Mike Heritage FFF MCI UK

Fly casting and talking fly casting bollox

And A Happy New Year

There is a school of thought that says that an instructors certificate is a professional qualification. I can’t argue with that, it is. I can argue that it is a very poor choice of profession if you intend making a living from instructing. If I had dropped my real job to become a full-time instructor I would have died of starvation about two weeks after passing my first test. What sort of profession is it that you must have a second job to subsidise it. What sort of profession is it that costs you about 100 times more to participate in it than you earn from it? That’s not a profession, that’s a hobby.

But, like most hobbies, someone, somewhere, is making money from it. It just isn’t you (or me).

There is a few bob to be made by a select few that help create new instructors, again, not me. I very rarely charge anyone who wants help to become an instructor.

So where does professionalism come into fly casting instruction? In my opinion the professional should be those that mentor and assess candidates for money. It would be extremely unprofessional, in my opinion, to mentor anyone, for money, if you were not fully current with the test they were preparing for. It would be extremely unprofessional, in my opinion, to assess someone for a test (they have paid to take) that you couldn’t or hadn’t passed. These are the only two circumstances (paid mentors and assessors) where anyone should be re-tested on a regular basis to ensure they are current and everyone has confidence in their abilities. Along with this would be attendance at workshops to learn how to do the job properly.

The test should not be altered in any way for a set period (say three years). The test should be under constant review with feed back from both assessors, observers and candidates but changes would only be made once every (say) three years. This would give continuity for the candidates and mentors. The first people to take the revised test should be the assessors and mentors, if they want to keep on mentoring and assessing.

It strikes me that as soon as you have passed whatever test you have taken you immediately forget what it was like to be a candidate and want to make things harder. Put yourself back in the candidates head  and remember how you struggled learning some of the tasks, how you sweated over the wording of your description of a particular cast, how you many rod and line combinations you tried out to find the one that suited you, the angst and uncertainty about what was required and, for the unlucky few, the nerves on the day of the test.

The tests are hard enough, we just need confidence in the way they are administered.

One thing puzzles me though, why has spey casting been elevated to such importance in single-handed fly casting assessments? Yes, they are fun to do but in forty years of fly fishing I have never used a spey (well, maybe a snake roll) to present a fly to a fish. I have messed about with them for fun but never fired one-off in anger.

I was talking to an ‘elder statesman’ the other day about spey casting and he has probably fished every river in the country but claims never to have used a spey cast because of the noise they create, he would rather catch fish than frighten them.


December 31, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Happy Christmas

In two days time I will have been writing this blog for three years and this is my 166th post and closing in on 30,000 hits. I doubt I have said anything that has improved anyones life.  Some of the 70,000 words have no doubt pissed a few people off and possibly even offended one or two, mostly unintentionally by the way. I started it to showcase my instructing, have the punters queuing around the block, knocking on the door or flooding me with emails requesting a few moments of my precious time. In that respect it has been a dismal failure. I can’t think of one person who has come to me as a direct result of this blog.

However, I have found that having an outlet to voice my opinion, clarify my thoughts and say some stupid things quite theraputic. Some posts just trip off the finger others are hard work. I was initially quite embarrassed when people told me they actually enjoyed reading the blog. I like to think it’s because my style is more conversational than instructional. I don’t know if it’s narcissistic to read your own stuff but I occassionally go back and read some of the old posts and quite enjoy it. I don’t remember writing half of them and I quite surprise myself sometimes.

A couple of years ago I gave Denise Maxwell, FFF CBOG, editor of the Loop and all round nice lady (grovel, grovel,) permission to lift anything she like from the site for the ezine. I thought she might take the odd one or two a year to help fill a gap if she ran out of articles. She hasn’t so much lifted as shoveled. I see another four in the Fall 2011 issue. Apparently she likes ‘another perspective’, whatever that means! It does mean that I really should watch what I write but I always forget.

I really enjoy the comments. Some have revised my opinion to the point that I have been tempted to go back and rewrite the post but I promise the only post I have ever re written was the original one when I passed my MCI. I have gone back and added a postscript occassionally. It often surprises me that the comments aren’t about the the main thust of the post but are aimed at some of the throwaway asides (usually in brackets). I can have 400 words of well thought out prose (yeah, as if)  but the comment is about the half a dozen tongue in cheek words I have added on the spur of the moment. I do appreciate your comments, some recent ones have been more entertaining than the original post. Thank you.

I would like to wish everyone a Very Happy Christmas and a Joyful New Year.

