Mike Heritage FFF MCI UK

Fly casting and talking fly casting bollox


Style is my, or your, personal way of doing something. To achieve that something we may often have to perform certain tasks. It’s how we choose to perform these tasks that is our personal style. There will be obvious similarities but there will be many differences as well. Now, If I am teaching you how to perform a particular task I would show you the way I perform it first and as you got better at it I may make suggestions that may help you to perform it better, I may even suggest one or two alternatives and allow you to decide which one suits you best, one that suits your developing style. That’s the point, style developes over time. Let’s get specific.

 We want to cast a fly line. The manual tells us we need to perform five essential things, it doesn’t tell us which foot should be in front of the other, how to specifically grip the rod or what path the hand should travel. Consensus dictates that there are some ways that are better than others. I will suggest it’s better to grip the rod more like a screwdriver than a hammer. I might suggest that, just for now, an index finger pointing up the rod might help with that wrist breaking problem on the back cast. I will give you another couple of alternatives once we have sorted that out. I will point out that that square on stance you have automatically adopted may not necessarily be the best and that by placing one foot slightly ahead of the other you are better balanced and you also won’t be so static. Which foot? Ah, well, that depends. As we are only casting a short line, no, 30′ isn’t a distance cast, sorry, I think right foot forward might be best, we call this a closed stance. Think darts. When we want to cast a bit further you might try left foot forward, we call that an open stance, think javelin. I doesn’t matter too much for now though, just feel comfortable.

 You get the picture. I don’t teach style I teach substance, with a few stylistic suggestions thrown in. What I won’t be doing is insist you stand like this, hold the rod like that and move your hand from here to there. If you come to me an already a fairly accomplished caster I am not going to try to alter your style, I will just try to smooth out any faults and suggest a few things you might find work, for you.

 One of the things that, retrospectively,  appeals about the FFF is their style free ethos. So much so that I would resent having a style imposed on me for a specific purpose. You want me to put the fly there and the line there and there, no problem, well maybe, but if I do it and can explain how and why I did it the way I did it I am buggered if I will accept  being criticised because I didn’t hold the rod with my pinky standing out and I wasn’t standing in the ‘proper’ stance.

 Of course, my viewpoint may be different from most. I spent a large proportion of the last ten years trying to figure out a way of blasting a fly line out to the horizon. This involved a lot of trial and error plus watching and picking the brains of some of the best casters in the world. It also involved some radical re thinks and several re builds, not something the average fly-fisher expects to have to do. I did it my way……with a bit of his……and his, oh and don’t forget him or him……..

Yeah, I got style, I just wish I knew what it was.

December 30, 2010 Posted by | Distance casting, fly casting, Flycasting instruction, Mike Heritage | 1 Comment

Deep And Crisp And Even

Ah, I see my son Stuart has been proving his ability to plug into the digital world and put a huge spike in my site visitors. I’m probably too late to apologise to those who have been and gone, and won’t be back, but to those of you who are still being directed here, Merry Christmas.

 It’s 6.30 AM Christmas morning, I should still be in bed. The day’s when I used to be dragged out of bed at four in the morning by two over excited boys are long gone, thank goodness. Well, I say thank goodness but I am not sure I mean it. Kid’s are really what it’s all about and without their excitement to offset my grumpiness I am left just, well, grumpy.

 It doesn’t help when I feel totally out of my depth in a lot of the discussions going on on the board. The engineers are taking over the world and leaving me behind. I can’t beat them and I can’t join them so I am left in a kind of limbo land of half grasped theories and frustration. The main frustration is why. Why do we need to know? Why are they going into such minutia? Why don’t I understand?

 We are having the coldest and snowiest winter since……………last year! Weather forecasters are trying to out do each other for dramatic presentation. Perhaps they have some kind of meteorological Oscar for the most dire forecast or how many severe weather warnings they can give in two minutes. Weather was never so dramatic in my day, it just happened and you put up with it. A bit like Christmas.

 We have however enjoyed some very calm, if bloody freezing, days where I could go out into the field and cast. Snow can have it’s uses. I was fascinated to see, imprinted in knee deep snow, how my stance changed depending on the type of cast I was doing.

It’s now 7am and I am tempted to take my wife up a cup of tea so we can get on with opening some presents but Stuart is staying with us and he can be a really miserable git if he gets woken too early. I don’t have a clue where he gets it from.

 May all your presents be useful,

 Happy Christmas.


December 25, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Them and Us

Any instructor will tell you, actually,anyone who uses forums will tell you. There is us and them, them being anyone who does something differently from us. Them are trouble makers, they read manuals, us don’t.

I read. I read a lot, I have hundreds of books to prove it. I enjoy fantasy, historical fiction, even the odd biography. Reading, for me, is a form of escapism. I’m not sure what I am escaping from, but escape I do. What I cannot read anymore is instructional stuff. I rarely, for instance, read the instruction manual that comes with some new device I have just bought. I have never read a book on flycasting, never, ever. I have one copy of an apparently seminal book on the subject that has remained in its cellophane wrapping for at least three years. In fact I was informed this morning that the book is worth quite a few quid these days…but I still won’t read it. I think the last book I read that had anything to do with fishing was Bob Wyatt’s Trout Hunting and I found one or two parts so traumatizing it nearly put me off fishing.

The strange thing is I read, and participate in, forums. A huge part of my understanding of flycasting has come either directly or indirectly from one particular forum. Of course if something comes up on a forum I don’t understand I can try to get it clarified, which is not possible when you read a book.

I am one of those that need to see and hear something to understand it. I much prefer DVDs, I have Lefty and Joan, and Bill and SpeytoZ, my favorite is Mel Kreiger’s Fly casting faults and fixes. There are some awful ones though, I recently watched one and I had to be restrained from smashing the bloody thing.

 I have come to terms with the fact I am not an engineer, or even an engineers mate. I have learned not to hang my head in shame when I just ain’t getting it. I have learned to live with the look of frustration on my instructors face as he shows me something for the tenth time. But, when I finally get it, I got it for life.

You may be wondering what this is all about. It’s a warning. A warning to all those kind-hearted fools who have volunteered to help me with my preparation for my FFF Masters sometime next year. A warning you are going to see a lot of vacant staring into space as I try to interpret a question and work out an answer. A warning I sometimes just don’t get how to do that, not the first, second, third or fourth time. Go away, bang your head on the shed wall, have a coffee and a fag. Read a book.

 Us poets need a bit of time and space, but we get there in the end.

December 3, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 6 Comments

I Am Not A Number

Still snowing. I tried to get to work this morning but it was a no go. Can someone tell me why they turn close thirty or forty miles of motorway and use it as lorry park forcing the rest of us to us an old A road that usually gets blocked at the first sign of snow?

Casts and mends, lets take a closer look. Most presentation casts, you know, those fancy curves, wiggles and humps we put in for various fishing situations, are usually a combination of moves made during the stroke and after loop formation, well, some are. Then along comes a definition that states that an aerial mend is made after loop formation and a cast is made during the stroke. Ok, that was nice to know, thanks for telling me. The problem then arose that there had to be a way of finding out if a potential instructor knew the difference between a cast and a mend. We are now in a bizarre situation where we have to perform a cast, where we would normally have used a combination of cast and mend, using one or the other, but not both. If, for instance, I want to perform a curve cast and twitch the rod inadvertently after the loop has formed it suddenly (and involuntarily) becomes a mend, and I would fail the task. If all they want is to know is do you know the technical difference between a cast and an aerial mend why don’t they just ask instead of asking you to perform a presentation in an unnatural way. I would quite enjoy the challenge if an assessor said ‘there is a obsticle, how would you avoid it’ and then demonstrate half a dozen different casts (or mends) rather than ‘make a curve cast around that obstacle’.  The problem also arises that some perform certain presentations using one or the other and define a cast as a mend whereas I might do it the other way and define the cast as a cast. Both presentations end up with the same layout, we just did it differently. This is not a winge by the way, I actually enjoy learning different ways to perform casts. In fact, showing different methods to perform the same task would, to my mind, show an assessor that this guy really knows his stuff.

