Taking Instructors Exams.

Note: There are core values of truthfulness, propriety, ethical and moral conduct, and an inherent responsibility of a duty of care for other people that stand distinct from, independent of, and that for some people, will always supersede any fly casting organisation.

A credible Game Angling or fly Casting Instructors organisation is a body where the sole purpose is the edification of all its membership as Game Angling Instructors or Fly Casters. One that always helps and never hinders your progress. One that will contribute fully to your personal and professional development and help you to reach your full potential, not put obstacles in the way. Anything else, anything illegitimate preventing this, is of course inappropriate for any supposedly professional organisation, or any recruiting organisation.

No one is going to use my name in any capacity to claim they passed exams that they failed. No one is going to force me to conform to false claims use.

At some point during a Fly caster's journey, one may decide to obtain Instructors qualifications or some sort of certification. Taking examinations and the examination process should be considered very carefully.

You actually need to use more discernment than you would actually think in choosing an supposed Professional Instructors or Instructor certifying organisation to join, or that one could recommend to others without any reservations. You are placing trust in an organisation by joining it and that trust may easily be misplaced. You may find the claims, statements or stated aims made by an organisation are simply spurious or ignored in practice.

The problem being that It is largely an unregulated area with the exception of GAIA APGAI. Not all supposed Instructors organisations are Government regulated. Self regulation may effectively mean unregulated as self regulation just does not work. I absolutely do not recommend any Instructors organisations unregulated by Government. One then joins at ones peril, and one can waste a lot of time, money an effort to become certified, realising eventually that one should be in another organisation instead. If a recruiting organisation is not regulated outside of itself, then I would advise having nothing whatsoever to do with it no matter what claims they may make. Even basic standards may be ignored in reality with then no proper recourse for redress.

You may find for instance, as I did, entirely abnormal and unacceptable added requirements outside of cultural norms arising after taking the examinations and membership. Arbitrary requirements that are outside of any normal, acceptable standard.

The original authentic
GAIA APGAI organisation are examining and active in Southern Ireland and Internationally.

I was very pleased to be examined here for membership of the authentic APGAI organisation, the officially approved and accredited organisation in the Republic of Ireland through the Angling Council of Ireland and the Sports Council. The people that examined me in GAIA APGAI were officially accredited to do so.

APGAI site: http://www.gameanglinginstructors.co.uk/

Fly-Casting / Game Angling Qualifications

Taking Instructors qualifications may be pursued to improve ones overall knowledge of the techniques and the teaching fly-casting through interaction with others. Through learning from the experience of others and various systems of teaching used by members of an organisation.

It may simply be to meet a personal challenge of your own about reaching a certain level and not necessarily to teach. Or, it may be to show some level of credibility to potential clients if you are in the Game Angling Industry for instance as a Ghillie or Guide. During the process you will either learn a system of teaching fly-casting, or perhaps how to define the system of casting and teaching you already use in a certain way. Though you may use a perfectly coherent system of definition already.

It is best to always remember that some of the very finest and most knowledgeable fly-casters in the world don’t belong to any Fly-casting organisations and haven’t taken any certification for qualifications.

I personally believe qualifications are not as important as having formal training in a proven Fly-casting style or system. Formal training in an efficient style, from a known competent practitioner of it, is usually invaluable.

It is my personal experience and my opinion that this channel - formal training from someone very, very experienced in Fly-casting - always makes for a very good caster. There are so many little nuances and tips that only are able to be related by the very experienced. One could spend a lifetime waving a rod about and not actually discover some of the things experienced people can relate. That person may not have any certification at all from any supposed Instructors organisation, that absolutely does not matter one jot.

One year I had no fly-casting certificates, I had however approval from the originator of the style I use to teach it,
and had also gathered very much complimentary information from others whose courses I had attended also. The next year I had successfully taken five examinations in fly-casting. I was virtually no different in practical ability the next year than the entire eighteen years I was teaching fly casting before. During that eighteen years I had travelled to Scotland and the North of England for Instruction from others. In taking certification I did learn some different ways of saying exactly the same principles, explaining exactly the same concepts employed. Some were actually inferior, some not.

Of course we are always learning gradually and I am still learning. Having no fly casting certification is not any indication of anything. Unless you do decide to certify others officially with full Government approval and recognition, then you must not only have certification yourself but also the appropriate official
accredited certification to certify others. The certification from unregulated bodies may not actually be properly accredited certification either.

Later there were totally unacceptable and quite frankly the most ludicrous introduced requirements attached to holding those examination certificates, extra inappropriate and unacceptable requirements that were arbitrarily imposed or implemented upon me by so called committees. They were so inappropriate and unprofessional that they caused disenfranchisement of my certification due not least to a known direct conflict with my beliefs. They were and still are most defining for me of the organisations that implemented them. They hold the resulting complaint and resignation records.

Fortunately I was then able to take four other examinations through joining the authentic and original GAIA APGAI organisation. A professional organisation with a professional grievance procedure and clearly defined standards that are not ignored.

Ultimately formal training, and a solid foundation in technique is what matters. Like anything worthwhile fluency with technique does not happen overnight but is a long term process, extra layers of ability are achieved steadily over time and built on solid foundations of precise basic techniques, preferably placed there from formal training.

After competence or fluency is achieved in an effective style, the practical elements of taking examinations and the examination process is then always much easier. You then have a methodology both for teaching, and for the practical casting elements.

Formal training on technique, providing it is an authentic and proven system from someone genuinely experienced and knowledgeable in a system, will remove any struggle or difficulty with the practical requirements of an examination.

In double handed casting I consider the Scottish are products of their environment and have the understanding and mastery necessary to use a double handed rod most effectively. I use their practical knowledge base in my own casting, and in teaching as I consider there is none any better. I also found that American Instructor, Al Buhr understands double handed casting fully, and the Scottish use of a double handed rod. He can explain it technically at any level anyone wishes to go to. He improved my understanding of exactly what is going on when we cast. I found English Instructor Alan Maughan of similar understanding.

I have often reflected on how fortunate I was, and how thankful I am, that I learned a system of fly-casting initially from people who were supposedly, or lets say 'officially' not qualified Instructors of the mainstream organisations at the time. Though they were of course quite capable of Instructing anyone interested enough to a very high level of proficiency indeed in their style. I have been fortunate enough to have had more than a few excellent lessons since then also from such actually highly qualified "uncertified" people. They were and are supremely qualified by ability, experience and understanding, more so than some 'certified' people.

I realised immediately at the time from simple observation and without any other detailed knowledge that some of these people had a much superior fly-casting system than that which was commonly taught by organisations at the time, or that was on video. It was quite obvious from the capability they displayed and the loop morphology and control they had. I realised this fully when observing and comparing the inferior alternative techniques used and taught by the vast majority of qualified Instructors at the time.

That's is exactly the reason why I was very happy to spend years teaching the style I learned from Peter Anderson and his Instructors such as Brendan Begley without even thinking of taking any qualifications. I had a proven methodology and what is in fact a complete system, one that subsequently allowed me to pass any Instructors exams I have taken with no difficulties occurring in the practical or teaching elements of the exams. Things eventually changed with most other qualified Instruction over the years.

Examinations in Fly-Casting are mainly about teaching ability and learning how to teach fly-casting more effectively. For teaching purposes it is useful for an Instructor to be knowledgeable and professional for their clients in the aspects the teach and in defining what they teach. It is therefore useful to have learned a system via Importing knowledge from others, including the teaching of it. For instance learning the terminology used to define casting mechanics and principles. To have qualifications will give the Instructor a certain credibility among those people who may not know the Instructor personally, or from word of mouth recommendation.

For those based in the U.K. or Ireland I can recommend the GAIA APGAI organisation as a credible organisation interested in your ongoing personal and professional development as a Fly-Casting Instructor http://www.apgai.co.uk/ . They have regional branches in both the U.K. and Ireland. There are usually some free workshop days in the Republic of Ireland, and indeed elsewhere. These workshop days are organised by the advanced Instructors for potential Instructors to attend. The workshop days go through the required practical examination and teaching process. This organisation has a long history, it is the original world wide recognised name. You can take an individual test in any single or multiple discipline you like at any time and when you are ready.

Fly-casting is a multi faceted, multi layered discipline and it takes a long time to become an Instructor, even longer to become an advanced and experienced Instructor. It is a learning curve and learning process. The best organisations will also reflect that learning process by having Intermediate level examinations along the way.

The Examination Process

The process of going for an examination allows one to think about or learn how to define things a little more. It will usually be necessary to fine tune things a little more, often to learn and practice something new or something that you might normally neglect or continue to neglect but cannot as it is a requirement for your examination.

Note: A cast for an exam is very specifically one in which a reasonably narrow loop unrolls out fully. One which unrolls out fully in the air and then touches down or meets the water just as it unrolls completely as it was made in a suitable trajectory.

The cast should be accomplished with correct use of rod action, in other words from correct manipulation of the rod and using good technique and not force. Thats why things like 80 foot dead line roll casts for a 15 ft rod have really nothing much at all to do with the teaching of effective, controlled fly-casting with economy of effort for instance.

One also has to define ones methodology and teaching skills clearly and succinctly using the correct terminology for an explanation of your casting style, and your system of teaching it during examinations.

One has to understand terminology for fault finding and the whole process of fault finding.

You will may learn from general interaction with others or your examiners about new or different ways of defining things.

The golden rule about taking examinations is don't ever enter an exam unprepared. Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.

Preparation is all important, one could not be too prepared, that would be impossible. Examinations are successfully taken from all the practice and preparation that was put in
long before the exam day arrived either with specific practice or from previous learning of a system or style of casting.

It is helpful to contact someone who has already successfully taken the exams with ease, preferably on their first attempt, and go through the syllabus in detail with them.

There are several elements to an exam,
the practical casting skills,
2 knowledge of the theory and physics / mechanics involved and the terminology for them.
3 the teaching skills and methodology,
4 fault finding skills.

One way to prepare is to attend any open workshop days on offer, the normal way is to take an odd lesson specifically to prepare you for an examination and put in lots of practice on the fundamental principles you learned afterwards. You have to have succinct accurate explanations prepared for an examination that are on the tip of your tongue, ready to be stated confidently when asked.

If you have already learned a system of teaching and a methodology from a style, such as I had already in place for a long time then fortunately there is no issue. You simply use your system already in place and that you are fluent with to describe and teach your casting. Perhaps ensuring that you are incorporating some of the terminology normally used by the organisation to describe it.

This is what I did for every exam that I have taken. I also prepared and practiced for months in advance so that I was in a truly excellent state of fluency off both left and right sides. One simply cannot be too prepared for an exam. One that you do know the syllabus for that is. I actually had three people trained on a syllabus issued when applying for the examinations and the day they went to take the examination, the organisation used a so called "surprise" syllabus instead. Putting everyone to bother and expense in preparation to simply to move the goalposts after months of preparation and lessons. Moving the goalposts on an examination day is disrespectful, unprofessional nonsense. Moving it to be similar to an exam that one of the examiners had already failed twice and the other failed later. One needs to know exactly the type of Spey line to suit the syllabus used so one can practice with it long before any examination.

The first thing you will need to do is to decide on which outfit (rod and line) that you are going to use for the examination, and then use nothing else but that outfit so that you become totally familiar with it and very fine tuned to it, as happens with practice. Of course it should be a good, modern, well balanced outfit. For a Double-handed exam the head length of the line will be an issue depending on the exam distances. For double handed exams if most of the grain weight is outside of the top eye it makes it easier to shoot line to the distances required. Approx 60 to 65 ft heads on 15 ft rods is correct.

You will also need to make up your own tapered leaders for presentation, or use factory made tapered leaders.

I use tapered leaders made from nylon, maxima nylon. I use a 12 foot leader for salmon examinations. 6 ft of 30 lb, 3 ft of 20 or 23 lb, and 3 ft of 15 or 12 lb. Wool or yarn about the size of three peas.

I have seen people using 15 ft factory leaders that are very thick and that sink quickly, by the time the final delivery catches up to the leader the resistance of the long sunk leader kills the cast somewhat. It can cause a struggle, better to have the leader in keeping with the power application used and able to be lifted out easily by the fine front taper of the fly line. I cannot understand the use of 15 ft leaders, its just as easy if not easier to turn over the front taper of the Spey line than a long leader. Personally I prefer a 10 or 12 ft maximum leader for examinations.

Advanced Double handed examinations are normally a serious undertaking. Normally they are very thorough and demanding examinations.

One should be very well prepared for any advanced double-handed rod examination in which
almost everything that is done on the right side has to be done on the left side also.

Most people I have witnessed having difficulty with double-hand rod exams had difficulty with casts on their off side, especially shooting line on their off side with say a double Spey cast. Also in clearly differentiating between D and V loops in a demonstration of them.

Any exam not having off side casting isn't worth doing, 50% of D.H. casting isn't all of D.H. casting, its obviously only half of it unless it was a Skagit casting only exam where cack handed is then normally used. I've rarely if ever seen anyone throw a V loop on command that did not practice the second incline exercise.
I can say definitely that these two failings will never occur to anyone who has practiced the incline exercise progression to proficiency on both sides.

Firstly the idea of applying for an advanced double-handed rod exam and then trying to get up to speed for the date set for the exam is really an incorrect approach, unless perhaps you are a Ghillie on a large river and already possess a level of skill that leaves you able for the practical requirements. The fact is that despite good intentions, usually life will simply interfere with a deadline. You may find yourself trying to rush practice nearer the time and still not be fluent or proficient enough.

Any shortcomings will tell under the pressure of an advanced level examination and people under pressure will simply automatically revert to type or to then their old technique.
Unless the new refined technique is well and truly in place and established it may be too early to apply for an examination. Last minute rushing to get up to speed does not allow time for the better technique to become established and very familiar or automatic. Under pressure you will be in danger of then automatically reverting to type - your old type that is. I have actually witnessed this happen on several occasions.

People could do the tasks when there was no pressure and after they were casting for a while, however in the exam situation where they are expected to execute a couple of good casts more or less on command and fairly fresh, they lost their new found technique as it had not yet become established enough to replace their old muscle memory.

Sometimes all it takes is one or two bad casts initially under pressure to start a full capitulation, each succeeding attempt becomes more important when the previous one doesn't turn out right, then it starts to become critical to make a good cast. The person then tightens up under the then rapidly increasing pressure upon them and soon can't find their new technique. The bottom line is that the new technique should have replaced your old techniques before taking the exam, and this takes time.
This is a most serious problem for shooting head casters coming to long stroke Spey technique. Shooting head short stroke technique won't do it.

Familiarity or fluency of technique is really what is important, it is essential that all or any struggle with any element of the practical side of things is removed. In Northern Ireland where I grew up there was a saying, you may be able to do something, but you still may not "own" it. Owning something is a statement that relates to a deeper understanding and long familiarity or proficiency or indeed fluency with it, being comfortable with it. Falling into an automatic mode of correct technique and control even when under pressure.

An advanced double-handed rod exam should not be applied for until at least every element of the syllabus' practical requirements are able to be done with a degree of certainty, proficiency and control. You have to produce two satisfactory examples of any cast within three attempts. It is time enough to apply for the exam then and the interim period between getting a date for the exam and having achieved practical ability for it can be used to consolidate or improve that ability. There's no rush, better to pass first time.

How do you get prepared for such an exam?
Normally it will involve a long stroke style examination, long stroke casting with medium or long belly lines is usually required.

Now get this - Upper body rotation is a key part of long stroke style. There is also a difference between upper body rotation and realignment. Realignment is when your upper body plane comes back to match that of your hips and feet direction, in shooting head casting that would be all that is required. In Spey casting the shoulder turns further past realignment to lengthen the stroke, circles up and comes back to alignment.

Bringing the rod up in front of yourself and any tugging or abrupt hitting or thumping with the top hand because the line is longer will get you nowhere very, very fast. Sometimes Spey casters look at Shooting head casting and refer to it as T.Rex technique, short arms hugging the rod close to the body would do the same thing. Fine for shooting head technique but not for long belly lines. Don't get me wrong, reaching is wrong also. However those hugging the rod in front of themselves will need to open up a bit.

It always comes down to making the fundamental position and angle changes of the rod in the correct sequence with smooth compound movements allowing for the progressive nature of rod loading, about using directed leverage and acceleration while creating the correct rod tip path. Think carefully about how it should be done efficiently and about loop formation rather than just blindly trying to force or swipe harder. Lengthen your stroke instead. Most importantly - use the
most efficient first class leverage appropriately during the casting stroke power application. Use the body, weight shift and upper body rotation, balance the stroke. Make sure the fundamental ability to load the rod efficiently using first class leverage is there automatically not only for overhead but for all Spey casting movements also, most especially, I repeat most especially the D loop forming move. If the set up is right then that's more than half of the battle.

The syllabus to be used on the day is available in advance normally. Attempt the full syllabus systematically as a mock exam to see where your faults or failings are. Use a tape measure for accuracy and do not engage in guestimates or estimates which are almost without exception always utter nonsense and will bear little or no relation to reality, and importantly neither does any estimate based on the amount of line out. Don't cast from any platform or on top of a boulder either, make sure you cast from standing in the water. Qualify your line correctly. If its say 80ft from foot to fly - put a marker on the ground 80ft away and make sure your wool or yarn fly reaches just past the mark an inch or two. Such a qualifying process will be used for an advanced examination and the line then marked clearly at that distance, plus marked again at other distances for measuring the distance when shooting line, or marked again for shorter distances.

