One of our regular contributors to our Facebook page Jonathan Walker has very kindly taken the time to contribute this article on some his recent exploits on the Upper Avon. Please see Jonathans article below – Thanks
Recently a rare event happened at my work. The accountants made some kind of mistake at the end of the financial year and everyone found out that they had made their bonus. Not all of it mind, but enough to be able to hand over enough to the wife to keep her happy and enough for myself to be able to hit eBay and browse for some new tackle. Now when i say new I mean new to me. What i really mean is second hand. Like my golf clubs, I usually let the richer folks buy the new stuff, find out they don’t like it and then let me buy it a few months later for a vastly reduced price. Now I’m not a tackle tart but my recent purchased have included an unused Greys #4 7’6″ X-Flite rod and an unused boxed Greys (made by Hardy in England) platinum Xi reel, all from eBay and both cost less than £100 pounds for the two. The reel is wonderfully engineered and is the fore runner to the Hardy Sirrus disc drag range. If you are prepared to wait and wait and wait, the right piece of tackle will always come up for sale at the right price.
Now as nice as these two purchases have been I also went on a quest. I don’t know why but when i fish i like to think that I’m playing the game right. I was always taught that the idea of game fishing was to give the fish a chance. (i.e if the river holds a stock of only 1 lb fish then you fish with a 1 lb leader. The theory being that you give the fish the chance to break you and escape.) I suppose now though in these days of conservation the thought of a trout swimming off trailing 9 foot of polymer with a hook in its mouth is a bit un-PC. So i fish with 2.4lb leader and I flatten the barb. It’s light enough to think i’m giving the fish a chance but also strong enough to let me land the fish quickly and release as soon as possible. But also in my quest to play the game right I have to play it with the right tackle.
I’ve always fancied the idea of fishing with a cane rod. I like to think I’m playing homage to those fishermen who have gone before. Those men who blazed the trails. So this is where my quest truly began. After watching the fishing pages of eBay for some time my target came into sight. A Sharpes of Aberdeen Scottie impregnated 9′ #6 split cane rod. Now prices vary but this rod wasn’t a collectors item by anybodies imagination. A replacement top section (built on the same mandrel but a different colour) sent the buyers running, but not me, so it was mine for £32 including P&P. Add to this (for £15) I also bought a good honest vintage Sharpes “The Gordon” 3 1/2″ fly reel ( I always like to balance my rods with the same makers reel). Lastly and for £9.99 including postage I bought a brand new Shakespeare Odyssey WF6F line. All i need to do now was to wait for my purchases to arrive. So for £52 I had a new vintage outfit.
Now never having fished a cane rod before (I’m 38) what surprised me when it arrived was its weight. A whole lot heavier than my 9′ Bruce and Walker Carbon rod and with a waggle of the 2 side by side in the living room, the Scottie seemed to have a full flex to the B&W middle to tip action. After the waggle, and with a clean up and re-grease of the reel, iI was fully loaded and ready to fish. I placed my tackle bag beside the Scottie at the front door in anticipation of my next trip.
Then the rains came. For 40 days and 40 nights it rained (or so it seemed!) but the rain stopped long enough for the floods to subsided and a river trip came into sight. So last Thursday I set off. I think everyone else though had the same idea. With a car and 2 anglers in sight at Gilmourton I continued on to the ford, where two anglers had just parked and were tackling up. So down river i headed, finally parking on the verge with the tree line walk down to the river. So I tackled up with my Sharpes vintage cane rod and reel and set off down the tree line full of anticipation.
Leadered up with a brown sedge on point and a black spider and blue dun on the droppers i pulled off the line ready to cast. Now when I say cast I mean I flogged the water with all kinds of casts that would make a beginner look like a pro. I now realise that with a full flex rod you have to slow your casting down and then slow your casting down some more but eventually I got the speed correct and when I got the speed correct this cane rod of mine could launch this #6 line into next week. My casting will never win me any prizes but while I was down, above the Linn at its widest, i was hitting the opposite bank with ease. The nearer presentation casting will come with time but I will need a few more trips to improve but as the day progressed my casting improved and so did my chances of landing a fish.
And then, after few hours it came, that moment every fisherman loves, the reason why we fish, that small adrenalin rush the hunter gets that connects us to our ancestors. The moment of the hunt when contact is made and the games afoot. Somewhere midstream, below the slowly moving water, a trout had been tricked into thinking my Glasgow angling centres, flies by the dozen, size 14 blue dun was real. It made my cane rod dance and flex in a way that you never get fishing with carbon. The fish dived and hugged the bottom and put a perfect bend on my rod. It waited patiently while I got my line back on to the reel, It then waited some more as I scrambled down the bank so I could lift it out. Note to self:- Take a net. Upper Avon trout are bigger than you think they will be.
Finally my first cane caught trout was on the bank. A finer 15 inch fish i could not have dreamt of. We said hello and I took a picture and then we parted as quickly as we met. I occasionally take a fish every now and then to show the children. I let them help gut it and cook it so they realise where “stuff” comes from, but not today. Not my first cane caught trout. It didn’t deserve it. Today this fish joined me on my quest. It was my companion. It played my game and let me win. It didn’t deserve to be pan fried with garlic butter.
So is my quest over now? Have I reached my fishing Valhalla? I don’t think so. I certain won’t stop fishing with carbon. A day of cane casting takes its toil on the arm and carbon certain wins on the fatigue front. I suppose though as one quest ends, another beginnings. I now may have caught my first cane rod trout but there will always be the next quest. The quest for the bigger cane caught trout or the dry fly cane caught trout or even better, the upstream dry fly cane caught trout. I hooked one more fish on my trip but it played the game well and we parted midstream before we could say hello
And so my little story is at an end. A story of works bonuses, eBay purchases, of water flogging and course my story wouldn’t be complete without that kind fish that joined in and helped me play the game.
Vintage tackle may not be every ones cup of tea but I hope that I have proved that you don’t need to break the bank to enjoy a different fishing experience.