Mike Heritage FFF MCI UK

Fly casting and talking fly casting bollox

Oop, I Done It Again

Casting Instructors are geeky. Casting enthusiasts are geeky (they don’t all want to become instructors, thank God), but there are levels of geekiness, so lets work our way through them.

You want to learn to cast properly so become moderately interested and mildly geeky but that fades over time.

You want to learn to become an instructor. You are new to the casting vocabulary but as you learn it comes more and more into conversations (with non fly fishers) who regard you, at best, eccentric, at worst, insane, and avoid you like the plague. As you get closer to your assessment the worse you get until even your best beloved wants to kill you. (they ain’t seen nothing yet)

You pass your assessment and calm down a bit, best beloved lets you back into bed, life is good.

One year, maybe two years later, you decide to take it to the next level. This period may take a couple of years ( I hope you have a spare bed, because BB had just kicked you out again) and you get anally geeky, your whole life revolves around casting, mechanics, teaching. You spend entire weekends away talking and casting with other instructors. You constantly watch casting videos on YouTube. You read books and articles and when you are not doing any of these you are in the park practicing and obsessed with tracking, timing, loop formation, tailing loops, creep, swinging loops, hauling and a myriad of other problems. Life is not good, you are moody, irritable, anxious.

You pass your assessment, you join the ranks of the good and great in your particular organisation. You stop being geeky. You have reached the top of your tree and calmly survey the mayhem below you with serenity.

But, hang on, what’s that bloke got in his hand? Bloody hell that’s a long rod. You go and speak to them. You ask them what is that thing. ‘It’s a two handed rod my son, a double hander, fifteen feet of God making graphite, I am going to get supremely geeky and become a casting God by passing my test and becoming a two handed instructor and look down on you poor, simple, single handed lesser beings who have no concept of point P or anchor alignment, I will change the casting vocabulary, I will re-invent meanings  and cast confusion around me like confetti. I will learn things about fly casting that you have not even dreamed of. My casting knowledge will astound and perplex you. My aura of masterfulness will permeate the highest reaches of the organisation and then I will pass down the awesome knowledge I have acquired to those who use only a one handed rod and watch with amusement as they grapple with the superior intricacies of Spey casting’.

‘Oh masterful one, you must catch mighty fish on your wonderous, mighty, two handed rod’

‘Fish? you are kidding, right? The river I fish is eighteen inches deep and twenty feet across at its widest. I use a seven foot six inch three weight cane rod and silk line if I want to catch fish.


April 8, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment


I first went fishing on my honeymoon in 1971. We were broke after paying for the wedding. I saw a for sale advert in a local paper for some fishing tackle. £5 bought me a sit on tackle box, fixed spool reel, floats, shot, hooks and a solid glass rod. We spent the next two weeks of August on various parts of the royal military canal, Heather sunbathing and me catching the odd gudgeon or two. How this turned into an obsession with fishing is beyond me, but it did. I needed a proper rod and I eventually chose a split cane ‘Avon’ from Walkers of Hythe, I bought the kit version and built my first rod. I still have it somewhere. Of course I could have gone the glass fibre route but there was something about the cane that spoke to me. I guess it was a couple of years before I decided on another rod and this time I did go for glass. I bought a fibre tube blank and built another rod. About the mid seventies I started beach fishing in the winter and bought a beach caster, a totally crap beach caster as it turns out, it made John Darling laugh anyway. I bought Going Bros Couger kit and built another rod. Spring spung, beach fishing was no good, the course fishing close season started and I got the jitters for three months before the season started again. To fill in the close season I decided to give trout fishing a go, just to fill in the gap before I started proper fishing again. Another fibre tube blank and, hey presto, a fly rod. Being intrisically lazy, fly fishing gradually took over, what could be easier? Rod, reel, vest and I was good to go. No humping half a hundredweight of gear along some rutted track to the back of beyond. The fishing magazine of the day was Angling Magazine which catered for course, sea and game angling, edited by Brian Harris. I don’t think there is anything on the market like it these days, they all specialise in just one aspect of fishing, which to my mind is missing a trick. I bought every one and have a full collection and even some of its predecessor Creel Magazine. I mention the magazine for several reasons: I learned how to fish by reading it, some of the biggest names in the business wrote for it and I learned about new tackle and innovations, such as carbon fibre. Carbon was expensive stuff so it was out of my range, all I could do was dream about the prospect of owning a carbon rod. One day, at Bewl, I bumped in to Dave Collyer, who wrote the fly tying column for Angling magizine, we had met before, and had a chat. He told me he wanted to sell one of his carbon rods. Of course I bought it. Then I stopped fishing! Young family, recession, worked abroad for a few years, you know, life stuff. I got back into fishing (or, as it turned out, casting) around 2000 and by then everything was carbon fibre, glass was dead and buried. I got obsessed with distance fly casting and to start with I used the rod I had bought from Dave Collyer. As I progressed I needed better rods, mostly, hugely expensive better rods, carbon rods, fast as you like. Have you heard about that new cannon from Orvis/Sage/ Hardy? Yeah, I got to get one of those. Feck me, this is an expensive hobby! After the casting obsession subsided I went into instructing and needed a different set of rods for that and, finally, we go full circle and I now fish a lot, well, a lot for me anyway, and I need fishing rods. One or two of my instructing rods do the job for me, thank goodness. As I go full circle and get back to where I started (fishing) blow me down, glass is making a comeback. Not that I will be buying a floppy, tip heavy noodle. Are you kidding? Well, thats what I thought, until a couple of weeks ago. I was handed a rod to cast and it was lovely. Hang on, this is a glass rod? Yes, I was assured it was. I cast it again, desperately trying to find something not to like about it, to my consternation, I couldn’t. If all glass rods were like this (unfortunately they are not…yet) I would seriously consider building another rod.