 Personally I think it’s a bit short-sighted to be told there is only the prescribed way to perform anything to do with fly casting, whether it is stance, grip or movement. We are all built differently and have our own way of doing things. On top of that the angler who mainly fishes rivers might have a totally different outlook compared to one who fishes reservoirs or the salt. We don’t want to create clones when we teach, neither do we want to go back to the ‘good old days’ when we had to stand right foot forward, keep our elbows in and cast from 10 till 2. What’s that to do with anything, I hear you ask.  My view is that by defining everything we risk going back to those ‘good old days’  because we have to cast within those definitions to be seen as correct. It’s the old substance versus style argument. Substance is the thing you have to do to perform something, for fly casting this boils down to the Five Essentials, or the six, or seven, depending on who’s model you choose to use. Style is the way you, personally, choose to perform those essential elements. It’s the one part of fly casting that is your’s to do as you like with. I can’t say what my style is. Over the years I have taken a bit of this and a bit of that, blended it with dash of something, given it a swirl in a blender and hey presto. I am what I am and tomorrow I might be something else.

December 2, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

A Bit Of A Pile Up

Home early, too much snow. We got to the job, the materials didn’t make it though. One pissed off customer.

 There seems to be a lot of redefining going around. Not just the nitty-gritty actions and reactions that make up a fly cast. Anyone who has tried to write anything to do with fly casting knows just how difficult it can be to describe the simplest thing so that everyone understands what you are talking about, so a comprehensive and comprehensible set of definitions would be a big plus for that particular circumstance.  But, now it appears the cast’s themselves are being renamed. Take the pile cast, for instance. Apparently it’s now called a parachute cast. My parachute cast isn’t a pile cast. My parachute cast is one where the line and leader straighten slightly above the water and fall to land together. Overpower it slightly and you have a tuck cast, which is where the fly kicks over vertically and lands before the fly line. I bet my tuck cast is someone elses something else. Another cast that has been redefined is the curve cast. My curve cast used to be one that as the line straightens you describe a big high to low C, to the right or left, with the rod tip. This gives a continuous curve from the fly to the rod tip. The more astute among you will realise that because casts and mends are now defined by pre and post loop formation my old curve cast is actually a curve mend. If I want to make a curve cast the movement that creates the curve has to be made during the stroke. So, you would think that to create a curve cast all you have to do is cast a horizontal loop to the left or right of the rod tip by tracking the rod in a slightly curved path during the delivery stroke. Overpower it and the fly should (theoretically) kick round to the left or right depending on which side of the rod you threw the loop. Simples. A nice curve in the line, job done. Hang on though, they now seem to have redefined a curve and made it a hook. They want to see just the end of the fly line and leader hooked round  ninety degrees and the line from the hook to the rod tip, straight. Hang on a cotton pickin’ minute, didn’t we used to do that with an overpowered side cast with a bit of pullback to kick the fly round. Yes you did, but you can’t any more. I asked you to make an overpowered curve cast but you did some pullback after loop formation so now it becomes a mend, you naughty boy. 

 There used to be a set of curve casts that were defined as positive and negative. I used to assume positive were overpowered and negative was underpowered but I read some conflicting definitions where positive and negative related to left or right side curves. Thank goodness we seem to have settled on overpowered and underpowered.

 This is the crux of the matter. It really doesn’t matter what we call the casts as long as we all call them the same thing. It doesn’t help when an internationally well-known caster brings out a DVD showing some casts that already have well established names but insists on renaming them and then calling them ‘trick’ casts as if they didn’t have any application in fishing situations. So you guy’s that fanny about with snake roll’s, circle C’s, snap T’s single and double spey’s and snap casts are just showing off.

 Perhaps it already exists but I think it’s about time some well-known and respected fly-fisher filmed a series of casts, put them up somewhere, opened a debate on the name and we arrived at a consensus on that casts name and we stuck to it………….forever.

December 1, 2010 Posted by | fly casting, forum debates, Mike Heritage, Uncategorized | 4 Comments