Should we have a second level of THCI, and re-warning that the test is tough! - Spey Pages
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post #1 of 97 (permalink) Old 12-13-2012, 04:25 PM Thread Starter
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Should we have a second level of THCI, and re-warning that the test is tough!


Per the FFF website -
There only 6 THCI's in CA!
Three in Oregon!
Seven in Washington and
6 in Idaho. That is not very many for a sport where at least some growth would be a good thing - at least for the industry and maybe the fisheries.

I know or have watched many of those THCI's. They are all better casters than I, but I am an OK caster, and have been teaching with pretty positive feedback lots of different topics for 50 years. Been a CI for a long time, and do know some stuff there. I know I could, and do, teach two handed without certification, but -- well, below is what I worded to organize my own thoughts after last Saturday, when I was ashamed to have wasted the time of 50% of California's THCI's, all masters, for 4 hours. Maybe I should have known better - but I did not:

My thoughts - open to change as I listen to others.

I just failed the THCI test, fair and square. My examiners, John, Bob and Ray, did exactly what they were charged with doing, judging if I satisfactorily completed, by the very specific standards written in the exam, the big spectrum of explanations and demonstrations required. At the postmortem, the lead examiner explained, and I paraphrase: You clearly had a good knowledge base, your teaching skills are probably quite good. Scandi and sunk line Skagit skills were strong, but much of the longer line skills were not. I commented to him that I agreed, that the exam was administered fairly and I appreciated all the time spent with me. By the standards set, I did fail. I was too disappointed and embarrassed to collect my thoughts further. Now I’m thinking a bit more about it.

Here is the point of contention: While the exam was administered fairly, I believe the exam itself to be unfair for the majority of potentially good instructors, and a disservice to the sport.

Yikes! Them’s fightn’ words. Let me try and make my point.
I am troubled by:

1) The casting skill level required.
Whoever created that exam did an excellent job and obviously spent a huge amount of time on a work product of which they can be proud. The detail, lack of ambiguity, coverage of much of what we do as spey fisherman make it a challenging test of both casting skill and teaching expectations. Problem, the skill part is too difficult!

Very few coaches, in any sport, are both good teachers and highly skilled at the sport. Some may have been great before starting to coach, and one could argue that Michael Jordan was still highly skilled when he tried to be a player coach for the Wizards, but the majority of great coaches and teachers-of-skills understand what they are teaching and can demonstrate some things, but can coax a skill from the pupil even when they, themselves, cannot pitch a good fastball or do a double back flip.

I've been teaching one thing or another for over 50 years. Waterskiing, swimming, rugby, and in my medical career, surgery. I was not a good trick skier and never won a swimming medal, yet was paid well to teach those activities, and did it well. In 22 years of coaching college rugby, including multiple league championships, four final fours and a national championship, I was rarely as skilled at a position as the young athlete I was coaching, yet coached every position to effect. I understood the game and had success teaching it. Demonstrating a skill is often neither necessary nor sufficient to cause improvement. Admittedly, surgery is one area where one must be truly good at the motor skills being taught. Fly casting is not surgery. Fly casting is much more difficult from a motor skills perspective.

The current THCI test, with the myriad 80 and 100 foot casts off either shoulder with a 60 foot line, demonstrating many faults, requires true mastery of the motor skills. I, for one, believe that this level of mastery belongs at the master's level of certification. My examiners were all master casters. I am so pleased our sport can learn and benefit from their hard learned insights and skills. Further, they were all pleasant and not at all condesending -- (my only complaint was the one who dropped his cigarette butts in the pond, but as a caster and examiner he was above reproach.)

2) That only MCI and BOG members can see the actual test.

I was surprised to learn that the exam my testers were using was different from the one I had printed off and used for preparation. What is up with that? Why would FFF keep something like that secret? Why would FFF want candidates surprised by questions not on the version of the exam we can print off and study?

While I have read everything on the web site and many books, fished with numerous wonderfully skilled guides, watched countless videos, discussed things with my local mentor, and had too many dark-of-night-cold-of-beer/single malt conversations, I was unprepared with the answers sought during my 4 hour exam just failed. Though I suspect the oral part of the exam was passed, the surprise factor probably hurt my skill performance.

