Mike Heritage FFF MCI UK

Fly casting and talking fly casting bollox

Always Look On The Bright Side

The sun is shining, the wind has died down to a zephyr, birds are singing. Perhaps it’s time to come out of hibernation. I have been taking a bit of a back seat for the last few months but things are on the move again. I might have moved a bit sooner but every time I peeked a look it was raining or blowing a gale, or, more usually, both together. In the last twenty four hours, for instance, we have had storm force winds, hail, thunder and torrential rain. The cricket field at the bottom of my garden could now be turned into a paddy field, dog walking is now bog walking and my garden resembles the Somme. Every cloud has a silver lining as I now have a beautiful lake I can practice speys and jump rolls on only 100yds away. We are the lucky ones, at least we don’t have water lapping over the door step. I feels so sorry for those that have been flooded, some for over two months. I really can’t imagine the despair they must be feeling. All it’s cost me is a few postponed casting lessons, it’s cost them everything.

The BFCC roadshow will soon be back on the road with a small group of us traveling down to Devon for the South West Fly Fair at Roadford where we will be demonstrating and instructing so if you have forgotten which end of the rod to hold come down and let us remind you. The venue looks great on Google earth (PL160RL). Let’s hope the weather plays nice for a change.

I will also be going to the EWF show in Germany at the end of March to kick start my IFFF year. This is held in a spectacular location and well worth a visit. By the way Lasse, please bring my rod!.

Ok, not a lot about casting but this is the first post for months and I just wanted to let you know I was still alive. It’s a strange thing but once you stop posting regularly it’s difficult to start up again but I will  do my best.

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February 16, 2014 Posted by | BFCC, fly casting, Flycasting instruction, Mike Heritage | 1 Comment

Like a Blue Arsed Fly

Bloody Hell, it’s a tough life being a casting instructor. I have been so busy lately that I haven’t had time to even go fishing let alone update this blog. I did start a piece about the ‘loops gathering in Strathdon but I didn’t get time to finish it and because it happened more than twenty-four hours ago I have forgotten what went on, except, we did have a good time, made some new friends and got re-aquanted with old ones. I didn’t do any actual fishing but I did watch some Aus lose a salmon, again. I will have to have a go at this salmon fishing lark. It seems you just keep chucking flies into a known pool and, eventually, one will get really pissed off at being continually buzzed by some fur and feather concoction and have a go at it. Getting it to stay hooked is another matter, apparently. Or, you just run a Woolly Bugger through some runs trying to catch a trout and a salmon decides it’s lunch time and before you know what’s what you have a seven or eight pound salmon on the bank Like Trevor Bourne did http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j9UMTClI3LI . I did film Matt losing his fish but I don’t have the heart to put it up on Youtube.

I had a very nice weekend with the BFCC at Sportfish last weekend. Saturday was particularly hectic with virtually non stop instructing most of the day, even though we had help from various quarters as Paul Arden, Gilly Bate and Matt Howell stepped in to give me, Mark Surtees, Roger Miles ,Mike Marshall and Alex Titov a occassional break. One thing that really surprised me was the amount of women who wanted to have a go. In fact there were far too many for Mike Marshall to monopolise and we all had our share, for a change. I love teaching women, they are generally a lot easier than men. I was lucky to have a couple who showed real promise, one in particular was so good I stopped the lesson a bit early because I didn’t want to run the risk of it all going wrong. The BFCC really seems to be meeting a need at the moment as our meetings seem to be getting busier and busier, almost to the point where competitions are getting harder to organise around all the instructing going on.

I have just got in from running a casting clinic for a local syndicate water and I have other lessons in the pipeline. This has been my busiest year so far and my garden is suffering, I have seeds to sow and a lawn in dire need of a good mowing. Ah, I see I am free tomorrow afternoon. I bet it rains.

May 19, 2012 Posted by | BFCC, fly casting, Fly Fishing, Flycasting instruction, Mike Heritage, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

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

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

The Sound Of One Hand Clapping

Did you realise there were people out there who neither know about, or even want to know about, fly casting and fly fishing? I know, I didn’t believe it myself…..until this weekend. No, they are more interested in dogs, horses, owls, hawks, ferrets and wildfowling. It’s true, I’m not making this up!

It started auspiciously enough, sunny and warm, unheard of in living memory. Detling is where cold, wet and windy lives on a near permanent basis for most of the year. I guess it wanted a a day out on saturday and took itself off for day trip somewhere. I drew the short straw and had to do the first demo of the day in a small indoor arena with hardy anyone even at the show let alone wanting to see a fly casting demonstration. I was the warm up act with no-one to warm up. You would think that for a near demo virgin the idea of no-one seeing you would be quite comforting. It’s not, it is in fact quite unnerving to be talking to yourself for half an hour. However, I did discover a few hazards to avoid for my next scheduled humiliation, like overhead lights and roof trusses. I also discovered the limitations of using an MPR as a demo tool.

The next demo was in the outdoor arena. Much better all round. I actually had an audience, all three of them. Whoever you were, thank you. The last indoor demo of the day was an improvement on the first one by some margin, I actually heard a clap when I finished, only one, but I was grateful.

Heather and I then had to rush off to Muswell Hill to get to Marks reception before the food was gone, which thankfully we did as we hadn’t eaten all day. I will say no more about the wonderful evening other than to comment that Mark and Christina have some interesting friends and even more interesting relatives, and lots of them.

Day two started at a Hotel in Muswell Hill on the same morning the clocks went forward and we were meant to be somewhere else an hour ago, but we made it back to Detling where cold, wet and windy was back from it’s day off and had brought it’s mate, fog, for a visit. We could hardy see the area, just across the road, that had been set aside for the BFCC to give casting lessons. I was once again the warm up act in the indoor arena. Guess what? I actually had an audience to warm up. What a difference it makes to have some people to interact with. The demo had a purpose, and it showed. I even did a mini casting clinic for the last few minutes where I asked if anyone had any specific problems they wanted answered and tried to give them some solutions. Blessedly the fog decided to go home before my next outdoor demo and I was actually visible to those who were watching (yes, there were a few). I turned the wind to my advantage and focused on casts to cope with windy conditions and did the casting clinic again and overran my time by ten minutes.

Normal service was resumed at my last indoor demo. I was running out of steam and turned to one dogged spectator in the hope of ending with another mini casting clinic. ”Do you fly fish?”, he shook his head and I learned the real meaning of despair.

Ok, I have exagerated…slightly. I did enjoy it, I learned a lot. One lesson I am considering is training up something furry, feathery and/or cute for an audience to ahh at while I run through my program. I now understand why you never see Charles Jardine without his dog Midge.

On the plus side Mike Marshall, and Roger Miles with Terry Jenner snapping away merrily had a quite successful first year at the show providing BFCC casting instruction to those who were actually interested in fly fishing and fly casting. Nice one lads.

March 25, 2012 Posted by | BFCC, fly casting, Fly Fishing, Flycasting instruction, Mike Heritage, Uncategorized | | 3 Comments

Be Still, My Beating Heart

If someone asked you what defined fly casting to you what would your answer be? The fly? The symmetry of the back and fore cast? the line we have to use? For me it is the loop. I find the loop endlessly fascinating, not the least because I don’t understand the forces involved. The loop is dynamic, I feel it has life. Of course it hasn’t got life, it’s not sentient but it is the beating heart of a good fly cast.

Because fly lines tend to be mono coloured it’s difficult, if not impossible, to actually see what happens when we create a loop, all we see is the shape moving down the line. If you take the time and marker pen the line so you have black and white bands every four or five hundred millimeters you start to see a whole new universe open up before your eyes. You suddenly see the loop is actually a wave traveling  down the rod leg. You see the fly leg whizzing along, feeding into the loop and then just being part of the static rod leg (if you don’t shoot line). It becomes even more fascinating when you start messing around with presentation casts. Do some wiggles and the line actually appears to come back towards you. Snap casts can produce some vomit inducing optical confusion as the bands on one part of the line move in opposition to other parts of the line.

You can have fast loops, slow loops, wide loops, narrow loops, pointy loops, rounded loops, vertically orientated loops, horizontally orientated loops and upside down loops, there is even a photo somewhere on Sexyloops of Ben Spinks casting a square loop (God help me if I haven’t tried to create one of my own).

I sometimes look at a loop, especially one that is very slow, and wonder at it’s ability to turn the leader over. But it does, somehow. There is a loop shape we now call dolphin nosed because of the kink immediately behind it in the fly leg. As far as I can make out the loop is at near stall speed, it looks as if it should collapse, but it doesn’t, it just keeps rolling along and will even turn the leader over. When I first started to notice this loop shape I was preparing for my CCI and assumed it was a fault in my casting. I posed the question on Gordy Hills group and had a reply from Bruce Richards that if he saw one in a test he would regard it as the sign of a good caster. I now regard it as a sign that the caster has the ability to control the amount of force they apply to the line (ok, I know we apply force to the rod, but you know what I mean). It’s the amount of force we apply and the way we transfer that force to the line via the stop that creates the different loop shapes. High line speed, a hard stop and some counterflex will give you the classic top pointed ‘sexyloop’. A softer or dampened stop will give you a more rounded loop. Some rods, and even lines, are more inclined to throw one or the other naturally. There was a time, not so long ago, that if someone handed me their rod to have a cast with (for some reason I sometimes had to wrench it out of their hands first) the first thing I would do is strip all the line off the reel and either see how much line I could aerialize or see how far I could cast it, or both. These days I am more likely to see what loop shapes I can create first……..then try and blast the thing.

February 26, 2012 Posted by | Distance casting, fly casting, Flycasting instruction, Mike Heritage, Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Saturation

Is it me? I ask myself. Am I the only one who is up to here with information? Am I the only one to raise a jaundiced eyebrow (and they take some raising I can tell you) at yet another debate that gets mired in technicalities.

I claim to be a poet but I’m not sure that is really a correct description. I am more your practical tradesman. I see a problem and I get over it or around it or under it. There is some thought process involved but not the endless theorising which still leaves you with the problem to get round, under or over. By the time the theorists have made a decision (which may be an oxymoron as I have never seen a theorist conclude anything) I have succeeded by trial and error and experience, (which theorists seem to ignore) and moved on to the next problem.

At the moment there is a discussion on the benefits of a bendy rod. Well, take a broom stick fishing and if you can’t see why it wasn’t one of your best ideas within the first thirty seconds you are in the wrong sport. It may be of some use, say, vaulting from one bank to the other without getting your feet wet, or as a wading staff, but as a fishing and casting tool it would rate along side a chocolate tea-pot in practicality.

There, I’ve run out of rant. Now what? It’s midday and it’s still minus two, which is beginning to feel quite normal. The six inches of snow we had last weekend is still four inches thick and makes it difficult to see the fly line when I am practicing. See? how dedicated am I? I suffer for my sport. Numb thumbs and a runny nose whilst talking to myself as I run through the presentations I will be giving in March. And, damn me if I wasn’t enjoying it, how bloody odd is that?

There is another interesting discussion going on about TLT or Italian style casting. I was going to give it a go in the field this morning but the only three weight line I have spooled up is white. I theorised for a few seconds and decided that a white line against a grey sky and a white field wasn’t going to allow me to see anything useful. I concluded I would be better off going back indoors, have a coffee, write this and then make myself a nice hot bowl of soup. After that I might pluck up the courage to throw a practical hand grenade into the discussion on the benefits of a bendy rod……or not.

February 12, 2012 Posted by | fly casting, Fly Fishing, forum debates, Mike Heritage | , , | 9 Comments

I’m In With The In Crowd

I am pleased to announce I have joined the Barrio Pro Team   http://www.flylineshop.com/barrio-pro-team.html . I have always worried about having an involvement with a manufacturer. I enjoy the freedom of being able to say pretty much what I like and I had a fear that any involvement would restrict me in some way. So, it is quite a relief that I have no such problems with Mike Barrios products. I use Barrio lines and his three weight custom rod has been my go to fishing rod ever since I bought it. I was first approached by Mike a few years ago to help design a distance line. A while later, and with input from others, the GT140 was created. I’m sure that with Marc and Will and me suggesting thisnthat  Mike will be beavering away in his shed trying to turn our suggestions into real products which we will then have the pleasure of field testing.

Mike has quietly built up quite a successful little business based around quality products at reasonable prices and I look forward to watching it grow even more successful in the future.

Happy days.

February 11, 2012 Posted by | fly casting, Fly Fishing, Mike Heritage, Uncategorized | , | 7 Comments

The Impressionist

It’s odd how something sticks in your brain and stays there when a lot of other stuff just goes in….and then goes straight back out again. I guess it’s to do with your character and the thing that stuck just reinforced a particular trait you may have. When taking a casting assessment we are exhorted to ‘make it look easy’, give the impression, at least, that we know what we are doing. I’m not sure where the line is drawn between the impression of confidence or the appearance of arrogance is though. Is standing there in no particular stance, chewing gum and one hand in your pocket while executing an over powered curve cast a sign of confidence or arrogance?

I admit to being an impressionist, I’m not into minute detail. You can tell that just by looking at any fly I tie. You can tell it’s a fly, you’re  just not quite be able to tell which one it’s meant to be. Thank goodness the fish don’t seem to mind. You could imagine a nice fish sidling up to one of my flies and wondering what the hell is that supposed to be? then calling his mate over ” Hey Basil, have you seen this?” ”By heck George, what is it?”  ”I don’t know Basil but I am getting the irresistable urge to eat it”. ”George, GEORGE, what’s up? Come back George”

Back to casting. To make it look easy you do actually have to be able to do the cast first and work on the nonchalance later. For instance, long before I became interested in becoming an instructor I was a distance freak. I had spent years trying to hit the horizon. One of the tasks in the test was a ‘distance’ cast to seventy-five feet. I was so used to balls out, gung-ho, blast the f***** out there style casting that I had all sorts of problems reining myself in to a ‘make it look easy’ style. I never worried too much if a distance cast tailed a bit, it would untail itself and still reach 120′. The result was what mattered not how it looked or a few knots in the leader. Suddenly I am faced with having to do a piddly little seventy-five feet cast that looks good as well. No tails, nice loop and parallel legs. It took me hours and hours to make it ‘look easy’.

It’s a strange thing but once you have passed the test all the casts, even the ones you may have struggled with, seem easy. I suppose the pressure is off, the element of fear has gone and you just relax and a relaxed caster is a better caster.

After a while you may look back and think to yourself that it was quite easy. You may even think the tasks should be more of a challenge. If  this was your first test then you may decide to challenge yourself to go to the next level. You pass and after a while you look back and think it should have been harder. I think this is natural, but, it is also wrong. I think Caesar used to have a slave riding in his chariot whose job was to keep reminding him he was just a mortal. Not a job to relish, I would imagine. Piss Caesar off once too often and you were likely to discover your own mortality quicker than you had hoped.

It may be a onerious job but it needs doing. That’s not to say you still don’t have to give a damn good impression that you know what you are doing though. You still have to deserve to be Caesar.

January 14, 2012 Posted by | Distance casting, fly casting, Fly Fishing, Fly tying, Flycasting instruction, Mike Heritage, Uncategorized | , , , , | 2 Comments

Pause For Thought

I was asked a question a few weeks ago. Is there a pause in a constant tension cast? My immediate answer was I don’t know, my second reaction was whats a constant tension cast?

In theory a CT cast is one where the rod and line are in constant motion so you would expect to see the rod tip traveling in an oval path constantly pulling the line in its wake. That’s not what I saw however when I watched some clips on YouTube. I saw a loop being formed and if a loop is formed the line has to have passed the rod tip. If the line has passed the rod tip it means it is no longer being pulled, if it’s no longer being pulled it means you have to wait for it to straighten before the next stroke, if you are waiting for it to straighten you must be pausing………except….. you might not be!

What is the pause, apart from being Essential? I bet if you were asked the question your answer would be something like ‘the time it takes for the loop to unroll’ which I couldn’t argue with. But let’s take it a step further. If you had a student who either kept letting the line fall to the ground between strokes or you kept hearing whipcracks you would tell him his timing was off and that’s what the pause really is, it’s a timing issue.

With that in mind we can take another look at the pause on a CT cast, especially a shortish river type cast. Is there a timing issue with a CT cast? Yes, there has to be if a loop has been formed, but it does not have to involve the waiting period you would have with a conventional overhead cast, you only need to adjust the speed you move the rod tip at. There will be a natural pause as the stroke moves from one direction to another anyway so all you have to do is adjust your hand speed to accomplish it in a way that makes the cast smooth. As far as I can see line speed and cadence is faster on a CT cast than with a conventional O/H cast, especially if you underline by several weights as I understand happens if you use the TLT technique, so it may appear that there is no pause but as far as I can see the only pure constant tension cast where the line is being pulled by the rod top would be the helicopter cast and the figure of eight that we sometimes use for students to get used to the feel of a rod with some line outside the rod tip.

There is a lot of hype and myth surrounding CT casting. One day I might get to watch a true exponent and get a better insight. Until then I can only call it as I see it, and I see a pause.

November 16, 2011 Posted by | fly casting, Flycasting instruction, Mike Heritage, Uncategorized | 2 Comments