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Service Review - Miramichi Fly Fishing School

Wilderness Obsession is a site devoted to all things outdoors, but admittedly the crew are much more spin casters than fly fishermen. Although we have caught fish by fly fishing and own rods, our skills are very limited and we are very much beginners. This is something we’ve attempted to rectify this year, and we thought it would be best if we got tips from the experts, before we establish bad habits that will then be harder to change.  After completing the course, however, we can assure you that it doesn't matter if you've been fly fishing for 40 minutes or 40 years, you can learn from Brock and Steve!

In early June of 2016, we visited the Miramichi Fly Fishing School in Blackville, NB to take the course and review the services offered there. Brock Curtis and Steve Smith are partners and instructors in the endeavor. They began the school around 6 years ago, and they constantly tweak and improve the content based on changes in the industry. Brock Curtis has obtained the Certified Casting Instructor achievement, while Steve Smith has gone the extra step and obtained the rare Master Casting Instructor certification! The school is the only certified fly fishing school in Atlantic Canada right now, offering several different levels of fly fishing classes.

Many will recognize the names from their involvement at the Dieppe Fly Fishing Seminar, an annual conference that draws fly fishers from all over the region to Moncton, New Brunswick (in accordance with the NB Sportsman Show and NB Boat Show). Throughout the weekend, they provide seminars and instruction and are available to answer questions with any anglers who wish to talk to them.

After taking the class we can heartily recommend it for every fly fisher, no matter your experience level! The guys are both involved in the casting classes, and they each offer their own perspectives but are very much in tune with each other. They make casting look simple, and are able to explain the mechanics behind it.  Keeping it as simple as they explain it however is another matter, and offers a challenge requiring discipline and practice.

Master Casting Instructor Steve teaching the fundamentals

The day-course involves both classroom instruction and hands-on work, the majority of the experience leaning toward the hands on. They keep the class sizes small (typically 6-8 students maximum) in order to enhance the ability to coach each student throughout the day. The day started with a bit of classroom work and introduction into the sport and equipment available, held upstairs at the Curtis Miramichi Outfitters store. Brock runs this business with his wife and it is worth arriving early to spend time looking through the flies and gear there. There are pictures of trophy fish caught in the region, and a good selection of equipment for the angler. The flies offered are locally hand-tied and participants receive a 10% discount (for the rest of the year) on gear they sell. Because they work so closely with local guides and provide gear for the guided clients, they can typically tell you what fly is working in what area at any given time, and provide it for you.

If you don’t have a rod of your own, the instructors will provide ones that are set up well for the beginner, and they can even help to set you up to purchase your own set up after the class (with that 10% discount). No matter what species you are looking to fish, they can set you up with the gear and flies that you need.

After the first hour of the day spent upstairs at the store, we headed to Steve Smith’s cabin located in a picturesque setting right on the Miramichi River. The setting is second to none, with a beautiful cabin and the river running in the background. It is important to note that the hands on instruction is actually done on the well-manicured lawn of his cabin, rather than on the water. Although this might seem bizarre to think of, they wisely point out that when you are casting on the water, one is distracted by the actual act of fishing… rather than concentrating on the mechanics of learning to cast.

We appreciated that they started slowly, explaining the mechanics without even a rod in the student’s hands, and then proceeded throughout the day to add complexities as the students grasp the basic concepts. The challenge is always to keep everything straight and not let the form suffer as more advanced concepts are added. They handled a wide range of techniques and answered all the questions everyone had, even videotaping each student and going over their casting step by step to point out errors. Each student had lots of one on one interaction with each of the instructors as they walked around providing instructions for each technique.

In addition to casting, they covered a full realm of other information including equipment, mechanics of catching fish after hooked, safe release of Atlantic Salmon, fly fishing etiquette, knots, and much more. At the end of the day, each participant receives a certificate from the class along with a handbook containing a lot of the information covered.

The cost for a full day course is a very reasonable $100. They offer coffee and snacks throughout the day but you will have to either bring a lunch or be prepared to eat out during the lunch break. Brock typically takes a group out to a local restaurant during the lunch hour while Steve sticks behind at the cabin for anyone who has packed a lunch.

The day lasted until about 5pm, meaning it was actually over 7 hours of instruction for the cost of $100. Courses are on a Saturday and generally run between May and the end of July. Be sure to book early because they are very full for the limited number of weeks offered. They offer the basic classes, one and two-hand spey casting, and are planning to expand into offering both canoeing and fly tying courses in 2017.

Some housekeeping issues… you may wish to bring sunscreen, bug spray, and wear sleeves/pants depending on the season because being at the cabin along the water there can be a great deal of insects to deal with.

The instructors also encourage you to plan to stay in the region for a few hours after the class and get out on the water, to reinforce the lessons given. Practice will keep that form embedded and it’s important to get right at it to keep things fresh. The instructors can help to point you in the direction of a local guide and a place to stay if you wish to spend the weekend there.

The entire class practicing under the watchful eye of Brock and Steve

In summary, we believe the Miramichi Fly Fishing School offers a great course at a reasonable cost, and anyone looking to get into the sport should consider taking the class! If you, like us, are new to the sport… it would be wise to consider it! Personally, although we aren’t experts after a day of training, we both agreed that we were better for the training and should be better equipped to get out and catch a potentially large fish on the fly moving forward!

Who wants to get the fish of a lifetime on the line and then lose it from lack of knowledge on what to do?

2016-06-24 19:11:33


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