The examination committee apparently wants to avoid having candidates that just parrot information - but I think that should be trumped by trying to avoid the appearance of an insider's club - others need not apply.

3) I never found a video illustration of the tested skills

I was unable to attend, on a Friday morning in Idaho, the only THCI prep session I have ever seen advertised. It was held the day before the Clearwater Spey Clave. I heard great things about it. Maybe it included test specific demonstrations of all the casts, which would have made a world of difference. (I did make it to the Clearwater to participate in Poppy's Redneck-o-Rama, in which I averaged 140' for six casts, 840 total. I mention that only to aid a claim that I am not a total casting slouch.)

One need only spend some time on YouTube to see numerous videos of snippets of our sport, most claiming to be showing how it should be done. None of them will prepare a candidate for this exam. The many professionally made videos, Gawsworth, Vincent, Hazel, Ward, Howell, and Krieger all jump to mind, are geared at a different level of student -- not the aspiring instructor. When preparing for my CI - last millennium, I learned a lot from such things as Jason Borger's faults recognition video. There is no video of which I know, with a Master THCI demonstrating how it is done and discussing fault recognition and correction. (Actually, Simon's does have some of this) There should be a video showing the creators and endorsers of this exam demonstrating and explaining.

In general, one should not gripe without providing at least suggestions. Here are mine:

1) Video. Candidates pay their registration fees, which would help fund a well done video showing the exam being performed in an exemplary way by, say John or Bob or Ray or Al or Dwight or Lee... . Maybe industry sponsors could be found to help with the video. Only paid candidates could view the video and review the detailed elements of the exam for which they were preparing. Maybe Todd Moen could help, as his video skills seem pretty good. Such a video might be enjoyed by a student with no intention of preparing to be an instructor. With paid registration fee -- let them watch. Many aspiring instructors would probably pay the fee, watch the video, and realize they were a long way from the skill level expected of candidates. Fine.

2) Masters. Anyone who has already passed the current exam is a Master THCI.

3) New Exam. A new standard exam for THCI should be developed. It would be a modified subset of the current exam:
  • Most, maybe all of the verbal responses required of the current exam. All available online to paid registrants for testing.
  • Any setup, candidate choice, for the various required casts, up to three different setups, one of which would be sink tip, minimum 10 feet, minimum type 6 or T8. One set up must have other than monofilament shooting line, for use in shooting line control element. Leader must be 9 to 15 feet including any poly or versi type leaders for floating lines, and 2 to 5 feet for sink tip.
  • Eliminate the overhand cast requirement
  • All distances 70 feet, except one Switch cast to 90 feet.
  • Shooting of line allowed
  • Explain and demonstrate, as if working with a student:
    • First:
    • An oveview of Spey Casting, including description of anchor, Sweep, Lift, Key position D loop, touch and go and sustained anchor casts - at an introductory level.
  • Roll cast
  • Switch cast, including demonstrations of:
  • Good lift
  • Good sweep
  • Good anchor placement
  • Good D or V loop
  • Good loop
  • Open loop
  • Narrow loop
  • Piled Anchor
  • Pulled anchor
  • Candidate choice of two right shoulder anchor casts and two left shoulder anchor casts. At least one touch and go and one sustained anchor cast must be included among the choices. Chosen casts need not each be done with both hands or off shoulder. Each cast must be demonstrated at about 45 degrees and 90 degrees. A total of 8 fishing casts, to 70 feet, nicely done.
  • Includes demonstrations of sink tip management
  • Includes demonstrations of mending
  • Includes demonstration of shooting line management
  • Risks associated with upstream and downstream misplaced anchors.
  • Blood L on a sustained anchor cast.
  • Identify casting faults demonstrated by examiner, and explain both why they are a problem and at least one approach for correction for each fault.

Casts from which candidate could choose, which would be included in the preparation video, would include: Single Spey, Snake Roll, Double Spey, Perry Poke, Snap T,C, or Z

Demos on video would include at least three masters doing each cast, right, left, off-hand 45 and 90, with real time explanations by the master on what they are looking for in their own and a candidates casting.

Why is the current exam a disservice to the sport? Fly casting needs to be taught. Just watch most self taught casters to see why. We need many more teachers. The current disputed passage approach sets the bar unnecessarily high. The current exam identifies excellent casters. It excludes many potentially good
teachers with adequate skills.

Current THCI's should be revered.More good teachers that can cast are needed.

The single level of certification standards should be re-examined, THCI and Master THCI should be considered.

Thanks for reading

Loc Vetter
Wm. Laughlin Vetter, M.D., FACS and CI
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Last edited by locvetter; 12-19-2012 at 01:39 AM. Reason: typos and syntax
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post #2 of 97 (permalink) Old 12-14-2012, 09:07 AM
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Thumbs up Great post!


I am so glad to see your post! Thanks for sharing your thoughts...
it reminded me the health care reform battle... it's painful and has stepped on many people's toes... but it should be done and should be done long times ago...

I think Speypages is a good place to discuss this issue, since FFF doesn't really have a open platform for public to participate. And overall, we are here to care about the sport... not a piece of certificate paper. I will like to hear what others have to say about this issue...

To me, the major issue is the fast evolving casting techniques... continuing embrace those new casting concepts/ new tackles into teaching protocols are vital elements to catch up with the public and the ever growing demanding from students. For example, see how many influential instructors you have mentioned above who shy away from the THCI list.. (on the other hand, I have seen some THCI make poor/ misinformed demonstrations and even mis-interpretation on new casting techniques. FWIW, I never really interested in THCI certification, but I would really like to see more well-informed, educated instructors/ and educational materials around. and most importantly - willing to participate in public service... thumbs up to those already doing it!!)

Thanks again! Great post!


Last edited by yuhina; 12-14-2012 at 09:41 AM.
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post #3 of 97 (permalink) Old 12-14-2012, 09:35 PM
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I was involved in the development of the THCI and was the first Canadian certified. It has been a few years since I've observed a test or reviewed the requirements, but back then (as now it appears) the THCI is indeed a Master level certification. Back when I was involved I didn't understand why one needed to complete the CI prior to THCI--I don't think that is the case any more--nor why it was important for anyone to complete a single-handed certification if they were only interested in the two-hander. But them's the rules--not the rules I'd make if I were the Boss, but the rules nonetheless.

Loc, because you are a CI you have insight into the single-handed certification and I think you might be correct--the THCI might be too challenging if it is being presented as a basic two-handed certification. I'm not sure how the FFF currently views the THCI, but if it is a stand-alone certification indicating both a high-level of skill and teaching ability it certainly should be presented and understood as such.

I'm not convinced that examiners in the THCI should be MCI. While the MCI requires a highly developed understanding of casting as well as a highly refined teaching ability, in my experience the MCI even with THCI doesn't necessarily indicate a highly developed ability to cast and teach the concepts and skills associated with the two-handed rod. One of the things that really made me step back from my involvement in the program was the fact that--even though the THCI was essentially MCI with a two-hander--I was not "qualified" to test THCI candidates because I did not have my MCI (single-hand masters). My view has always been that this is largely a political issue within the FFF, and has nothing to do with the insight and ability of certified individuals.

I would like to see an even more challenging stand alone THCI that is recognized as a MCI standard with additional tests from the real world of casting instruction, such as:

1. ability to take a series of randomly matched tackle systems and make them work (rather than "you need a new line/rod" etc that so many fall back on when they cannot make a system work);

2. ability to teach/demonstrate all casting styles with any line system;

3. ability to present a coherent overview of the history and principles of two-handed casting

Perhaps the FFF should consider changing the THCI to allow potential instructors to certify in one style--Skagit for example--and develop the MTHCI certification that requires a high degree of skill across all two-handed styles--with additional skills specific to the real world of casting instruction.

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post #4 of 97 (permalink) Old 12-14-2012, 11:16 PM
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The FFF needs to get its head of of its posterior and recognize:

1) Fishing with two handed, (spey, switch) rods is the most growing segment of fly fishing and the FFF appears to missing the boat here.

2) The current single THCI certification is unattainable to many decent casters and good educators (the time committment to achieve THCI is enormous, some us have real full time jobs you know).