May 11, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Round And Round Went The Bloody Great Wheel

Well, what a couple of years that was. I retired in August 2016, just in time to start caring for my wife, who had been diognosed with Lung Cancer. As she ran out of steam I was gradually introduced to the delights of housework, washing (erm, which button do I press?) cooking, (how do I turn the oven on?). I had happily let Heather do all the domestic stuff all our married life and now I was getting a lesson in just how selfish and stupid I had been. Caring for someone is a lesson in humility. Finally she became totally bedridden as she became paralised from the waist down and life became daily visits from carers and nurses, to whome I will always be grateful for the way they treated her. Heather finally passed away in June last year with me and my two sons sitting beside her. Today would have been her 67th birthday and I will be taking some flowers to where her ashes lay.

Because of all of the above everything else took a back seat. I had been in the process of working on my EDP, which would allow me to become an official assessor for casting instructors. I had qualified for level 1, which allows me to take CI assessments, but had only done a couple of the requirements to qualify for my L2 (MCI assessor). I finally got there in March this year, so now I can test CI and MCI.
This year will be about getting on with my life. I have just returned from The EWF event in Germany, I went to the fly fishing show in London in March and a testing event in Reading the same weekend and it is a wonderful reminder of what its like to be surrounded by fellow instructors, most of them dear friends. Along with BFCC events I will be also going to Iceland in July ( the ‘once in a lifetime’ fishing trip I promised myself when I retired. In September I am going to Bali for a wedding, October is Austria for more testing. There are also trips to Wales, Cumbria and, maybe Scotland planned as well. My year is filled with good things to keep me occupied.

I have been surprised at the number of people who have asked me to write more often so am going to try and do just that. Stand by for the odd rant, plus, I hope, some humour and entertainment.

April 17, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

You Know Nuthin’ Mike Heritage

I’m enjoying learning to fish again, I had forgotten just how frustrating bloody trout can be. You have great success one day and think you have them sussed out, go the next day and they refuse to cooperate. Bastards. At the moment I get most fish on sedged dries. Not one fly is consistent though, catch two fish and that’s it, they won’t look at that fly again on that day. Change fly and chances are I will get another couple, often in consecutive casts, then nothing again, until I put a new fly on. At some point they wise up and stop taking a moving fly and may fall for a static one, but not too often. Ok, let’s go sub surface, and here is where the problem starts. What are they feeding on? There is no hatch going on, that I can see. They are feeding on something, I just can’t work out what. This may sound like a bit of a whinge, it’s not meant to be one, I am actually enjoying trying to work out what they are after. I have been quite successful so far, I haven’t blanked, yet. That’s not the point though, I really would like to get a better hang on what they are feeding on. I’m not the only one who is mystified, thank goodness, I would hate to be the only gay in the village! I tied up some lures from my early days, Black Lure, Whisky Fly, some Matukas in various colours, Muddlers and took some poppers I tied up for Asp on Balaton a few years ago. Right, you buggers, cop some of this. The Muddlers and poppers showed some promise, exciting bow waves, long chases, but no takes. The sum total was one fish to a Whisky and one to a Black Lure. Back to head scratching.

Knots, four turns Mike, four, said Will. And as simple as that the problem is solved, Thanks Will. I have also found a knot, or loop really, that I now use for buzzers so they hang in a more natural way and I am convinced it’s caught me fish that I otherwise wouldn’t have. It’s a busy time with shed building and stuff, I retire soon and need a proper man cave so I can disappear from under Heathers feet now and then,  so tying flies is not on at the moment but I am looking forward to working out what those bloody fish are eating and tying something to take them on.

July 13, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Losing My Hare

So, what do you get when you fall in love? (Again, with fly fishing). You get bloody moths, or more specifically you discover that any natural material not sealed properly has been devoured. I have skeletons where I use to have wings, my seals fur has been consumed and my squirrels tails are just bone. Whole capes have been decimated. It’s that time of year where I am spending ages trying to find out what the fish are feeding on. I suppose I could take the short cut and kill the first fish and spoon it but I really don’t want to so, as it’s been many years since I have fished regularly, I am a bit flummoxed. I suspect it’s time to dust off some old books and do a bit of studying. Anyway, I decided to tie some flies I think may be effective. Having an unexpected day off and it’s pouring down and blowing hard, so fishing really isn’t an option, I decide to tie some flies and discovered the carnage. Luckily all my Whitings capes were sealed but most of my Indian and Chinese capes, or what’s left of them, have been consigned to the dustbin, no big loss really, just annoying. Seals fur is another matter though, it’s all gone and I will have to restock sometime. I found one pheasant tail just about usable for ptn’s and daddy bodies but my hares mask is dust so no grhe’s for a while until I get it replaced. Of course, before I buy any new material I am going to have to go through all my stuff and root out the anything suspect. We have a spare freezer at the moment and I will chuck it all in there for a week or two and see how they like that.
The Big Question is, what are the bloody fish taking. They have been cruising around, just showing a dorsal and top of the tail obviously taking something just subsurface. They rarely take off the top. Buzzers you are all shouting, and it’s true I have caught several on them, but not consistently. In fact I rarely catch on the same fly more than twice at the moment. Six fish and four different flies yesterday, for instance. I’m not seeing a hatch going on but they are on something. They will chase though, so I have tied some old fashioned lures to see if I can provoke them.
Re the knots I have talked about before. Mark Surtees insists that the uni knot and the grinner are the same knot, they are not, or at least the way I tie them they are not. I tried his uni knot and guess what? The first fish I hooked pinged the knot. Back to the blood knot, which hasn’t let me down so far, so long as I give it a really good pull after tying it. I have had the odd one slip when testing it so I always double check now. The grinner/uni always appears to lock down nicely but breaks at the knot when I strike into a fish. Yes, I do wet it as it beds down.

June 20, 2016 Posted by | Fly Fishing | Leave a comment


I’m writing this here because by the time I get permission to put this on the BFCC web site the moment will have gone. I can always move it over later.
Until proved otherwise I think the BFCC is unique in Europe and, possibly, the world. I am not saying other countries don’t have casting clubs but we are quite possibly the only one that travels to the people rather than expecting them to travel to us in a centralised location. We travel, at our own expense, to several parts of the county. It’s still early in our season but so far we have been to Devon, North Wales and Kent, with more events still to come in other parts of the country (and we are always on the lookout for suitable venues in some regions we have not covered). We not only offer competition in various disciplines but also offer tuition as part of each event. It was always tuition added on to the competitive day but recently it seems to have switched around and we get more coming for tuition than competition. As I get passed my competitive era I find this slightly alarming. Where are the competitive casters? We, apparently, have a GB, or possibly English, Welsh and Scots casting team(s) who are supposedly going to the world championships. Not one of them, as far as I know, has cast in any BFCC event in the last two or three years. I find that very odd. If I was preparing to represent my country I would not only be practicing ( which I assume they are) I would also be wanting to get in as much competitive practice as possible as well and I would make sure I got to a few BFCC events to get that practice. There is just no substitute to actually competing against others. Hells teeth, if I was good enough to cast for my country I would go along just to take some of the records, I mean they must be easy, just ripe for the picking. A mere 130 something for the five weight and a piddling 140 plus for the seven, a piece of piss for a caster of world championship class surely. I appreciate that some of our rules do not conform to world championship disciplines but if there was enough interest I am sure we could do something about that, if necessary. Personally I really don’t see a need because casting is casting after all, and, it’s our records under our rules that you should be trying to beat, and be getting competition practice while you are at it.
Thats it, rant over. Come and have a go if you think your hard enough.

