I have spent a great deal of time, unsuccessfully, attempting to discover how much input Duncan actually had within the design process of the Duncan Kay, 11' 6", 1 lb 10 oz t/c, compound taper, carp rods that have been my mainstay since I purchased them from the St. Alban's branch of Leslie's of Luton - circa 1983. Built, using a Bruce & Walker HMC blank, by The Chiltern Rod Company, they have proven to be an enduring part of my tackle. I have used these rods for the majority of my angling projects over the years without ever once feeling under gunned. I've had Wels Catfish (25 lbs 2 oz - PB), Carp (21 lbs 9 oz), Pike (23 lbs 5 oz), Zander (9 lbs 8 oz - PB) , Barbel (13 lbs 14 oz - PB), Eel (3 lbs 10 oz) and Tench (8 lbs 13 oz) - no problem, the rods coping with whatever situation I presented them with. When Mark Plank undertook the restoration of my original pair of these "Carp" rods it was because I wanted to extend their usability, not to distort angling history.
Duncan Kay was a folk hero during my youth; a pioneer of commercial bait manufacture and a character of immense stature; he stood head and shoulders above us mere mortals. He was also a bloody fine angler and the complete opposite of Kevin Maddocks with his perceived cynical/clinical lack of enjoyment beyond another wet fish for a photo?
Mark's restoration was very simple. He completely stripped the exposed blank, then put the original Seymo, twin-legged. rod rings back, sticking to the same spacing pattern, but used modern methods rather than traditional whipping. This left the carbon with a waxed, semi-matt, finish, the ring fixings are high gloss black and look just the part. The handles remain as originally fitted with a Fuji reel seat and "Duplon" foam grip - Mark didn't touch them! I am very pleased with the result and will happily continue to use these rods in the knowledge that they are part of my unique angling journey, thus also integral to my approach of catching "big fish". It doesn't matter if they are now tarted up, opposed to flaking varnish and loose whipping, they remain the same pair of rods they've always been - just look different!
I have been made aware of this school of retro angling purists, via the wonders of cyber space, and find myself labelled as such by some disciples of the faith. Why? Because I use old tackle I guess!
This I do for reasons of enjoyment, not because I hanker after some bygone era of blunt hooks and unreliable mono, even less, par-boiled potatoes and balanced crusts. Cork bodied porcupine quill floats, Fishing Gazette pike bungs, gaffs, Arlesey bombs and lead shot, long past their sell by date and happily consigned to the chapters of dusty tomes which reside on the shelves of my bookcase.
I continue to use my old rods and reels because they have never let me down, thus I've not felt the need to change them - a follower of fashion I ain't. That said, I am not an Ostrich either; knowing that modern terminal tackle advances improve my ability to catch fish; I am very willing to embrace the technology and adapt it to suit my own ends. The split canes are just an extension of my pursuit of enjoyment, not a statement about modern angling. Dick Walker is one of my heroes, every bit the equal of Sir Peter Scott and Mohamed Ali in the influence he's had on the direction of my life. A genius who went fishing - not an angling genius, if that makes any sense? He would have used his extraordinary talent to refine golf clubs or gear boxes had that been what floated his boat - he was a supremely gifted engineer. The use of the Mk IV split canes, which he designed and proudly bear his name, is because I wish to experience the thrills of angling as he might have done, using similar reels, but that is where my quest for authenticity ends. There is nothing traditional about my bite indication, rigs or bait choice - they are all based upon the here and now. I want to catch fish so will do whatever, I have to, in order to make it happen. I happily resort to bait boat technology when the need arises, but would use a helicopter if that's where bait presentation technology takes angling in the future.
My use of particles is because I want to have an edge, not due to some sentimental longing for past glories. In 2017, particles are a very logical alternative to commercially produced boilies and pellets. The vast majority of carp, that swim in UK waters, will have come across masses of these food items which have been catapulted, bait boated, spodded or "Spombed" out before the angler casts their boily hook bait over the top. Under no circumstances do carp regard particles as "dangerous" in this situation - hence my edge - fishing at pressured venues with a regularly encountered bait type that the carp don't associate with getting caught. How many kilos of "Party Mix" get introduced into fisheries over the course of a year? It will be measured in tonnes! What percentage of those carp angling clones ever use particles as a hook bait (have even considered them?) in preference to a boily? Very few, is my guess, as they wouldn't want to be seen as a Noddy - sadly; looking the part is far more important than catching fish?
The real test is whether or not you are able to make your hooked particle(s) more attractive than the freebies. If you fail it is "catching a cow on a blade of grass" logic - you must have a tweak to make your bait be the same, but different. It doesn't matter if it's added flavour, colour or buoyancy (or any combination of these factors) you choose but, if you want success, must do something to get your bait to stand out amidst the other offerings. I have recently watched the Korda Underwater 7 & 8 series and found myself totally bewildered by the carp's ability to avoid getting hooked, even when they move the lead - an extraordinary insight into what's going on in your swim every time you cast out. It certainly opened my mind to the problems to overcome, as I seek to outwit these intelligent (capable of learning by association?) fish.
I very rarely use a float these days, my eye-sight not up to the challenge any longer. It's not something I have any regrets about; concentrating on a float means I am unable to look at other inhabitants of the waterside. Even when fishing rivers, my basic approach is to fish a static bait, allied to an audible bite alarm system. The fact that I choose to use centre-pins, in these situations, can be traced back to my time spent under the tuition of Fred Crouch - Mr Barbel! There is absolutely no more enjoyable way to catch fish than by using a centre-pin (or fly reel, if you please?). The rod and reel take on another dimension when there is no gear mechanism involved - again, it is not a quest for a forgotten era but, instead, it's enjoyment that steers my choices. My original Match Aerial (Fred Crouch version) is a wonderful piece of engineering, yet those Chinese built, Matt Hayes reels are very serviceable and compare favourably with my Grice & Young "Big Piker".
Traditional angling - I suppose it's a very broad canvas and will depend upon your individual entry point, to this wondrous hobby, as to what defines "tradition"? To my way of thinking, angling is a journey of discovery. No individual will ever master the complexities of getting a fish to take their bait whatever the situation. Some, however, will be far more able to deal with these conundrums than others and this will be a direct bi-product of an angling apprenticeship. A period of learning, under the guidance of others, the finer points of watercraft and bank side etiquette. I fear that it is this aspect of angling tradition which has been circumnavigated by the wholesale domination of the hobby by the instant carp angler and all that this entails.
So where am I now? The reality is that I don't know - happily embracing change, yet clinging to aspects of angling which are, at best, irrational? Still; it is my journey, and there are no rules. As long as I continue to enjoy the various angling experiences, I'll stick with it. I've only been back fishing for six years! Angling had come an awful long way since 1993, and find myself in a situation where specimen hunting has never been better catered for. Even if carp are removed from the equation, the chances of catching specimen chub, barbel and perch are unrecognizable, double figure tench don't make headlines, there are UK waters which have catfish over 90 lbs and the major river systems are home to substantial zander populations - utter madness and nothing traditional about it, in the least. It's 2017 and I will pick my own route through this angling chaos. Big fish? Yes please - but on my terms if you don't mind.