3) There are a growing number of uncertified spey casting teachers out there today giving lessons (some of the bad mouth the FFF as: out of touch, antiquated, self serving) this number will continue to grow unless the FFF creates a reasonable, attainable THCI certification level that these educators can achieve with a realistic amount of committment - lets call ths lessor level of certification "THCI specialist" and call the current level "THCI Master". If the FFF fails to take this step they will do the themselves and students searching for decent "certified" instructors a dis-service.

4) There is a whole world out there of double handed (spey) casting type of water where casting a single hander is pointless, so wake up and smell the roses and decouple the THCI from CI and MCI. They are two separate worlds that do not necessarily over lap in the REAL WORLD.
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post #5 of 97 (permalink) Old 12-15-2012, 07:02 AM
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I hope your experience with the test would not discourage you to have another go in the future. It took me two attempts to get my THCI. I felt the same way too after I failed my first test the fact that two CBOGs had to travelled half way around the world to test me and 3 other MCI candidates (only 2 MCIs passed). But I learnt a lot from the failed test. From the experience I can pin point which area I should put more effort on when I'm practicing. It was another 16 months before I had another opportunity to have a test again. All I can say is that my experience from the first test help me immensely to pulled through my second test. The examiner also told me that few of current THCI had more than one attempt to obtained their THCI.

Regarding the casting skill for the test, yes mostly to do with casting a longer belly line. I agree that there should be more on the Scandi and the Skagit technique. There are only 3 tasks on the Underhand (Scandi) casting and no Skagit task mentioned in the test. But I believe most candidates including myself these days are using the Skagit set up for the sink tip tasks. Some of the questions on the sink tip task are quite relevant with the Skagit style technique. Hence unwittingly the test also covering the Skagit style.

I think the skill on casting the longer line is still very important as these days fly fisherman are well travelled worldwide. I had a few students that were going to fish at the Kola Peninsula and Scotland, they specifically wanted to learn Spey casting with a 15' rod and longer belly line. The gentleman that went to Scotland was told by his Ghilie that he was going to use a 15 ft rod and long belly line and suggested him to have few lessons before hand. It would be rather embarrassing for an instructor if a student turn up with a 15' rod with long belly line and the instructor could not show his student how to use it proficiently.

From what I read on your posting above I can see that you are very passionate with teaching/coaching regardless the area of the discipline. I sincerely hope that one day you have another go with the THCI test again.

Bintoro, IFFF CCI & THCI
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post #6 of 97 (permalink) Old 12-15-2012, 10:54 AM
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I am a CI and have suggested to the casting board some changes in the certification program. Those suggestions fell on deaf ears. I have tought several prople to spey cast and will continue to teach without the THCI certificate. I have no intention of getting the THCI.

I have a major problem with the FFF program that almost brags that 50% of the candidates fail to pass the CI test the first time. What is wrong with this picture?

My suggestion is simple.

1) Make the testing requirements available and remove the vague measurments used when testing.

2) Instructor candidates work with a certified instructor before going to be tested. The certified instructor signs off the candidate before testing. Without this sign-off the test will not be given. Now your instructor candidate has a very good chance of passing the exam first time.

Instructors that sign off too many failing candidates would have to answer for those failing performances thereby having some skin in the game also.
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post #7 of 97 (permalink) Old 12-15-2012, 12:31 PM
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Loc, are you really saying " I'm not good enough at casting and am not prepared to put the time in to improve. Just dumb down the test for me. Or better yet, bell curve everyone." ?

If not, you might want to think about a re-write, cause that's how it comes across.


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post #8 of 97 (permalink) Old 12-15-2012, 01:10 PM
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A good friend,,,, ASF director and all around excellent caster who I'll leave nameless....busted his ass for 6 years to finally get his certification. I'am likely not far off that this was one of the proudest days of his life and can also say that he is now ready to teach though years of practice and failures and more hard work. I think it would be a slap in the face to him and others who have passed the test in the past...only to have it somehow cheapened by making it easier for those in the future. If there is a problem with the way the info is given or other such thing,, then that is one thing. But the fact you have failed a test that many many great casters and teachers before you have passed means one thing.....time to buckle down,, work on your faults and practice harder.
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post #9 of 97 (permalink) Old 12-15-2012, 04:42 PM Thread Starter
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Proposal in no way lessons the current standard

I am saying that our sport needs more than the scant few elite dedicated masters of the craft of two handed casting to teach

Call those casters what they are, Masters.

Help to standardize the nomenclature and get more interested in teaching by having a certification for which it takes less time to get good enough than it does to get a PhD or other advanced degree. A Bachelors of THCI, rather than a single Doctorate level of credential. All physicians should be Doctors, not so for teachers of Spey.


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post #10 of 97 (permalink) Old 12-15-2012, 05:37 PM
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From what I read in your post, your inability to gain the certification was as a result of your inexperience with the long rod / long line.

Are you saying the instructors need not be well rounded in their ability and that long lining is somehow elitist?

That is a tired old saw, frankly...


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post #11 of 97 (permalink) Old 12-15-2012, 06:43 PM
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I believe the THCI was designed as an elite professional certificate if you will signifying that the bearer was highly proficient as both a caster and an instructor. Apparently this weeds out those whose skills do not pass muster.


Last edited by wizardoftheness; 12-16-2012 at 09:46 PM.
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post #12 of 97 (permalink) Old 12-15-2012, 07:05 PM
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Today's Spey casting covering a broad range of styles, short to long rods and lines for those who are going to fish not only in PNW where shorter rod and line is the norm but anywhere in the world. As I mentioned in my earlier posting, there are time when a students come with a long rod and long line because they are going to fish in Scotland or the Kola or somewhere else where long line is commonly used. A THCI Instructor 'must be able' to cover those different style of casting, otherwise their qualification become irrelevant.

Few candidates were ill prepared as they using rod and line that unsuitable for their casting style. I was struggling in my early days of my test preparation, until I found the rod and line combination that suit my casting style.
It took me 4 years of systematic practices until I get my certification. Since I work full time 9 to 5 on weekdays and I still want to have life and fishing, I set up my own practice strategy that work for me which include practicing during the week before or after work.

I agree with Loc's suggestion that should be a DVD solely for those who are preparing the THCI Test. It's more or less the video version of Dr. Rick William's 'THCI Lesson Plans' and 'THCI Prep Cards'. You can download the printable version of these from the FFF website.

Perhaps Speypages with the helps of some sponsors could produce this DVD.
I believe Kirk Eberhard (Capt. Kirk) and Lee Davison also run a THCI Test Preparation workshop/boot camp from time to time.

Bintoro, IFFF CCI & THCI

Last edited by Bintoro; 12-22-2012 at 12:58 AM. Reason: Additional information and grammatical
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post #13 of 97 (permalink) Old 12-15-2012, 07:58 PM
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Good call Dana, good call.

"I would like to see an even more challenging stand alone THCI that is recognized as a MCI standard with additional tests from the real world of casting instruction, such as:

1. ability to take a series of randomly matched tackle systems and make them work (rather than "you need a new line/rod" etc that so many fall back on when they cannot make a system work);

2. ability to teach/demonstrate all casting styles with any line system;

3. ability to present a coherent overview of the history and principles of two-handed casting."

Jim Jones and I have taught a lot of folks how to cast (actually fish when the 'lesson' was over) with a 2hander and you've just "cut to the chase."

I'll have as many as six rods on the Jeeps rack when I drive up; simple to Skagit/sink tips. First is the why it works, and then how it works. Damned little difference between a single hander and a 2hander save for anchor placement to replace all that false casting (over statement, but you take my point .. I hope).

Hardest part is getting it drilled into their head that any spey cast is broken down into three separate parts. Lift (get the line out of the water), set the anchor where it should be, and if not, what next, and the formation of the 'D' and 'stick a hole in the sky with the rod tip and 'quick stop rod tip 'over the tree top.' That last? Gravity works.

And that's the beauty of 'spey casting,' most of what goes on is in 'plane' sight (pun intended), cast flops, no biggie, this caused that. Cast worked but close to a 'flop?' Easy, that didn't hunt, but everything after did; cast self recovered.

God I love this stuff and seeing the eyes open and YAAAAAZER'S!!

Fred Evans - White City, Oregon
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post #14 of 97 (permalink) Old 12-16-2012, 01:27 AM
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About the THCI test...

Okay folks, I am seeing a bit of misinformation here about this topic so letís all talk about the THCI ExamÖ I am a MCI and a CI (both single-hand). More importantly to this thread is that I am a THCI and a THCI Examiner. So letís talk a bit about the protocols that go into being a FFF Two-Handed Certified Instructor. But first, before you pass judgment on the test, go to the FFF website, download and read the test.

You do not need to be a CI in order to take the test. You do however have take and pass the written portion of the CI test before you are allowed to take the THCI. The test is not too hardó36 questions and you have to get at least 30 correct to pass. The questions are basic fishing, tackle and casting questions that are designed to insure that the Candidate has a degree of understanding of the sport and can genuinely help individuals who want to learn how to cast and fly fish. Other than taking the written part of the CI Test there is no other connection with the two other Certifications.

A THCI Examiner does not have to be a MCI to administer the test; just a THCI. THCI Examiners are however vetted by observing a required number of actual tests as an Observer before they are allowed to be the lead examiner on an test and even then they are being observed and evaluated by a current THCI Examiner. The new Examiner also has to take part in a 2-hour (+/-) workshop on how perform the test. Why have a THCI Examiner; simple, to insure that the Candidate has the fairest chance possible to pass the test. We are not there to fail people, we are there to see that they have the best chance possible and that they can learn something whether they pass or fail.

The test does include sections on Underhand and Sunk Line systems of casting and fishing. In fact, it is now okay to use your actual Scandi or Skagit rigs in the performance of these parts of the test. This also means however that the Candidate needs a thorough awareness of what Scandi and Skagit is, how to teach it and how to perform the tasks to expected level of competence. Since two-handed casting has exploded over the last 10 years and tackle and equipment is still evolving the FFF THCI Committee has tried very hard to keep up with the newer aspects, systems and styles of the sport while retaining the traditional parts as well (read long line).

I was disappointed to read in this thread that the FFF boasts of a 50% pass rate. If someone said this to person who posted it then the boaster is the exception and not the rule and I also donít think they should be in the program and certainly not in involved in its testing. I have been a part of this program since its inception and I have seen its highs and lows. The tests have evolved from being rather awful to, in my opinion, pretty darn good but still needing improvements. The program continually tries to update and improve these tests. I know dozens of CIs, MCIs and THCIs as well Board of Governors who run the program (yep, been there too) and I do not know any one of them that would boast 50%. I hate to tell you all this but, these people genuinely want to people to succeed, but they wonít bend the test or their principles to ďMercy PassĒ someone.

The two-handed test is tough and it requires a Candidate to understand most of what any instructor would expect to cover. I teach two-handed casting on a regular basis here in Southern California. I am amazed by popularity and believe me, where I am it is no Spey casting backwater (pun intended). The interest here is unbelievable. I teach people Scandi, I teach people Skagit, I teach people long line and I teach people to overhead cast with a two-hander for the surf. I teach all of this because THEY want to be taught these different styles, not me wanting to teach them.

Is it a Master Level test? Personally I donít think so but it is very broad in what it covers. The developers of the test did a good job of covering very diverse aspect of the sport. For those of you who are CIs, can you honestly say that you could distill what you know about Two-Handed Casting down into something similar to the CI test you passed? Just because it covers a lot of material does not mean it is a Master Level test. With what I know about both, I really donít think so. Maybe a reduced version could be put in place as a THCI Guide Certification and geared towards instructors who are trying to prepare a client the day before or the morning before a dayís fishing.

Finally, donít forget, this is an International Certification and there are still a lot of folks around the world who use systems other than Skagit. Should the FFF develop a test for just one style out of several? Again, I say no.
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post #15 of 97 (permalink) Old 12-16-2012, 01:40 AM
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Well said man..... hard to argue with that!!!! Unless you like to argue
I think its pretty pass the test or you don't!!
A skagit a scandi test.. hahahaha c'mon man......

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