Salomone: A no-nonsense approach at School of Trout
Vail Valley Anglers
Three days into the School of Trout and, wow, I am blown away. There is a serious concentration on casting fundamentals. Backed up by a waterborne classroom on Henry’s Fork, the students at the School of Trout have nowhere to go but up.
From the moment I arrived in Island Park, Idaho, the entire experience with the School of Trout has been world-class. From the property to the employees at the fly shop and the owners of the lodge, everyone has been like an old friend you have not seen in a while. There is a comfortable feeling of belonging, even though you have just arrived.
A stellar class of fly-fishing instructors leads students through a series of casting skills, from basic straight-line casting to trickier types of casting, such as pile casts and reach casts. Each time a cast is modeled for the students. Participants have time to practice the casting skills and are expected to use them on the water in real-life situations. It’s a no-nonsense approach to fly-fishing that leads to improvement.
The main casting instructor, John Juracek, delivers a high degree of quality instruction with a genuine focus on casting foundations. His approach and understanding of casting are borderline religious, the church of Juracek so to speak. We all worked to achieve progress while eliminating years of casting muscle memory that impeded our growth.
All of the instructors who Todd Tanner has gathered support the focus of the class: Be better dry fly anglers. Pat McCabe, Steve “Mac” McFarland, Jeff Currier and Tom Rosenbauer round out the impressive list of recognized names. Each one is a component of success for the School of Trout — building off of each other and lending their expertise, whether it is whole group instruction or one-on-one reinforcing, a skill with subtle guidance.
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The easy-to-understand coaching every student receives — no matter what your level of casting — improves everyone’s performance. The instructional coaching from Mac was lighthearted but on point. The hands-on assistance from McCabe guides you through a proper skill set and builds a solid casting foundation. Currier is a “get some dirt under your nails” kind of teacher. His demonstrations illustrate the proper execution of skills for the visual learner. And, of course, Rosenbauer, the face of Orvis fly-fishing, coaxes you into a higher degree of performance with a smile.
The emphasis on the casting fundamentals cannot be overlooked. Everyone benefited from the progressive instruction and the constant reinforcement Juracek provided — especially when you didn’t know he was watching. Suddenly, you would hear his gentle reinforcing voice reminding you to lift your elbow. It’s a daunting experience when you think your skills are on par — only to be grounded back into reality and the fact that everyone can make improvements.
What impressed me everyday was the immediate camaraderie. We assembled from all across the United States, and the connections the School of Trout fostered brought us all together. I would fish anywhere with this group of anglers. My time with the other students was one of the most enjoyable aspects of the School of Trout.
I tightened up my casting skills. I was humbled by the size and strength of trout in Henry’s Fork. I met an unbelievably enjoyable group of anglers. I was coached by the finest fly-fishing instructors in the United States. I have been baptized by Todd Tanner and the School of Trout — and I am better for it.
This is such a special experience that should benefit more anglers. But the limited amount of time and space available make the School of Trout a tough place to be accepted and the best place for fly anglers looking to grow. One-on-one attention and progressive instruction held in a world-class destination combine to deliver the ultimate learning experience. The School of Trout is in session — and I think I will stay after school and complete my homework.