“The capacity for imparting knowledge to others is a natural gift just like an ear for music or talent for drawing. A moderate performer who possesses this capacity is a far better teacher than the highest exponent of the art who is without it.”
These words were first printed in 1913 and I reported them to a fellow angler with whom I had a “strong” talk about casting quite a long time ago.
This friend had been yelling and shouting for hours about the qualities a teacher had to possess in order to be considered on top of the list.
Everything started when we met on the river a few hours earlier. I was with a young man who had asked me to show him the best water for trout near the area where I lived.
I left him all the best fish we met during our fishing day and he was extremely happy with the results of the trip. We had taken a short rest in front of a very nice pool at the head of which a nice brown was rising to the many Drakes on the water.
The Mayflies were coming down with the current and gathered near a submerged rock under a fallen tree, some 12 mts from us. Not a long distance, but quite difficult to be reached. He tried dozen of times without results and the trout, at last, stopped rising. Of course: too many splashes, too much noise… everything out of control. From upstream, the fellow angler had noticed us and the rising fish and literally jumped into the water, a few meters above the pool and quickly moved to our place, waving and shouting his “Hello”.
“He’ll never catch that trout” he started “if you don’t show him how to do”.
“It’s “his” fish, not mine” I replied “In addition to this, I don’t think I’m skilful enough to reach that undercut from this distance and I don’t want to spook the fish, wasting my friend’s chance”.
“It’s not a difficult cast! Look!” and started waving the rod pulling more and more line out of the rod tip. The trout had stopped rising the very second he had jumped into the water. Of course. Obviously.
The fellow angler’s fly reached the branches three times in front of him and twice the back trees. He hadn’t even noticed that the trout had gone quiet.
When he decided to stop casting to an invisible quarry, he started a sequence of descriptions on the speed of the cast, the angle from which the fly had to touch the water, the distance of the arm from the body during the double haul movement (a double haul to reach a spot 15mt away???), the movement of the tip compared to the speed of the reel hand… He was behaving like one of the many just graduated teacher from one of the many top rated universities…
My friend politely disassembled the rod and sat on a rock, watching him moving in the water while describing all these movements and explanations. “Excuse me, sir” he asked “but… where is your fly?”. The other stopped abruptly, checked the leader and exploded in a strong swear… “She broke the leader… damned fish… you broke it! You damned big fish… you broke a 0,18mm….”
“Excuse me, here is your fly… it was on the stem of this leaf… near my shoulder…”
The fellow angler didn’t stop swearing but stopped casting. “You lazy teacher… you should show him how to reach that spot… you can’t even do a reverse cast with a double haul… how can your pupil learn how to, if you don’t show him? You should not cast from this distance… a teacher should move downstream farther to show the pupil how to cast from that distance… from here it’s too easy and you can’t do that and neither can your pupil…”
He moved out of the water and left us alone while still shouting, yelling and saying that casting teachers should be more expert and know everything about speed, physics, hydrodynamics, chemistry, hydraulics…
My friend started laughing as soon as the fellow was far enough not to hear him and went on for 10 minutes… then asked “but… can that trout be caught?” “Sure. Let’s leave the water and I’ll show you something. She’ll have time to rest while we have a short stop.”
When on the meadow, I gave him a few hints on how to shoot a very narrow loop under the branches while side casting. In very simple words, I told him when to stop the back cast and when to release the line for the shooting. Few words, but extremely simple. We ate a sandwich and returned to the pool. The fish had started rising again. He didn’t pulled the fish into his net but left the fly in its mouth. Presumed length: approx 60cm. One of the monsters of this wonderful river escaped to a too stiff wrist during the strike.
“Happy?” I asked.
“WOW!!!” he said “but tell me… who told the words you reported before? Those about the moderate performer…?”
“Mmmhhh… a certain Fredrick Halford, in his The Dry-Fly Man’s Handbook. Chapter II – …”
“Halford? Never heard about… I’m too young and have not a great knowledge…”
“Oh, don’t worry… actually you’re too young… “YOU” are excused, I said, You’re not an experienced and skilled fly angler… “YOU”, I repeated… and a smile exploded in my face.