By Dayle and Barbara Mazzarella
Dayle: I passed the FFF Casting Instructor exam in late August, 2011. It was pretty neat to have Suncoast Fly Fishers members Kirk Burton, Tom Gadacz, and Pat Damico at the West Yellowstone FFF Conclave, sharing with me that accomplishment.
I thought “that wasn’t too bad, maybe I’ll just go and get the MCI certificate while I’m at it.” Little did I know …
I printed a copy of the MCI requirements and Study Guide from the FFF website, and at first glance it looked pretty reasonable. I’m a retired teacher and have worked as a guide in Wyoming since 1987, so the list of 19 casting and teaching tasks looked difficult but manageable and the three pages of study guide questions seemed okay, even if I was completely unfamiliar with some of them.
Starting September 5th, I started casting virtually every day for one to three hours with very few days off. Over the course of the next six months, I worked with MCIs Lee Davison, Joe Libeu, Dusty Sprague, Gordy Hill, Brad Lowman, and John Van Derhoof. Their help in my preparation was invaluable and aided my ability to progress so quickly. I studied dozens of books, hundreds of magazine articles and researched online information; from knots to how rods and lines are built, to the basic physics of casting principles, and everything in between. If it had to do with casting, teaching casting, or fishing, I tried to learn about it.
I took four six-hour pretests, each one of which included 2 hours of explaining and demonstrating the 19 casting tasks, and then 4 more hours of oral questions.
From September 5, 2011 to March 17th of this year, I spent between three to six hours each day preparing for the exam. Most people take years to pass the test, but I was lucky in many respects. I have a very long and varied fishing, guiding, teaching and coaching background. I am retired, so had the luxury of few demands on my time and I was able to devote all those hours to practicing and studying. And absolutely, most importantly, my wife, Barbara, was unbelievably supportive. I wish I had a nickel for every hour she watched me cast, pointing out flaws and making suggestions. I wish I had a nickel for every flash card on which she quizzed me.
I can’t believe how much I have learned and how much the experience has made me a better casting instructor and fisherman – a very worthwhile journey for anyone inclined to take the challenge – But take a few years! 🙂
Barbara : I had no idea where the MCI quest would lead us, but at every turn it has been filled with richness. At the beginning, I thought I was tagging along to ‘take notes’ for Dayle to review after the lessons. But each of Dayle’s mentors worked with me and taught me what good casts (all 19) looked like and how to correct the many faults that can occur due to inappropriate application of power, creeping, poor timing, rotation, etc.
It would be a lie to say those many hours watching Dayle cast were all great; I still feel the freezing October temperatures as Dayle practiced casting in Wyoming, sometimes twice a day. Truthfully, many of our discussions didn’t start with “Sweetie, I think you’re creeping a little”, or if they did, they didn’t end that way. We reviewed the questions so much that even I knew the answers without looking. It was intense, hour after hour. ( I wish he would have given me a nickel for each of those hours!) We shared lots of laughs and rolled our eyes each time someone saw us practicing on the grass and said, “Hey, there aren’t any fish out there!”. But it was time well spent as Dayle’s casting got better and better – it was a journey we made together. The best part has been that we have met so many wonderful people and made friends that we hold dear. Though I don’t cast any better after all of this, I know a lot of “stuff”, and I’m grateful for the experience.