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wjc 12-26-2011 08:32 AM

Distance casting summary by Mike Heritage
Below is the conclusion of an article by Mike Heritage in the latest issue of the FFF publication "Loop Magazine". Mike is an internationally known and respected Master Casting Instructor and distance casting champion from the UK who posts here ocassionally.

He's a frequent contributer, debater, question poser and casting analyser on the Sexyloops casting board. I do not think he will mind my posting his conclusion without his permission, as he is one of the most generous people I know in helping people with their casting. I have highlighted the specific primary points in Mike's conclusion.


This is the concluding part of the three parter on how to cast 100’.

The problem for me is that there is no one way to do it. We are not clones. Even if you pick one just particular style there are numerous variations. Add to that the different styles you have a multitude of possibilities and I don’t know them all.

If there is one thing that is constant about my posts is the constant reminder that we are all different physically which means we all have different ways of doing things. However I have seen a lot of very good distance casters and there are some things that they all do, the common denominators if you like, so let’s have a look some of them.

I have never met a good distance caster who doesn’t watch their back cast. If you don’t watch it you are only ever going to see half the picture. Perhaps I should have said all distance casters have great back casts and the reason it is great is because they watch it. There is a link between the eye and the body that always improves the back cast. Without the visual reference the loops will nearly always be wider. You would think that after watching thousands and thousands of back casts while you practice your body knows what to do and you can now stop watching, I almost guarantee your un watched back cast will be shite. In one of my much earlier posts I created the sixth Essential “use your bloody eyes”. I still think they are one of, if not the, most important aspect of learning distance casting.

Next up is progressive. We all like progressive rods but only the best casters have progressive actions . They have a smoothness we can see, and envy. The end of the stroke may be explosive but the build up, though rapid in some cases, is still progressive. A smooth acceleration to a stop. You need to acquire the full weight of the line and smoothly accelerate. You do not just bang the rod forward as fast as you can regardless. This relates back to the back cast. If it is taut you will feel the heaviness in the tip as you acquire the line. If your back cast is not taut you won’t feel anything and half your stroke length may be lost in acquiring the line. With a taut line you will be moving the end of the fly line immediately and if you are moving the end of the line you are moving all of it. This means the whole of the stroke is effective and actually allows you to be progressive rather than snatchy.

The haul. Ideally the end of the haul should coincide with rod straight position (loop formation). This takes exquisite timing and is difficult to achieve. In most cases the haul actually carries on into counter flex and even back to RSP2. I wouldn’t lose too much sleep over it, we are talking nano seconds. But, the haul should never finish before loop formation, ie, during the unloading phase of the rod. You will immediately lose line tension, the rod will unload prematurely and you will probably throw a tailing loop. It’s better to finish the haul slightly late rather than slightly early. You can see from this that the point where we start to haul is important. The longer the stroke and the further we are casting the later the haul will start so as to make sure that the hauling hand reaches the point of extreme travel and line release as near to loop formation as we can get it. The haul is also as progressive as the casting stroke.

There are lots of little tweaks that you can do to achieve a good cast but the majority of these add up to your personal style. I’m not here to alter your style. I just want you to concentrate on technique. This piece has taken so long to write because originally I was going to write about all my personal little casting tweaks and visualizations but I decided that it’s easy to become mired in the minutia and lose the big picture.
Clean your line, throw a good back cast and smoothly accelerate to a stop/ haul and release. It really is that

POST SCRIPT: Here is a clip of Lasse Karlsson doing something I think is pretty amazing

Release timing on Vimeo (Note from Jim: If this link doesn't work, right click on it and select "copy video link" then paste it into your browser window. There is a light in the foreground of the video that comes on at the instant of release. There is also a marker in his hand so you can see the line shoot and delay. )

He is the master of exquisite timing and seems able to vary his haul and release almost microscopically. As you will read in his comments he disagrees with me about finishing the haul early (or release) But I don’t see an early release in his clips. The last segment is, to my eye, perfect release timing. Anyway, just enjoy watching probably the most elegant caster I have ever seen.

The two stand out faults I most often see are too much effort and a totally **** back cast. Mostly they are linked, that’s to say because there has been too much effort, the rod tip gets thrown back too far and very wide or non loops are the result. I even see the line laying on the ground in a heap behind them sometimes and they are oblivious to it. If, as they often are, they are keen to improve their distance and practice quite a bit then all they are doing is practicing their faults to the point where they become ingrained as muscle memory and very difficult to eradicate.

You can show them over and over how to cast properly, “see that nice loop? See how it cuts through the wind? See how it keeps the line tight? See how little effort it takes?”

You hand them the rod back and realize you may as well have been talking to the rod as they completely ignore what you have just shown and told them. So we go over it again….and again….and again. Until, finally, the penny drops and they get it. They suddenly add ten feet to their distance. Whoa, big smiles all round. You think you’ve cracked it.
Wonderful. Well done. Fantastic.

The problem is I am pretty sure that the next time I see them they will have reverted back to effort over technique and we will have to start all over again. The red mist of chasing distance for its own sake (I know, I have been there) will have over-ridden the brain again.

Up to ninety feet, or even 100’ technique will out-do effort every time. Once you reach that point then you need to add focused effort to good technique to cast further.

It’s almost impossible to do it the other way round.
Mike, thank you for a great article and a very concise and lucid summary.

PS. Incidentally here is a link to the page with all the issues of "Loop". The issues are filled with some of the best casting articles ever written, by some of the most well-known fly fishing authors and expert casters alive. It is free and no registration need be filled out. It is hard to find on their website, and well worth a bookmark in my opinion.

Jackster 12-26-2011 03:35 PM

Re: Distance casting summary by Mike Heritage
I hope people who glean information from The Loop at the very least join the FFF.
If not, it's the same thing as stealing photo's that someone else took or burning music without paying the artists.
'Jes sayin'.

Guest1 12-26-2011 04:20 PM

Re: Distance casting summary by Mike Heritage
Great post. Great article By Mike Heritage. I noticed in the video link at the 14 second or so mark he is letting the rod 'slip' up on the line as he goes into the forward stroke. I assume if he didn't have a fuzzy object attached to the line he would also be allowing a bit of line slip into the back cast before his Final forward cast.

He definately has the late rotation and late haul down pat. I like the slow film speed.

wjc 12-28-2011 08:47 AM

Re: Distance casting summary by Mike Heritage

Lasse has a super smooth casting stroke. Footage I've seen of his winning cast at the Danish Casting championships and other distance events do not look a whole lot different from that video of a short cast.


I think it's a smart move on the FFF's part by making the "Loop" a part of the public domain. It's just a matter of statistics, I think. The more people who become aware of its existance and purpose, the more new members the organization will attract. It's one thing to read an article and another entirely to meet the author at a FFF conclave or event, and actually cast with him.

I don't know what the normal copyright proceedures are in the fishing publications, but in the magazines I used to write for, the publishers had an "exclusive" for a period of only 90 days.

After that, I could have the material republished so long as it was accompanied by "First Pulblished by X Magazine, July 2003 Issue". The actual copyright rights were mine, and I only granted them a time-specific "first publishing' right.

They did, however, send out their own photo team to shoot pictures; but would give me a disc with the many hundreds of pictures - many of which I have used since- crediting them with the photography. So they are getting "free advertising" with each of their photos as well as the articles themselves.

Likewise, I would think that the authors of those articles, if they chose to, could first have them published, for compensation, in a sporting magazine, then later re-published in "Loop". Or alternately, publish a collection of their articles in a separate book later.

chuckfluffer 12-31-2011 12:51 PM

Re: Distance casting summary by Mike Heritage
That was a bit startling, I pop on to see how you guys are getting on and find I am already here. Thank you for those kind words Jim.

If any of you ever feel the need to write something then I am sure Denise Maxwell (editor of Loop) would be ever so grateful because then she wouldn't have to raid my blog to fill a page or two.

I hope you all have a fantastic 2012.


wjc 01-01-2012 05:57 PM

Re: Distance casting summary by Mike Heritage
True words, Mike, not kind. I also hope everyone has a great 2012 and that none of our computers get fried from solar flares (or spilled coffee either). :D

Guest1 01-07-2012 01:54 AM

Re: Distance casting summary by Mike Heritage

Originally Posted by wjc (Post 372324)
True words, Mike, not kind. I also hope everyone has a great 2012 and that none of our computers get fried from solar flares (or spilled coffee either). :D

I killed my last one by pouring a 16 oz. coffee mug slowly though the keyboard. Keyboard still worked but it killed the computor.

By the way Mike, I just want to express how great it is that we have you on this forum now.

randyflycaster 01-07-2012 08:56 AM

Re: Distance casting summary by Mike Heritage
Here's my two cents: As he is executing his upward haul he begins his forward cast. I don't see how the rod will begin loading with his line hand moving upward. In fact, I see some slack forning in the line between his hands.

For the rod to load during our forward cast - even if we're not hauling - our line hand must be moving downward. (This will keep slack out of the line.)

On my presentation cast I find it's okay to finish the downward haul a bit late, but on my false casts, if I finish my downward haul late I will not be able to finish my upward haul with my line hand at the same level as my rod hand, then there's a good chance I'll begin my fowrad cast before I begin moving my line hand downward.


wjc 01-07-2012 09:52 AM

Re: Distance casting summary by Mike Heritage

As he is executing his upward haul he begins his forward cast. I don't see how the rod will begin loading with his line hand moving upward.

You are right. The rod won't start loading until it begins rotating. Lasse is using the technique that Joan Wulff described as " slide loading" which is actually not a very descriptive term to use since the rod cannot load when it is parallel to the line.

What it is really is a re-positioning move to get the body, casting arm and hand into position for the rod rotation. His body, arm and rod are gaining momentum while the loop is un-rolling behind him and as his hands come together he starts his rod rotation and the start of the haul.

His hauling arm isn't long enough to reach his casting hand when it is so far behind him. I think nearly everyone casting long distances does this. Some use an even more weird technique described by George Roberts.

And that technique is to be still shooting line into the backcast while moving forward as Lass is doing. Then clamping the line at close to the time of the start of rotation.

I did not think that technique was even possible when reading about it. Then I filmed myself casting with the light, and discovered that I have been casting exactly that way, as Roberts described, for probably 40 years.

I do not see the slack you described after looking at the video again several times though.

randyflycaster 01-07-2012 03:13 PM

Re: Distance casting summary by Mike Heritage
At exactly 58 seconds into the video you can see a little slack on the second cast. The slack is between his hands. (The line is behind his head.) Though the slack might seem minimal, it means the rod isn't fully loading.

I don't cast his way, but I suspect he would be better off he moved his line hand downward as soon as he began his forward cast, but then again he would, in effect, have less room to execute a long downward haul.

I'm curious to hear what other people think.


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