Mike Heritage FFF MCI UK

Fly casting and talking fly casting bollox

No Combinations Here Please

While at the EWF show recently I had the pleasure of presenting an MCI prep workshop. I was also (rather flatteringly) asked to help two or three guys who are preparing for their MCI. Of course one of the questions I asked them was do you know the difference between a cast and a mend? Without exception they said a cast was before the stop and the mend was after the stop.

That may be an acceptable definition but I believe it is wrong. There may only be a nano seconds difference between that definition and what I believe to be the real boundary but that time span would be the difference between putting the mend into the fly leg (cast) or the rod leg (mend), which, btw, is another definition I would accept.

You have to consider the state of the rod when we stop our hand. Is it loaded or unloaded? Of course it is loaded. The purpose of the stop is to allow the rod to do the only thing it can do on its own. Straighten. That is all that expensive carbon stick you treasure can do without any input from you.

I accept that to make a manoeuvre in that split second between the stop and the rod straightening would take exquisite timing but I contend that that manoeuvre would constitute a cast because it would either only affect the fly leg or would continue beyond rod straight position and then become a combination cast/mend.

For me the boundary is loop formation. Before the loop, cast. After the loop, mend.

There is also a huge benefit in allowing the loop to form and move away from the rod tip before you make a mend. The loop becomes established and any secondary mend wave shouldn’t interfere with the loop taking the fly to its target, which is after all, the point of the exercise.

There is always the temptation to make the mend too early and cause the secondary wave or waves we introduce to interfere with the loop which will cause the fly to kick one way or the other. When I practice mends, or casts for that matter, I want the fly to land on target, not kick or be swept to one side or the other.

A couple of other points. Mends are generally (but not necessarily always) minimum effort. Just enough to get the job done. Too much force and those delicate mends can be pulled out. Practice alternate left and right hand mends to get rid of that little brain twitch that you can sometimes get when asked to mend on the left (if you are a right-handed caster).

I do have a slight issue with this particular task in that in a fishing situation nearly all curves and mends are a combination of cast and mend. It is only because of the definition that we are asked to perform the task (an overpowered curve cast, for instance) in a particular way and there is a risk that those of us who can stop a rod very abruptly can be accused of adding some pullback because the butt kick had moved our hand slightly as the rod tip counterflexes. Pullback is subtle but not that subtle, it is easily visible to anyone who knows what they are looking for. In a situation where pullback is suspected though I would just ask the question and if you gave me the correct answer, and the layout was acceptable, I for one, would be happy to move onto the next task.

If you want to impress your assessors land the fly on target and have a well-defined mend or mends. Oh, and know the real difference between a cast and a mend.


April 28, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | 9 Comments

Essentially Speaking

Paul Arden said he sees the Five Essentials as a filter. I may gradually be getting to understand what he meant.

As long as people have been fly casting they have discovered for themselves that if I do this, that will happen. The Five E’s are not new, they have always been there but it took a lot of observation and analysis by Bill and his father Jay Gammell to synthesise all the possibilities down to just the five. The fly casting instructing brotherhood owe them a huge debt of gratitude.

But, are they Essential? My dictionary has essential as meaning vitally important, absolutely necessary. Not so. You can stand on any water in the country and see fly fishers having a perfectly good time with casts that don’t conform to one, two or even three of the essentials but the fly lands on the water and they catch fish.

It is not strictly necessary to pause if you cast with a very convex tip path over a short distance, so SLP isn’t strictly essential either. And if we think about it I am sure we could all come up with other examples. Ok, it’s not pretty but it is effective enough to do the job.

If the Essentials were so essential we wouldn’t be able to turn a tailing loop into a presentation cast or open the loops to cast a team of flies.

If the Essentials are not Essential then what are they? Perhaps we could call them the Five Ifs, such as;

If you paused between strokes you wouldn’t keep cracking your bloody fly off.

If you cast with a straight line tip path you might, one day, create a loop worthy of the name.

If you smoothed out your application of force you might just stop casting those bloody tailing loops.

If you opened your casting arc and lengthened your stroke you just might be able to aerialize that fifty feet of line dangling off the end of your rod tip.

It might also help If you got rid of all that damn slack before you pick up.

We could also add my sixth If.

If you don’t use your eyes how the heck do you know what you’re doing?

I quite like the Five Ifs.

We could have the Five Rules, after all rules are meant to be broken and I know one or two people who specialize in breaking the rules (Marc) but if you keep to the rules you should get good results and if you bend the rules you might create a nice presentation cast, or not (Marc).

The problem is that the Five Essentials have become sacrosanct, indoctrinated and embedded to the point where they have become fly casting fact instead of fly casting guidance. They are a great instructing tool. They are superb for casting analysis. They are a great starting point. They just ain’t Essential.

April 26, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Danke Shoen

I am back from the EWF show at Furstenfeldbruch Nr Munich, tired but very happy. Where to start? It was full on casting, talking, casting, talking and, maybe, drinking too much. In other words very good practice for the Sexyloops gathering in Scotland in a couple of weeks time. The setting is just beautiful, an old Bavarian monastery. The people welcoming, and the hotel………interesting!

Mark Surtees and I travelled out on Thursday and we met Aitor Coteron and Cesare Del La Hoz at Munich airport and traveled together to the hotel (which wasn’t open when we arrived). Aitor and I have sparred on the ‘loops board and you may have read some of his comments to some of my posts on here so I was especially pleased to finally meet him in the flesh, and he didn’t disappoint.

After we had checked into the hotel we went straight to the show and William van der Vorst, who organised the FFF side of the show, outlined the who, when and where for the rest of the day. William, you did a great job, well done. However, Mark and I were thrown straight into testing, which was a bit of a surprise to both of us. Mark stood as support for an MCI test and I seconded on a CCI test. Luckily Cesare has more experience (well I assumed he had) at testing and he led. Thibaut Giband was the slightly nervous candidate. So we had a Spaniard and an Englishman testing a Frenchman. With the exception of a couple of minor glitches Tibaut did a very good test and once Cesare and I had congratulated him on passing he then went and did the task that had caused him a little problem and did it perfectly, which just goes to show what nerves can do to you. I am sure Tibaut will be a great asset to the FFF.

Mark, in the meanwhile, had to fail his MCI candidate and with the exception of one other CCI pass, that, unfortunately, set the standard for the weekend.

Thursday evening was back at the hotel drinking, planning the next day, drinking, waiting for some food, drinking, still waiting for the food, so may as well have another drink, and, eating when the food finally turned up at about 10pm. Then we could settle down and start drinking properly!

On Friday Mark and I were down to do a CCI prep workshop but Mark was called away for more testing so I was on my own. Three turned up and they were already CCI and working for their MCI so with their agreement I upped the workshop to MCI prep. A bit off the hoof but it worked well and I hope they all enjoyed it, I did.

Lasse Karlsson, CBOG, lead Mark and I on an MCI test which we unfortunately had to stop half way through the test. Not a nice thing to have to do, but the candidate agreed with us and he readily accepted our offer to turn the rest of the time into a workshop. I am certain he will pass next time.

Friday evening we all had our meal in a Greek restaurant across the road from out hotel and then went to another hotel in town where Mark gave an excellent, and humorous, power point presentation on flycasting definitions, nymphing antlers and all. What Philip Greenlee, president of the FFF, made of it we don’t know. We will have to wait for his report of the event in the FFF magazine!

The EWF show opened to the public on Saturday and our time was used to give casting lessons and attending workshops. Some of us didn’t attend as many workshops as we would have liked because one or two of the failed MCI candidates asked us to help them run through the tasks and prep them for the next time and we were more than happy to oblige. It did mean I missed Malik Mazzouris (sorry if I have misspelt that Malik) workshop on TLT casting. I was fortunate to have a little one to one session with him which just whetted my appetite. Sorry about the mangled leader Malik.

On Sunday Philip Greenlee and I were taking our turn at the FFF stand together and as our session ended he asked me if I could teach him how to cast a overpowered curve cast. I asked him if he just wanted an explanation? No, he says, I want you to teach it to me. Is this some sort of test thinks I. No. He genuinely wants to learn it. I grab a rod and we head off to the casting area where we had an enjoyable (if, for me, a slightly surreal) time. We nailed the cast and were talking about aspects of the Masters test when I heard myself ask him if he could do the 85’ distance cast, sure, he said, gimme the rod. Ok, the loops weren’t perfect but he did it. Fair play to the man. I don’t know how old he is, let’s just say he’s getting on a bit, but he is as enthusiastic as ever. Mark came over and joined in and we showed him the Lee Cummings method for tuning up the loops and I learned a couple of things as well. A good little session all round.

