Mike Heritage FFF MCI UK

Fly casting and talking fly casting bollox

It Ain’t ‘Arf Hot

I think i am suffering from a casting form of Bob Geldorfs compassion fatigue. Enough is enough, I am either ready or not. It’s also difficult to keep up the enthusiasm on your own.

I gave a lesson to a father and son a couple of weeks ago and we made a date to take them on their first trout fishing day and yesterday was the day. I don’t know if you are ‘enjoying’ April where you are but we have had over a week of very unseasonal weather. The temperature has been in the 20’s for over a week and it had been getting hotter, the last three days have been 25c, clear blue sky and hardly a breath of wind. All very nice after the winter we had but not exactly ideal conditions to go after your first trout, especially on a gin clear still water. Never the less very good conditions for your first cast on water. Fred was on his own because mum had taken the kids off to London and luckily he fully understood the conditions were not going to make catching a fish very easy. We set up his tackle, chose a fly pretty much from random and he made his first cast and I am pleased to say he cast a very nice line so I could relax and just try to put him onto a fish. It didn’t happen. We could see them cruising around but they didn’t seem to be feeding. There was no sign of a hatch so we stuck to PTN’s and GRHE’s, with the odd damsel pulled through. Apart from the odd half-hearted follow we didn’t get much of a reaction. I put my rod up with the intension of finding out how deep the fish were and what they were taking and didn’t fare any better than Fred. There is an island in the middle of the lake that has some trees and as the sun went round one end was starting to shade the water. I figured that a dry cast into the shade might get a reaction. And it did, second cast and up comes a nice fish which shot off into open water. Unfortunately it dived into a clump of  blanket weed and just when I should have been giving line I trod on it instead and the tippet broke. Stowting is a lovely little water but blanket weed in warm weather is always a problem there. I have actually watched the bloody stuff grow and hang in long filaments to the extent that it’s impossible to fish without the fly becoming covered in the stuff. Time for a coffee and a Mars bar. After the break I tried a heavy buzzer and missed a couple of takes and got smashed again. Another buzzer, another smash. I was getting a bit annoyed. I very rarely get broken by a fish and couldn’t work out what was going on. I was using 5lb tippets and there was no way I should have been getting broken. Then I realised I was using a six weight and I normally use a five, and a softish five at that, when I fish here. The six is the one I am going to use on my test, it was the first rod I grabbed as I left the house. I tried again and got a take on the drop. I was very careful with the fish and landed it and then I landed a second one. I had sussed out what the fish wanted and went to find Fred. Fred was hungry and wanted to pack up but I persuaded him to give it another ten minutes. I cast out my fly, let it sink, treek tweek, bang, into a fish. I take Freds rod and give him mine ‘there you go, land that’. Five minutes later he did and I netted a fin perfect brown of about 4lb, the biggest I have ever hooked!! I don’t even have a photograph because I was keen to release it as quickly as possible. We did have the pleasure of watching it swim away though.

I once heard a similar story. Brian Harris was keen to get a friend of his, Digger Derrington, to try trout fishing and took him to Darwell. Digger couldn’t get a touch so when Brian hooked one he gave the rod to him and Digger eventually landed a 6lb rainbow, which was a huge fish in those days. Digger gave the rod back to Brian and packed up, he never fly fished again. He said it was too easy.

April 24, 2011 Posted by | fly casting, Fly Fishing, Fly tying, Flycasting instruction, Mike Heritage | Leave a comment

Menage et Trois

While out casting a couple of days ago something popped into my head. ‘Menage et trois’. You sometimes think the strangest thoughts while working on something totally unrelated. It wasn’t even about sexual fantasies either.

Lets go back to where this started. I had thought I had found the rod and line I was going to use in Scotland. The rod is ok (ish) it’s a #6 Guideline LPXe, not an earth shatteringly fantastic rod but since someone broke my Targus it’s the one I use for all my masters prep work. I used a Cortland 444 wf on it and I thought it was quite a nice combo. The only niggle was that the line is peach coloured and I have always thought there might be a visibility problem for the assessors if I used it on the test. I acquired a bright orange Greys Platinum, no problem seeing that bugger. I have used Platinums for fishing and quite like them, however, it soon became apparent that it felt a bit heavy. It deadened the rods action making it sluggish to respond and often it pulled out the little mends I had put in. I persevered for a while but it was obviously not a nice partnership and I was getting more than a little frustrated. I have a drawer full of lines I have either bought, been given or have used, not liked and put away. of course, being totally disorganised, none, except the boxed ones, are marked and I don’t have a clue what they are. That’s a problem for a rainy day. Anyway, while searching through the drawer I came across a line already spooled onto a reel cassette, and, wonder of wonders, I had marked it. It was a bright yellow Rio Steelhead and Salmon line. I don’t remember buying it, I certainly don’t remember spooling it up. And, very oddly, it was spooled onto the cassette for someone who winds their reels with their right hand (why do right handers do that??) It was also wound onto the spool in a very haphazard manor. I had to take the spool off and disentangle quite a birds nest. Surely I hadn’t done any of that. It’s a mystery. I finally got it on the rod and had a few tentative casts and found I was liking the experience. I tried some of the casts that were giving me a few problems and the problems disappeared. I was actually enjoying the experience. This is when the thought popped into my head about a menage et trois. Me, the rod and the line had come together to create something beautiful. I enjoyed it, I can’t speak for the rod and line though.

