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Rod history through the Angling Heritage collection - 16/04/19


When Angling Heritage (AH) started out in 2009, it was set up as a website-based archive where people could read articles, see films and listen to recordings helping to preserve the rich and diverse history of angling.  However, as time passed AH was offered historic rods which, by forming a link with Torrington Museum, enabled them to be displayed for all to see.


The oldest style of rod on show was manufactured for Fred Buller MBE to replicate the rod described in the Book of St. Albans  in the Treatyse of Fysshynge with an Angle thought to be published in 1450: the oldest book describing fishing in the British Isles believed to be written by Dame Juliana. This rod is telescopic and about 12’ long, made from hazel, and described as being bored out with the crank from a spit. This one wasn’t made that way but it does generally replicate the rod. There is also a shorter and more useable rod. The photograph shows Fred J Taylor using this rod from the book on Dame Juliana written by Buller and Hugh Falkus


In 1740 in The British Angler by Williamson, he describes rods being made of hazel in the butt section (or ash or willow) with higher sections being produced from hazel, (or yew, crabtree or blackthorn). However he says bamboo is sometimes thought to be the best, which leads into the next rods on display.


These are Frederick Halford’s bamboo coarse and sea rods. Halford is best known as an exponent (not exclusively) of dry fly fishing. These are from around the end of the nineteenth century.


Then there are a batch of split cane rods, the oldest being one of the first batch of Richard Walker’s Mk IV carp rods produced by B James, known as signature rods. It is said there were only 26 made, but it is possible that the number may be higher at around 30.


Other split cane rods include one of Frank Sawyer’s Pezon & Michel. Frank was a key figure in the development of nymph fishing proucing flies from his experiences as the river keeper at Upavon. There are four cane rods that belonged to Chris Yates; a Hardy Perfection Roach Rod on which he caught chub and barbel, but oddly no roach; a Mark IV Carp rod which he purchased on the banks of Redmire, and a heavily used little Allcock’s spinning rod. Perhaps the most famous of his rods on display is the three piece Barbus Maximus made as a prototype by Edward Barder for “A Passion for Angling”. Chris kept this rod although the handle was subsequently re-shaped from its television appearance. All future Barbus Maximus were made as three piece rods.


Fibreglass rods started to appear post World War II, often solid, but later hollow to reduce the weight. There are two prototype Hardy ‘Fred J Taylor Touch Leger Rods’, featured  based on the ‘Supalite Fly Rod’ blanks, (one three inches longer than the other) and one of the only two ‘Chevin’ rods made for Fred J and his son-in-law Ian Howcroft (who wrote under the pen name Chevin). There are also rods previously owned Peter Stone, and Gerry Savage who pioneered angling broadcasting with his weekly radio series originally on BBC Medway and then Radio London. (You can hear several of these broadcasts in the AH audio archive)


Finally, there is the first carbon fibre rod ever made in a collaboration between Hardy’s, The Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough and the Moncrieff Rod Development Company founded by Leslie Moncrieff and Fred Buller , with Richard Walker and Fred J Taylor later joining.  This was made from early carbon fibre tows and was intended as spinning rod but proved to be so powerful that it was given to Fred Buller who used it for deadbaiting in Lough Corrib where he had his Irish cottage. He said it was perfect for casting mackerel. Later production of the tows was more pliable and better suited to rod making.


If you wish to know more about carbon fibre rod development, there is an excellent article written by James Barlow on the Angling Heritage website