I left Manchester airport for Philadelphia just after noon which meant I didn't have to get up halfway through the night, my US Airways flight was as always excellent, the staff making sure everyone was comfortable and relaxed with no problems. It was a different story when I arrived in Philadelphia. Going through the check in for my next flight to Bradley International I was told by the security I couldn't take my fishing reels on board as hand luggage. Explaining I had travelled from Manchester didn't mean a thing to these people, who could just about put a few words of English together. One of these so-called security people checking my ticket had to get some one else to read the flight details.

I then asked to speak to a supervisor who put me through another security check in. I was passed quickly through by two better educated Americans who said "Have a good fishing trip" Thankfully common-sense prevailed. If the American airlines don't soon get their act together where the same rules apply to all airports, a lot of travellers are going to say "Enough is enough". On another trip to Sweden recently I was told by the girl on the check in desk at Manchester that I couldn't take a five piece rod weighing some three ounces, though I was able to take on board a strongly made wooden walking stick. Security checks are most important especially after the 11th September disaster, but some common-sense must prevail and the rules must apply to everyone. Some people are allowed to take two items of hand luggage, others can only one item. Some airlines allow rods to be carried as hand luggage, others don't.

Arriving at Bradley International airport Massachusetts I was met by Trevor Bross of Thomas and Thomas, the builders of fine bamboo and carbon fibre rods who are based in the delightful town of Greenfield. It was gone midnight when I arrived at my motel in the town. After checking in and getting to my room I had a quick shower then went to bed where I was soon fast asleep. It had gone ten am when I woke up to the sound of rain on the windows. After a shower and changing into some wet weather gear I went off in search of late breakfast. I was told by the girl on the desk I could get breakfast across the road. Toast, marmalade and several cups of coffee later, I decided to take a look around the area before making my way back to my motel, to wait for Trevor who was picking me up for my first visit to the Thomas and Thomas factory.

The first thing which impressed me on arriving at the rod building plant was how it blended into the delightful countryside setting with the New England mountains in the background. My pleasure was complete when I spotted the good size casting pool. I had come to Thomas and Thomas to record a series of programmes titled 'Where Bamboo Meets Graphite' I would also be spending several hours over the next couple of days or so casting with many of the rods built for fresh and saltwater fly fishing. After a tour of the factory and meeting with many of the workers, I recorded an interview for my programme At The Waters Edge on BBC Radio Lancashire with Tom Dorsey. Tom is plant manager and chief rod designer. After coffee I went off to the casting pool with three of the Light Presentation series of rods. I chose two nine foot, three piece rods in four and six weights and a two piece, seven foot six, four weight. They were all a dream to cast with. The four weight is a delightful river rod, while the 6 weight is a good river rod for use in windy conditions, I will also be using this rod for much of my stillwater fly fishing in Scotland and Ireland. Finally the seven foot six inch four weight is just perfect when fishing the upper reaches of our rivers and the many streams countrywide.

Trevor Bross had arranged for his Dad John to take me off to the Connecticut river for a couple of hours to fish for shad - these fish can be caught on lures, flies or bait. Arriving at the river we met two anglers who were leaving, so we had the pool to ourselves. But not for long, after I had made a few casts with a seven weight outfit, two spin fishers turned up. I wrongly thought the spin fishers on seeing us would then go off and fish another pool. They didn't. In fact they cast across my fly line, after this happened three times in three casts I decided to move to another spot. So be thankful for the fishing we have in the UK where we don't have to put up with anglers shoulder to shoulder. Thankfully that was the only place where I witnessed this behaviour. What did please me was the large number of youngsters fly fishing, it seems they are taught fly fishing at school and Thomas and Thomas got involved by helping out with rods. An idea other companies could copy.

On another occasion John and I visited the Deerfield river where John Rocco was fishing the upstream nymph for rainbow trout with some success. Over several miles of the Deerfield I counted just three anglers. Sadly the river is controlled by dams which isn't good for the fishing. Again we have to think ourselves lucky that our rivers only have the occasional dam. What really surprised me, was I didn't see any insects coming off the water or fish rising. No doubt a lot of this has to be down to the dams and the way the river flows are managed. The riverside environment in most places was excellent with only the odd bit of litter. No plastic sheets, fertiliser or supermarket shopping bags could be seen in the riverside trees and bushes. Many stretches of river are catch and release where all types of fishing are allowed from flies to worms. The fishing was free, all you needed was a fishing permit available from tackle shops, supermarkets and council offices.

Days two and three were spent in the factory where I recorded interviews, shot film and asked many questions. It didn't seem like work, it was a pleasure talking with the work force and finding out what goes into a well designed and well made rod. The quality control was excellent - every man and woman taking pride in getting the job well done. I suppose that's one of the reasons why so many anglers buy a top quality American fly fishing rod. As I worked my way through the factory, I managed to talk with some of the skilled work force, I quickly realised why the company made such good quality products. The front office was well organised by manageress Erika Olson and assistant Briana Hannum; Rod builders Steve Terounzo, Steve Jones, John Angie and all the other guys took great care to make sure the rods they worked on were a hundred and ten percent correct. Donald Alvin Smith was working on a bamboo fly rod - it's interesting to note that when John isn't building bamboo rods he builds quality guitars in his spare time. In the blank making room, the team of Wallace Hilliard, Cindy Ciolek, Jim Vaughan, Tina Parker and Joe Cutting made sure every blank was perfect. If the blank didn't measure up to all the quality control checks it was scrapped.

Each blank from start to the finished rod has a work sheet attached, which each operative has to sign as it goes from one department to another. Everyone I came into contact with showed their commitment to Thomas and Thomas rods. Three of the girls in rod wrapping or whipping department Joyce Kawecki, Chander Kanther-Malik and Sheila Lashier made sure every guide was in its correct position. Trevor Bross, sales-coordinator, was assisted by Chris Demarco and Bob Davis. Bob was in charge of rod repairs making sure each customer was given a personal and professional service. It's interesting to note that Thomas and Thomas still get damaged rods from thirty years ago which they still repair to the customers satisfaction. (Close to the factory was a small bakery and coffee shop, the coffee was without doubt the best I have ever tasted either in the States or the UK. The cakes and pastries were also good, in fact I haven't had better, especially the blueberry muffins.) I also managed some time on the casting pool. Having spent some time casting the Vector, Horizon, Paradigm and XL2 series of lightweight freshwater rods I couldn't fault any of the models. I believe they have a model that will suit most trout fly fishers.

For my next session on the casting pool I turned my attention to some rods designed for chucking big flies in the ocean, rods that would also handle big muskie and pike. Fly rods from seven to ten weights. The two saltwater series I cast with were the Horizon and CS's. The former were slightly faster than the SC's. As we all know the saltwater environment is one of the most challenging we face, rods must be of the finest quality. Much of the fishing demands quick, long range and pin point accurate casting. These Horizon models respond instantly and effortlessly; they load very quickly and cast incredibly tight loops in windy conditions. I have been using my ten weight Horizon for several months, I am certainly pleased with its performance.

The SC's combine Thomas and Thomas' graphite technology with tapers that can lift a long line from the water and cast both long and short distances. These rods are lightweight for their strength, they also load very quickly and cast well using floating, sinking and shooting heads and cast wind resistant flies with ease. When you're on a beach casting for several hours you will find these easy loading rods excellent.

During my many days of fishing for stripers from boats and beaches, I found these SC' models didn't let me down. I was most impressed. The winch fitting are of excellent quality as are the stripping guides which are a good size. The quality wire snake guides and hay fork tip guide certainly compliment the rods. All Thomas and Thomas rods come with an excellent guarantee so you can certainly buy with confidence as all rods can be repaired in the UK. For further details on all Thomas and Thomas rods call Sportsfish on 01544-327093 or E-mail sportsfish@sportsfish.co.uk

On day four Trevor Bross picked me up at four am for a 500 mile round trip to Cape Cod for a day chasing striped bass and blue fish with the Capes top guide, Captain Andrew Cummings. Conditions were good for fly fishing - medium strength winds, scattered cloud and sunshine. We fished the inside of Cape Cod with eight weight fly rods using intermediate and slow sink lines. The fishing was brilliant. On many occasions there must have been schools of stripers numbering some hundred fish or more, many of them over twenty pounds. It was an anglers dream day. Andrew was the perfect guide, Trevor the perfect host. Trevor didn't fish and Andrew was at my side whispering words of encouragement and advice all the time. I am sure my casting skills increased under Andrews teaching. If you get to the Cape Cod area give Andrew a call on 508-349-0819 E-mail andrewcummings@attbi.com for further details. He will supply all the tackle you need which includes Thomas and Thomas rods. You won't regret making the decision to have a days fly or spin fishing with a guide who really does know the business of catching fish. - A word of warning. If you have shoes with black soles, take them off before boarding his back country skiff. It will be greatly appreciated.

If you have any questions please E-mail me martin@flyfishing.plus.com

You can now listen to my radio shows 'At The Waters Edge' on the internet - just type in http://www.bbc.co.uk/lancashire/sport/fishing. In part 2 I meet up with Connecticut angler Ed Mitchell who is author of Fly Rodding The Coast and Fly Fishing The Saltwater Shoreline, both books published by Stackpole.