Despite changes in distances, speeds, wind and angles, on virtually every cast, an experienced fly caster drifting down a river can throw a streamer to within inches of the bank 95% of the time, with no false casts – a task so complicated and intricate it puts a cruise missile computer to shame.
How does this happen, and just as importantly, what are the implications to fly casting instruction?
Having been intimately involved in the training of classroom teachers and athletic coaches for over two decades. I can say without hesitation that most have a limited grasp of modern cognitive research and its implications to instruction. To form a basis for our pedagogy, most of us today, including fly casting instructors, rely on intuition, observation, and experimentation. Intuitively, many have developed a fairly competent bag of tricks and lessons that have served them pretty well.
This series of articles, while grossly over simplifying, will address how learning takes place and how we might want to rethink some assumptions about teaching fly casting. Let’s start with casting with accuracy as illustrated in the opening paragraph.
We see the target and our eye’s receptors transfer this data and information to our neo-cortex . All of this is relayed to the thalamus, which regulates motor function. Also involved is the limbic system which regulates emotion. The signals are sent to the cerebellum which is responsible for co-ordination and balance. These systems are, in part, responsible for organizing, prioritizing, and storing plans and goals.
The goal in this case is to hit the target. When our fly lands, the eye records the landing and again relays this information as above. The cerebellum acts as a sequence- error computer that compares the desired outcome of the cast to the actual performance. The limbic system makes us feel good when we hit the target.
What happens at this point is determined at least as much by emotion as it is by intellect. If the outcome is less than satisfactory and we feel some level of frustration, anger, embarrassment or some other similar negative emotion, the brain automatically attempts a different motor sequence on the next repetition.
If, on the other hand, the outcome is consistent with our expectations and we feel some level of joy, satisfaction, vindication or other similar positive emotion, our brain attempts to “lock in” the motor sequence that resulted in the successful cast. If we cast enough to different targets, with different variables, our brain automatically and instantaneously calibrates the force, angle, movement and timing required to hit any target.
1) DEVELOP EMOTION. Motivate the student to want to learn what we are teaching. Why is the cast important? How can it improve your angling success? How is it fundamental to future attempts at learning new casts?
2) The lessons must be designed so that the student knows exactly what is expected. (DISCRIMINATION TRAINING prevents incorrect muscle memory.) I give every student a detailed, written description/ reminder of each specific step required to make a particular cast (Visual Instructional Plan).