casting from a boat deck, bow and arrow cast, 45 degree cast, overhead cast, change direction cast and false cast.
Knots taught: Improved Clinch, Double Surgeons, Perfection Loop, Nail Knot, Albright Knot, Arbor Knot