Competitive Dad and Birthday Cake

Last weekend was my birthday so I thought I’d treat myself to a days fishing. The day was topped off with an hilarious episode of Competitive Dad and birthday cake!

After much deliberation I decided on an old haunt of mine……..Sutton Bingham reservoir. I hadn’t fished here for a few years now for one reason or another but still had fond memories of some great days here.

I pulled up at the fishing lodge about 8.00am to be greeted with a howling blustery wind and bright sunshine, not conducive for a great days sport but I was willing to give it a bash anyway, so I got my permit, had a quick chat with the ranger on hot spots and I was off.

It was one of those days when I had wished I had tied up some tapered leaders at home instead of trying to make them up on the bank in a strong wind. In fact the wind got so strong that white horses were appearing across the water, the casting was certainly going to be interesting!

White horses starting to appear!

The reservoir is relatively shallow over its expanse and hosts a wide variety of insect life, with this in mind I opted with a three fly set up with the usual suspects of Buzzers, Diawl Bachs and Crunchers. I positioned a heavy Buzzer on the point to try and get the flies down and stabilise the set up, then just cast it out across the wind and just kept in touch with the flies with a slow figure of eight retrieve as the wind fished the set up around for me.

Ten minutes in and the line tightened and I lifted into the first fish of the day, a stock fish of around a couple of pounds. Maybe it wasn’t going to be such a tough day after all? The next hour passed with a few half hearted taps at the flies but no hook ups.

A near “fin perfect” rainbow.

I kept moving trying to find some fish, changed tactics, lures on all manner of density of lines and every fly combination you could think of but the fishing was pretty patchy to say the least but this is what I had expected and I can’t complain as I managed to winkle out three fish by the end of the session.

The highlight of the day came when two sailing boats appeared in front of me while I was having a coffee. Does anyone remember a character called “Competitive Dad”? I think he was from “The Fast Show” with Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse. Well here he was in front of me in a boat with his two kids in a smaller boat!!

“Competitive Dad” with the kids.

He spent twenty minutes shouting instructions to his kids and getting frustrated when they totally ignored him and carried on doing their own thing and having fun. Then the dad said to them “we will have a race back to the sailing club house”, with this the kids made a few adjustments, spun the boat around and were off, seeing this “competitive dad” tried to make the same manouver and proceeded to capsize his craft, then followed loud shouts from the water of “come back, we haven’t started yet!” Needless to say the children just carried on leaving the dad stranded in the water and shouting at the top of his voice!! I think I concealed my joy of the situation very well!

The day was rounded of nicely when I got home to a very special birthday cake, well you won’t all agree on that one but I am a true blue supporter!

If Carlsberg made birthday cakes……….

Getting a grip.

When it comes to fly casting, probably one of the least thought about aspects is how we actually hold the rod itself. In this post I look at how “getting a grip” of the fly rod is an important factor when it comes to fly casting.

Fly anglers can spend hours on the bank fishing and then practicing their casting without even thinking about how they are gripping the rod and how this is affecting the cast they make. We all strive for that “perfect loop” and a nice presentation as our line floats to the water’s surface, so next time you pick up a fly rod please consider the following points.

When casting, try not to grip the rod handle too tightly. This can restrict the free flowing movement of the rest of the arm by tensing the muscles which can lead to a very painful arm ache at the end of a day’s fishing or even cause injury, remember using tense muscles is bad news.  Adopt a lose grip but one that’s firm enough so you can still control the rod throughout the casting arc. It’s easy to spot someone who is gripping too hard when I am teaching as their knuckles usually turn white after about 10 minutes!

Hand too far back, rod becomes unbalanced in the hand.


Hand position is another important factor. There are three main grips you can use. Firstly the thumb on top grip, my preferred grip and one I teach most of the time. As it says grip the rod with your thumb on top of the handle. The thumb then becomes a great training aid as it is in your eye line, so you just watch what your thumb is doing and the rod tip will be doing exactly the same, so in essence the rod becomes an extension of your thumb, far easier to see what your thumb is doing rather than the tip of your rod. With a fly cast the line will only travel in the direction of the rod so therefore the line will only travel in the direction your thumb is moving. Try it out, push your thumb towards the target on the forward cast and the line should simply follow your thumb.

Thumb on top.


The next grip is with the index finger on top of the handle. Most people find this grip uncomfortable if using it for any length of time, although it can be useful for short range casting when accuracy may be the key to fooling a fish, use the finger as an “aiming sight” in the same way you used your thumb in the previous grip. I use this grip occasionally when I am teaching people who suffer with excessive wrist break in the cast as this restricts the wrist break because of the position of the hand.

Finger on top.


Lastly there is the “screwdriver” or “golf grip”. This is where you hold the rod with your index finger down one side of the handle and your thumb down the other. Although this grip may feel natural and comfortable I wouldn’t recommend it as the rod can move excessively in the hand thus making it hard to control the cast.

The “screwdriver” grip.

Little and Large

Yesterday I had a few hours to kill and fancied wetting a line. Although I love catching game fish on the fly, yesterday I thought I might try for another species so decided to shoot down to Burton Springs fishery and try for a Carp and ended up banking little and large.

Down at Burton Springs they have just opened a new coarse lake for the pleasure angler with various species including Carp to around 10lb, ideal size for trying them on the fly. I made a quick call to Adam the fishery manager, he said there was space on the lake but as conditions were overcast with a blustery wind it maybe difficult to get them feeding on the surface. This didn’t put me off as there is always the Trout lake to fall back on if things didn’t work out with the carp.

On arrival at the complex I had a quick walk around the coarse lake and found absolutely no sign of a fish! Undeterred by this i still decided to give it a go so grabbed a rod and a bag of dog biscuits and made my way back to the lake.

Because the wind was up, even though the lake is quite small, I opted for a seven weight set up to give me a bit more control but before setting up I started firing out some biscuits on the surface to get the fish feeding. i fed two lines, one directly in front of me in open water and one to the left in a sheltered bay hard against a reed bed. After trickling in the feed for an hour, still no sign of a fish, only a Moorhen near the reeds wolfing down my free offerings!!

As there was no sign of a fish I decided to set up anyway and fish the margins with a buzzer under an indicator to see if I could pick up anything. First cast and the indicator slid away as the buzzer was on the drop so I quickly struck and was met by one of the smallest Perch I have ever caught, in fact if I had struck much harder it would have been flying past my ear!! It was still a fish though and while removing the buzzer from its top lip (not sure how it managed to get it in its mouth), I caught sight of some Carp moving on the far bank. These fish had started feeding on the biscuits after they had drifted right the way across the lake, this gave me hope so I changed my set up to a deer hair biscuit imitation and made my way around the lake.

Not big………..but a fish!!

Positioning myself behind some tall reeds for cover I put in a few more lose offerings, its important to really get the fish feeding confidently for this type of fishing as the fish are easily spooked and can refuse your imitation time and time again. A further 15 minutes of feeding and the fish were feeding but without any consistency so I decided it was now or never and carefully de-greased my leader and made a cast. Instantly my offering was met with a nosing by an inquisitive fish but no take, this happened again with another three fish and in a twenty minute period I only had one proper take which after a perfect strike, or so I thought, was met with no tightening of the line.

With the blustery conditions I decided that the presentation of the fly was not quite right so proceeded to trim down the underside of the biscuit fly so it sat lower in the surface film thus giving it more stability. The trimmed fly was recast out to the feeding zone and was instantly sucked down by a cruising Carp. I struck and instantly all hell broke lose! I realised after a strong run this was a good fish and adjusted the drag on the reel accordingly but the fish just kept stripping yard after yard of line.

Rod bending action.

After playing the fish for ten minutes my concern was that the landing net would not be big enough although I hadn’t seen it yet but could tell it was a big lump. Fifteen minutes passed and I got my first glimpse, a Common which must have gone double figures. Luckily Adam the manager had turned up and was able to land the fish for me, twenty minutes of arm aching fun followed by a beautiful 10 – 12lb Common Carp was on the bank beating my previous best on the fly by 6lbs!

12lb of pure power.


After a break I had a few more casts but decided to call it a day as I surely wasn’t going to beat this fish but I will be back to try again another day……..when my arms have recovered!!

If you fancy having a go at Carp on fly get in touch with me here to book a guided session. 

A huge mouth designed for mopping up food.

Which Fly Rod? Part 2 – Rod Length and Line Rating.

I get asked a lot by newcomers to fly fishing when purchasing their first rod “which fly rod should I buy to start with?”

With an array of rods on offer in today’s market this is not such a simple question to answer, there are many specialist rods out there now for specific fly fishing situations. I remember in my early fly fishing days, around 35 years ago, I was bought a rod by my parents and made do with that one rod for many types of fly fishing from small West Country streams through to large reservoir fishing. The rod was around 9’ 6” for a 7 weight line and if I remember rightly and I had to make do with this! This rod was used in all sorts of situations, poking it through the bushes on a small stream and just hanging the fly off of the end of the rod, a method now called “short lining” and using it in tight situations with Roll casts and Spey casts when I didn’t even know what these casts were at the time, I just got on with it and improvised with the rod I had, looking back I now wonder how much more successful I would have been having a more suitable rod for each situation.

Choosing the right rod length and line rating makes things a bit easier.


For a beginner nowadays they need to identify what type of fishing they will be doing and for most this will be cutting their teeth on small commercial fisheries where the banks are maintained and there is no need for a long cast.

For this type of fly fishing in mind I would suggest a rod of around 9’ which casts a line of either a 5 or 6 weight. This rod would also be fairly versatile in respect that it could be used on a medium sized river or in calm conditions on a large open expanse of water such as a reservoir. The 5 weight version would be more suited to river work where lighter lines pay dividends.

Listed below are some recommendations for rod sizes:-

Small streams – 7’ to 8’ rod with a line rating of 2 to 4.

Medium sized rivers – 8’ to 9’ with a line rating of 4 to 6.

Large rivers and small stillwaters – 9’ to 9’6” with a line rating of 5 to 6.

Reservoirs – 9’6” to 10’ with a line rating of 6 to 8, 10’ rod for boat fishing.

Saltwater and Pike fishing – 9’ to 9’6” with a line rating of 8 to 9.

This is a very broad list bearing in mind there are some very specialist rods out there now, one example being a 10’ for a 3 or 4 weight line now used on rivers for a method called “Czech nymphing”where a long rod is used for greater line control.