Mike Heritage FFF MCI UK

Fly casting and talking fly casting bollox

You Don’t Want To Do It Like That!

I remember the first time I was asked if I had ever considered being an instructor. I laughed. I was not instructor material. Too impatient. It was four or five years later that I did finally get around to the idea that I might like to try it…properly. I say properly because I found I was one of those annoying gits that can’t keep their mouth shut when they see someone struggling and whenever there were a group of us together, usually at one of Paul Ardens shootouts, I would find myself offering all sorts of ‘useful’ advice. I was, by then, a decent distance caster and was only too eager to pass on some of the knowledge and experiences  I had in an effort to help the person short-circuit some of the problems I had had. I was also mixing with a lot of instructors by then and wondered if I could actually cut the mustard fly casting wise. Proper fly casting. The twiddly stuff. Useful fishing stuff, not just banging it out as far as I could. So I printed off the FFF CCI assessment and set to it. One thing I read (somewhere) was that the candidates nearly always did better on the test if they had actually done some instructing. Apparently (and it’s true) that when it came to the teaching parts of the assessment your answers would be coloured by the experiences of the problems you had found when instructing and you were less likely to give a  purely theoretical answer. I found I was in a bit of a spot. I didn’t know if I could instruct and I didn’t feel it was right to charge  for what was probably going to be  sub service value for money. As luck would have it, because of my distance reputation, I had  a few guys quite locally who were willing guinea pigs. I owe them a lot. I discovered I was right, I was too impatient. I wanted instant results, if one thing didn’t work (almost instantly) I quickly moved onto another way…and then another. And all the time I was jabbering away and never giving them space to work anything out for themselves. If they were having a two hour lesson them by God they were going to have two hours.. full on. Poor sods. It gradually dawned on me that if I was the client being treated this way I would never have another lesson. I never got it instantly (or ever in some cases) when I had lessons. I would pick up some tips, learn a layout, be enlightened on some point or other then go home and work it out in my own time. That’s how I learn. |The big discovery was that everyone is different. I have a couple of friends who you can describe a cast to and you can see them visualise it in their heads and then do it (bastards), I have others that you need to demo it several times, then there are others you need to demonstrate and explain it and a few, like me, who rarely get it on the day but they get the idea and will eventually work it out for themselves.

Instructing isn’t a science, it’s an art. There is no right way (although there are a few wrong ways).First of all you have to be comfortable in your own ability and then you have to have a realistic expectation. Accept the bad days and enjoy the good ones. I have had days where I wanted to give the money back because I didn’t feel the client had achieved what I had expectations of them achieving and I have had days where I wanted to give the money back because the client had far exceeded my expectations and I had enjoyed myself too much.

With the advent of the internet anyone is able to offer advise. If the person who posed the question is a beginner they have no way of judging if the advise they are receiving is good or bad. They don’t know if the advise is from an instructor or just someone with an opinion (that often conflicts with the instructors advice). This is a problem on some forums. Until quite recently I generally only offered ‘advice’ on Sexyloops where I knew and accepted that if it was wrong or bad advice I would soon know about it. On other forums I have seen good advice criticized by armchair pseudo instructors. If you are one of these I suggest you offer your services to a paying client. That will give you a whole new perspective on instructing, or it should do if you have any sense  of obligation to give value for money.

Either that or put yourself up for assessment.

January 26, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

And Another Thing

Well that will teach me to try to pander to the masses. Not one solitary hit from Australia since the last post.

Some of you may have wondered if I have done anything about creating the blog for the instructors group. I have and here is a link  http://friendlyflyfishing.wordpress.com . There is not a lot on there yet but there is an ‘events’ tab that may interest some of you. I have listed all the events to do with fly fishing/casting/instructing that I know about but there will be a lot I don’t know about, especially regional ones. If you email the details to me I will add them.

The group has members from all the domestic casting associations as well as the IFFF so if any of you want to become instructors you can come along and find out which one is the best fit for you. Keep an eye on the blog for details of our meetings. If you want to be added to the list of people I send out emails to let me know.

What’s worse, the waiting for the snow or the anti climax when all you get is a dusting? I know some of you have had it quite badly but to watch the weather forecast is akin to being warned about Armageddon. Then the BBC decide it’s bad enough to have a special  news program about how the snow had brought Britain to a halt. Are they determined to make us a laughing-stock? What the hell do you expect in winter, a bloody sun tan? Mind you I might change my tune tomorrow when it’s our turn to get dumped on.


January 19, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments


I don’t know if any of you use WordPress. When we check the stats there is a world map and countries get coloured to show where the site hits have come from. Yesterday Australia was the hottest. Half my hits came from Aus. I don’t recall that happening before. I haven’t had a lot of contact with our Aussy friends, the ones I have met (apart from one, I will get to in a moment) seem pretty normal, in an Aus sort of way. Some of them seem to have a problem keeping salmon on the hook and make strange horsey noises as they fish. I can’t say whether that’s normal or not. I had a brief encounter with a couple in New Zealand which coloured my opinion for a while. We were touring South Island and gone to look at a waterfall somewhere down south As we walked towards it the Aus couple were walking back to the car park. As we passed he said’ g’day mate’ and I replied ‘hello’. He instantly turned to his wife and said ‘f’kin poms everywhere’ in a tone I used to moan about f’kin sandflies everywhere. I’m still a bit nonplussed about it even after all these years. On the premise that God created all things for a purpose what did He have in mind when He created f’kin sandflies? They serve no purpose other than to irritate. A bit like a Brit to an Aus…perhaps. Anyway, g’day and welcome.

I can’t really give Matt any flack for losing a couple of salmon, at least he hooked them. I have traveled quite a bit and I don’t remember even hooking a fish outside England and I mean England. I’ve fished in Scotland and Ireland (not Wales yet) and haven’t hooked one in either. Now, when I say ‘fished’ I mean I have snatched the odd hour or two on an otherwise non fishing holiday. It’s possible I hold the world record for countries I have blanked in. There are some impressive  ‘fishy’ countries on the list apart from Scotland and Ireland, like New Zealand and Cuba. You may put this down to incompetence, I just put it down to bad luck. Perhaps I could make catching a fish in any county I visit my New Years resolution. I can’t come home until I have caught one. I wonder how much the flight is to Australia?

I tell a lie, I have caught a couple of Asp in Hungary, probably the only two there, and I nailed a six inch brownie on a small loch in Scotland. I feel much better now.

January 16, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Nostalgia Isn’t What It Used To Be

Perhaps I am in the wrong game, or the wrong part of it. When I reflect back on my fishing life I don’t get the same warm romantic/nostalgic feeling for trout fishing as I do for coarse fishing. I haven’t been coarse fishing for years so perhaps it’s a bit like looking back on summer holidays as a kid when it was always hot and sunny…when it obviously wasn’t…or perhaps it was..you never know with Global Warming being what it is…or isn’t. Anyway, when I think about my coarse fishing days it’s the mist on the water, the sunrise, the bubbles around the lilies as the tench rooted about, night fishing with a float that always seemed to be moving around. I have had a mole dig his way up between my legs because I hadn’t moved for hours. I have had Kingfishers on my rod, water rats within a foot or two. I had time to look up and smell the daisies. Fly fishing by comparison is all go, as Viking Lars says ‘you have to concentrate at all times’. The first time I fly fished a river (not that many years ago) I was astonished at how busy I was. No sooner had I cast upstream than the damn fly was back at my feet and I had to cast again..and again..and again. Bloody hard work if you ask me. At least on still water there is time to light a cigarette between casts, even smoke the damn thing occasionally. What I don’t miss is the dragging of a hundred weight of rods, tackle box, umbrella and bags of ground-bait and bait for miles to get to a good spot. Perhaps that’s why I saw so much wild life, I was too exhausted to move much once I had reached the spot. In coarse fishing you could bring the fish to you. Not so with fly fishing, you have to go and find them, which on several hundred acres of reservoir can be quite daunting if not damn nigh impossible at times, especially if, like me, you only fish them occasionally. In the ‘good old days’ when I used to fish Bewl every week I knew where to go, I knew the plot. These days I look at the vastness and wonder what the hell I am doing there.

I will never be a great fisherman because it’s never been about how many or how big, it’s just the pleasure of being there, but ‘having to concentrate at all times’ sort of takes away some of that just being there experience… and I miss that.

January 15, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Little Fishes

How did you start fishing? Father/uncle/brother used to take you now and then? Or perhaps you came at it sideways , like I did. None of my family fished as far as I know. I did occasionally fish as a kid. There was a pond near  where I lived, I believe it was a bomb crater, or so legend had it. Thinking back I don’t think it was, unless it was from World war one, it was too overgrown and silting up. It was full of goldfish, big ones. How or why it only contained goldfish I never knew and I am never going to find out now because it’s been filled in. Me and another lad used to go there now and then and try to catch them and by pure luck we did manage to get the odd one or two. It was never a passion it was just something to do to fill an hour or two of the endless summer holiday. I do seem to be drawn to water for some reason. Perhaps that is why I became a plumber, or not. We lived in the sticks, two bus’ a day with a mile walk to the bus stop or a six or seven mile walk to the main road where there was one an hour. At the bottom of the field opposite our house was a stream. Even calling it a stream may be giving it a grandeur it didn’t deserve but I spent a lot of my childhood in it, one way or another, mostly deliberate sometimes by accident. I loved climbing trees and the best climbing trees were along the bank of the stream so now and then I entered the water from a greater hight than was good for me. I never saw a fish in the stream, not a Bullhead or a stickleback even though it was stuffed full of shrimp. You couldn’t turn a stone over without finding loads of them. The pond and the stream are linked, in my mind if not physically, because the stream is fed from a spring not far from the pond and when we heard the pond was going to be filled in three of us decided to save the goldfish and put them in the stream, and somehow, I don’t remember how, we did manage to put quite a few in the little stream. I also put some in a huge water-butt at home, where they lived quite happily for years. The stream wanders a long way, gradually becoming a proper stream. At one point it follows a road for a few hundred yards before it headed off across farmland and for years we enjoyed the thrill of spotting the odd goldfish as we walked or cycled by. One year I walked the stream for several miles and was astonished to find goldfish several miles downstream from where we had introduced them. I never once had the urge to fish for them. That stream was one of the sources for the Little Stour, which eventually becomes the Stour. I wonder if any of them made it to the big river.

So, when did I become a ‘proper’ fisherman? A proper compulsive fisherman. Believe it or not it started on my honeymoon. We couldn’t afford to go away so on an impulse I bought a load of second-hand gear from an advert in the local paper. £5 bought me a rod, reel, floats, tackle box and loads of odds and ends (this is 1971 btw) and my new wife and I would go down the canal and she would sunbathe while I tried to catch fish. I don’t recall how I became addicted, perhaps like addictions it creeps up on you without you realising it. I knew I was in trouble when my wife put her foot down when I was playing cricket Saturday and fishing Sunday. One of them had to go and I had to spend a bit of time with her……goodbye cricket.

January 5, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments