Mike Heritage FFF MCI UK

Fly casting and talking fly casting bollox

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


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

A Bit Of A Pile Up

Home early, too much snow. We got to the job, the materials didn’t make it though. One pissed off customer.

 There seems to be a lot of redefining going around. Not just the nitty-gritty actions and reactions that make up a fly cast. Anyone who has tried to write anything to do with fly casting knows just how difficult it can be to describe the simplest thing so that everyone understands what you are talking about, so a comprehensive and comprehensible set of definitions would be a big plus for that particular circumstance.  But, now it appears the cast’s themselves are being renamed. Take the pile cast, for instance. Apparently it’s now called a parachute cast. My parachute cast isn’t a pile cast. My parachute cast is one where the line and leader straighten slightly above the water and fall to land together. Overpower it slightly and you have a tuck cast, which is where the fly kicks over vertically and lands before the fly line. I bet my tuck cast is someone elses something else. Another cast that has been redefined is the curve cast. My curve cast used to be one that as the line straightens you describe a big high to low C, to the right or left, with the rod tip. This gives a continuous curve from the fly to the rod tip. The more astute among you will realise that because casts and mends are now defined by pre and post loop formation my old curve cast is actually a curve mend. If I want to make a curve cast the movement that creates the curve has to be made during the stroke. So, you would think that to create a curve cast all you have to do is cast a horizontal loop to the left or right of the rod tip by tracking the rod in a slightly curved path during the delivery stroke. Overpower it and the fly should (theoretically) kick round to the left or right depending on which side of the rod you threw the loop. Simples. A nice curve in the line, job done. Hang on though, they now seem to have redefined a curve and made it a hook. They want to see just the end of the fly line and leader hooked round  ninety degrees and the line from the hook to the rod tip, straight. Hang on a cotton pickin’ minute, didn’t we used to do that with an overpowered side cast with a bit of pullback to kick the fly round. Yes you did, but you can’t any more. I asked you to make an overpowered curve cast but you did some pullback after loop formation so now it becomes a mend, you naughty boy. 

 There used to be a set of curve casts that were defined as positive and negative. I used to assume positive were overpowered and negative was underpowered but I read some conflicting definitions where positive and negative related to left or right side curves. Thank goodness we seem to have settled on overpowered and underpowered.

 This is the crux of the matter. It really doesn’t matter what we call the casts as long as we all call them the same thing. It doesn’t help when an internationally well-known caster brings out a DVD showing some casts that already have well established names but insists on renaming them and then calling them ‘trick’ casts as if they didn’t have any application in fishing situations. So you guy’s that fanny about with snake roll’s, circle C’s, snap T’s single and double spey’s and snap casts are just showing off.

 Perhaps it already exists but I think it’s about time some well-known and respected fly-fisher filmed a series of casts, put them up somewhere, opened a debate on the name and we arrived at a consensus on that casts name and we stuck to it………….forever.

December 1, 2010 Posted by | fly casting, forum debates, Mike Heritage, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Some Welsh Rabbit

I’m still here, I just haven’t had much to write about. In fact it has even been a chore joining in some online conversations. That’s one of the problems of being a bit of a loner, you get out of the loop and have a job getting back into it again. However, this weekend I will be fully immersed in casting stuff again so hopefully I will be back firing on all cylinders and thinking, and talking, casting bollox again. It may even open the flood gates to a veritable deluge of bollox for you to suffer.

 Myself and Mike Marshall have been invited to by Gaia to represent the BFCC and give a couple of workshops at their get together in Wales. MM is doing tournament casting, the big stuff, and I will be doing one on full line distance casting, the less manly five and seven weight stuff. I have never done anything like it before, in fact I have never even attended a workshop before; so it could be very interesting….for all the wrong reasons! If anyone reading this is attending then please be kind. Mind you, they do have a choice between me and Frank Williams, who is giving another workshop at the same time. That’s a bit of a bummer actually because Frank and I have been trying to have a cast together for the last couple of years.

 I also have another interest in the meeting, Roger the Dodger is taking his assessment tomorrow. I have just seen the weather forecast and it ain’t looking good. I hope to goodness they can find somewhere that is a bit sheltered from the wind. Rather him than me. A strong wind would be my worst nightmare. Good luck Rog.

 I will let you know how Rog and I got on.

November 10, 2010 Posted by | BFCC, Distance casting, Flycasting instruction, forum debates, Mike Heritage | 5 Comments

Friends, Who Needs ’em?

Fly casting is such a simple thing, on the face of it. Yet even after ten years of pretty intensive casting, discussing, instructing and being instructed something comes up to make you look at everything again but from a slightly different angle. The odd thing is you may have to make only some very minor adjustments to what you are already doing. It isn’t necessary to make wholesale changes, it may be as simple as a slightly different visualisation of the whole process of casting a fly line.

The case in point, at the moment, is head casting. I have always appreciated the necessity of slowing down loop speed and I have tried lots of different devises to try to achieve it, none of them particularly effective. For those that don’t understand the dilemma, here is the problem. Once a loop is formed it will travel to the end of the line and turnover. While the loop is unrolling it will pull the shooting line along. Once the loop has unrolled the whole lot will just collapse to the ground way before it would have done if you could have delayed the turn over. Heads, by definition, are much shorter than a normal fly line. They can vary from 30′ to 60′, more or less. Once a loop has formed there is only a very limited time before it turns over and collapses. The shorter the head the worse the problem. This was why I used long heads when trying to discover a way of winning the CLA saltwater comp. It was always a compromise solution and never very satisfactory (and I never won, though I got close one year). My hatred of the T38 and the T120 events at BFCC meetings stem from the same problem, only exacerbated by the fact both are high density lines where line speed and turnover are phenomenally fast and I would watch the loop turn over like lightning and collapse in a bloody heap at a distance I could sometimes achieve with a conventional seven weight. Those of you with a sharp eye may have noticed I cast a reasonably respectable distance at last weekends Brentwood meeting with both the T38 and the T120. Neither are earth shattering but both, as far as I know, represent personal bests. The best thing about them is that I was consistently in the same ballpark with pretty well every cast rather than just managing to get one to a bit further than the others.

 Now, apparently, this phenomenon I have finally discovered is not such a big secret. I have discussed it with one or two friends and they have told me they have known about it for years. Well, thanks for telling me about it guy’s. Thank you for making me sweat blood and tears. Thank you for making me look a complete amateur. Thank you for letting me waste endless hours throwing lines that collapse in a mess. Thank you for the disenchanted trudge back home after another hour of pointless practice.

 Thank you Ruddi Ferris for finally showing me the way to enlightenment and competence and restoring some self-respect.

October 16, 2010 Posted by | BFCC, Distance casting, fly casting, Flycasting instruction, forum debates, Mike Heritage, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Please Release Me, Let me Go

Now, here’s something I bet some of you have never thought about. I certainly hadn’t until a month or two ago. When do you release the line? I have played around with late rotation, late haul, hauling through the stroke, rotating through the stroke etc, but never with when I let the line go. I just did.

 It was brought to my attention by Rudi Ferris on thread on ‘loops. He has banged on for years that the best head casters don’t release at RSP but slightly before. I told you I was a slow learner. Why it hit home in that particular thread I don’t know. Anyway, I meant to try it out on my T38 but time constraints and a typical British summer meant I did not get round to trying it. Blow me a week or two a thread started about ‘cast and release’ which was exactly what Rudi had been on about but with full lines rather than heads. The weather has changed, for the better, so, I have been out and tried it.

 The concept is that you release the line without stopping the rod, or rather, the rod stop is not the important bit because you let the line go at about the time you would have stopped the rod. You can in fact keep rotating the rod to horizontal and makes virtually no difference. This is ‘normal’ casting not balls out distance. I have always had a problem with short belly weight forwards. I tend to throw a tail on the delivery. I have never really adjusted to them because I was centered on distance, and distance means carry, which short belly lines are not designed to do. Cast and release seems to have sorted this tailing problem out, and not at the cost of distance.

 Lets see if I can explain how I see it working; short shooting heads have always been prone to collapsing because they turn over too quickly and can land in a messy heap. I have this problem with the T38. The ideal is for there to be hardly any turn over, you cast a loop shape that gradually turns over as drag in the rod leg increases. In this way the line can travel further before the head turns over and collapses. One way to achieve this is to have quite a bit of overhang, say ten feet or so, so that the rebound of the rod tip after the stop is into the running line and has no effect on the main line. Another way is to try and release the line exactly at RSP, a tall order, for most of us. Now we have a third option, don’t stop the rod, just let go of the line at the right moment. It’s a sort of half volley concept.

 I haven’t tried it with the T38 yet but I have with a short belly WF, and it works. I tried to film a slo mo today, I haven’t reviewed it yet but if it is any good I will add a link. I hope it explains it better than I just did.

 And here it is. I have to say the release feels earlier than it looks http://vimeo.com/14616895

September 1, 2010 Posted by | fly casting, forum debates, Mike Heritage | 3 Comments

Suit’s You Sir

Strange how things come back to bite you. One day I have very firm views about instructing the next day something happens to make me review those opinions. I belong to an online group for instructors and we have recently been discussing the different characteristics of pupils and how we can change the way we approach our lessons to tailor the lesson to suit their particular way of learning. All very well if you have a degree in psychology and have the ability to alter your approach. I am generally more pragmatic in the way I instruct.  I am also an increasingly a keep it simple instructor, certainly a lot more laid back than I used to be anyway. There are certain areas I now hesitate to go into with the majority of pupils. Of course some of the more advanced ones need to start to know the why’s and wherefores so that they can start to work things out for themselves.

I am currently refining my technique for absolute beginners, a mixture of Lee Cummings, Mark Surtees and Jim Fearne, plus one or two ideas of my own. Of course all students are different and you need the ability change tack if things are not working out quite the way we hoped but you do need a basic strategy to start each lesson and then take it from there, depending on results. The idea of working out which learning group the pupil is in, even if I could, is just not the way I work. When I do all day 15 minute lessons for the BFCC there isn’t a hope in hell if profiling your pupil before you start the lesson, you dive in and hope you give them something useful in the time allowed. The same with group lessons, although I do try to get those of similar abilities casting together it isn’t always practical.

 So, what has made me revise my opinion? Yesterday I had one of those pupils it was a real pleasure to instruct and it became obvious that he needed to the know the ‘why’s’ as well as the ‘hows’ and I found myself going a lot deeper into the technical stuff than I would normally do, even with a quite advanced caster. I am sure that now he understands the ‘why’s’ he will practice more effectively and when we meet up in a month or two he will be an accomplished caster. He only took ten minutes to learn the double haul as well, which is always satisfying for an instructor.

 This is the first time for years I have not attended the CLA game fair but the results of some of the competitions are gradually filtering my way. Young Joe Avery-Harris, who gave me a torrid time at the recent BFCC event at Sportfish, is UK junior Trout and Salmon distance Champion and came third in the saltwater comp. Super well done Joe. Jonathon Tomlinson is recovering from a heavy night of celebration after winning the Saltwater comp. Well done Tomo, I’m jealous

July 25, 2010 Posted by | BFCC, Distance casting, fly casting, Flycasting instruction, forum debates, Mike Heritage | 2 Comments


I was just about to post this on the Sexyloops board and thought better of it. I decided here might be a less contentious place for it.

So, here we are chatting away and learning all sorts of stuff about fly casting. All interesting stuff. Some of it way over my head and some I just about get my head around.

 And then it occurs to me that just how much of this information is actually of any practical use. Can I use it when I instruct? No, not really. The last thing you want to do with a beginner is fill their head with jargon. It’s even too much for most intermediates.

 I have struggled enough in the past  trying and get the concept of SLP or a loop over to a student to know that I really shouldn’t be doing it. Explain rod acceleration. Even the experts struggle with that one. Exactly what is constant acceleration? Something that accelerates constantly? Define constant. Is it the same or is it continuous? There you have it, if I don’t understand it how am I supposed to convey the concept to a student in a simple way. It’s just somewhere you don’t want to go. SLP is another concept that people just don’t get, mainly because it is multi- dimensional.

 My friend Mark Surtees has a theory that we should teach non fault casting to beginners. That’s to say we don’t immediately start with a roll cast or pick up and lay down because almost the first thing we have to so in that situation is start correcting them. Marks ideal is to get them doing things that are easily achievable, like wafting the line around while keeping it in tension via the rod tip. We can point out things like, seeing how much easier it is if we don’t use our wrist too much so that we can get them to focus on using their whole arm instead of just their wrist. The theory is to keep telling them ‘great, well done’ rather than ‘no, not like that’.

I would like to see that theory gradually turned into practice, it’s a great concept. A bit idealistic maybe, but I, for one, will be trying my best to work out a way of making it work.

All hobbies and sports have their own language which any of us that take part have to learn. What we tend to forget is the amount of time it took us to learn it and all the mis-understandings that took place while we were learning it. Now we understand it we speak it all the time, even to people who don’t understand the language. Now, when a foreigner comes up and asks you a question in very poor English and it becomes obvious he doesn’t understand your reply what do you do? Say it louder in the hope he will understand it better or revert to sign language and slower speech trying to keep it simple. Do you want them to walk away confused or with the smile of understanding on their face.

May 25, 2010 Posted by | fly casting, Flycasting instruction, forum debates, Mike Heritage | 16 Comments

To Infinity, And Beyond

No, nothing wrong, I’m still here. I’m just suffering from my usual winter blues and general lack of enthusiasm that occur’s every winter when I get out of the casting loop. Not long now though, the BFCC have their first meeting of the year at the Spring Show at Newark in a months time and I will get myself re-enthused for the coming year.

 An interesting comment on a forum has me thinking. It was suggested by a well-known person that the way to learn about fly casting is to go for distance as the first objective and go for subtlety second. Because the person is well-respected he didn’t get the usual crap about not needing to cast far thrown back at him (which I suspect I would have had if I had written it, but then I’m neither well know, or respected).

 He has a very valid point, namely, you will learn more about fly casting in your  months of effort to achieve a benchmark 100′ than you ever would if you were happy to phaf around at a more modest distance (which I did, for many years). Once you can consistently cast 100′  with a five or six weight  you are entitled to call yourself a good caster, and you will be. You will certainly be better than the vast majority. Now that rise fifty feet away is easy and that fish moving about eighty feet away is just about to find out he is not as safe as he thinks he is!  There is nothing quite like the buzz of a fish taking your fly at distance.

 I know it’s a bit late for New Year resolutions but make one this year. Give yourself twelve months of pure distance casting and next year you won’t even have to think about it. You will be stalking the bank putting your fly anywhere from here to there and not worrying about it.

 Just one word of warning though, it can become addictive.

February 4, 2010 Posted by | BFCC, Distance casting, fly casting, Fly Fishing, Flycasting instruction, forum debates, Mike Heritage | Leave a comment

E=MC2, Discuss

Whisper it, but I do occasionally use forums other than Sexyloops and I find there is quite a transition required. ‘Loops is stuffed full of casting geeks who will question something you have written, especially if you have made the mistake of being a bit lazy by not going into the details you have assumed everyone will take as read. Often they will just plain disagree, and say why. This, I believe is why Sexyloops is probably the premier fly casting site in the world. If someone offers a different opinion you listen, and hopefully learn.

 On other forums, and I mean absolutely no disrespect, this just isn’t the case. If someone asks a casting question the answers vary enormously, some good and some not so good. The problem lies in the fact that the person who asked the question may or may not be an experienced caster and may or may not be able to sort the wheat from the chaff. They may take the short and sweet (and often wrong) reply and just end up more frustrated.

 Writing about specific aspects of casting is difficult at the best of times and doubly so when you don’t know how good or bad the caster is you are answering. (Try it, tell me how to cast into the wind. I want stance, grip, casting plane, casting angle, power application, hauling, leader length, loop shape, linespeed and anything else you can think of. Keep it concise).

 I usually try and be reasonably brief, this often leads to more questions so I elaborate, only to be then told by some numpty that I have over complicated it and there is no need for all this jibber jabber.

 I will tell you what the problem is; casting is like the laws of physics, ‘every action has an equal and opposite reaction’ and I like to point out just what these reactions might be and how they can be countered or even used to advantage but using the written word is not the best way to do it. Something I could show and explain in less than thirty seconds takes a hundred time longer to write, and probably twice as long to write it in such a way that there is no ambiguity and no room for misunderstanding. That’s not taking into account I might be wrong in the first place.

 Please be aware that if I answer any question it is will be correct to the best of my knowledge, has been sweated over and revised several times and I have not assumed you know one end of a rod from the other (unless I know you do).

November 27, 2009 Posted by | fly casting, forum debates | 1 Comment