John Juracek, one of the best fly-casting teachers on the planet, squints at my reach-cast and tells me to tweak the finish with a bigger sweep of my arm. Then Juracek moves down the row of students, critiquing, slapping his leg with a yellow section of rod as if it were Patton’s riding crop. We’re standing on a grassy lawn at one of the best adventure schools in the U.S., beside a slow slide of Idaho’s famed Henry’s Fork. We’re casting into hula hoops at 20 paces. “You must work to achieve enlightenment. It must be hard before it is easy,” Juracek says. “Or whatever.” He cracks a sly grin.

Going back to school

I’m here at the four-day School of Trout because when it comes to chasing fins, I need some higher ed. True, I’ve pursued fish from Patagonia to Alaska, and even caught a few of them. But my cast is a train wreck on a four-count rhythm. I need other skills, too, if I’ll ever have a chance against wily trout on new rivers—and YouTube can only take a guy so far. Where better to learn than an Advanced Class taught by marquee names like Juracek, on the Idaho river often described as the graduate school of dry-fly fishing?