Mike Heritage FFF MCI UK

Fly casting and talking fly casting bollox

The Last Great Mystery

Once more I am pondering the qualities of a loop. Yeah, I know, get a life. Up until this moment one of the corner stones of my instructing is (or has been) the creation of an efficient loop and how a fly cast is totally shite without one. I have attributed all sorts of things to the loop from it’s sheer beauty to it’s dynamic abilities. One of the first things I do in either instructing or presenting is to snapcast twenty or thirty feet of line, create the loop and then point out how that loop propagates down the line and turns over the line and leader with hardly any effort, provided I have formed the loop. In that context I am attributing all sorts of (erroneous?) properties just to the loop.

In fact there are arguments as to whether the loop pulls the fly leg or the fly leg pushes into the loop. In the paragraph above I think I suggest the loop pulls the fly leg and logic tells me that can’t be the case (but then my logic may be different from yours). Force has been applied to the rod leg, not the loop. The fly leg has the momentum, not the loop. The loop is formed as a reaction to the line dividing at the stop. It’s just natures way of keeping things connected. It has to be there whether we want it or not. It’s very useful from a fishing point of view in that in turning over it carries the fly out to where we want it. We know a narrow loop is more efficient than a wide loop, but why is that? Yes, I know about drag on a wider loop face and that does come into it, but I think the main reason is that we didn’t accelerate the line in a straight line. The momentum in the line is through a curved path subjecting it to deceleration forces greater than if it had been straighter. The width of the loop is indicative of the straightness of the force applied to the line.

So now I am coming round to the fly leg pushing into the loop…or am I? I don’t know, these are just thoughts!

The loop can obviously be efficient or inefficient, it does make a difference to the outcome of a cast, so it would appear the loop does have a dynamic to it that can make or break a cast. So what is it? There is obviously tension in the loop, if there wasn’t it wouldn’t have shape, or at least not an even one that would allow the fly leg to push into it. I am now thinking that we are now creating a pulley effect in the loop. Carl Hutchinson hypothesised about this years ago but I wasn’t ready for it then. Lets take a look at pullback. Pullback is a subtle against the direction of the line tug mostly performed at the stop. It’s visual effect is to speed up the loop. However there is a correlation between line speed and loop speed. If loop speed is faster then so is line speed (by twice, as loop speed is half line speed) then perhaps pullback hasn’t affected the loop so much as accelerated the line behind it by using the loop as a pulley and a faster line speed has to create a faster loop otherwise the fly leg would overtake the loop, which isn’t very likely. Although having said that I have seen the fly leg carry on and straighten after the loop has run out of steam when casting distance which re-enforces my thinking that it is the momentum in the fly leg and it’s straightness that drives the cast, not the loop. If we go back to my presentation snapcast; How does it work? Paul Arden has argued that it’s because we shorten the fly leg when we make the snap. I now think that it’s because as we create the loop we create a pulley  and directly accelerate the fly leg via the pulley. The loop, no matter how beautiful, enchanting and apparently mysterious is just the pulley the fly line has to go around to get the fly from way back there to just in front of that bloody fish.

Lots of bones to pick over.

November 15, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Stop It, I Like It

Not for the first time, I think I am missing something. I started a debate on Sexyloops  http://www.sexyloops.co.uk/theboard/viewtopic.php?f=8&t=526  about the stop not being mentioned in the Five Essentials, or, for that matter being one of the Essentials. The stop is mentioned once in the explanation of the fifth Essential which, to my mind, is a bit late to discover that that is the reason you can’t get the others to work.

If you follow the thread you will notice that several eminent instructors say that they don’t teach the stop which left me a bit goggle eyed because I emphatically do. For me the essence of a fly cast is creating the loop and beginners, at least, don’t create loops because they don’t stop. I have improved many casters casting simply by improving their stop or more importantly emphasising loop creation which I think are hand in hand. The only concession I have with the non stop brigade is that I don’t get my clients to ‘stop the rod’, I found that concept confused some of them so I now concentrate on stopping the hand which I find more successful. However, when you read between the lines of the non stoppers replies you realise that they do in fact teach the stop in one form or another, they just use other methods to induce it which takes me back to my original question as to why it is only mentioned as an aside in Bill and Jays booklet written for the FFF in the late eighties or early nineties ‘ The Essentials Of Fly Casting’ which is part of the pack you receive from the FFF when you decide to try to become an instructor. I then assumed it was written with potential instructors in mind so they did have some casting ability and the stop was already ingrained into their technique and the Essentials were there to show them the elements of a fly cast that are necessary to perform a good overhead cast. Wrong again! Bill replied that this was a ‘how to fly cast’ booklet aimed at people wanting to learn how to cast. So, once more I was (am) perplexed as to how anyone reading the Essentials as their learning aid would work out that to get most of them to work there should be a crisp stop at the end of each stroke, especially if, like most blokes, you don’t read the small print. Bill did write that him and his Father did talk about it for quite a while and decided the stop wasn’t essential, but, and this is the reason I write this, I still don’t understand how describing power application, variable casting arc and straight-line tip path lets anyone understand that to get them to work, or make sense you need to stop your hand at the end of each stroke. Until you get the Fifth, read the small print and, ping!, a crisp stop. Bugger, why wasn’t I told about that before.

August 17, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Those Were The Days My Friend

When life was simpler. You neither new nor cared how fly casting worked and didn’t have a clue what a balanced outfit was.. You knew the names of nearly all the flies in your box and you caught loads of fish. Fly lines were a simple choice, a double taper matched to the number on the rod, unless you had made the rod yourself and didn’t have a clue what the number was supposed to be in which case any old double taper would do. If you wanted to cast a bit further you cut it in half and knotted some mono to the back of it. Was it ever so simple? Probably not but nostalgia is often viewed through a rose tint.

There are those of us who are happy with the way things are and there are those who are not. There are those that don’t try to think of ways to do or make things that haven’t been done or made before and then there are those that think of nothing else and when some clever dick has thought of something new there is the third group who want to improve it. At some point the horsehair fly line was new and innovative then someone decided silk would be an improvement and then, later, someone else decided plastic was the way to go. That’s where I came in. Horse hair was way back in history but silk was only just being superseded by funky multi coloured plastic. You could buy white, peach, green, black or even yellow, so long as it was double tapered. A sort of Henry Fordeque you can have any fly line you like as long as it’s double tapered. I don’t know how long this situation lasted, a day, a week, a year but someone then had the bright idea of creating a shorter head and thinner running line and the weight forward line was born. I would guess it was originally created for someone who wanted to cast that little bit further a little more easily. Fair enough. Nice sentiment. I just wish it had stopped there but of course it didn’t. We are now swamped with an array of lines for every conceivable situation from a size 30 smut at ten feet to a six inch pike fly at one hundred.  I am now sitting here wondering how to convey my dislike of weight forwards while admitting that I use them. Not only use them but I would be hard pressed to go through my many bagged lines and find a double taper let alone find one on one of my reels. Dislike is maybe a bit strong, ambivalent is nearer the mark. I use them but wish I didn’t. Whatever name I have is down, to a large extent, to long bellied weight forwards. Of course there is a use for speciality lines like  spey lines, they make life so much easier and, I admit, there are a few nice weight forwards but in general I wish they had never been invented.

I’ll get my coat.

August 2, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Rambling Rose

This one is going to be a bit of a ramble so be warned. I am just filling in half an hour before I go off to do a clinic for a local syndicate. The forecast isn’t good and I have already heard a rumble of thunder in the distance. I might demo the conductivity qualities of carbon fibre and by the time you read this I will be a charred skeleton muttering ‘I told you so’.

Why do people compete? A question that occurred to me while at the CLA last weekend. It seems everyone (well everyone that competes anyway)  does it for different reasons and after hearing several different reasons I questioned myself because, to be honest, I had never thought about it very deeply. I still haven’t come up with any reasonable reason. I just enjoy it. I am not a win at any cost sort of person, I don’t mind losing (much) provided I have done my best. The few times I have been upset by losing have been when I have cast badly. It just happens that my best is often better than anyone else’s best and so I keep the occasional wins trickling in. I also don’t suffer with nerves, in fact I enjoy casting to an audience and if it’s a competition I can blank everything out, it’s just me against the tape.

Someone asked why I sometimes write about the bad things that can happen. Don’t they happen to everyone? Am I the only one that falls in or gets a bit spooked or snags the only tree for miles? I used to think I was the only instructor that had awkward clients (not all, thank God) because you never heard stories (in print) about their disasters. Oh no, all you heard was some amazing technique they had devised to cure the most wayward of student who had then gone on to become an absolute ace caster and fly fisher. All complete bollox, of course. Shit happens. It may happen to me more than you but I doubt it. Gotta go……………

Back again…………. and apart from getting a bit wet for half an hour it turned out quite nice and I had some good results, nice loops and a couple of them double hauling. I turned down the invitation to fish because the water is so warm I would have felt guilty about stressing out the fish, even if I had managed to hook one. I really need to go fishing though, apart from the blown off salt water trip a few weeks ago I haven’t been fishing since sometime in March. One thing I will force myself to get sorted are my fly boxes. I find it difficult to sit down and tie a dozen or more flies in one hit and even more difficult to do that day after day until I have some box’s to be proud of. Does anyone buy their flies rather than tie themselves? Who do you buy them from? I have always felt it was a bit of a cheat to buy but a box of quality flies might mean less embarrassment when someone asks to look at them.

Ramble over.

July 27, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Regrets, I Have a Few

But then again it’s my own fault. The fact I had been away on holiday and the few days I could have practiced were just too bloody hot is really no excuse. If I had been that serious (and I should have been) I would have at least had a few casts in the few I had available before the CLA salt water comp. Before I went on holiday I did actually go to a lake and practice picking the head off the water and I’m jolly glad I did, there is definitely a technique to it. I arrived too late to compete on Friday and I had to do all my attempted qualifying on Saturday which, as it turned out wasn’t such a bad thing because Friday was very hot and Saturday was a lot cooler but the wind was a bit of a pain blowing strongly down the lake which meant we were casting across it. It’s a shame they cannot re-orientate the markers but there you go, it was the same for everyone. At least we didn’t have a fence or ropes behind us, for a change. It wasn’t all bad news though, I did qualify for the trout distance final.

I haven’t competed at the CLA for a few years but I seem to remember big queues at the qualifying and getting nervous that time was running out. This year there were just a few of us and getting your goes in wasn’t too much of a problem. It turned out that most of the competitors were good friends anyway, Lee Cummings, Ben Dixon, James Evans, Tracy Thomas, Hamish Young, Jonathon Tomlinson, Gilly Bate and, biggest surprise of the day, Matt Howell who was in the UK because of a tragic accident to his father-in-law. Regardless of the circumstances it’s always a pleasure to see Matt although I’m not sure the feeling was mutual, but it’s not his fault the Aussies are crap at cricket.

Sitting quietly to one side was a young Irish lad who turned out to be our nemesis (the men anyway). Thomas Armstrong looks too young to worry about but I suggest if you see his name on the list of competitors you start to worry. This young man is serious competition, he eventually beat me in the trout distance final and beat everyone else in the salt water final. I just hope that by next year he has found women and gives up casting for a year or two and give the rest of us a chance.

I think I need to consider having a go at the spey casting then I can fill my entire weekend with competing and have a thoroughly good time with a great bunch of people. I just love competing and the strange thing I’m not a particularly completive person. In the Great British tradition, it’s not the winning, it’s the taking part. Yeah, right.

Gilly Bate is the CLA ladies UK Trout Distance Champion and Tracy came third. James was just behind me in the Mens but Thomas Armstrong won everything else. Well nearly, Scott MacKenzie came out of retirement to win the spey comp and show the youngsters how it should be done. Oldie Power.

Next year no more Mr nice guy, I’m getting serious.

July 22, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Mistakes, I’ve Made A Few

I have been promising myself that I would give salt water fly fishing some serious effort for the last couple of years. I recently heard of a venue not  a million miles from where I live that promised Bass and Mullet. Not big Bass, but as even a two pounder can put a serious bend in the rod, and I was new to it, I thought it an ideal location. When I left home it was hot and sunny with hardly a breath of wind. Perfect for a first (well second actually) bash at swaffing . As I got nearer the coast I noticed the odd tree gently swaying in the breeze. Not a problem, I knew it was going to be a bit breezier on the beach than it was inland. However, it wasn’t a bit breezier, it was blowing force four or five when I arrived. Ok, I know swaffers are hardy folk and a bit of a wind isn’t a problem so undeterred I set off on a long walk to the water, made even longer by the fact it was a spring tide and the  sea was way out in the far distance. It was then I discovered mistake No 1, I was on the wrong side of the estuary and would have to cast into the wind. I wasn’t about to walk all the way back to the car and drive several miles, and hike again, just to get the wind behind me so I decided to make the best of a bad job and rigged up the seven weight. At best I was putting the fly out about forty feet but I had been told the fish are close in I thought that would ok, if a little wimpish  for someone supposed to be a decent caster. The sun was out and scantily clad females were cavorting on the beach behind me so I settled down to wait for the tide to start to come in bringing me loads of fish to cast at. While waiting for fishy I experimented on different ways to get a decent cast in. Mistake No 2, I tried delivering on the back cast. Half way though one delivery everything went slack. The fly line had cut in two! Luckily the wind blew the free bit back to me and after some investigation I discovered a corroded rod ring which may have been the culprit, made worse because I was back casting. Luckily it had cut in the running line so I re-attached the head to the backing and made a bit of a shooting head. When I looked up after all this I noticed the coast has disappeared because a bank of fog was drifting in off the sea and the scantily clad females had disappeared, either in the fog or, more sensibly, decided to head inland to where the temperature was decidedly warmer. I decided that if the sea wasn’t going to come to me I would have to go to it and set off to find it. Eventually I did and waded out. This is a very shallow estuary and even a hundred yards had me only knee deep but at least I could now cast with the wind. And still the tide didn’t turn, and there were no signs of the cavorting fish I had been promised. Plus I had lost all landmarks as the fog got thicker. I only had a vague idea of which way to head when the tide started to come in and I didn’t know this bit of beach at all. I had waded through several deepish gullies to get where I was and didn’t fancy them filling behind me and cutting me off. I decided to head back to a safer spot and wait. I had a quick glimpse of a tower I recognised and headed back in the general direction. I am not usually a spooky sort of person. I mean, nothing is going to happen to me, is it. But somehow it did get to me. Not in a panicky way but certainly in a I really don’t like the feel of this sort of way so after a few (non productive) casts in the river as the tide finally decided to come in I decided enough was enough. I wasn’t enjoying it, it hadn’t lived up to weeks of expectation and I might just get home to watch the end of the British Grand Prix.

Lesson learned. Clean your bloody tackle after a swaffing session. The corroded ring was caused because I hadn’t cleaned the rod properly after my first attempt at salt a couple of years ago. Now that was a big mistake.

I’ll be back.

July 2, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Bling Me Up Scotty

I promise I wrote Serendipity before Steve Parkes invited me to become a Pro Member but he has, and I have accepted. Thanks Steve. I feel quite lucky to be involved with two companies with a similar ethos. Quality, continual development, innovation and value for money, plus, with Steve, you can bling it up to your hearts content because these are custom quality rods. I am looking forward to getting to grips with the AtomSix range and particularly getting my hands on the Tachyon Competition rod. Married to the Barrio GT125 it should be a blast.

So if you are looking for a new rod or a line you can do a yourselves a favour and click on the logos on the right.

June 19, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment


I have just got back from a BFCC meeting in Oswestry which I will write more about on the BFCC website. One of the people attending was Steve Parkes who makes AtomSix rods, and, of course, he brought along a rod or two for us to play with. The standout one for me was the #5 Tachyon, which I am sure is capable of making some seriously long casts but when I talked to Steve I told him I thought that if the bottom two sections could be beefed up slightly it would make a wonderful comp rod. Later in the day he put a rod in my hands and told me to try it and lo and behold I had a real cannon in my hands. I could only play with it for a few minutes but it had so much potential I didn’t want to put it down. The only other rod I have had like it was the original silver Hardy Angel TE. It was the only rod I have ever owed that you could keep asking more from and it would give it to you…until it broke….and broke again, and again. I feel the rod Steve handed to me has the same potential (not for breakage). These are not easy rods to cast, you have to work them out. Nearly all the #5 rods I use for distance have some limitation that you have to recognise and work within, it’s nice to get one where you can go beyond the normal boundaries. If Steve decides to market whatever it was he put in my hands I will buy one.

Having a beer with a rod builder is interesting experience. I learned more about rods and how they are designed, blanks made and built in an hour than I have in the previous ten years. Steve is an enthusiast, I normally steer well clear of enthusiasts they can be a bit of a pain in the arse (where is a smilie when you want one? It would be an ironic one) but an interesting enthusiast is a pleasure to be around…especially if he happens to build bloody nice rods.

June 16, 2013 Posted by | BFCC, Distance casting, Rods | 3 Comments

The Enigmatic Loop

How does a loop work? What are the forces involved? What is a loop? You would think it they fairly straight forward questions. I have always had it in the back of my mind that someone, somewhere knew the answer. I just hadn’t heard it. It comes as a bit of a surprise to find out that in fact no-one knows how the bloody thing works. All very disconcerting for someone who bases his casting instruction around creating the things. However during the process of trying to find out how a loop works I have discovered a lot of things that aren’t involved in how they work. Centrifugal force for one. Apparently it doesn’t even exist. As far as I understand it the expression is just used to give a description of something revolving around a fixed object (like whirling a ball around and around attached to a piece of string while holding the string). The force involved in that is actually centripetal and there are no centripetal forces in a loop (so I understand). Apparently it’s not a wave either, verified twice, independently, within a matter of minutes  last weekend. It is a kind of wave. What kind  of wave it is was apparently unexplainable. Then there are the things that are actually involved like momentum, tension, drag and gravity, but not the conservation of momentum (or energy for that matter) because that (or those) are offset by drag and gravity and would also depend on which way you were casting in relation to any wind. Then there is the conundrum; is the fly leg pushing into the loop? Is the fly leg being pulled into the loop? Is there some sort of equilibrium?

All this leaves me in a bit of a quandary because, for me, the very essence of fly casting is creating a loop. I demonstrate how the loop is the fly delivery system. I eulogise on how beautiful they are, how dynamic they can be, that the rod is just a tool for launching loops. I now discover that that the whole thing is mysterious , ethereal, perhaps even magical. Certainly not the almost sentient, dynamic, living, breathing entity that I have been spouting off about to my students in an effort to get them to understand how vital they are.

Perhaps if I ever did discover how a loop works I will be so disappointed at the simplicity of it or overwhelmed by the complexity of it that I will give it all up.

So, if anyone tells you they understand how a loop works take it with a pinch of salt.

June 11, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

I Saw A Little Fishy

I went for another walk along the river today. This time I went a mile or so downstream of the factories. The river is in the best condition I have ever seen it, almost chalk stream clear. I saw some fish, not many, but at least I saw some. It would be an almost perfect trout stream, except there aren’t any trout. I spotted a lone Perch and not a very big one, not big enough to be solitary but unfortunately it was. I spotted a small shoal of Chub but not the bigger ones I have seen in the past. I did catch a glimpse of something of a reasonable size but we spotted each other at the same time and he melted away. I saw three or four dozen May Flies, I even managed to catch one. Three or four dozen may not seem a lot in the scheme of things but to me it was magic, I have never seen one on this river until yesterday. I saw several laying eggs so it looks promising for the future. I also saw a few mid sized olives coming off, again something I can’t remember seeing before. It’s a shame there are no trout to rise to them. Absolutely no sign of the shoals of small stuff I used to see. I will have to take regular walks along the river in future and see what transpires. I will take a fly rod and see if I can tempt a Chub or two. I found a few places I can get in and practice switch casting but there are no places wide enough to do any kind of change of direction casts.

Talking about casting, I have been out practicing with a 27g head. The BFCC are introducing it to replace the nine weight event we used to have. If anyone is interested Mike Barrio has the lines for the job, you get two in one. Cut it in the right place and you get two versions, one slightly longer than the other. You will need a set of scales because it will need to be weighed and cut to get it right. I suggest 26g or 26.5g to make sure you are within the regulations. I am getting quite good results from a 10′ eight weight rod but I think a ten weight or more might be better. That’s the beauty of this event, you can make up an outfit to suit yourself (within limits) the rules are now up on www.thebfcc.co.uk .

Talking of which we (the BFCC) have their next event in Ashford next weekend. Come and have a go.

May 27, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment