Ever caught yourself a fish while out camping only to realise you don’t really know how to cook it on a campfire? You don’t need a pan or grill, just some sticks and a knife!

Nathan Robson, whose most special skill is to cook a fish on a campfire, is a mysterious product of the Welsh mountains. Amongst many other things, he fills the role of ‘Camp Chef’ on our weekend microadventures.



One of his signature creations is Fish (with a capital F).

There are three main components required to cook a fish using this technique, all of which should be found relatively easily in an average wooded area. They are the split stick, cross sticks, and tripod.

1. Gather Your Sticks

Split Stick

Find an approximately 2m-long straight stick of standing dead wood with a 5cm diameter and shave off all of the bark. Then, using a knife and another piece of wood as a mallet, split the stick in half down its core (make the split about 30cm longer than the fish that you want to cook), making sure to keep the cut central so that one side of the stick doesn’t break off.

Cross Sticks

The width of your fish when butterflied open will determine the length of the cross sticks that you’ll need. Your cross sticks need to be about 20cm longer than the width of your fish when butterflied. Typically you’ll need three cross sticks which should roughly be the diameter of your thumb.

When you’ve selected your suitable sticks, remove all of the bark from them and sharpen one end of each stick to a point.


This is the easy part! Find three relatively straight sticks about 1.5m in length each and make a tripod! Natural cordage could be used to secure the tripod together however it’s often a good idea to carry some 2mm stainless steel wire in your kit for jobs such as this.


2. Time to Get the Fish

Place the fish fillet flesh side down on a clean surface, such as a bed of clean bracken or moss. Then, using a sharp pointed knife, pierce the fish from the skin side in the places where you want to thread the cross sticks through – typically two holes in line with each other on each side of the fillet near the top, in the middle, and near the bottom.




Make sure not to go too close to the outside edges of the fillet as this may cause the skin and flesh to tear at a later stage in the process.

When you’ve made the holes, thread the cross sticks through from the skin side, then along the flesh side, then through the flesh side of the hole on the other side.

3. Setting Up the Sticks

This next step, especially with larger fish, is much easier done with two people.

Get a 50cm length of natural cordage or wire read. Then get one person to hold the clamp stick vertically and pry open the split. When the split is open the other person is to carefully pick up the fillet using the top and bottom cross sticks and slide the fish along its backbone down inside the split, making sure to keep everything as symmetrical as possible.

Once the fillet is suitably positioned, squeeze together each side of the top of the split sick, which should then clamp onto the cross sticks in place, which in turn will hold the fillet in position.



Once you’re happy with the position of the fillet and the cross sticks, get the natural cordage or wire and as tightly as possible secure the top of the split stick together.

Then place the fish flesh side down over the fire using the tripod. The bottom of the split stick can be secured using a peg, boulder, log or similar.




The rule of thumb is that you should cook over embers with small flames and not over huge naked flames. Providing that when you place your hand next to what you’re cooking, you can’t hold it there for longer than three seconds, then it’s hot enough.

And that’s how to cook a fish on a campfire!

Bon appetit!




Feature photo by @zeebachi

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