My first post that didn’t mention c****** once

December 24, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 7 Comments

165 Not Out

I have no other reason other than curiosity for posting this. Whenever I click on the publish tag it opens a WordPress page that says something like Hey well done, this your one hundred and whatever post, it consists of 450 words or whatever. The last post told me it was my 164th post and next to it was ‘one to go’ and a gold star was flashing beside it. I have no idea what the significance of post 165 is. Perhaps the computer will expire, perhaps there will be a fanfare or flashing light. It’s a bit like fishing, the anticipation is probably more exciting than the reality.

While I am here I may as well write something. My casting is shite. I have just come in from an hour or two in the field with Roger and my head is hung in shame, or perhaps that’s just the drink I had in the pub. Anyway, no amount of drink will alter the fact that I need to go out and practice. I’ve been fishing, in fact I have been several times recently, but fishing is not casting practice. Once you tie a fly on your focus tends to be on anything but your casting…was that a take? Ohl look, a woodpecker, look at those reflections on the water, where’s the sun, its bloody freezing. I can’t feel my hands, I knew I should have looked a bit harder for my gloves. I’ll be glad when I have had enough! (Fred J Taylor or Peter Stone circa 1960 (ish)).

No, there is no substitute for dedicated casting practice……… It’s raining with a few flakes of snow mixed in.

Maybe tomorrow.

Ok, let’s see the significance of post 165


Goal of 165 Posts Completed



I loved words. I love to sing them and speak them and even now, I must admit, I have fallen into the joy of writing them. — Anne Rice

Jeez, I had a goal and didn’t realize. Yep, just like fishing!

December 18, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 2 Comments

Pragmatically Idealistic

I think very few of us are dominantly one character or another. Most days I am predominantly pragmatic, que sera, sera and all that. I am seldom the perfectionist, thank goodness. What a pain in the arse they can be for a pragmatist. I am not sure how being a pragmatist squares with sometimes getting obsessed and/or becoming totally engrossed in something though, and I have been pretty engrossed with fly casting for several years now. There comes a point though when you wonder what it’s all about. Do I actually need all this stuff when I instruct? Short answer, no. Longer answer, it depends. Everyone is different, we learn differently, we cast differently and we have different goals. So from my pragmatic view-point I just give them what they want. I don’t set their goals and I no longer have the expectations of their achievement I used to have that left me feeling inadequate and despondent, not to mention guilty, when they weren’t achieved. I am not sure where the idealist or perfectionist goes in those situations. Do they blame themselves or the client?

You don’t often see in print an instructor admit to failure, you only read about their successes. Which leads the likes of me, who cannot read between the lines, with the impression that I am the only one with the odd awkward client or, I am the only one who hasn’t got the magic answer to every problem. Of course I know in the back of my mind that this just can’t be. Every instructor has had his or her fair share of failures. They just don’t publicize the fact…..as I sometimes have. Honesty may well not be the best policy. Perhaps I should just focus on my (many) successes and consign the (very few) failures to bad memories rather than printed fact. However, my publicizing my odd failure has had the benefit that I get more tools and tips to add to my repertoire from other instructors who have come across similar problems (which, in private, they will admit). Even if I had actually used most of them in my desperate effort to get a result there will nearly always be a nugget that is worth its weight in gold.

I find a conflict between what I know and how much of what I know to pass on to a student. I may not know as much as you admittedly but I know enough to boggle the mind of your average beginner or intermediate and the last thing I want is a boggled student so I tend to try to keep it simple. I admit there are occasions when a student wants to know the why before he can get to grips with the how but even then I try to stick to the salient points and try not wander off into the murky depths of fly casting theory, especially as fly casting theory is a moving target.

Lets assume this is ten years ago. The theory then was that the hauls sole purpose was to load the rod deeper. I guess this was because it was also thought that rod load accounted for a huge percentage of the cast so the deeper the load the further the cast went. Now we know that the primary purpose of the haul is to increase linespeed and any additional load is caused as a reaction not by intention. We now also know that the stored potential energy (PE) in the rod only accounts for only about a fifth of the momentum we have built up in the fly line, the rest comes from leverage. Did this miss-information stop instructors being able to teach someone to fly cast? No.

There is now some debate that the rod might not be the flexible lever we all thought it was. A lever needs a fulcrum to be a classic lever but a rod has a centre of rotation which is not a fulcrum although, as I understand it (and I don’t) it performs a similar function, or might do is we knew where it was (it moves, so you are never too sure where it is from one moment to the next).

I doubt that any of these ‘new’ facts are in fact new it’s just with the advent of the internet and everyone being able to access and discuss fly casting on the many forums out there we find ourselves re-discovering the wheel over and over again. Ce la vie.

December 16, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 17 Comments

Should Have Gone To Specksavers

I spent a very instructive evening with Charles Jardine on Monday. He was the guest tier at the Canterbury Fly Dressers Guild get together and now I am suffering the consequences because I am trying to emulate him by tying flies I can hardly see. My immediate reaction is that if I can’t see them what chance do the fish have? Charles is quite adamant that not only can the fish see them they can tell a well tied one (his) from one of mine. He also claims that the smaller the fly the less likely the fish is to reject it. This goes against all my fishing philosophy. My attitude is that no-one would pass a fiver on the pavement. Same with fish, stick a bait in front of them and they will take it. The trouble is they don’t do they. Oh no, put a nice black buzzer on their nose and they either run a mile, ignore it, or worse still, come and have a look and turn disdainfully away. Bloody fish.

However Charles is knocking on a partially open door. I fished earlier this week for three hours, two and a half of which saw me chucking every fly in the box to no avail. I finally decided to put a very small (by my previous standards) gold head GRHE nymph on and just let it do its own thing in the slight ripple. I missed the first take out of pure surprise, hit and landed the second and lost a third in some weeds. I had finally found the method but run out of time. I will have then next time ‘cos I now have some even smaller flies to confound them with.

How small is small? My previous small was a 14 or maybe a 16, I am now tying 18’s and 20’s and still have several sizes to go before I get to Charles size but I will either have to get a magnifying glass or some strong glasses before I attempt them, oh, and some finer silk and finer wire and finer materials, smaller beads, not to mention smaller hooks.

I wish I had taken a camera to the tying evening. All the flies Charles tied were exquisite (of course) but the stand out fly was a minute Shipman that was perfectly proportioned and clean. I can’t tie a good-looking Shipman on a hook I can see let alone one I can’t.

December 9, 2011 Posted by | Fly Fishing, Fly tying, Mike Heritage, Uncategorized | , , | 4 Comments

My Little Dew Drop

I have been sitting here trying to find the right music on Spotify to match my mood. I have gone from Kate Bush to Morcheeba to Jimmi Hendrix and have settled on classical guitar and John Williams. I’m hoping that Al Hambra is there somewhere. It will bring back memories of the good old days, when I was young, when Jack Hargreaves and Out Of Town were an almost religious must watch every week. My wife bought me a box set a couple of years ago and I like to watch them now and then. He was surprisingly earthy and near the knuckle. It all  went over my head when I was a youngster but I found it slightly shocking when I re-watched them as an adult. Apart from anything else the bits about fishing, especially pike fishing, show just how attitudes have changed in the last thirty or forty years. I would get lynched today if anyone found me fishing with a Jardine snap tackle with a live roach pulling a bung around then sticking a gaff under the pikes jaw to land it.

 I have been tying quite a few flies lately and have discovered Bug Bond. No more messing around mixing epoxy, just a quick flash of ultra violet and Bobs your uncle. I created a lovely Corixa with a Bug Bond air bubble trapped underneath which I am going to call the Dew Drop. Whether it will catch fish or not is another matter. In fact it doesn’t matter whether the fish like it or not, I like it, and the name made me laugh so it’s worth it’s place in my fly box just for the chuckle it will give me whenever I open it. If you ever see me rolling around the bank clutching my sides you will know I have just caught a fish on my Dew Drop.

I seem to have upset one or two people on Gordy Hills online group. Someone had the temerity to wonder if we weren’t taking things a bit too far when things got a bit deep into the minutia of a fly cast. His main point was just how relevent was all this to being an instructor and did he really have to understand it all on his way to taking his Masters. This struck a chord so I posted my agreement. It’s something I have been wondering about for quite a while. Where do you draw the line between what is necessary to know and what is interesting for its own sake.

It’s just a fact of life that as an instructor to anyone just wanting to improve their casting you try to keep it simple. You use half-truths or perceived truths to paint word pictures to try to get an idea across. Slow down, let the rod do the work is one I use knowing full well the rod does bugger all. There are plenty of other examples of over simplification. Yes I know that as my understanding gets greater the more I modify my instructing to suit but I am always aware that there is a line that shouldn’t normally be crossed. In practical terms it means that I don’t get to use 75% of the stuff I have learned over the past few years. Of course this all changes when I help someone to prepare for their casting assessment. I am then allowed to let it rip, give them everything, with both barrels, and very liberating it is too.

WTF is an Azimuth anyway?

December 1, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 12 Comments