Probably the best piece of advice I could give anyone is to learn the
incline exercise progression for all Spey technique but especially for your off side casting, always ensuring your hands and forearms work in plane - move the reel to the same plane as the incline used by turning the forearms. Remember afterwards it is an exercise and not a cast. However all the elements necessary to use the rod correctly are in that exercise and the off side casting will become fluent and not an issue because of it. I consider this exercise one of the very best things I ever learned in formal training in Scotland. I still practice it regularly myself to keep in good shape with the fundamentals. It is also an utter joy to practice for its own sake, there is something alluring about it with both Spey and shooting head lines. It is a very, very special exercise to me.

Study your loop shape on the forward cast. The final delivery should always produce a good - narrow, and preferably (IMHO) a pointed loop shape that unrolls out fully or almost fully in the air in the right trajectory with fly turnover occurring every time. Trajectory control is part of loop control. The bottom leg should be fairly straight, the top leg feeding in in plane from the side in the same angle as the tilt of the rod. It does not have to be pointed if it is narrow but a pointed loop is the result of very good technique. This narrow loop final delivery should be the result of good technique and not force. It is essentially from the rods own action. You should have the set up so good that the tension and tautness in the line and rod is felt right from the first inch of the forward cast from using either continuous motion and constant tension, or from the right pause space and power application on the set up. Depends on whether the cast was a water bourne anchor or not, even with an airborne anchor whether you wish to use continuous motion or not.

If you concentrate solely on forming good loops on the forward cast instead of trying to force things to get the distances then you will make much better progress. The tight loops will always unroll out to the distances required anyway when they are in the right trajectory, it is the best way.

The longer your stroke on the set up and the further back your rod tip is after circling up
- (both because of the angle you are holding the rod at and because of the use of upper body rotation and weight shift) - as you start the forward stroke the easier it will be to have good form and control on the forward cast or final delivery. 45 45 is a principle in this regard referring to the rod angle.

Pay attention to all the detail of the syllabus. For instance you may be asked to make Spey casts suitable for confined spaces with very limited room behind for a D loop, one for an upstream wind and one for a downstream wind. You may also be asked to show jump rolls making some with a V loop set up and some with a D loop set up. You need to be able to do tasks like those easily and clearly.

How difficult it seems for people to make this clear distinction between D and V loops at times. Low shotgun lift and a straight line incline rod tracking move - incline at a shallow angle - gives a V loop, provided that is you don't curve the rod tip up when the line is gliding through the air, one can lift the whole rod vertically in a position change or translation movement upwards, therefore with the angle of the rod remaining as it was at when the stop occurred on the back cast - that angle maintained. For a D loop, a low shotgun lift and a constant tension climbing curve move creates the D loop. The D loop is not usually any problem for people but creating the V loop is a serious problem for some, and also clearly changing from one to the other on command.

If possible go for a lesson entailing a mock examination from someone who has taken the exam successfully and without any difficulties. Find from initial experiment an outfit you are comfortable with and then use that outfit exclusively so that you become very familiar with it and fine tuned to it. Of course it should be an efficient and balanced outfit that you do not have to force. I recommend a 15 ft rod. Head length is up to the individual but it needs to be a minimum of around 60 ft.

Don't spread or dilute effort or practice opportunities but focus your time and effort entirely in one direction each time you practice. Take one task / cast at a time, perhaps as they occur in the exam, don't try to do everything each practice session. Start with overhead casting and until you are absolutely satisfied that the overhead loops are correct, in the right trajectory, directional control e.t.c. and on both sides of the body. Do not move on unless you have done this to a reasonable level of proficiency. Get it well understood first on each session dedicated solely to that particular cast and the tasks required in the overhead section of the exam.

As far as time spent is concerned some say a little and often is the right way to practice, for me a lot of time on one task works well so I personally don't follow the little and often idea at all. I will actually do something or repeat a technique until it is mind numbingly boring - but that comes from previous training on technique in extremely disciplined Karate class where
very specific and precise multiple repetitions of absolutely correct form were paramount. I personally understand that this type of training replaces existing muscle memory and I personally consider it to be the very best approach there is. The results are amazing over time. Of course the practice must be of a technically correct movement, otherwise you waste time. I do the movement slowly initially but absolutely correctly in form even when that does not work because of the slower tempo. It is done slowly to get the form absolutely correct, the movement is then gradually speeded up until eventually it works, but then does so while maintaining correct form. Keeping the top hand as the fulcrum (in context of the role of the two hands) requires this type of precise practice as it is a counter intuitive movement. I learned in the past from Karate that there are no short cuts in attaining good and fluent technique, its the same with anything.

Those thinking they can skip time spent on honing the basics are only fooling themselves, they will carry faults through their casting technique unless they are stamped out utterly ruthlessly. The faults will become a limitation to proficient casting.

With a rod and line there is a lot of feedback from feel and from watching loop shapes, trajectory, direction, how the top leg of line is feeding into the loop. The line doesn't lie. The line tells you everything.

One first finds good technique and then practices good technique. Joan Wulff said
"there is poor technique done very well, and then there is good technique." Good technique is most important. Good technique is not only evident visually, (from the effect on loop shape and the elements of control involved such as correct trajectory, direction, fly turnover and distance) but from feel also as the tasks are able to be done with economy of effort. The properties of the rod and rod action will be being exploited fully to gain control with economy of effort.

Good technique allows one to become very relaxed, once good form and technique are achieved being relaxed is an essential part of the best technique, the rod works best with a light grip, we work best when we are relaxed. We get more feedback from feel, more of a buzz as we see the rod and line take on a life of its own through efficient use.

My understanding is that one could not be too prepared for the practical elements of any exam. I think that would be impossible.

Terminology has to be understood and concise explanations containing the key points should simply roll off the tongue when explanations are required without any confusion or hesitation. The main points especially, short and concise.

Please note:
I no longer belong to the FFF, or (so called) IFFF organisation, though I was once a fully qualified and examining member of it.

It does not meet the criterion in an individual members care I would expect from any recruiting organisation recruiting people in Europe. I also could not continue to belong to an organisation without any normal and transparent, grievance or investigative procedures, and one not using normal benchmark criterion and proper standards in an investigation.

I would not recommend joining the IFFF and personally, from my experience of membership of it. I absolutely do not consider it to be setting any International standards in stewardship or in protection of purported membership rights.

My T.H.C.I. (Two Handed Certified Instructor) Exam Experience

I had not ever communicated with any of my examiners before hand. I had not ever communicated with any of them via e mail or any other means. I was not on first name terms with them, this cannot be said of other THCI examinations held afterwards.

I found myself on the Beaverkill River in Roscoe, Catskills, New York State in November 2004 taking the FFF THCI (Two Handed Casting Instructor) exam. I was there after approximately six months of practice for all the FFF exams including the two single handed rod exams - the CI - Certified Instructor and the MCI - Master Certified Instructor exams. This was aftef about eighteen years spent using fulcrum fly casting style as a Ghillie and guide and casting Instructor. A style I learned from courses on the Spey and later in Ireland with legendary Scottish caster Peter Anderson.

For some reason I was actually under the impression at the time that if I did not do any one of the tasks within three casts that I would have failed the exam, this was the impression I had of the FFF which came from some of the European FFF literature at the time, so I was well practiced as I just cannot afford to travel to the US normally so it had to count. This was what made the difference in my exams, I was totally prepared for the practical elements as well as the theoretical. It simply did not matter to me which side I was to cast off, it was simply not any issue. One should be in that state of preparation on exam day.

Fortunately for me Alan Maloney at Mount Falcon Hotel where I do some Instruction from time to time contributed considerably to my exam and travel expenses. I had already passed the two single hand rod exams on the two previous days. I asked for a few minutes practice on the river venue prior to the THCI exam to try another line. I asked as I had been told by others also over there for the THCI exam who had tried before me that the cold water was affecting the fly line and that the distances were too much e.t.c., which turned out to be absolutely not the case at all. Don't be put off by anyone else's opinion at an event, it is irrelevant if you are prepared.

I ended up using a Snowbee 3D line which I had practiced with because of its overhead casting suitability. It would have been easier to do the whole exam with a 65ft head line and it would have overhead cast acceptably. I first tried a Partridge Ian Gordon Spey line which was brand new out at the time but opted for the Snowbee 3D line to do the exam as it was better for overhead casting, the tip section of the Partridge line was heavy. The rod was a Bruce and Walker 15 ft Norway Speycaster. During practice it was just like casting in Ireland though the water was cold. I found (as I sort of expected from Spring fishing) that the cold water had no effect whatsoever on the lines. Were I to do the exam again I might opt for a shorter line, a 60 to 65 ft head line. I would use a Carron Twin line in 65ft, having said that the 75 ft head Carron Twin line is my favourite line of all, its great for Spey casting and overhead casting. I used a Hardy class two sinking Spey line with a 65ft head for the sunk line tasks and that is a great sunk line, perhaps it was 55ft actually.

The FFF examiners at the time were very professional and courteous. At that time every effort was made to create a friendly and helpful atmosphere, one in which you are always treated respectfully and encouraged to speak up if there are any queries or problems. That is not so now with the FFF, it did not stay that way since then.

They offered a choice of two venues on the large river, I immediately opted for the glide which had a very steady, smooth and even flow. When I put my waders on Al Buhr commented - well that's a well used pair of waders.

They then even asked me what order I would like to do the required casts in, if perhaps I preferred all the shorter casts first or right hand casts first? I had so much practice done that I was able to answer with confidence that they should run the exam in any order that suited them. I had no preferences and said that
if I was supposed to be an Instructor then I should be able to do any of the required casts on command. I can either do them or not and should be able to, otherwise I should not be standing there on the banks of the Beaverkill to do their examination. Al Buhr often reminded me of that statement after, that I should not be standing there otherwise, I realised then that it had impressed him. That is the type of answer you should be able to give if taking the exam as you should simply not be concerned at all about any of the practical element which is the various casts.

Al Buhr then suggested we would cross the river and do all the casts on the other bank, (left bank, river left in American speak -
which is somewhat confusing to me as I kind of expect the river to be on my left then) first, and then come back over so that when we were finishing we would be beside the vehicle. I crossed over first as he had some more details to discuss with Phil Gay the other examiner. Suddenly I noticed the Examiners were calling out to me and pointing for me to look up. A large bald eagle casually flew overhead at about tree top height, cruising without flapping his wings, the truly magnificent bird looked down on me as he passed almost right over me but slightly to my left. He was following the course of the river. That's a good omen when the National bird turns up for your exam said Al Buhr. He informed me that Bald Eagles were very rare there and it was really something to see one there. What I was pleased about was the privilege to see such a magnificent bird close up, not away in the distance. It was a different sign for me and I naturally think of Isaiah 40:28-31

The exam has four elements, one is practical casting tasks, the second is theory. However as you do all the practical elements of the exam the theory is covered at exactly the same time as you go along. Many questions are asked about casting and casting mechanics during the practical to cover the theory thoroughly. The third part is about how you teach and practically teaching one of the examiners using your teaching methodology and explanations, and then the fourth part is fault finding.
You need to have the terminology involved well understood and use it correctly. The practical part of the exam for me was more or less completely automatic off both left and right sides as I had practiced literally for months before hand. It was as if I was on automatic pilot as I had done so many mock exams from the syllabus before and fortunately conditions were relatively calm with only a light breeze. This is what made the exam finish in under two hours although four hours plus were scheduled.

Personally I tell people not to apply for this exam until you are in a similar state. Don't fool yourself from thinking that your right hand up casting is fine, unless your left side is up to it too don't even think about applying for the exam. Be harsh with yourself, don't delude yourself, measure the distances, use a tape measure and never guestimates. Are your loops fully rolling out in the air in a narrow loop to reach the distance with fly turnover occurring every time? Is the loop in the right trajectory? That's what is required. Are you keeping in plane on your off side? I sometimes but not always, (depending on the line I was using), practiced casts at 90 feet and shooting line to 110 feet so that the exam would be less than what I practiced with.

For the practical part of the THCI exam you had to do
two correct casts of each particular cast required, preferably within three casts, the second one is necessary to show that the first one was not just a lucky one. Everything is done of both right and left sides, left hand up on left side with no reverse casting allowed. On each cast the line should unroll fully in the air and the leader and fly turnover. Most casts are done with 80 feet of line and leader out to the fly without shooting line, and then done again shooting some line to 100 feet including leader from the 80 feet or whatever distances are specified in the syllabus for any cast.

The practical element also includes giving a demonstration and explanation of Underhand Casting technique, and of Spey casting with a sunk line or long sinking tip. This presented no problems to me as I had been given a clinic in Underhand casting by Goran Andersson himself in England one time, and I was very used to sunk line fishing in spring and autumn in Ireland, sometimes in summer floods also. At the time the Underhand casting was just a mimed demonstration only using the normal double handed rod, not actually casting a line, just showing and explaining the movements.

There then followed another practical element where I have to teach. Al Buhr pretended to be a pupil and I had to teach him. He will do what you say but only what you say, its actually quite funny. For instance if you say to move the rod back and forth he will move it back and forth but without changing the angle of the rod. Once you have an effective teaching system there is no problem, it is best to have a teaching method though with a logical progression to it, and to be able to relate it clearly and proficiently. I was able to teach the Fulcrum style system as I was taught it through an exercise system. To teach someone hands on remember you have to first ask their permission to put your hands on their hands. I omitted to ask during the teaching session which was a mistake.

Next there is the fault finding part of the examination. A set of common faults are practiced by the examiners and they can then force themselves to make them. You have to point out the faults. Its fairly straightforward. An issue of concern to me arose here about what was a symptom of a fault, and what was the actual fault. It caused a brief disagreement, I was correct in my identification of the fault and the correcting of it, and they immediately admitted that on my explanation. They had used a symptom as a fault, a subtle difference. I was impressed that they listened and agreed.

I was lucky to have Al Buhr and Phil Gay as examiners. We did some casting just after the exam and when I first seen Al Buhr cast after the exam I sure was glad that I hadn't seen him cast at all before the exam or it would have made me very nervous to be casting in front of him. He is a really phenomenal caster and he first directed me towards the benefits of the longer stroke, smoother style. I was impressed by the smoothness of his casting, no shock waves in the line, just perfect loops rolling out, beautiful to watch.

After the examination he asked me was there anything that I wished to know? I said that as he was a Pacific North West caster I would like to see exactly how they teach the Snap T, C and Perry Poke as although I use and teach them it would be good for me to see how he does it and then I can claim to have had first hand information on the casts from a Pacific North West caster. He did those casts and more including the snap Z also and even more on rod loading / unloading e.t.c. in one of the most magnificent displays of control and technique it would be possible to witness anywhere.

Al Buhr has taught me how to Spey cast more efficiently through enabling me to have a greater understanding of what's going on, and in particular how the rod behaves, how it loads and unloads. Of all the people I have ever met and talked to about Spey casting his knowledge is perhaps the most profound and complete I have come across in all aspects of fly-casting, Spey and Overhead, single and double-handed casting. However he is helpful and forthcoming with the information to those that are interested. He is a humble gentleman also.

The Bottom line on advanced Double-handed examinations
To me having witnessed many exams, the bottom line is that what matters for any double-handed casting examination is the application of the correct type of compound leverage during the power application to form the D loop, something learned through the incline exercise progression. Fluency with that leaves you able to handle the practical requirements.
My GAIC and APGAI Double Handed Exams

These examinations were held at Mount Falcon Fishery but on the private trout lake. It was such an important event to me that this happened and that GAIA were examining in the Republic of Ireland and that a proper Professional and fully accountable organisation was available to me.

In my opinion it was not as ideal being on the lake as it would be on the river. I think all double-handed exams should be conducted wading knee deep in running water. At least at that lake one can wade in so it is more realistic than standing on a bank. It is also a large lake so there is no inhibition of any kind to do any cast. Not like a flooded field pool where I have seen some exams conducted which it was my express opinion noted at the time that it should not be used.

With this examination is that there is also a fixed spool reel and a multiplier reel spinning section. It is an angling examination and not just a fly-casting examination.

Again because of the proper application of fulcrum style leverage no problems were encountered with the practical aspects of the exam. For one or two casts they asked me to stand still and manipulate the rod while standing upright. It was interesting to stand relatively still and manipulate the rod and line for an actual cast without using the body other than for normal realignment, it is similar to an exercise I use for teaching people the understanding of opposing leverage. I could pop the line back very smoothly and controlled no problem, again using the correct type of leverage and once there is a taut set up there is then no problem with any cast, though its not just what I do normally.

They went through the syllabus for each examination and all went well, no major issues. No problems. I was complimented on my casting by the examiners and in particular my overhead casting.

I used a Carron Jetstream 75ft head line and a Sage Graphite 4 rod. A shorter line would suffice but I used that line most days so was well used to it.

Owing to circumstances beyond my control, it became necessary for me to resign as a fully qualified member from two certifying organisations due to their, in my experience, disenfranchising modi operandi. The Apgai-Ireland organisation and the FFF / IFFF.

I understand what does not constitute proper or acceptable standards of stewardship for either myself or my students.

I have very strongly held views on the standards of how all others should, and indeed must, be treated. Most especially I believe these standards should be maintained by any group, body or organisation taking upon themselves any mantle of responsibility whatsoever concerning the stewardship and well-being of others.