Mike Heritage FFF MCI UK

Fly casting and talking fly casting bollox

Messy Business

Are you organised? Well, aren’t you the lucky one.  Of course I try to be but somehow it never works out. I’ll do it later, not. If, and when, I ever get the urge to tie a fly I just gaze at this mess and I somehow lose the urge. It does get cleared, now and then, I have been known to enter the odd fly tying competition so it has to be clear for that. You may notice a certificate just below and to the left of my FFF CCI cert, that proudly proclaims I came equal 110th in o5/o6. I did a lot better the following year but FF&FT stopped giving certificates so I don’t have the proof, you will just have to take my word on it.garden-0691

This next one is the view over my left shoulder, you can see I have plenty of cupboards and drawers to put stuff in, it just hardly ever gets there. It should look a lot tidier in a day or two because I have to get my gear together for my trip to Scotland next weekend.

 On the subject of fly tying, don’t ever be under the illusion you do it to save money, you don’t. I bet every fly I tie costs two or three times what I could have bought a commercial one for. I have a lifetimes supply of fur, hackles, tinsel, silk, hooks and bits and bobs and I still don’t have that certain something that someone dreams up for their particular tying of a fly, in fact I am usually totally bereft of most of the materials I need for the FF&FT competitions, even though Magnus Angus always assures me I won’t need anything out of the ordinary for the flies he wants tied. This is at a fly show where I can probably get almost anything I want, no, he waits until the fly is published to let me know I need bright red holographic tinsel that takes me weeks to source. I end up scouring every craft shop in the county before I find something that will do ( and end up buying pounds worth of glittery things that ‘may come in useful’ in the process)


my cornerOne day I will get everything back where it should be. One day

April 29, 2009 Posted by | Fly Fishing, Fly tying | Leave a comment

Fishy Business

Some of you may have noticed that there is not a lot of actual fishing going on here, lot’s of  ‘how to get your fly out there’ but not a lot of what to do once the fish has taken the fly.

 I went on my first serious fishing trip thirty eight years ago, on my honeymoon, with some very cheap gear I bought from an ad in the local paper. Solid glass rod, very cheap and nasty fixed spool reel and a line that lay coiled on top of the water. Don’t ask me what turned fishing into an obsession, I honestly don’t know. I do know I enjoyed the solitude (not on my honeymoon, obviously) and the vast magority of my early fishing was on my own, it was never a social thing. This may explain why I was never a brilliant angler, but I caught enough to keep me happy. I also started sea fishing in the winter, mostly from the shore. I don’t know why I took up fly fishing, it was probobly something to do in the course fishing close season, and why I continued to do it is even more of a mystery when you concider I first started on Darwell reserviour. In those days a one pound fish was a good one and a lot were in the 12 to 14oz bracket (and I didn’t catch many of them either). This was the good old pre cormorant days when fisheries could get away with stocking fish under two pounds. I blanked so many times. The flies we used back then still retain their magic for me, and evoke a lot of happy memories. Invicta, Peter Ross, Dunkeld, Grey Duster, Mallard and Claret. One fly was supposed to be the one to tie on when things got tough, the Black and Peackock Spider, everyone’s ‘get out of jail’ fly. I have never, in 38 years, caught one fish on that bloody fly!. As I have stated in a previous post, every cast was an adventure, I never knew quite where it was going or what I would snag the fly on next.

 Luckily for me Bewl Bridge ( as Bewl Water was then known)  opened  and I had my first taste of decent trout fishing, my God those fish could fight and they were often over 2lbs, a revelation to me at the time. I fished Bewl most weeks for a couple of years, I must have caught hundreds of trout, I had a problem even giving them away. It was the norm back then to catch your limit (six fish) and go and buy another ticket, if there was time. I just don’t want to do that these days. I am happy to kill the occassional fish for the table, or a friend, but the thought of having to kill every fish I catch just doesn’t appeal anymore. That is why I switched to smaller fisheries that allowed c&r although I have got a bit tired of these as well. Part of my problem is that I just don’t enjoy driving for two or three of hours just to fish. I now enjoy two or three special trips a year, Hungary for Asp on Lake Balaton, the Test for Grayling, and this year I am determined to fish the Don, instead of standing in a field casting, at the Sexyloops get together in Scotland in May. I may even get a morning in on Mike Barrios Haddo fishery before I have to catch my plane.

 I keep meaning to have a go at Swaffing, I live quite close to the coast. I just haven’t got round to it… yet

April 28, 2009 Posted by | Fly Fishing | , | Leave a comment

The Long and Short of it

This is by way of an apology, I may or may not be able to put up a post this weekend. I have done something nasty to my back. I can work or lie down, what I can’t do is sit for more than a few minutes because getting up is agony (gets up, walks around, comes back, where was I?). That’s the problem, I lose track of what I was writing. Being told I have the brain age of an eighty year old by a Nintendo DS doesn’t help, does it? I don’t so much need brain training as a complete brain transplant, anyone got one they can spare? Actually, I could do with a whole new body to go with it, this one’s getting very worn out. Funny thing is I can still cast, I went out yesterday evening and did some gentle accuracy stuff but there was something on ‘loops which had piqued my interest in a distance technique so I had a go, guess what?, not a twinge, I was even getting some reasonable distances ( hang on, I need a break, I’ll be back, this is quite interesting).

 Over the years I have moved from a compact stroke to a much longer one, for distance, I just found it more comfortable to accelerate the line over a longer stroke rather than a short one. There are one or two notable ‘short strokers’, Steve Rajeff being the most famous and successful. Their short stroke (relative to the 170 stroke) means they have to use a much faster cadence than I am now used to, it’s a very explosive delivery. I have said somewhere before, that if I stopped my rod the way Steve does I am sure I would have body parts flying off, that’s what put me off trying it seriously. Anyway, it was a short stroke I was trying out last night. OK, I found it a bit harder on the arms but it turns out to be a lot easier on the body, no leaning back (as far), no moving the body as much at all really. If you use your whole body and a lot of lateral rod movement you are opening up yourself to a lot of potential errors, especially if, like me, you’re  getting on a bit and aren’t as supple as you used to be. I found that less body movement reduced this possibility by quite a bit.

 I have a lot to work on but because it is completely different from my 170 style I think I am going to enjoy working it out.

 Damn, I have sat here too long, got to go.

April 24, 2009 Posted by | Distance casting, fly casting, Mike Heritage | , , | 4 Comments

New Age Man

What an age we live in. We can make almost instant contact with anyone , just about anywhere in the world, at the press of a button. Because of fly casting I have people I regard as friends all over the world, even though we may never have met in the flesh. The problem is it is sometimes too easy. You email each other constantly over a relatively, and historicaly, short period and it can soon become a chore to reply, chore in the sense that you are all out of thoughts, not a chore because you are fed up with them. In the ‘good old days’ it was letters, not emails. To receive a letter was exciting and to write a reply was enjoyable. You didn’t have to worry that their reply was in your face before you even had the chance to turn the computer off. I used to work abroad, in pre computer days, and it was a treat to get letter’s from home. It’s not the same with an email is it?

 But, the computer does have it’s benefits, this blog wouldn’t exist without it, for one. A lot of resourses would only be available with a lot of effort in digging them up but now we just Google a question and up pops hundreds of options. It allows us to do things on the spur of the moment we might otherwise have had more time to consider and, probably, not do if we had had more time to think about it. For instance; we once had a thread running on Sexyloops about the viscosity of air and I suddenly thought ‘Ross Brawn’, I mean, who would know more about that subject than a man involved if a sport like F1, I had even bumped into him at a fly show (almost literally) , we had shared a glance. He had even moved to BAR and was designing Jenson Buttons new car. I emailed him, asked him the question and also pleaded with him to give Jenson a decent car. He never replied, but I know he received it because Jenson now has a fantastic car. I also locked eyes with Dame Kiri Takanawa at the same show, she never writes either.

 It’s a sobering thought that a lot of us wouldn’t be where we are today without the Internet, I wonder where we would be? I wouldn’t be sitting here for a start, neither would you be sitting there either. Perhaps we would be out doing something else instead, like fishing, for instance.

April 18, 2009 Posted by | Mike Heritage | , , , | 2 Comments

Wild?, I’m F****** Furious!

I am starting this post without a title yet, when I do give it one it may turn out to be an expletive.