There was so much going on that this post could be two or three times bigger and I still couldn’t get it all in but, for me personally, the main pleasure was meeting fellow FFF instructors I had heard about but never met such as Aitor , Chris Rownes and Tim Rajeff. I learned a lot from Tim’s workshop, both casting and instructing. Chris is just an all round nice guy, great instructor and (apparently, because I missed it) does a great demo. Aitor turns out to be a pussy cat, provided you put a beer in his hand.

Of those I already know, it was great to get reaquanted. William did a fantastic job organising the whole thing. Paul showed me a method for stopping wristing , which may involve me having to buying more baseball caps and, accidentally, gave me a great tip on distance casting. Lasse gave me a better insight to testing, casting shooting heads left handed, and not ticking on distance casts.

I apologise to (I can’t remember his name) for not being able to find the time to help you with your masters prep.

I apologise to any I may have offended whilst under the influence of German beer.

I apologise to those I have not mentioned.

But I thank you all for just being there and making it a fantastic experience.

April 25, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | 15 Comments

A Day To Remember

I was beginning to think my luck was running out. No-one in the car park. I had better grab my gear and get walking. Long trudge, don’t recognise any of this, backtrack, walk over the bridge to another area. Hmm, vaguely familiar, ten minutes later I spot the cormorant colony but there is a huge lake between me and it. Bugger. Turn around and walk back to the right path. Finally I spot the familiar face of Gary Inwards and sigh with relief. Waltamstow reservoirs is a big area with lots of waters. I have been there before but am usually chatting away and not taking much notice of where I am going, hence getting a bit lost.

Gary is Chairman on the Walthamstow fly-fisher club and had invited me and Andy Hathaway to take a group of beginners for the day. I wandered up to the hut we use as headquarters for the day to meet Andy, who I had never met before. It turns out Andy was an old hand at this stuff and I was quite happy to take the advice he was offering as we set the rods up and waited for the group to arrive. When they did it was a quick chat, hand out rods to those who didn’t have any, tie on some leaders and tags, split them into two groups and off we go. I did a demonstrate and explain, got them facing in the right direction and off we went. Two hours later there were some reasonable loops and tired arms so we took a break and some of them went off to the hut where Gary had them tying their first flies. They must have been naturals because between five or six of them they tied enough buzzers for the afternoons fishing in about half an hour! Ok, tie on some leaders, show them how to tie on a fly, space them out along the dam wall. Damn me if someone wasn’t into a fish within minutes, then someone else, and so it went on all afternoon. The fish were cruising along the dam at 25′ or 30′ out. Two or three were not catching but we had been joined by a couple of club members who helped out with the fishing and they would hook a fish and hand the rod over for them to play in, and boy, these fish didn’t want to come in, there were some mighty tussles and great excitement. When one of the girls took a rod from the guy looking after her, I grabbed her own rod for her. Of course I had to have a cast and just as she netted the fish she was playing a fish grabbed the fly I was fishing on her rod so I just handed her the rod back to play it in. It turned out to be a fin perfect overwintered rainbow of over three pounds!

Andy and I then concentrated on another girl who, we thought, was the only one who hadn’t caught but after ten minutes she said her husband also hadn’t caught so I went off to help him. I said I wanted to check his set up and took the rod and a fish hit the moment I started to strip line in so I just handed him the rod back. They must have thought Andy and I were a couple of magicians because we hooked up nearly every time we had a rod in our hands. My own magic moment came when a spot opened up on the dam as people were off admiring their fish and having their photos taken so I picked up my seven weight and just blasted a cast as far as I could, a couple of minutes later a missile launched into the air well over 100′ out and I was into another overwintered fish.

The day really couldn’t have gone any better, there were a lot of happy newbie fly fishers ,an amazed club chairman and two satisfied casting instructors.

April 15, 2012 Posted by | fly casting, Fly Fishing, Fly tying, Flycasting instruction, Mike Heritage, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Singing In The Rain

Fly fishers are nice, if a little excentric, even odd. I mean where else would you find the man you had been teaching all morning turn from a right hander to a left hander after a cup of tea and a biscuit and you had to start all over again? Mark and I did a casting clinic for the Canterbury and district angling association yesterday morning (Easter Sunday) and despite being a bit wet and miserable (the weather, not the people) we had quite a nice turnout and a thoroughly enjoyable morning. Thanks to everyone who braved the weather and to CADAA for their hospitality.

I am finally beginning to enjoy this Instructor stuff. It’s taken a while for me to be totally comfortable with it though. After some of the ideas thrown up on the Sexyloops board I have become a bit more adventurous and willing to experiment with my approach a bit. I’m not sure if it is successful yet, but I didn’t see any glazed over expressions, which is a hopeful sign.