June 12, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | 8 Comments

Other Than Casting

Now I am back fishing regularly I have other things to think about than casting. Things like, why aren’t I catching fish? Or, why do my knots fail? Stuff like that. Knots are a bone of contention, for years I used a grinner for everything but they started to be unreliable for some reason. I put it down to old tippet material so binned the lot and bought new but the breakages still happened so I have temporarily turned to the good old blood knot, it has reduced the number of breakages but I am still not fully happy with it. The main weakness with the grinner was the tippet to leader knot, that was where 90% of my breakages were, I now use tippet rings and blood knot both sides. I need (don’t we all) to have confidence in my knots, I tend to play fish hard. Anyway I now spend time on the internet looking for alternatives to try out.
On the why aren’t I catching fish front, it’s that time of year when the fish are just cruising around taking something, I assume buzzers, just under the surface, and bloody frustrating they were becoming. If I fished buzzers they were ignored or I might pick up the odd one on an amber nymph, but nothing consistent. I eventually found the answer by mistake. I put on a fly I use for fishing deep, it’s taken the vast majority of the fish I have caught this year. I felt it tick something on the delivery cast and didn’t see the plop of it landing, I thought I had broken it off and started a fast figure of eight retrieve to check it and suddenly found myself connected to a 3lb rainbow. Result. I has three more in quick succession in the time I had before I had to pack up. That last one was best, it was as far as I could cast and took it within a couple of seconds of the fly landing. I get a real buzz from hooking a fish at long range, there is something special in seeing a flash of silver over 80′ away and knowing you are attached to it.

June 8, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Gone Fishin

So, what excuse this time for not posting anything for ages? Well, several as it happens, but I wont bore you with the details.

Last year I decided that I was going to return to the fishing scene after I realised I had hardly wet a line in anger for years. Unfortunately events overtook me and it got postponed but this year I joined a syndicate to a six acre lake and have caught more fish in the last six weeks than I have caught in the last six years, a lot more probably. Its so nice not to have to pay for a day ticket and feel you have to stay there to either get your monies worth or catch enough fish to feel satisfied (or blank and go home grumpy). I mainly just snatch two or three hours or get up early and fish until lunch time. There was a big fish kill last year so the water was restocked which meant the new fish were suicidal early season and it was easy to get the ten fish (released) limit but they are getting a bit wiser now, thank goodness, and the fishing is getting more challenging. There are some big fish in there, rainbows and brownies to well into double figures, so I will make it my job to work out how to target them.

On the casting scene things are ticking along. The IFFF now have a program to create certified assessors called the Casting Instructor Certification Program (CICP), and not before time, some will say. I am part of the program and its really altered the way I approach assessing. However, and there is always an ‘however’ with the IFFF, things don’t run smoothly. We have to do certain things to, firstly, qualify to assess CCI and then do more certain things to qualify to assess MCI. The opportunity to be in a situation to do the full list of requirements is limited in Europe. If I had the money I could go to Poland or Italy or Sweden or wherever to do the final couple of tasks to complete my tasks that would allow me to assess MCI ( I am qualified for CCI) but that is not going to happen for various reasons, a, the cost and b, one of the reasons I said I wouldn’t bore you with. Some of the best assessors I have worked with are in the same boat so I can see a log jam of assessments coming up in Europe sometime quite soon.

One bizarre aspect of the program is that a set of casting definitions has been somehow been shoe horned in and they are the same set that were rejected a few years ago. The definitions have strayed away from a basic overhead cast/ roll cast/ spey cast to things which are either add ons to teach, faults to cure or stylistic. The upshot of this is that, as an assessor, I am going to have to shy away from asking any questions that might give me an answer I disagree with but would have to accept because its been defined by the powers that be.

Perhaps I should just stick to fishing

May 21, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

The Exception That Proves The Rule

I have had a bit of a dramatic time. We had a fire at home just before Christmas, no structural damage or injuries but the whole upstairs was badly smoke damaged. We spent Christmas in an hotel which wasn’t as a relaxing experience as I had imagined. We lived in the hotel for nearly two months until we found a house to let temporarily while the builders got on with the repairs. Apart from anything else it has meant that we have had a couple of times when we had no internet, which is a great excuse to pretend you haven’t received an email or had the connection to reply, even if you had. No more excuses though, we moved back in to our house just before Easter and we had the phone and internet back on Monday.

As you can imagine the last thing on my mind has been fly fishing or fly casting. Well, almost. I certainly haven’t picked up a rod for about four months but the endless hours rubbing down, and painting, the lounge proved to be an ideal time for the mind to try and distract itself from the tedium. Things pop in, get mulled over, and almost instantly forgotten but, the one thing that has stuck in my mind is the expression ‘the exception that proves the rule’. Really? can someone explain that to me? Because the more I look at it or think about it the less sense it makes. On any fly fishing/casting forum I can pretty much guarantee that the exception is generally the excuse for some people to prove the rule must be wrong then, the exception proves it. Perhaps I’m an exception, if so, what does that prove? Anyway, rules are meant to be broken, it’s a very exceptional rule that isn’t. What is an exception? it’s a stand alone event. How can something that happens infrequently or only in certain circumstances prove that the rules regarding something that happens frequently are correct? A conundrum.

The moral of the story is, don’t have a fire and have to spend endless hours with either sandpaper or a paintbrush. Take up fly casting, it’s far less thought provoking.

April 8, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | 5 Comments

A Slightly Different Perspective

The thing about being out of circulation is that you can clear your mind. After a while you stop continually thinking about  all the questions and debates, the contradictions and arguments. Sometimes this let’s idle thoughts trundle though your head and very occasionally one will take your fancy and you can fly with it. For instance, the other day I was pondering what makes a fly cast work and, in my mind, it’s just three things. You acquire the line, you accelerate the line and you launch the loop. I suppose I should say launch the line but I am still fixated on creating an efficient loop so it’s the loop I launch, not the line. Let’s look at each one.

We acquire the line; for arguments sake we are already false casting, we have launched an efficient loop and we are waiting for it to straighten. There are a few ways to acquire the line. Visually, we see the line straighten and, with practice, we start the next stroke. Also visually, we glance up the length of the rod and as the line straightens we see the tip of the rod bend slightly back in the direction the line is moving, and we start the next stroke. By feel, some are lucky and are sensitive enough to feel the ‘heavy’ of the Line  straightening, and start the next stroke.

You accelerate the line; the first part of the acceleration is a bit like letting the clutch out, you start quite slowly and accelerate progressively. Of course, with practice you can let the clutch out more quickly and accelerate faster and still be smooth and fluid but you always avoid the snatchy, wham bam acceleration that gives you wheel spin, you want traction in the form of a smoothly acquired line.

Finally, we put the brakes on and launch the loop. During the acceleration we have bent the rod, now we have to let the rod do the only thing it can do on it’s own, straighten. Of course the rod will straighten any way once we start to decelerate but for the most efficient use of the rod straightening we need to stop the rod hand abruptly, and in the right place, to focus the unbending in the direction of the cast and fire the loop off the rod tip. Brake too early and the rod tip will straighten in a slightly upwards direction and, possibly, throw you a nice tail. Brake late and the rod tip will straighten in a slightly downwards direction and throw you a wide(r than you want) loop. Not braking hard enough will also make your loops wider and less efficient because you have dissipated some of the benefits of the unbending rod.

Of course there is nothing new in what I have written, it’s all in the Five Essentials, but maybe, just maybe, I may have given you a slightly different perspective on how to use them more effectively.

October 17, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment