My Passion With Neil Sengupta

Neil Sengupta, partner in tax at Grant Thornton in Leeds, talks about his fascination with fly fishing.

Neil Sengupta
Neil Sengupta

MY childhood memories are jammed full of fishing trips with my grandfather – he was a master catcher of fish and I was his mustard-keen apprentice.

Growing up in Scarborough meant that our angling invariably took the form of sea fishing – from Robin Hood’s Bay in the North, down to Filey Brigg in the South and every rocky and sandy nook or cranny in between.

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After flying my Scarborough seaside nest, by 2010 I hadn’t cast a line in over 20 years and fishing was simply a happy memory. That changed when a client told me about a day’s fly fishing tuition that his wife had bought him as a birthday present.

My dormant fishing switch was suddenly flicked and that evening I found myself booking the same instructor, Stuart Minnikin, for a day on the River Wharfe at Bolton Abbey. Roll the clock forward three years and I’m now an avid fly fisher. It’s also my third year as a member at Bolton Abbey – a great five-and-a-half mile stretch of fly fishing river and luckily only a 15-minute drive from home. I’ve spent many a happy day on the river and even a few hours in the evening is still ample time to get my fix.

There are three reasons why fly fishing for me is so totally absorbing and addictive. Firstly there is the cast. It’s one thing lobbing a great chunk of weight out into the North Sea, but to cast a fly, weighing an ounce or so, any distance with accuracy takes a lot of practice. To cast a fly well is a bit like a golf swing – there are lots of moving parts and you are always fiddling with the mechanics of it in your never-ending quest for perfection.

Secondly, there’s the river itself – you soon come to see it as a living, breathing, untamed force of nature. You need to be able to read it to have any chance of figuring out where the trout, your quarry, might be lying and feeding. Is it rising, is it falling or is the depth steady? You need to be aware of all these factors, not least with your own safety in mind as you wade up through the water, sometimes up to your chest.

Finally, there’s an instinctive almost primeval thrill to fly fishing that brings out the hunter-gatherer that lurks in all of us. You see the tell-tale signs of a trout rising to take an insect and you figure out exactly where it is lying.

You get in the water 15m behind it and cast your fly to the exact same spot; wait as your fly passes over the spot and then the water explodes as the trout breaks the surface to take your offering. Your rod bends as you quickly fight the trout and bring it into your net. Slip the hook whilst still in the water, the trout swims off and you’re already scanning the river looking for your next clue – with your heart beating just that bit quicker.

I’m still only a mustard-keen apprentice but one day, with a bit of luck and lot of practice, I may be a master as my grandfather once was.