 I’m a pretty laid back sort of bloke, a sort of live and let live sort of person, you do your thing and I’ll do mine and provided we don’t interfere with each other’s pleasure we can co-exist very nicely, thank you.

 Currently there is a debate going on somewhere else that has polarised attitudes to fishing for wild or stocked trout. That ‘somewhere else’ is someone else’s camp fire and I am not going to piss on it. This is my campfire and I can say what I damn well like.

 On the one hand there are (the majority, I think) who are more than happy to have somewhere to fish for trout that have been stocked. Pretty well all reservoirs that cater for fly fishing fall into this category. These can be huge waters and the majority of fish in them are over wintered and have become naturalised to the point of being ‘wild’ to all intents and purposes. Their food is not supplemented, they feed naturally. I don’t have a clue what the stocking density is on reservoirs but lets take a look at what it might be like at somewhere like Bewl Water. Bewl is 770 acres, say we stock at 100 fish per acre, that’s 77,000 fish. Say 25% are lost from predation, illness and poaching (19,250)  and 35,000 are caught and taken, that leaves 22,750 to overwinter and grow on, and who knows how many of these last several seasons before they get caught? Can these fish now be deemed ‘wild’?, I think so. Sure, there are those who will fish areas that stock fish have recently been introduced and fill their boots with easy pickings, not my scene, but it takes all sorts. In fact I don’t fish these places very often because they are catch and kill and I have had my share of catching and killing, I much prefer to catch and release, with the option to take the odd fish to eat if I want to. This does leave us C&R types open to the argument that we now treat fish as a play thing rather than food but Course (bait) anglers have always done it so I don’t see a problem really.

 There are situations where stocking is, at best, questionable. Famous chalk streams like the Test or Itchen are stocked quite heavily so that some rich bugger, out on a corporate day, gets to land a 3lb brownie. OK, they pay a fortune for the privilege (?) but it has ruined the reputation of both rivers, on some stretches. I have fished the Upper Itchen for trout, they weren’t very big, they were quite spooky and, in a lot of places, the challenge was to get the fly on the water in the first place. I have fished the Test as well but only in the winter, for Grayling.

 Now we come to the bit that has made my blood boil.

 There are those that look down their noses at us poor sods who have the audacity to claim that the majority of us that have to fish for stocked fish are really not fly fisher’s at all. No, we are ‘Stockie Bashers’, ‘Fish Mongers’, scum of the earth, basically not fit to lick the boots of a genuine wild fish fly fisher. Well, some of us just aren’t located in a geographically wild trouty sort of place. I would be very surprised if there was a genuine wild trout within 200 miles of me at this moment; so what would be the environmental cost of me jumping into my car and driving those 200 miles to search this poor little fish out?, and, when I caught all 6” of it, driving 200 miles home?. OK, I could now class myself as a genuine fly fisher, but at what cost?.  What if I went the whole hog and jumped on a plane and crossed the World to catch a wild fish. Well, for one thing, in the majority of places, that trout wouldn’t be there in the first place if someone hadn’t put it’s great, great, great, great grand mother there first. Wild?, natural?, yeah, right.

 If I was fortunate enough to live in an area where there was an opportunity to catch wild trout I would jump at it but I would hope that it didn’t make me feel superior to other fly fishers, just luckier.

 To look down your bloody nose at us poor saps who fish stocked waters is to denigrate the likes of Richard Walker, Bob Church, Tom Ivens, Brian Harris, Steve Parton, etc, etc who have contributed so much to fly fishing over the last thirty years or so.

 I think I have done bloody well to get though this rant without one obscene expletive, I can assure you it wasn’t easy. Now, what to call it?.

April 17, 2009 Posted by | Fly Fishing, Mike Heritage, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 9 Comments


It has come to my attention that there are people finding this blog by chance and not understanding what it’s about, so this is by way of an explanation.

 We are fly fishers, thats to say we choose to project a virtually weightless object at a fish, most often a game fish like trout or salmon. This object is usually made up of fur, feathers and some silk, in various colours, sizes and shapes, generally made to represent a natural food item, natural to the fish that is, not us. We fish this object (which we will now call a fly) from anywhere from the surface of the water to many feet below the surface, depending on where the fish are.

 Because the fly is essentially weightless we have to have a means of propelling it out to where the fish are so we use a piece of string covered in plastic (a fly line). To propel the line we use a rod (fly rod). A fly rod is generally made from Carbon Fibre (Graphite) although some clever dick has recently made one out of a carrot (true). The fly rod is moved backwards and forwards (fly casting) by the fly fisher to cast the fly line, that creates the loop, that carries the fly, that catches fish, that ate the fly (there’s a song there somewhere).

 This is, essentially, the art of fly casting. We don’t use any other weight other than the fly line and this can prove tricky for a beginner, especially if they have been used to bait or lure fishing where the casting weight is provided by lead shots, spinners, lures or lead sinkers. They have been used to just angling the rod behind them, casting it forwards  and chucking the bait out. Fly casting is pretty well the only sport where you have to cast backwards (backcast) just as well as you cast forwards and it takes a while for this to sink in, but most get it… eventually.

 Now, there have to be some benefits for going to all this trouble to learn to fly cast apart from making you irrisistable to the opposite sex (which is one benefit that has never bothered me).

 You can present a dry fly (one that floats on the surface) delicately to that fish rising (taking natural flies off the surface) just over there. You can cast around corners (neat trick, that one), to that fish lying behind that rock. You don’t have to carry several hundred weight of tackle and bait around ( if you really try you can get it all into a fly fishing waistcoat). Above all it’s aesthetically pleasing to get a fish to take a fly you may well have tied yourself.

 There you go, that’s what this site is all about. I teach people to wave the rod that casts the line that makes the loop that takes the fly out to the fish. Simple.

April 13, 2009 Posted by | fly casting, Flycasting instruction, Mike Heritage, Uncategorized | 7 Comments


An interesting point has been raised from the previous post ‘Failure’

 I have filched these comments from that post, I hope you don’t mind. Here is Rogers observation about instructing, from a students point of view:

”Above you have instructors point of view.
From a pupil’s point of view, we sometimes take a lot longer to actually bond with any given instructor.
Being quite short (and plump) when a big guy stands behind me and says “give me your hand” I do go quite tense initially, it actually takes at least three lessons before I feel comfortable with a tutor to then “allow him (her) in”.
Booking a lesson only takes money, and not a lot of it as casting/fishing lessons a quite reasonable when you compare with other sports/hobbies. But to feel comfortable with any instructor takes a greater leap of faith.
It is really a pupil thing, but no doubt some instructors out there will say the better the teacher the easier and quicker you will feel o.k with them, not so, I have over the years been taught by some of the very best in different pursuits and it does take a while for the pupil to “let go”.
However one to one is really the best way.”

 And here is Gillys responce:

”Excellent point Roger. I never ever touch my students to show them casting – it’s not necessary and a total invasion of their personal space.
And it is about them casting, they know that the instructor can cast, that’s why they booked the lesson,

I have to be honest and say I am quite ‘hands on’, literally, when I instruct. I don’t make an issue of it, I don’t often even ask permission (I did once, when I was trying to help a woman who was with what I thought was her husband, it turned out to be his daughter! and he wasn’t in the slightest bit worried. I never asked her how she felt about it!) I have never felt that the pupil was uncomfortable, if I did then I would back off.

 Now, I have a slight advantage over Gilly who is five foot nothing and gorgeous, I’m six feet two and not very gorgeous. For her to reach around the average man would create quite an intimate contact. I, on the other hand can reach round most people and only our rod hands are in contact. I find guiding a pupils hand invaluable, I can not only guide them through the stroke but I also get a feel of how tense their arm is and how tightly they are gripping the rod, I can also show them how not to keep breaking their wrist. It’s only ever for a few seconds and then I move away. I move in again if their stroke goes wrong and then back off again. Without touchy feely I would have to use words and descriptions, which I am the first to admit, are not my forte.

 I have yet to have a pupil that I haven’t got on with on a personal level, no doubt it will happen sooner or later, but the sooner we get a bit of banter and mild mickey taking going on the happier I am with the lesson, and I hope the pupil is as well.

 Fly casting isn’t life or death, it’s supposed to be fun, so I try to make my lessons fun as well.

 I don’t want this to sound like I take the piss out of my pupils, I don’t, but if you had someone like Roger, for instance, ( happen to know him) I would be very surprised is if we weren’t having a laugh or two during the lesson. That’s how I like it.

April 13, 2009 Posted by | fly casting, Flycasting instruction, Mike Heritage, Uncategorized | 3 Comments


I took an all day class today. I had three students, two were an easy study, one in particular has hidden talent.I just showed him, he asked a question or two and then worked happily on his own, I just intervened occasionally to sort any little fault I saw, he was even double hauling, and understanding what he was trying to do, in less than an hour. Brilliant. The second wasn’t far behind, he had dabbled a bit in fly fishing and was thoroughly delighted to add a few feet to his cast and his double hauling was coming on a treat as well.

 My problem was with the third guy. I just couldn’t get his stoke sorted out. I couldn’t find a way to sort the problem out. I didn’t hastle him like I might have done a year or two ago. I tried logically to work out what the problem was. We tried a few things, some worked for a while and then didn’t, some didn’t work at all. He wasn’t an idiot, he knew what he was supposed to be doing, he just couldn’t do it.

 I take this sort of thing personally, I failed, not the student. I just couldn’t press the right buttons.

 I have a friend who teaches and then guides beginners to their first fish every working day of her life; how the hell does she do it?. I think I will book a lesson with her.

 Pete: if you ever read this get in contact, I owe you as free lesson.

 Please read the comments below from Gilly and Stefan, sound, practical instucting advise from both, thanks.

 Whenever I have a lesson- which I try to do, at least once a year- I never expect to come away a better caster on the day. In this respect I am the same as Stefan. I take most of it in but will work it out, on my own, at my own speed. I now try to make sure the person I am having the lesson with understands this as well because, as an instructor, I now appreciate how frustrating it is for the instructor when he thinks  (she as well, sorry Gilly) he is not getting across to the pupil.

 If Stefan and Gilly have the same problem occasionally at least I’m in good company.

April 11, 2009 Posted by | Flycasting instruction, Mike Heritage, Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Popping Loops

I like loops, in fact I love loops. I watch my loops like a hawk and I have learned to read them, and so should you.

 You can tell if your backcast is in line with forward cast. You can tell if there is a curve in your stroke. You can tell if you are stopping in the right place, are you creating the correct tip path?.

 If you cast a rod that you are unfamiliar with you can learn its little quirks and foibles in just a few casts by watching the loops.

 You can create open loops, tight loops, top pointed loops, bottom pointed loops  (apparently. I have never been able to make them but I have seen pictures of them!)  round loops; the list is seemingly endless.

 The loop is a dynamic connection between one part of a fly line and another, normally the top, or fly leg and the bottom, or rod leg. Usually there is only one loop, the one that’s taking your fly out to the fish but there is nothing to prevent you from adding a snap or two and having two or three loops while making a fancy presentation cast.

 Loops don’t magically appear. You and the rod have to combine to create them. Correct acceleration and straight line path (SLP), and stopping in the right place in the right way.

 Learning to read your  loops help prevent you from just going through the mechanical motions, they help you adjust  your stroke and become a better all round caster.

April 8, 2009 Posted by | fly casting, Flycasting instruction, Mike Heritage | 1 Comment

Spot the Error(s)

We are going to try something a bit different. I hope this post will be an ongrowing thing.

 A bit of background first. I was recently given a Casio EX-FH20 for my birthday. The camera has a high speed feature which gives staggeringly clear slo mo’s. You can watch yourself in glorious slow motion, which is fine if you are casting well, but, I hope you will notice that in this particular clip I am not casting well, in fact I cringe every time I watch it.

 It has taken me a couple of weeks of watching it to finally work out that although there are several faults there is one in particular that leads to most of the others.

 What I would like is for you to comment on what you see and I will copy and paste your comments into this post.

 I have never seen this done before but I don’t see any reason why it won’t work.

 Over to you…

 From Mike Barrio; Is it the sideways drift/creep of your rod as you start the forward cast?.

 It’s before then Mike.

 From Alan; Is it the way you are letting the rod drop as you turn your head, looks like you are losing tension??

 I believe the fault is what causes this Alan.

 From Stefan Siilkavaara; 

Hi Mike!

You are not drifting dynamically relative to the surge of the loop/straighening line. This makes the backward stab/drift of you rod and the feeding back of the line to cause slack instead of increasing the arc/stroke for the next cast.

The slack will lead to you loosing available arc/stroke for the next cast and the slack risk to cause a sudden load a fair bit into your forward casting stroke. That would result in tailing loops. If the loop does not tail it will still not have the maximum speed you could give it. Only the last half your forward stroke will move the entire line, the first half is just moving a few feet of slackline by the tip.

If you look at the instance just before the slack forms you have a good strong surge that would draw in all that line from your haul and let you position the rod in the position you want it. You would be able to set the whole thing up with a taunt line if you go with that surge instead.

It is not necessary per se to save the drift for the last part of your cast. You can hit the casting stroke and seamlessly go into drift at once without waiting at all.

More specific, the time as when to drift and feed back the line is dynamic like anything else in casting. When it pulls you should follow and feed and feel for that moment when it is taunt, then you turn and start to pull.

Long winding comment, sorry. You are feeding back the haul to late and drifting back to late.

Best regards

Thanks Stefan,

 I think there is one over-riding fault that leads to the creation of slack, ie, that dog-leg in the line. The backcast is dynamic enough to pull any slack out made during the backcast stroke . This particular fault seems to add slack just at the moment the momentum of the bc has slowed and unable to pull it out.

 We are lucky (?) to have 0001 and 133 slo mo in ajoining posts. Look at the reel in both clips.

From Stefan;

Hi Mike!

Sure there is more. ;-) But that´s the one I would addess first. When you are in better contact with the line you will know better where to aim you tip. You would get kinetically aware of it. :-)

In 113 your line is taunt when you turn. Look at the rod tip and your line hand.

Do you belive perfect tracking to be along a static line? What will happen if you just happen to cast one BC off the line and then still force your FC along that line? Watch Paul cast from directly in front.

Why do you think Rajeff sometimes does so much false casting before he delivers? Everyone of his BC-loops looks good enough to hit it on seen from the side.

Best regards

 I agree entirely about tracking, and I am the first to admit I need to get my backcast more dynamic but if you watch the plane of the reel in the 133 you will notice that it stays pretty much inline with my stroke. If you look at 0001 you will see that just as I strat to straighten my body my wrist turns and takes the tip out of line. Since I noticed this I now watch my reel when I cast and try to keep it in plane and everything is a lot sweeter. If we get a calm day I will do another slo mo and see if it looks better.

From Ben Spinks; There’s nothing wrong with it Mike, nothing at all, just make sure you cast like this next time you’re up against me ;-) )

 No chance!

 From Roger;

How fascinating, how to demonstrate that one look is worth thousand words. This is the first time on any forum/blog that something has really caught my interest.
Hopes this sets a new standard.

It is one thing for those to talk about certain aspect of casting but how great it is to see it slow motion in decent quality.

Nice one Mike

Well Rog, there is only so much crap casting of me I can put up, I have a reputation to uphold you know!

 If anyone else fancies having their stroke ripped apart put it up on YouTube and I will add it here.

From Chase Jablonski;

Hi Mike,

Saw a few things:

The forward cast begins too late–slack has a chance to accumulate.

Drift after back cast moves the rod out of the casting plane. This both invites tracking errors and causes slack line.

Peak haul speed is too early forward and back.

Forward cast haul not smoothly accelerating. Could be faster.

Forward cast might be more powerful if you could lead with your elbow. More muscles in play that way.



 I can’t disagree with any of that Chase. Not to make excuses (much) but it’s new rod I hadn’t cast with much (Angel 2TE) which is faster than anything I have cast for ages, and, I made the mistake of not having a few warm up casts before the clip was filmed. I was specifically interested in the dog leg created by the rod moving out of line and what caused to rod to move out of line in the first place. I am pretty sure it’s caused by my turning my wrist just prior to drag, you can see the reel go out of plane. If you watch my 133 in the previous post (The End) you will notice that the reel stays pretty much in plane with the stroke and no dog leg.

April 2, 2009 Posted by | Distance casting, fly casting, Mike Heritage | , | 9 Comments