Wednesday, 27 March 2013


First off a big thank you to everyone visiting the blog.  I am amazed at the following round the world.  The blog has been visited by fishers from 23 different countries!  I have been delighted with the positive comments from fishers and non-fishers alike.  Please do not hesitate to add to what I have posted or to put me right if you feel I have got something wrong.  You can do it by posting a comment at the bottom of the posts. The weather here in the UK is still very cold and wintery so I am blogging rather than fishing, but that will change soon and I will be able to make my posts more exciting!

Most of us have a favoured arm when it comes to casting.  In reality a lot of single handed rod fishers only have one “casting” arm.   However, there are many reasons why it is a good idea to be able to cast with both arms.  Let me review them:-

·         You have flown abroad on a fishing trip and on taking your suitcase out of the taxi you sprain the wrist of your casting arm.  Disaster!  However, if you can switch arms for casting you could prevent the holiday being a total failure.

·         A strong wind is blowing the fly behind you on the back cast and you run the risk of imbedding the fly or heavy lure in the back of your head on the forward cast.  Being able to change casting arms means that the wind is now blowing the fly away from you on the back cast.  You are safer and don’t have to keep ducking or resorting to casting across your body or forward casting away from the water and laying the line on the water using the back cast!

·         Being able to cast left-handed means that in an adverse strong wind you can move away from all the right-handed fishers and fish a location that is less disturbed, catch more fish and leave them green with envy!

·         When sharing a boat with a companion, ghillie or guide you can cast with an arm that takes the fly over the water and not over the boat occupants.  I find fewer apologies are required!

Fishers on the Yakima: Left and right-handed casting keeps the guide safe!

·         When teaching your left-handed pal, you can hold the rod the same way they are.

·         Particularly when river fishing, being able to cast with both arms means you can handle dealing with obstacles and the wind better.  Also, you can cover both sides of the river more comfortably. 

·         When the fishing is a little too easy (yes, that has been known to happen) and (say) you are on a four fish ticket/limit, having caught the first brace fairly quickly you can make it a little harder by switching rod arms.

·         When your favoured casting arm feels like it is about to fall off (often a sign of poor casting technique) you have a fresh arm in reserve.

Now learning to cast with the other arm is almost as difficult as learning to cast with your usual arm but all it needs is practice.  The best way, I am told, is to get two identical rod and line setups and practice the overhead cast action with both rods simultaneously.  You don’t even have to be casting on water, casting on short grass can be fine.  Now when my wife reads this she will know why I keep our lawn nice and short!  When fishing, a good time to practice is when the fish are having their afternoon siesta.  At that time, you probably don’t want to pack up and go home because you are anticipating the evening rise, so to usefully use the time, have a casting practice session.    I also favour having my own “siesta” as when I get tired even my good casting can end up as aerial knitting!

So rise to the challenge, be brave and let’s see you becoming ambidextrous and more able to conquer the conditions and land more fish!  Wow! I surprised myself with that line.  Am starting to sound like Joan Wolff?



Saturday, 23 March 2013

Trout Fishing Bonanza, Bewl Water Opening Day

Let me start by saying I got it wrong at first.  Having got my ticket I tossed up as to whether I should fish Bramble Point or drive to Wards Lane and fish Bryants inlet, and the latter won. When I got there I found it busy with chaps who looked as though they had camped there.  So I took the challenging walk to Beauman's, stopping to fish"Green bank", because the water was so high the foot path was under water and I had to blaze my way through jungle!  When I got there I had it all to myself until I had a visit by boat from Rob Dixon the fish farm manager in his role as Water Bailiff.  He was diligently doing his rounds checking permits.
I always like to see members of the the Fishery team because they are a useful source of knowledge.  He said people at Bramble point had already bagged up (meaning they had caught 8 fish and it was only 0900).  He suggested that I was in a good spot to catch a bigger over-wintered fish so I pressed on.  Eventually I was rewarded with a beautiful "blue" trout.
As I wasn't hitting lots of fish I did what you should always do, i.e. change something, so I moved on walking round Beaumans to "The Nose".  Enroute I thought I was in South America when I saw a Llama!

I had a few casts on the way but the wind was very cold and in my face and there were no signs of fish. Surprise, surprise when I got to "The Nose" I found the chaps I had seen previously at Bryants. They had caught a few fish there and caught a few more at The Nose.  However, they said it had gone a bit quiet and as they moved on so did I.

I decided to cut my losses and drive back to the Fishing Lodge for advice.  If I had used my brain I would have called them from my mobile.  The fishery staff want you to be successful (then you'll come back) so they are always very helpful.  Anyway, I saw Vince Brook (who fished for England) and Rob Dixon and they said Rosemarys Lane was fishing well. So, have rod, will travel. I parked by the small dam and as I was walking in I met a fisher walking out with his 8 fish.  He said it was fishing well, so all excited I found a spot on the bank between a couple of fishers, having asked if that was OK with them, I started to get serious.  As you can see from the picture below it was busier than usual but nothing like what our American friends call "combat fishing". This is when you are standing shoulder to shoulder.

 I caught some nice fish, using an intermediate line with a slow retrieve.
 Black and green lures and white minkies all worked. The fish responded savagely when hooked.
I made friends with Andrew who was fishing next to me and was catching consistently. So much so that I took some pictures of him.

 I started to bag up, ending the day with 4 fish, the blue was in the car.
 Andrew was really in the groove.
 So with his permission I videod him. Short but sweet and hear the wind!
Tired and a bit cold I packed it in around 1600 as my wife wanted me to go dancing that night.  That was good, too, but man did I sleep well.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Accidents with Fish Hooks

With the start to the trout fishing season just about to kick off big time, I thought it appropriate to mention some helpful “dos and don’ts” relating to fly fishing and hooks.  The most important DO is to always wear eye protection.   Instructors will not teach pupils unless they have glasses, sunglasses or safety glasses on. 
On means covering the eyes, not perched on the top of your head!

As far as I can recall I personally have only ended up on the point of a hook on two occasions!  Both were memorable and graphically illustrate some don’t. 

I am going to mention the least traumatic one first.  If you can cope with that without passing out then you might want to read on.  My pal George Kolar and I were fly fishing, wading the salt (fishing in the sea) at the entrance to Pagham Harbour (a nature reserve on the south coast of the UK).  We were after sea bass.  It was fairly windy and the tide was coming in fast.  I had caught a couple and thinking I had seen the flash of a big fish, I tried to change cast direction in mid-air.  The wind caught the fly and buried it in my ear lobe.  I cut the leader, tied another fly on and fished on.  When I saw George walking out of the water I followed him and giving him my Leatherman asked him to please remove the fly from my ear.  He took one look at my ear complete with dried blood running down my neck and said, “Alan, I don’t do blood.”  So we carried on fishing and I pulled it out later using  the car wing mirror as an aide.  If you can cope with that read on.

The other time I hooked myself was years ago when I was learning to Spey cast on the River Tay with Michael Evans the renowned salmon-casting instructor. So we are talking 15 foot two handed salmon rods and large, heavy flies.   Whether you are single or double Spey casting depends on which bank you are on. I had been casting using the appropriate cast on one bank during the morning with no problems.   After lunch we swopped banks and I got confused as to which cast I should be using.   Now on the forward cast I am told the fly can be travelling at over 200 miles per hour.  So when I did a powerful wrong cast and the fly hit me in the face I thought I had been shot!!!   Immediately, the current grabbed the line and started pulling it downstream.   Fortunately, I had the presence of mind to catch the leader and bite through it so I didn’t get dragged downstream by my face!   Staggering out of the pool I was intercepted by John, the ghillie.  He suggested that I sat on a log whilst he assessed the situation? 
The fly was aptly named a “Munroe Killer” and it was a double, that is, it was two barbed hooks joined together.  John said it was buried in my face up to where the hooks joined.  When I said it sounded like a hospital job, he replied “You don’t want to be wasting your day hanging round a hospital.”  So I asked what the alternative was and John said he could get it out using a special trick that would not leave a scar.  I asked how he did it and he said it involved using a bit of line.  I didn’t understand but I resolved to trust him.  All he did was to tie some strong line to the shank where the two hooks joined together, put his hand on the side of my head and jerk the line really hard.  I said (rather loudly) Wow! Is it out?  He replied no, but it’s half out!  Then followed another tug and I was no longer “hooked”.  Surprisingly this had not hurt me much because the fly had hit me so hard the area around it was numb.  John was right, I was left with no scars, the hooks came out the way they had gone in, and the torn holes healed perfectly.  In spite of being somewhat shaken by the whole experience I tied another fly on and staggered back into the water casting very carefully. When Michael Evans turned up to see how we were getting on I expected to be chastised, however, all I got was a “Hear you have been in the wars Carter”!  Michael then got John to tell me how he (John) had cast a treble hook up his own nostril!!!   I said that must have been a hospital job?  John said no the water was freezing cold so he buried his face in it till his nose was numb and jerked it out.  Michael said that there was rather a lot of blood involved! 


All’s well that ends well, so on that trip I did end up catching a rather nice fresh run 7 lb Atlantic Salmon.

Friday, 15 March 2013


Oh dear, I am in trouble!  My wife, Rosalind, thinks I am spending too much time blogging about fishing etc!  I told her it is my new hobby and she responded by saying OK but would I help her with her hobby? 
How could I refuse such a lovely lady after 46 years of married bliss?  So let me tell you about my wife’s rather unusual hobby called “Home Staging”!  I first heard of it when my son Dan and his American wife Holly wanted to sell their house at Leigh-on-Sea, quickly and for a good price, so they could move to the USA.  We went round to help get the house ready for sale only to be introduced to Denise the “Home Stager”.  We were told that Denise was providing advice on what needed doing to give the house “buyer appeal”!  At first I was a bit sceptical (as usual) but Denise had lots of energy and brilliant ideas and worked hard advising and improving their home.  The net result was that they sold it immediately for what they felt was the right price.  Now unbeknown to me Rosalind was watching Denise and the whole home staging thing very carefully.  A few weeks later following some research Rosalind announced that she wanted to be trained as a Home Stager by Ann Maurice of House Doctor fame.  I surrendered (as you do) and Rosalind did the necessary training and assessment projects in order to qualify as a consultant.  Since then Rosalind has had great pleasure in helping people “stage” or “makeover” their homes on both sides of the Atlantic.  She seems to specialise in helping people, who desperately need to sell their house, to improve it so they get a quick sale.  She has also given advice on how to “makeover” rooms to improve them.  It gives her great satisfaction to improve a property at very little expense and then to see it sold for a higher price than originally estimated.  From my point of view (obviously biased) it has confirmed my opinion that my wife has more design ability in her little finger than I have in my whole body!  If you fancy having a look at her website here is the link:-
The only downside for me is that sometimes the people Rosalind is helping want her to undertake the transformations and I find myself putting up pictures, curtains and shelves!
Here are a couple of examples of her work that are among my favourites.
Tatty old loft space becomes a desirable guest room
Tired old kitchen is extended and modernised.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Fisherman’s Shoulder Operation: Rotator Cuff Repair

The year before last I hurt my shoulder fishing!  No, it was not fly fishing.  I did it on the beach chucking 4 ounce weights using a long beach caster rod and a fixed spool reel.  (My friends in the USA call it gear fishing.)  The target was a shoal of mackerel swimming up the English Channel.    I was putting a lot of muscle into the casts as I was fishing with my pal Graham Henson who is a few years older than me and who was consistently casting about 20% further than I could.  (I found out later that he was using a fine braided line whereas I was using mono.) 
My son Jason with the offending beach caster rod!
Anyway the reward for my effort was not a bucket full of mackerel but what I thought was a pulled shoulder muscle at the top of my left arm.  So I rested my arm, put up with the pain and waited for it to get better.  Well the pain eased a bit and months went by and I started to notice that I did not have the mobility with my arm that I had previously enjoyed.  In particular I could not reach across the car to open the glove compartment.  Also I could not reach behind me with my left arm to get anything from the back seat of the car.  My doctor gave me a course of anti-inflammatory tablets and they did nothing to help so back I went and I ended up seeing a surgeon who specialises in shoulders.  His name Mr Iossifidis I never quite managed to master, so I resorted like everyone else to calling him Mr I.  Aided by some X-rays and a brief examination Mr I announced that I had damaged my “rotator cuff”.  I didn’t know I even had one, so it came as a bit of a surprise. 
Everyone has two rotator cuffs
I went on the web and found a good video clip all about shoulders (there are hundreds of them).  See 
Anyway I agreed with Mr I that he should operate.  Then he told me that I would not feel any pain for 24 hours after the operation because I would be injected with a “pain blocker”.  So I said “And then what?” and he said “Then it will be very painful and you will not be able to drive for 12 weeks.”  Well I consider myself quite tough when it comes to pain, I even have teeth drilled without an injection, but when that pain blocker wore off Wow! it made my eyes water.  Not only that, but I could hardly move my arm for ages so I suffered the humiliation of having to have my wife help put my socks on etc.  Then for several weeks I had to do really gentle exercises just to get some mobility, and then I had to start more strenuous exercise.   I had to exercise 4 or 5 times a day and each session started the pain off again.  Then I started physio with a young lady called Amy who was tough enough to have been a “storm trooper”.  Slowly my arm got stronger and the pain faded away and I could touch the ceiling again and open the glove compartment in the car.  I knew I was well on the way to being “mended” when I got back on the river bank.  So my advice would be:-
1.       Look after your shoulders.
2.       If you do damage your rotator cuff by all means go on the web to understand what you have done.
3.       Don’t watch a video of how surgeons do key-hole surgery, as that would really put you off.  Key-hole surgeons use a lot of heavy handed tactics to put it mildly!  I watched a clip a year after I had the operation and boy did I understand why it was so painful for so long.
Fortunately when I had the operation I was still working and covered by the company’s hospital plan so I didn’t have to wait for the operation or pay for the treatment.  Just out of interest I kept track of the total cost of all the treatment and it was in the order of £6000 say $9000.
Well looking back on it, I should have left the 4 ounce weight chucking rod alone and stuck to my fly rod.  A mackerel on a fly rod can be a lot of fun.

Monday, 11 March 2013

The best Fly Casting DVD

When I took up fly fishing over 40 years ago my biggest mistake was not to have a formal lesson or two.  So when my friends asked me to take them fishing and to teach them I decided I had better have some lessons.  The net result was that I had to unlearn a lot of bad habits!  Later I was introduced (by the Game Angling Instructors Association) to a DVD called the “Dynamics of Fly Casting”.  This DVD features Joan Wulff who is known around the world as a superb fly caster, fisher and teacher.  This DVD is a joy to watch.  It starts with a bio on Joan and a bit of fantasy fly fishing history then it covers all the basics of casting, carefully explained and demonstrated.  Then it moves on to the more advanced techniques.  The best bit for me is where Joan teaches “Double Hauling”.  I had always found that hard to teach but using Joan’s technique now I can teach it in a few minutes.
Joan has a very positive way of teaching and she ends each lesson with an encouraging statement.  I recommend this DVD to anyone who wants to improve their casting.  As Joan says “If you don’t know where the fish lie, but can cast to cover the water with finesse, you are likely to catch fish.  If you know where they lie but can neither reach them nor present the fly naturally you are not even in the game.”
I just checked and you can get the DVD on Amazon.  Believe me it is brilliant and I am not getting any commission!
Joan with her husband Lee Wulff another fishing legend

Fly fishing for trout in the UK and the USA, a comparison (Part 1)

Yakima River WA, USA

The purpose of this post is to help fishers who want to try fishing waters in a different country with some information on the differences encountered.   To keep the post to a reasonable length I am only covering trout fishing and I am going to do that in stages.  If this series of posts is found useful I will do another series on migratory species (salmon, sea trout and steelhead).

Limitations of Experience
I have fished most areas in England, and some areas in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.  In the USA I have only fished in Utah, Idaho and Washington States.  Hopefully, later this year I will be in Montana.
Bewl Water, Kent, UK

License Requirements
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland you are required by law to have an Environment Agency rod licence.  Strangely in Scotland you do not need one.  Licences (trout) can be bought for a day, a week or fortnight or for the year. Costs range from £3.50 (day) to £27 (annual).  Game (migratory) fishing licences are a lot more expensive.  In England and Wales you get licences from the Post Office website.  There are hardly any general “rules” published in the UK but I think using explosives is outlawed!  Commercial fisheries and clubs have their own rules.

In the USA each State issue rod licences and the format of the licence can be a bit complicated, in fact I think it fair to say that the whole question of fishing in the USA is a lot more complicated than in the UK.  This is not surprising as States cover vast areas with a wild diversity of fishing habitat.  If you go on the web and look at the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife website you will see that their whole Sport Fishing Rules document is 135 pages long.  The fresh water section is 95 pages long and deals individually with each lake and river.  You can learn a lot if you have time to read it!  If you are only out for a few days you are well advised to seek the services of a fishing guide, they should keep you out of jail!

In Washington a licence to fish fresh water can cost between $20 (day) to $84.50 (annual).  You can get these on line (if you have a US social security number, which I don’t) or from outfitters like Fred Myers where you can also get a hard copy of the Sport Fishing Rules book for free.  As is typical with most American retailers’ staff are most helpful but will ask questions like “do you want the Columbia River extension” and “do you want the licence to cover shellfish” which if you are from outside the USA can throw you a bit.  It might seem there is a lot of effort required to fish in the States but believe me it is worth it, even if you are not catching, the scenery, wildlife and people make it unforgettable.

Future posts comparing the UK and the USA will cover:-

Access to the water
Availability of free fishing

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Bewl Water a Wonderful Place to Fly Fish for Trout just South of London, UK

I am currently getting very excited (nearly as excited as Bill pictured above who last year at 80 had just caught his first ever trout at Bewl).  On the 21st March Bewl Water opens for this season’s fly fishing extravaganza!  The reservoir (900+ acres with 17 miles of shore line) is 100% full of clear water (the last time I looked a couple of weeks ago).  It is also full of rainbows, blues and brownies.  The fish will be in tip top condition and hungry.  Early season the trout cruise the banks so both bank and boat fishers see plenty of action.  One year I caught 8 fish from the bank on buzzers in about 4 hours, total weight 31.5lb.  Where else can you get an 8 fish ticket for £25!  A link to the Bewl Water website is adjacent to this post.

Now to get maximum results from fishing Bewl I strongly recommend you join the Bewl Bridge Fly Fishers Club (Pictured above is Pete who plans to join soon).  Membership costs a snip at £20 pa and provides:-
·         The amazing club magazine bi-monthly filled with all the techniques and tips to fish Bewl
·         3rd party insurance whilst fishing
·         Exclusive access to club car parks
·         Programme of winter events
·         Tackle auction
·         Discounts on tackle at the lodge and local tackle shops
·         A chance to enter club competitions
·         A super web site with reactive links and a forum
Being a member also allows you to enter the forthcoming “Club Bank Competition” on Saturday 6th April. The organiser John Benford can accept entries up to the end of March.  He can be contacted on 078 58362936 but remember you need to be a member of the club first.  You can join the Club by going to
Please don’t miss out of getting your arm pulled off by an over wintered blue!
Frank with his first Bewl trout, caught during a Fishability event for military veterans I helped organise. 

Beautiful things happen at Bewl.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Opening Fly Fishing Day at Weir Wood Fishery, Forrest Row, East Sussex, UK

With the sun shining and temperatures rising, after I had finished my mornings baby-sitting grandchildren session (my daughter has the flu) I could not resist the temptation to go and have a look at Weir Wood Reservoir Fishery on its opening day.  My fishing diary tells me I started fishing WW in 1993 but I had not fished there since 2010. I was interested to see that the water level was the highest I had ever seen with it flowing over the caged overflow (see photo).

I was glad that I did not get there till 2.00pm as apparently first thing the water had been iced over.  I received a warm welcome from Mike Smith the “main man” and noting that there were quite a lot of fishers on “the wall” a favoured spot, I decided to take a boat out.  The boats at WW are very stable and they have these amazingly comfortable seats, however, I always have trouble getting the seats to swivel.  I am not sure if it is me not knowing how to do it or if it calls for a drop of WD40!  Next time I must remember to ask.
The fishing was going to be a bit challenging because the water was obviously cold, the sun was bright and the water clarity was low.  However, I like a challenge, so having decided to use a big bright cats whisker fly for visibility reasons and a sink tip to get down I then asked myself “where would the water be the warmest.”  I settled on the shallows at the north dam corner and drifting in and out there eventually managed to catch the fish in the picture.
A very pleasant couple of hours, rewarded with a nice fish and a lovely sunset, what could be better?

Monday, 4 March 2013

Fly Fishing, how to hook more fish

Sometimes when I walk the lake banks or stand on the jetty and have a friendly chat with a bank or boat fly fisher who has been stripping lures or fishing nymphs they are despondent. They will say something like “I kept getting takes, but I could not hook up”!  If possible I get them to check there is still a point on the fly then I watch them demonstrate their retrieve.  Usually I find that they are fishing what I call “loose or slack” rather than fishing “tight”. In still water sub-surface fly presentation, because we don’t usually see the fish take, we are really relying on the fish hooking itself.  In order to do that there needs to be some sort of resistance that causes the point of the hook to catch something.  If there isn’t then the fish has time to feel and taste the lure or nymph, register that there is something unreal about it (like a piece of metal stuck in the middle). Then they open their mouth and eject it.  However, if you are fishing “tight” then, provided the fish is not swimming directly towards you, its own movement is enough to cause the hook to at least catch up in the fish’s mouth and pull the line causing you to lift the rod and “hook up” by driving the hook home! 
I would suggest that the three main causes of fishing slack and not hooking up are:-
Not having the rod tip down near the top of the water when retrieving.  If you have a bit of vertical line off of the rod tip when a fish takes they just lift that loose line and there is no hook setting resistance. The top picture exaggerates the problem with the rod high, it is still a problem but less so if the rod tip is a foot (300 mm) above the water.  NB If fishing a dry fly on top of the water where you see the take, holding the rod high and having a bit of slack in the system, can help stop you responding too quickly and pulling the fly out of the fish's mouth before it has a chance to close it or turn away.
In the next picture the rod tip is almost touching the water and the line is tighter to the fly and hopefully a fish.

Not having the fly line as straight as possible to the fly.  This is most noticeable with floating lines.  Cast a straight line on the water and if there is any wind or current movement it soon becomes a curved line.  If a fish pulls it just feels the resistance of the line moving sideways through the water.  It does not feel the resistance from a straight line trapped under your finger at the rod end.  So we try to keep the line as straight as possible by mending the line by lifting the rod tip and flicking it and the line sideways up wind.  Then as we retrieve some line it all straightens out on the surface. Try the video.
Having a loose handed retrieve.
The next video shows a very common fault. The line is pulled and then left loose.  If a fish "takes" during the loose phase of the retrieve there will be little resistance to drive the hook home.

I suggest you will hook more fish if you use the pull and pinch approach.  Your line hand pulls and when it stops pulling the index finger of the rod hand pinches the line against the cork handle.  Whenever the fish takes the fly it meets some hooking resistance.  This is illustrated in the next video.

Alternatively you can use the figure of 8 retrieve. The advantage of the figure of 8 retrieve, and why it is so popular, is that the fingers retrieving the line keep it under tension all the time.  Also it tends to continuously move the fly smoothly through the water as opposed to a jerky retrieve.

Lines that are low stretch are now available and they will provide a more positive hooking action.  Stronger leaders also give less stretch and the fisher more confidence.  In my early days of fly fishing if I wasn’t catching I use to blame the thickness of the leader or tippet and downsize (sometimes with disastrous results).  These days particularly when reservoir trout fishing I tend to think if I am not getting “takes” it is because I am not covering fish and not because the leader diameter is spooking fish.  The competition experts fishing Bewl Water typically use 13.7lb Grand Max Soft Plus, whereas I used to think 8lb was fine (and occasionally I would get broken).
If you have a “take” and don’t hook up it is always worth checking your flies to see if they are still there (not up a tree) and if the hooks are sharp.   We have all heard of someone who has been casting for an hour or more with nothing on the end of the leader.
Now, there are exceptions to everything.  Sometimes fish take the fly so aggressively they will hook themselves even if you have been naughty and left the rod unattended or let the line go slack whilst chatting to a mate!  Many years ago, a poacher confided in me that he caught trout from a famous English trout river on bread using a hand line.  He said he had noticed that where there was a shoal of a few fish they would compete with each other aggressively for the food.  So I think that sometimes when we get a savage take it is because two or more fish have all seen the fly and accelerate to get it first as they compete against each other.
Well off we go to a new season and I will try to remember my own advice.  I hope that if you are new to the sport it might help you to land a few more fish!  The experts will be familiar with all of the above and lots more.