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


  1. So all the money is in training the trainers and all the bitchy shit that goes with it
    God bless us all

    Comment by Tony | December 31, 2011 | Reply

  2. Not in training trainers Tony but there is certainly a mini industry in mentoring, which I am not against btw, a good mentor can be worth his weight in gold. The bitchy shit just seems to go with the territory sometimes. I think that all I mean is that everyone forgets what it was like on the way up. I have never met anyone who thought the tests were easy before they took them, but a few who want to make them harder once they have them.

    Comment by Mike Heritage | December 31, 2011 | Reply

  3. “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.”


    I can’t believe that.He must have missed out on some lovely spots then. And if he can’t make a spey cast w/o scaring fish then he prob. needs a lesson 🙂

    No one’s ever said you must learn to Spey cast but, like learning to cast better in a general sense, there are no disadvantages to learning.


    Comment by Will | January 1, 2012 | Reply

  4. Hi Mike. Tell me, in 40 years of fly fishing, how often have you used a curve mend to avoid an obstruction in fishing? How many times have you used an overpowered curve or an underpowered curve? How many times have you cast 120ft? Be honest now!
    I have come across people who fish with little else than the Spey casts. And a lot more people who use them every other cast. At the end of the day as instructors we need to be able to help these guys fish/cast better. So I think it make sense that the certifications test for that. The uk certs always have. It’s just the level has gone up. Not a bad thing if you ask me. Also, if these things are about showing rod and line control, then the Spey casts are a beautiful example of that. As instructors, every tool in the box should be as good as it can be. And we can always get better!

    Comment by Steve kemp | January 1, 2012 | Reply

  5. Have you ever wished you had kept your mouth shut or your fingers off the keyboard? I’m beginning too.

    I have hooked a few fish at around 100ft and I do use curves on stillwater to give that enticing around the corner retrieve occassionally. The elder statesman did admit there were positions he couldn’t or wouldn’t fish and he didn’t tell me if he could actually spey cast, although I assume he can as he has fished for salmon and sea trout all over the country.

    You also have to remember I live in an area where trout fishing is pedominately put and take stillwaters with a few big reservoirs and there isn’t much if any call for spey casts. And, I intend joining one of the domestic associations this year and I know I have a whole new skill set to learn so I’m worried as well.

    Look guys. I know when something is written it infers that what is written is that persons cast in stone opinion. Never, ever, think that with anything I write. I am always open to other opinions, I change my mind and I am prone to spit my dummy out when I get something churning around my head. This blog is just a clearing house for some (occasionally) confused thoughts. I value the comments because they often give me a different perspective and I sometimes have to retract or justify what I have written. My hope is that you find it more entertaining than annoying.

    Comment by Mike Heritage | January 1, 2012 | Reply

  6. Annoying is the last word i would use to describe your posts. I think they shine out of the blogosphere because they are (a) thought-provoking and (b) very human, echoing what many of us think but don’t say.

    I used to live in the SE, and had never spey cast until I came to Scotland. I can honestly say it has transformed my river fishing. Putting aside its effectiveness, (and it is very effective) spey casting is just a joy to do and is worth learning just on that score alone. Add to that the fact that Speys get you fishing in conditions and positions that would otherwise defeat you and it’s difficult to think of a reason not to learn.

    Funnily enough I could have written pretty much the same thing about learning to cast further…:-)


    Comment by Will | January 1, 2012 | Reply

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