i went to the Salon de la Mouche Artificielle in Saint-Etienne last weekend, the biggest fly fish only fair in France and i’ll have to say right away that it wasn’t all that interesting. however i did have a really nice encounter with a small group of people. over by the casting stand, having just had a rod that i was trying out literally taken out of my hands for the SECOND time from a sales person (the number will eventually get to four… ), i turned around scanning the fair to see who’s rods and lines i could try out next.
the place was crowded, an incessant white noise background filled the ears but all of a sudden on the casting ground i heard people behind me shout-grunting and making slapping sounds in a very expressive and strange manner.
hot-blooded foreigners ? early morning drunks ? onlookers gagging from having one of these non-loop casters tangle their line around someone’s neck ?
well no, not at all. as i turned all i saw was three friends that just happened to be hearing and speech impaired, two of them who were already familiar with the wand were helping the third one out on his first go.
they immediately seemed to be a good natured and fun loving bunch, their big smiles setting them apart from the stern and dismal faces which constituted the vast majority of the oh-so-serious attendants. i observed them for a while and analyzed how they were going about it and just thought to myself, ‘what the heck, this is a good opportunity to help people with their casting, just jump in !’
this was an interesting challenge that gave me the chance to put a few instruction thoughts into application that had been going around in my mind for a while. to sum up briefly, it’s about not using too many words in conveying information when teaching casting. too many words confuse and isolate the student and have a negative effect. the Golden Rule is K.I.S.S. ‘Keep it Short and Simple’. easier said than done but here i didn’t have a choice.
i had noticed that they would lip read when people communicated with them so i tried to keep that to an absolute minimum. since i don’t know sign language i went about it by simultaneously depicting with my left hand, pointing, visually describing through gestures, attracting attention to the specifics that i was trying to convey while demonstrating the actual movements with my right hand.
at first they were a bit surprised but very soon a comfort level set in and things were rolling smoothly in less than a minute. from the first second it was a lot of fun. to see how happy and smiling they were, to see the spark in their eyes as things ‘clicked in’ gave back a sense of purpose that had been trailing off as to why i became a casting instructor in the first place.
we started off by pantomiming Jason Borger’s Foundation Casting Stroke and in five minutes all three had a much better slack-less control of the line and nice looking loops. pretty darn fast learners. as usual, the total beginner, not having previously acquired bad habits picked up the motions faster than the other two. at the end of our ten minute encounter he was correctly correcting his friends !
this all grew some attention from the crowd who cheered them on as they progressed and a kind older man offered his casting lane so that we could do horizontal pick-up and lay-down and roll casts. combined with the standard aerial casts, these would serve as the bases of fly casting they could work on later on their own.
the moment ended with a quick pic and a warm goodbye and i was left alone with the rod. the owner and maker of that rod came over, grabbed it and said “now that they’re finished, i’ll take that back.”
i never had a chance to try it out.
* this story is several years old and was first published on my first blog Fly Casting France