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Fishing the Salmon River

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Other:

The Wulff School of Fly Fishing

P.O. Box 984, Livingston Manor, New York

Ph. 845-439-5020

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Articles:                                                          Read other articles

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The Wulff School of Fly Fishing: Opinion of One

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Joan Wulff Fly Casting School

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The Background -

Class: The Wulff School of Fly Fishing, Techniques of Fly Casting

Attended: May 20-22, 2005

Cost: $475

Instructors: Dave Brandt, Floyd Franke, Robert DeAngelis, Sheila Hassan, Dusty Wissmath and Joan Wulff (active in a majority of the classes)

Number of students: 20

Instructor-to-student ratio: 1-to-4

Take home items - "Joan Wulff's Fly Casting Techniques" book, Fish & Fly magazine, half a sponge and a dotted thumb sleeve (the last two items are used in teaching techniques).  Additional items such as flies, lines, hats, shirts, books, videos and more are available for purchase in their gift shop.

School Information:

The Wulff School of Fly Fishing

P.O. Box 948, Livingston Manor, NY 12758

Phone: (845) 439-5020

www.royalwulff.com

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Summary - A total of 20 students attended with 5 to 6 instructors present at any one time.  Students from across the country and Canada attended.  Student skills ranged from novice to experienced with most falling in the middle or more towards novice.  The staff was professional and worked well together. In my opinion this class will benefit beginners to experienced casters with beginners learning more.  The class is structured and teaches a mechanical and proven casting technique. Instruction is explained in a classroom setting then demonstrated and practiced on one of three ponds.  Beginners will benefit from a formatted teaching style which begins with "the basics" and progressively increases in difficulty.  Experienced anglers will appreciate the technical terms used to describe each aspect of their cast.  Additionally, experienced casters will enjoy double hauling, air mending, oval casting, casting around objects and gaining insight into the FFF's (Federation of Fly Fishers ) casting certification program.

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Wulff's Casting Technique - Detailed instructions into Joan's techniques can be picked-up by attending her classes or reading "Joan Wulff's Fly Casting Techniques".  The information provided below is a general overview only.

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Joan's technique is not unique as many have been casting this way for years, however, her class is very well designed and breaks down the complete cast into understandable and digestible increments.  Her technique focuses on body mechanics and maximizes the appropriate use of your muscles, i.e. shoulder, elbow, arm, wrist and thumb (also stance and waist, but to a lesser degree).  Her instruction incorporates these body parts in a straight-line approach to the target with the elbow close to one's side and leading the direction of the cast.

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My Casting Technique - In my humble opinion, there's a difference between fishing and casting.  You can be the best fisherman in the world with a cast that's not always pretty nor correct by others' standards.  Conversely, casting in a preferred style that produces consistent beautiful tight loops doesn't mean you'll be successful on the stream.  I think most anglers fall somewhere in-between with most striving first to be successful catching followed by trying to achieve good casting form.

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When I taught myself to cast many years ago I did so without formal training.  I read books and became familiar with the basic mechanics of "the loop".  I made a decision to learn to cast in a way that was both natural and comfortable for my body.  Over time my technique became refined and less text book like.  My stance opened to visualize both the forward and back cast and to add comfort in double hauling.  My grip became more hand-shake like and closer to the reel than "thumb on top".  My elbow drifted away from my body to aid in drift on long casts and became more elevated to aid in carrying more line on long casts, i.e. similar to using longer rods.  This all helped me throw 80-90' consistently, although not always pretty.

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And so I come full circle after attending Joan's class.  I realize much of my casting could be summed-up in one word, "compensation".  A lot of my casts do exactly what I want them to do, but only because I compensate for poor form.  On the bright side, I know what I'm capable of and I know the beautiful and consistent form Joan teaches.  My next hurdle is to fuse the two.

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Technical Critique - Some items I found to be different included the "thumb on top" rod grip. I feel this aids in accuracy but to me it feels unnatural with the thumb on top and the wrist cocked down.  Interestingly enough Joan's book states Lee used his forefinger on top for most light rods but transitioned his grip to a hand-shake grip for fitting larger fish.  Another item I found interesting was the stance.  A majority of the class was dedicated to teaching with the pupil squared-up to the target, effectively eliminating any chance to visualize the backcast.  This stance opened once double hauling was demonstrated.  These items are things easier accepted as a beginner.  Fisherman familiar with some modification of the above will find themselves retraining their muscles to accommodate Joan's style.  Lastly, although you're provided a copy of Joan's book, for maximum results I suggest reading it prior to attending her class.

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Final Class Thoughts - With the above said, I won't argue a time tested technique.  Joan, her staff and the class they teach is above the bar in all aspects.  If you can't make her class buy her book, "Joan Wulff's Fly Casting Techniques" published by Lyons Press.

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Area Recommendations -

It's worth staying at the Beaverkill Valley Inn. Rooms $100 or more/night.  Fishing licenses are available at the front desk.  It's worth visiting the Catskill Fly Fishing Center & Museum in Livingston Manor, NY and Mary Dette's Fly shop in Roscoe, NY.

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