The certification process consists of two parts: an oral exam and a casting performance test. Two members of the Board of Governors will administer the tests.
The oral portion of the exam consists of questions covering five areas: teaching, equipment, fly fishing, casting, and etiquette. Orals generally take place in a quiet classroom or small conference room. Orals may precede or follow the casting portion depending on the wishes of the examiners or the availability of the classroom or casting area.
Typically, only you and the two members of the Board of Governors are present. Occasionally, an observer may request permission to attend. With permission from the examiners and you, the observer, most likely another member of the Board of Governors or a Master Instructor, will sit quietly and listen. In the limited time available, the examiners must pose questions they believe will adequately test your depth of knowledge in these five broad areas.
At the conclusion of the orals the examiners must make a judgement regarding your knowledge level and whether or not it is sufficient to justify a passing grade. They want to give you ample opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge level and they must make certain they uphold the standards of a Master Instructor. This is a difficult task for both you and the examiners, especially considering that they hope to see you pass the test almost as much as you want to pass it.
There is no standard list of questions. Each member of the Board of Governors develops questions he or she believes will test your knowledge and experience. With the diversity of backgrounds and the depth of experience of the members of the Board of Governors, potential questions could number into the hundreds. Yet, they have only a brief time to question you. Predicting precisely the questions you will get is impossible. You simply must be as knowledgeable and experienced as possible in these five areas.
Appendices A-E at the end of this document represent the types of questions you might be asked during the orals. These examples are intended as thought-provoking questions, to stimulate your thinking about the depth and breadth of knowledge expected. You may or may not encounter these same questions again. However, if you can handle these, you are well on your way.
Some questions are straightforward. These can be addressed with a simple word or short sentence. Others will require an answer containing several points. And some do not have a single commonly accepted answer, but can be correctly approached in several acceptable ways, provided logic and common sense support your response. Then there is the odd question you may get just to determine how you might respond, similar to a student asking some strange question. Listen carefully and think before you respond to any question.
Casting Performance Test and Instructing Ability
The casting portion of the test is straightforward. You can either make the casts or you can't. The key here is frequent practice. You should thoroughly study the requirements for Master certification located on this web site.
If your examiner asks you to do something you didn't anticipate, don't argue. Find out exactly what he or she wants and then do your best to meet their expectations. Sometimes examiners might ask for something not on the regular test to confirm or dispel a perceived weakness. Again, don't argue, just do it.
The casting portion could take place on a lawn, pond or lake, or a casting pool at one of the fly fishing shows. You will be given allowances for roll casting if casting on grass. And, some allowances may be given for other circumstances, such as unusually high wind. The examiners will be fair about casting conditions and they won't measure down to the inch on distance or accuracy. However, you must demonstrate, with comfort and ease, the casts you are asked to execute.
Your responses to the "explain and demonstrate" elements of the Instructing Ability portion of the test should be straightforward. When you know the main points about each cast to be made, it's a matter of organizing those into a clear and concise explanation that must match your demonstration. Practice or rehearse to the point that it becomes very easy, an almost "automatic" response. In your first rehearsals you will likely use far too many words. It may help to write out your explanation, and then edit to reduce the number of words. Rehearsing with a knowledgeable friend can help.
The test is rigorous. In 1999-2001, for example, the Master test was administered 44 times. Less than half the applicants passed the test on the first attempt. However, a significant percentage who retested passed on their second or third attempt. This suggests they were not well prepared initially. However, they returned for the retest better prepared and were successful. Initial preparation was lacking, but persistence paid off.