Being by the river all morning reminded me I haven’t been fishing for a while, which also reminded me I haven’t done what I set out to do over the winter, tie a box of flies to be proud of. I somehow got sidetracked. It must have been sudden because there is a half finished fly in the vice with the bobbin holder still dangling from it. I wonder what it was supposed to be? Does anyone know a good tying for the just to emerge Mayfly. They have a very distinctive shape and I intend to get to Powder Mill next month during the Mayfly hatch. I have noticed the fish have a preference for taking the nymph just before it reaches the surface. The spinner sometimes works but they seem to leave the just hatched fly alone for some reason.

My distance casting is beginning to improve just in time for the Sexyloops gathering in Scotland next month, I popped a 129′ the other day and I am starting to pepper the mid one twenties on a regular basis. Part of the reason may just be we seem to have lost the dead air conditions we had for a few weeks and we have returned to normal spring conditions, grey, damp and miserable. It was liable to happen though as we have been declared a drought area and have had a hose pipe ban imposed which normally means it will rain from now until next September!


April 9, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

All Right My Lover

The BFCC had an excellent day in ‘alright my lover country’ last weekend. Devon is very green compared to my corner of the country. The only bugbear was that for some reason the lines just didn’t turnover despite a nice breeze. If a lot of the casts hadn’t just collapsed most distances would have been ten or more feet better. Still, those were the conditions on the day and we all did our best.

I have been mulling over what type of instructor I am. I have concluded that because a lot of the instructing I do is twenty-minute ones for the BFCC at our instructing events I tend towards the quick fix. Not necessarily a bad thing because you quickly learn to get to the nub of the problem and try to fix it. If the client goes away happy then it’s job done, if we enthuse them then even better. However, this short burst style instructing probably colours the way I approach my other instructing, which may or may not be a good thing.  I have never used a lesson plan, for instance. I talk to the client and try to find out what they want from the lesson, mostly realistic but sometimes not. I am also a great believer in getting them casting as soon as possible which gives me a chance to assess their skill level. If I see a problem or two I address those first, hopefully sorted quite quickly before we move on to what they want, be it distance, double hauling, presentation etc. But, sometimes we never get beyond trying to fix the faults, which can be frustrating for both of us no doubt. This is why I can’t see the use of a lesson plan for individual clients or even couples come to that. In fact when having two or more I think it’s even more important to be flexible because so often one will progress much faster than the other. I know this can sometimes lead to me running around like a blue arsed fly and leaving me knackered after a couple of hours but if at the end of it I feel that there has been satisfactory improvement then I am happy to do it.

There has been some talk recently about teaching the mechanics to students. By this I mean we explain what they are trying to achieve and how to achieve it. I take this to mean the five essentials or a version of them. I have seen some clients eyes glaze over when I have tried to explain Straight Line (tip)Path (SLP), I think a lot of them would lose the will to live if I then went on to explain the other four essentials. In the last four years I can think of only four or five occasions where I realised the client actually needed to understand why before they could get to grips with the how, and a couple of those latched onto the theory as an excuse not to actually do any casting, they just wanted to talk (bollocks mainly).

There is also a huge difference between teaching beginners, intermediates and potential casting instructors. Beginners come in all sorts, from never holding a rod of any description before to those who come from another fishing discipline. intermediates also fall into several groups, those who have fly fished for years and are self-taught (me ten years ago), those who are competent casters but have a problem they want cured, those who want to add a few feet of distance, etc. Perhaps a few of the intermediate would benefit from an understanding of the mechanics. Potential casting instructors are the only group that actually have to understand the mechanics. They need to know to pass their assessment, they need to know so that they can see and fix casting faults, they need to know so they don’t look a complete pillock when discussing fly casting to other instructors (easily done btw).

This year in particular I will have many opportunities in various scenarios to try to adapt my instruction to suit the situation. I am going to try a more formal demonstrate and explain at a couple of casting clinics. I will be doing the full on mechanics with Mark Surtees at the EWF in Munich where we are holding a workshop for CCI candidates. I will be doing loads of quick fixes at BFCC events and I will trying different approaches on the one to one lessons I do.

The more instructing I do the more I enjoy it. I just hope a few of my clients enjoy it as well.

April 5, 2012 Posted by | BFCC, fly casting, Flycasting instruction, forum debates, Mike Heritage, Uncategorized | 5 Comments