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Becoming a qualified Game Angling Instructor

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Becoming a qualified Game Angling Instructor

#1

Post by Paul Arden » Mon Apr 22, 2013 9:47 pm

Hi Guys,

this is a topic that has come up a few times in the past, when we discussed the FFF which is a casting certification programme, however the AAPGAI is different and is a professional game angling instructors' association. Now in the case of the FFF I see no problems with the candidate being an enthusiastic beginner who understands how to teach Flycasting and can get people going and motivated. However this is a very different situation in AAPGAI where it expected that the candidate can teach flyfishing to a high level and not only casting. For me, this absolutely means that the candidate must be a fishing expert in his locality.

Now I realise that our single handed exam is Trout, Sea Trout and Saltwater. I wouldn't expect a genuine expert in all three, but I would certainly expect the candidate to be an expert in at least one discipline with knowledge of the other two. Even if only an expert in one branch of one discipline. ie the one he teaches. For example if my instructor is teaching Sea Trout fishing then I expect him to have VAST experience in this field. If my instructor is teaching Stillwater trouting then I expect him to have VAST experience in this field. He should be the recognised local expert, maybe he's the local guide (and the best one), maybe he competes, or is connected to the fishery - this type of fishing is his life.

As a Stillwater trout fisherman myself, I would expect at a minimum at least 10-15 years of experience. Having gone through the process of learning Stillwater trouting, I cannot imagine anyone doing this in less that ten years - the now Late Steve Parton suggested 10 years but maybe he was a fast learner :p For most it may take decades. For me it took 15 years of fishing every day of the season - only then did I decide to become an instructor. (I first joined the Association of Professional Game Angling Instructors after 17 years experience).

Not everyone is going to agree with me :ninja: And it's a perhaps a touchy subject. Skues considered an expert Chalkstream angler to have caught 15,000 trout - and he didn't count the small ones. It's not a bad number. On Stillwaters you'd be very hard pushed to do this in 15 years, certainly with the 8-fish limit I grew up with! With C&R it's certainly attainable now.

Following Chris' comments in the App thread, I asked for a few other opinions, because I am not AAPGAI, just one of its members and I know that there are alternative opinions. Ron writes:
Hi Paul

What qualification? APGAI, SGAIC, FFF, AAPGAI Provisional, Advanced or Masters?

How many years experience? How long is a piece of string? In my opinion it does not matter as long as the candidate can do all that is in the syllabus to convince the assessors that he can clearly communicate and demonstrate his knowledge and expertise in casting and can teach and fault find and put things right all in a professional manner.

We can only get some measure of a candidates fishing experience and knowledge of the biology of the fish itself, its habitat, food requirements etc etc and its environment etc by his answers in his written exam and asking pertinent verbal questions in his interview and debrief sessions. As we all know most fisherman tell fibs or have a tendency to exaggerate at times !!!!! The written exam I find is the best way of measuring a candidates fishing experience.

I know some excellent casters who also are good instructors of casting, yet are not experienced or even successful fish catchers.

AAPGAI is about "game angling instructors" not just casting. It means all aspects of practical fishing with a fly rod., so we do expect a candidate to exhibit a good all round knowledge of practical game angling with a fly rod. It is Impossible to set a definitive number of years of fishing experience to take a qualification.. Each individual angler is different some fly fish for fifty years or more and still are still crap fish catchers (like me!!!) and some who have only been fly fishing for a couple of years can be excellent successful fly fishers.

I am sure AAPGAI would never make the number of years of fishing experience a critical requirement of any assessment.

Best as ever
Ron
Illtyd Griffiths writes:
Dear Paul,

This is a problem. Experience is difficult to measure in time, as a full time guide/ghillie might become competent reasonably quickly with good tutelage whilst another person who fishes sparodically but is under little pressure to improve might take a lifetime without reaching even a competent level.

As you quite rightly say it is difficult to have a deep understanding of many areas of fly fishing. This is why I look upon AAPGAI as a tree. The core knowledge necessary by all instructors is the stem of the tree and the areas of special expertise the major branches. The majority of instructors, will in a lifetime, probably only achieve the stem and at most two branches where they would consider themselves to be "expert". I must admit, I think this alone is good going!

Quite rightly core knowledge is itself quite vast and has to be mastered to become a competent instructor.

I hope this helps,

Kindest regards,

Illtyd
What I have proposed to a few members and will officially propose at the next AGM is that we ask candidates to bring their flyboxes to the interview and that we select half a dozen flies from the selection and ask them how and when to fish them.

Anyway, just my thoughts on the matter. I'm sure that most people will disagree with me, but that's what makes life interesting :p

Cheers, Paul
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#2

Post by Snake Pliskin » Mon Apr 22, 2013 9:55 pm

Paul Arden wrote:What I have proposed to a few members and will officially propose at the next AGM is that we ask candidates to bring their flyboxes to the interview and that we select half a dozen flies from the selection and ask them how and when to fish themCheers, Paul
That sounds like fun actually, and who doesn't like a nosy into someones fly box. Just don't ask to watch me tie them... :D

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#3

Post by Paul Arden » Mon Apr 22, 2013 10:01 pm

Yep a few may go missing :cool:
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#4

Post by chris09 » Mon Apr 22, 2013 11:10 pm

Paul

Thanks for sharing Illtyd's respone and expanding your thoughts on the subject.

I will be interested to see any other views.

My intial view is that extensive experience you envisage would be something I would struggle to demonstrate now or in the near future. You really would be looking for somone who is already working full-time in the industry as a guide or something similar.

I'm not sure if the extensive experience requirement is overtly described in the various AAPGAI articles. For example 'a candidate is required to display a good general knowledge of game angling'. This description doesn't really chime with the vision you are describing. I still don't have a clear sense of what specific criteria is tested here and what constitues a pass or fail in general knowledge.

On a more minor point I think the flybox idea fits more within the general knowledge of game angling. It doesn't seem like a requirement that would test extensive experience.

Obviously my views are just from an outsider looking in. However I do think it's important that potential future instructors and clients are able to easily understand the vision and ethos of the organisation.

Cheers

Chris

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#5

Post by Paul Arden » Mon Apr 22, 2013 11:58 pm

Hi Chris, I agree that not everyone will share my views, which is why I asked Ron - our longest and most-stately member, who I know stresses the important difference between Angling instruction and Casting instruction (his reply surprised me) and Illtyd who chairs AAPGAI. I also would be interested in other members as well as non-members opinions.

The reason I like the flybox idea, is that so much can be done with it. The flybox is his toolkit. It tells me the type of fishing that someone does. Also it tells me the lack of experience a candidate may have in certain areas - missing flies etc. Finally if the angler ties his own flies - and I personally believe that to be an expert flyfisherman that you must tie flies - then there will be an interesting selection of "work in progress" patterns. It is these that would be the most interesting to select.

When I first joined the association part of the criteria was to list your history in flyfishing, your experience guiding, instructing, magazine publications, books and so on. Numerous times I've heard the criticism that an instructor is a good caster, and maybe an excellent casting instructor, but a poor angler - and from the locals who he fishes with. That may be fine when the association is casting only, but in the case of AAPGAI it is a fishing instructors qualification. As such the instructor should at the very least be a local expert.

I really don't know what the majority opinion is, which in this association is what matters. I do know that fishing experience is looked for, but I don't know if this has actually been quantified - it's difficult. I would like to try to quantify this and find interesting ways to examine for it. But first what will be required is a majority decision on exactly what is the minimum.

In the meantime you should be as well-read in all three disciplines as possible, with a good grasp of entomology, water-reading, methods that should work at a given time of year and relevant fly selection for fish behaviour. The written test can cover relatively obscure topics such as angling law and the problems resulting from fish farming. You are also expected to deliver a presentation, something fishing related would be best.

Nothing is hard and fast - 15 years, 15,000 fish; these are just numbers. It could be that you are such an extraordinarily gifted instructor, or fishermen for that matter, that these criteria that I and others have put into my head are unimportant. But that is the skill and knowledge level that I would expect to have come through flyfishing only. It may have come by other channels and that's absolutely fine by me. It's hard to quantify, even harder to measure, but I always know when I've met an expert in one discipline or another.

Personally I will never take the Salmon fishing qualification until I have a decade of Salmon fishing experience. I'm sure that I could get to the casting level within 6 months of dedicated practise. I will do it, but not any time soon!

Cheers, Paul
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#6

Post by Bernd Ziesche » Tue Apr 23, 2013 12:49 pm

Hi Paul,
I agree with all points Ron made in his response.
To me it is not (and never will be) the number of years one has been fishing for a species of fish that marks his/her level of skills. And yes, to me it's more about skills rather than experience.
Simply the skills must have a serious level. I have seen people fishing for Atlantic Salmon in Norway for about 40 years and never have learnt how to fly cast in a place with just little (not even talking about almost no) room for an overhead back cast. Such a fisherman has huge experience but his/her skills are on a low level to me.
And then I know a very few people who fish for many different species around the whole year and are able to connect all the dots between all aspects that make the difference in being successfull on catching each species.
Personally I HAD (fanatically) fished 20 years for Sea trout along the coast all around the Baltic sea. From that I can tell that all areas have their own key figures to succeed. So it's not only about fishing for a species but fishing for it in different areas/waters as well and then connect the dots. The moment I started to professionally guide and teach how to fish for Sea trout I soon realized that there were key questions I couldn't answer - even after having fished for them during those past 20 years. One of these question was: Why do I get them to strike while my students don't get a single take fishing just 3 meters away of me. It was exactly this situation which forced me into a different process of learning. Within the next 2 or 3 years of one to one fishing situations I learnt way more than I ever did within the 20 years mostly fishing with friends or on my own.
Anway who would be the one to tell what skills exactly an expert must have?
I think it can only be each organization itself and then the requirements simply must be fullfilled by the candidate. To me years don't count but skills do. It's my set of skills that makes me catch the fish.
In regard of my teaching I today can teach someone more knowledge about Sea trout fishing within a 2 days weekend than I could learn myself during the first 10 years of fishing on my own. Thinking about this I agree with you that fishing on one's own takes much time to become an expert. Yes, 10-15 years may be a fair set though. But fishing with the best experts can really speed up this process which again leads me to agree with Ron about: Testing the skills (theoretically and practically) is the best way and there can't be set up something like an optimum for the years of experience.
Ron to me is far on top of what I would expect from a Master instructor. Never I would want his incredible knowledge to be set as the minimum requirement to pass such a test (well that is because I would fail then of course :p ).

What I don't like at all, is when people understand an exam as striving for a paper telling them to be a proper fly caster.* Those candidates may think about participating in tournaments simply!? Since the AAPGAI exam is quite expensive and straight forward requires significant fishing knowledge and also focuses on teaching, too - I doubt this to be a problem within AAPGAI exams? In other organizations that was and still seems to be a fair point to discuss based on what I have seen during exams.
Greets
Bernd

*I shall add to have been one of them during my very first fly casting certification I made with the former FFFE. It (to some degree) was about having a paper telling me to be a proper fly caster. Then I changed my point of view and waited quite some years before trying to pass the Master level. Those years I had a huge focus on teaching and simply teaching skills. But that was just my way. If one has his/her skills faster am fine with that...
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#7

Post by Paul Arden » Tue Apr 23, 2013 1:02 pm

Well it can be a problem in AAPGAI but not so much and I have seen people fail principally because it became apparent that the candidates fishing experience was limited. Occasionally it happens that someone just wishes to test their skills. But then they arrive ill-prepared to teach, which really just wastes everyone's time. The problem is that in both cases the candidate leaves dejected, and it would be much better to really emphasise the fact that AAPGAI assesses fly fishing instructors.

I agree that it's possible to get there quicker through the experience of others. Kovács Peter is a great example of someone who has learned extremely quickly, having fished with some of the best anglers in Croatia and Bosnia, as well as me of course :p However he's been FlyFishing now for around 4 or 5 years and there is no way in this world is he ready to teach!

Cheers, Paul
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#8

Post by Bernd Ziesche » Tue Apr 23, 2013 1:58 pm

Paul Arden wrote: However he's been FlyFishing now for around 4 or 5 years and there is no way in this world is he ready to teach!
I could well learn of him by just watching how he catches the fish! ;)

Seriously - so he did not focus on learning how to teach I guess!?
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#9

Post by Paul Arden » Tue Apr 23, 2013 3:04 pm

He just doesn't have the variety of fishing experience. Also it's one thing to know the theory but you don't really understand the intricacies of it until you've successfully done it hundreds upon hundreds of times, and in most cases thousands.

The way I see it, is there is a learning curve in all branches of flyfishing. At some point that curve begins to flatten, of course we still learn but it takes longer to learn anything worthwhile. I have only hit that relative plateau in two areas of flyfishing, one is stillwater trout and the other is backcountry NZ. In Stillwaters I hit that after about 15 years and approximately the same in NZ. In both cases I got to fish with true experts in the field. These are the only two areas I would genuinely feel comfortable in teaching. Everywhere else I'm still at some point learning a great deal every time I fish (apart from streamers on rivers perhaps). I think an instructor should have hit one of those points in at least one mainstream branch.

Just imagine this scenario. An instructor is teaching flyfishing on a UK stillwater, and is a relatively novice angler, doesn't know all the methods and can't find the fish. The local experts on the water all know this. They think - and say, because I've heard it - that XYZ instructors can't catch fish - and these are the guys who are teaching flyfishing. The Instructor should absolutely be able to hold his own in his region with the very best of them. Otherwise the entire Association's credibility is in question. With a flycasting instructors' association, then fine, whatever, but with a flyfishing instructors' association this is unacceptable IMO.

Cheers, Paul
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#10

Post by petevicar » Tue Apr 23, 2013 3:42 pm

Firstly please understand I do not wish to be derogatory here.
I find this subject fascinating.

There is an age old saying:

Those who can do and those who can't teach.

In this world of fly fishing I find it somewhat strange that some of the best fly casters and fisherman have a sort of vocation to teach other people.
Maybe there is no real job as a professional fly caster or fly fisherman as such and teaching is the only way to make money out of it. OK you can be a guide or maybe take part in tournaments.

In most other professions the teachers are not the best exponents but mostly good teachers.
Teaching ability is more important than personal aptitude.
IANACI

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