It seems incredible that split cane was still being used to produce fishing rods well into the mid-1960's, yet by the early 1980's carbon fibre was already replacing fibreglass as evolving technology rapidly advanced our understanding of rod design and manufacture. Fibreglass was the rod building material with which I grew up and used during my angling apprenticeship. ABU, Sportex, North Western, Tri - cast, Terry Eustace, Rod Hutchinson, Shakespeare and Bruce & Walker all brands, or builders, whose rods were to play a role as angling developed from a hobby into total obsession. When I embarked on the Tring Syndicate adventure, back in 1981, it was glass-fibre ABU "Legerlite's" which were my go to rod option. Looking back, how I wish I still owned them, they were every bit as good as anything Bruce & Walker were manufacturing, yet lacked that "logo" which all us tackle tarts aspired to own?
Way back then, working for Kodak, I was on decent money and could afford to indulge my selfish hobby without the family suffering as a consequence. It appears that my work option was far more rewarding than the "careers officer" painted when offering advice to a spotty fifteen year old! Gas fitting, the armed forces and/or further education were about the sum of their input, not a word about warehousing or factory work? Obviously, we're all very different and the route I've traversed won't suit everyone but, if your skin is thick and you can treat banter as the nonsense that it is, there are few more enjoyable ways of earning a crust than inhabiting the shop floor. The ability to look back is wondrous yet, cannot be taught, just a consequence of the aging process by definition. Maybe I lacked ambition? Possibly my OCD immersion with whatever hobby, took centre stage, plus an utter contempt for the pursuit of the mighty dollar has delivered me to a point where staying true to myself has inadvertently provided rewards? All I know is that nothing, money driven, was planned to lead me to the point at which I now find myself. I started work in 1974 and, since that fateful day, have only had four employers. If I ignore that folly involving the Medical Research Council (The Lister Institute of Preventative Medicine, Dagger Lane, Elstree, Herts) I've spent my entire working life within the factory/warehouse environment and have no regrets. The pension schemes of Kodak, Unilever and, now, Fuji ensure that retirement, when I decide the date, will be as stress free as is possible, certainly from a financial perspective. Anyway, that's enough of that tangent, let's get back to fishing rods!
|Sadly I'm unable to find any images of the St. Alban's shop.|
The St. Alban's branch of Leslies of Luton was the shop where I purchased the majority of "specialist" tackle required by a wannabe specimen hunter, way back in the early 1980's. The proprietor, Ian "Creepy" Crawley, only too willing to take my hard earned cash in exchange for various items deemed essential at the time. Leslies was the first place that I encountered Shimano fishing reels, but it was famed for being a custom rod building business, using the Bruce & Walker blanks, to manufacture bespoke items for their patrons. Over a decade, Ian was to build me several, matching pairs of, rods to cater for the angling situations I found myself exploring. Strange as it might seem, the catalyst to this post is a one off pike fishing rod, that Ian built for me in 1987/8, specifically for a trip to Loch Awe. What needs to be taken into account is, back then, there were no bait boats, no fish finding "Deeper Pro" technology available to us. Whatever edges we had were all due to our tackle and watercraft, not down to some fandango computerised wizardry! The rod that has gotten me so enthused is a Bruce & Walker HMC (High Modular Carbon) 13', 2.75 lbs t/c ultra fast taper blank fitted with a Duplon abbreviated handle which incorporates a Fuji reel seat and single legged Fuji rod rings (line guides if you prefer?) When it was first manufactured, this blank was the absolute pinnacle of technological advancement and, even now, it remains a very useful part of my pike fishing armoury.
|Benno, aged six or seven, being put through his paces with the|
thirteen footer at Loch Awe
It was a couple of weeks back when I decided it was pointless hanging on to my holiday entitlement - just in case! So booked seven days, from October 1st, in order to get my quest for another wild twenty up and running. I'll be starting this project down at the syndicate fishery and have already formulated a plan which requires me to use the big guns to cast my sizeable dead baits to where I want them. It was whilst I was dusting down the thirteen footers, that I noticed just how tatty the Bruce & Walker had become. Flaking varnish combined with orange whipping looked awful, so time to do something about it. Being on late shifts, last week, gave me ample opportunity to spend some time getting this rod back into a far more presentable condition and, have to admit, I am rather pleased with the outcome of my efforts. My other thirteen footer is a Tri-cast "Ultralight" Kevlar model that I purchased from Joe Taylor's shop, over in Bicester, some time around 1991. It has a 2.25 lbs t/c and an altogether softer action than the Bruce & Walker, yet it still has enough backbone to get a decent sized bait out to the range I require and, more importantly, capable of setting the hooks when a bite is registered.
It's good to be back thinking about pike fishing, after all this blog has its' roots firmly established in the period when I rediscovered the thrill of angling via the pursuit of wild "Esox" Hopefully this project will be able to fire my enthusiasm and drag me away from the Covid related nothingness?