 Perhaps it’s only a fantasy after all.

April 9, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment


Drag. What does it mean to you? A forward movement of the rod? Are you moving the line? Is there an angular change? Is it a separate motion or is it a blending motion? Is drag synonymous with creep? Would you accuse someone of creeping if the first motion of the stroke was drag?

And you thought fly casting was simple. There is a school of thought that any movement in the direction of the cast that is insufficient to form a loop is creep. I know, and you know, that you added drag deliberately. You told me. ‘Mike’, you said, ‘I am going to drag the rod forward about a foot before I start to apply a rotational force to the rod butt’. I have to tell you I was quite impressed. However, according to the ‘insufficient to form a loop’ brigade I would now have to inform you that you have just told me you are going to deliberately creep. A contradiction in terms because, up to now, creep has always been something you did without realising you were doing it. We have now removed creep from the fault column and added it to the motion column. Creep isn’t a fault any more, it’s just a motion, even though 99% of the time we try to eradicate it if we spot it. Drag, meanwhile, has been tainted by looking similar and is now stood accused of the heinous crime of being creep in disguise. I am here to defend drag and save it from that ignominy.

I regard fly casting to be about fluidity, the blending of one motion into another to produce a fly cast. Creep is the antithesis of fluid motion. It’s hesitant, it’s uncontrolled, it’s unintentional and it robs you of something (available casting angle).

Drag is one of the good guys. It smooths out line acquisition. It gets the line moving. It loads the rod. It irons out wrinkles. It allows a smooth transition into rotational acceleration. It allows fluidity. It reduces the chance of introducing a power spike at the start of rotation. Drag may not, on its own, produce a loop. It just helps, in the right circumstances, to produce better ones.

Drag is another useful tool, like drift or double hauling.

I rest my case.

 PS. At the recent Newark show I was filmed casting with commentry by Charles Jardine. I’m sorry it’s not the best casting you are likely to see but I was frozen stiff.


April 3, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Drifting Along

I want to talk about drift. Let’s define how I understand drift. Drift is any repositioning of the rod during the pause. During the pause. Very important that bit, it’s done while the loop is unrolling. Drift, in and of itself has absolutely no effect on the line, it is essentially powerless. The most common form of drift is up and back to open up the casting angle and, possibly, lengthen the casting stroke. But drift is actually multi directional. You may choose to deliberately reposition the rod tip down (I do, on some distance casts). You may choose to drift the rod to one side or other. You may choose to drift the rod forwards. You choose the form of drift you need to suit the cast you are making or the conditions you are casting in. However, do you always need to drift? Some of us have drift inbuilt into our casts, much like hauling, and we drift regardless of whether we actually need to or not. I heard one or two comments from MCI’s in Denmark last weekend that some candidates were drifting unnecessarily. I’m not sure any failed their tests because of unnecessary drift but if they were borderline I don’t suppose it helped their cause any.

 This isn’t a knee jerk reaction on my part. My knee was jerked several weeks ago during a lengthy thread on Sexyloops. It’s amazing how 99% of a thread passes over your head but a side comment made during the debate can make you sit up and pay attention. The side comment went along the lines that most people drift unnecessarily. I went into the field to find out for myself and, guess what? Whoever made the comment was right. If we are false casting to extend line and each stroke is carrying more line than the last one there may be a need to drift to take into account the wider casting angle required due to the extra line we have shot. Do we need to drift if we are casting relatively similar lengths of line continuously for several cycles (such as accuracy sighting casts, or some of the tasks in the CCI or MCI tests). No, we don’t. I can do the 55 feet element in the MCI without drift, and it looks quite cool.

I may be being a bit over sensitive, I have my MCI test coming up and don’t need to have a perceived fault like that getting in the way. I also don’t want to be accused of creeping if I was to deliberately use forward drift for some reason either.

Talking of creep, and it appears to be the hot topic at the moment, how do you cure it? The answer has been ‘teach drift’. I’m now not so sure that’s the right approach, at least not initially. If a pupil is a reasonably competent caster I would point out the creep, explain what it is doing to their stroke and just ask them to try to stop doing it. Teaching drift would be the second line of attack if it became apparent that their muscle memory was so ingrained they couldn’t help them selves from creeping.

Drift is a good tool in certain situations, but like all good tools, it should only be used when needed.

April 1, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment