And then came the 500

As the cold weather sets in the rods stand idle in the hallway, the rain sweeps in ,  the sky grey and threatening.

Of late I feel I have neglected my writing, my focuses elsewhere as work seems to have taken over and my thoughts on prioritising my movements and workload in order to keep all the balls in the air without dropping any.

Having had time at the kitchen table to read a post by the tuesdayswim on the curation of tackle boxes, I feel slightly cheated by time this year. In previous years I’ve found time to car boot fairs, collectable fairs and the odd local table sale in search of stimulating items that can be used for storing tackle and now and again a prized piece of vintage tackle…the reality of it all is in the subconscious, full knowing that I don’t really need and more…I have enough ‘stuff’ as Mrs Tales points out. For me I can see beauty in the most obscure items, the typography on an old hook packet, the colours and illustrations on cigar boxes and the quintissential charm of the vintage tin.

So I guess you ask of the title of this post…the 500, no I don’t refer to a Chapman of Ware 500 cane rods, nor any other fishing item with 500 in their brand name or the 500 plus fishing flies I must have collected over the past seasons, it is in fact the number of view my blog gets on a weekly basis, sometimes more and on occasions less. The power of the digital age gives people the threads to find information, facts and visuals of all manner of things.

So the question is will I break the 500 per week views.

Of pike and men….


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A heavey frost covered the roof of the garden shed as the temperatures over the weekend dropped to what should be the seasonal norm, of late we have basked in unseasonably warm temperatures.

Most of our tackle remains in boxes that where transported to Redditch last weekend then placed in the loft, so when  young Tales suggested a spot of fishing today finding the right kit proved to be a task of the unexpected. With boxes spread across three loft voids it was a bit like picking a short straw. After a couple of rummages in boxes I managed to find a couple of vintage Mitchell 300 spinning reel, a Brady bag, a mixed box of terminal tackle and a circular box of vintage ABU and Mepps spinners. Hidden in the back passage to the garden was an Efgeeco rod bag containing an assortment of rod, tucked in the front pocket was a travel spinning rod so this and an old landing net was put together to service the needs of young Tales.

Wrapped up in several layers of clothes we headed out of the door, jumped into the car and took off down the A316 to a stretch of the River Thames that we know reasonably well. Whilst parking the car a Mini drew up beside us and the occupants hurriedly spoiled out of the doors with rods in hand displaying large 4ins silver spoon lures. Clearly we weren’t the only people who contemplated an afternoon by the river targeting predatory fish.

Our fishing companions took up station where the barbel fishers hang out, casting back downstream to the oxygenated water under the tree- lined bank where overhanging alder, willow and hawthorn displayed a range of Rapalas, ABU Dropens, Mepps and orange fluorescent topped floats hanging like Christmas decorations.

Our swim which is marked by an apple tree still bearing fruit was free, tackled up young Tales chucked out a small red and brass Mepps first to mid water the to the left and then to the right varying his rate of retrieve…repeating the procedure several time to no avail. Frustration soon set in and then the spinner found itself in the bank and when I took over to demonstrate how to do it I managed to place the spinner in a Hawthorne bush to the right, fortunately it was retrievable.

As the wind dropped along with the temperature which hovered around 6.5 degrees and the light started to fade the surface of the water was broken as small silver fish leaped along the middle of the river. From the left to right numerous fish jumped as if pursued by a preditor however casting towards the flurry of activity still resulted in no takes. With a couple of changes of lure the results were the same.

The purple light indicated that it was time to head home, still the fish jumped around us but it was clear nothing was biting. So bagels were packed and we walked back to the car through the long grass.


The long road home…


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The alarm went off at 4am, dark with the sound of rain on the slate roof we had exactly an hour to pack the car and head to Redditch for The Vintage Tackle Fair. Hosted by the well known and respected John Andrews of Andrews of Arcadia, it was to be a jamboree of forty plus dealers selling their treasure troves of tackle, books, cased fish, art, floats and journals.

Young Tales woke at 4.15, pulled on his clothes, yawned and sat on the edge of his bed as boxes of tackle collected over several years were carried down the stairs to the car. Our trusted silver arrow with its cavernous boot was quickly filled to the gunnels. With a flask of coffee, some ripe bananas we took the long road to the Midlands, the heart of the English tackle industry to take rods and reels back to where they were made.

With professionalism young Tales helped stall out, unpacking Hardy, Abu, Sharpes, Allcocks, JW Young, Efgeeco – reels , rods, bags, nets, fly boxes, lures and objects of piscatorial interest. With 9am fast approaching there seemed to be a level of pre-viewing by other dealers of what we had, some so eager watched us as we unpacked, scanning each item with an intensity that you could hear ‘mine, mine’.

As the doors opened to hoards of anglers, collector and other dealers there was a buzz in the air. Eyes scanned the table like it was a game show, trying to memorise what we had on offer before heading to the next table like bees collecting pollen from flowers.

Comparing prices, condition and range seemed to be order of the day, then like bees returning to the hive the odd buyer would come back to haggle, clearly a good number were out for a bargain. Some buyers from Norway and Germany were focused on buying quality rods and reels, we were lucky to trade a couple of Chapman and an Octofloat rod at sensible prices where both seller and buyer were please to trade. A few vintage books sold and smaller tackle items. We had one client who decided to adorn his coat with a few spinners as he reached across the table to look at a clean and free-running Speedia, later to be purchased and on reflection was my own personal reel put out in error which will be missed as many a good story was linked to that wonderful reel, I hope it’s new owner looks after it. Also my trusted Hardy Ultralite Salmon reel found its way onto the table. It caught the eye of another dealer who passed by the stand several times, the early start took its toll on us all and without thinking clearly the haggling dealer like a predatory big cat, stalking to the last got the deal he’d been clearly after. A lesson learned not to put your own kit in with your for sale items, that was a costly mistake.

Overall it was a pleasant affair, familiar faces and busy enough not to allow me time to spend the takings on a wish list of reels and other items which Mrs Tales reminds me that I don’t really need. I also need to thank her for reminding me of that and for her help on the day. My gratitude to young Tales who endured the whole day with such enthusiasm, engaged with customers and put the whole thing in context saying that things were there to sell and the more we sold the further afield we could go on our next fishing adventure, clearly influenced by watching Big Fish. He noted that even if we sold all the table we could still catch fish with a stick, a length of line, reed, stone and a hook. It’s very wise words from such a young soul that it’s no good having lots of tackle in boxes if you can’t get out to use it.
Interestingly enough he did his own trade with Mr Andrews and came away with a bonus for his efforts.

The next National Vintage Tackle show will be in May 2016…if we sell all we have the question will be where will we be heading to fish?

The day was long and an even longer road home


Killer pattern…


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Attached to a fly by a length of string is a label with the following caption ‘This fly killed 22 salmon 1900’, this was found underneath a felt damper concealed in a black Japanned circular fly tin. The tin was a recent purchase along with a small rectangular lure tin that we needed to store some vintage lures in.

The label attached to the fly sparked a thought and reminded me of a black and white photograph I have of a fly fisher at turn of the century displaying a bank side full of fish, these fish are salmon.

22 fish in 1900 was probably not an unheard of feat for the rivers held plentiful stocks, however 22 fish to a single fly I find astonishing.

My quest now is to find out by who and where were 22 fish caught by a single fly or fly pattern in 1900.



Contemporary Classics


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As I cast my eye over the book on fishing neatly stacked on my bookshelf one book stands out, The Domesday Book Of Mammoth Pike by the notable author Fred Buller. Its inch-wide spine giving it a certain prominence however the cover depicts a large pike consuming a brown trout, for this fearful looking creature seems to be sort after by many fisherman and so does a copy of this book. Published originally by Stanley Paul & Co Ltd in 1979 this book is a must read for any fisher and certainly a book for any collection.

Mr Buller lived in South Heath close to my home town of Great Missenden a town on the edge of the Chiltern Hills. I was not aware of this fact until much later in life, for had I known as a teenager I would have no doubt made my acquaintance with such a gentleman of fishing notoriety and asked him to teach me how to fish. Fred Buller was also aquatinted with the likes of the legendary Hugh Falkus, Richard Walker and Fred Taylor all of whom I have book by.

As the leaves start to tumble and fry scurry under the overhanging vegetation of the river there are pike laying in wait to make a meal of such offering and with a well oiled sprat, spinner or fly now is the time to fish for these predatory fish. To watch a large gazette float dip and move at speed or if hooked with a spinner these mighty fish will tail slap the water and leap for freedom.

Next weekend will see the second Vintage Fishing Tackle Fair of this year in Redditch open its doors at 9am, there I will be selling various items of fishing tackle, cane rods, pike floats, spinner, fly boxes, bags and books. So if you wish to take to the road and visit us if no more than to talk over a cup of tea we would be delighted to see you.

Pike floats to be used as Christmas decorations.

Pike floats to be used as Christmas decorations.


Treasure trove…


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As October draws to an end the focus is now on preparing for the National Vintage Tackle Show to be held in Redditch the heartland of what was the British tackle industry that sadly was to fall from favour with the influx of tackle made in the Far East.

Even today even the brands that we understood to be reassuringly British source their manufacturing in Asia and the Far East. No longer do reels or rods have stickers saying ‘Made In England’ in favour of that commonly seen white dot sticker saying Korea, Taiwan, China or Japan.

In mid November I will be selling an extensive collection of tackle that was ‘Made In England’ and other items from Sweden. A range of reels, rods and terminal tackle will be transported from the City to the town on Redditch, the hallowed ground of tackle that our grandfathers and their fathers fished with. Today we treasure these items, for the traditional fisherman they are the brands of choice, like vintage cars, watches and memorabilia of days past they pluck our heart strings and bring a smile to the face. The distinctive click of the reel, the honey coloured cane and solid brass lures excite all that fish with them.

Now it is time to sort, wrap, pack and detail the treasures that we have accumulated over the last three decades…and still do squire but Mrs Tales has said ‘no more’ so now is the time to pass these wonderful items on for others to cherish and fish with.

Be sure to put the date in your diary if you are a keen traditional fisherman and make sure you head to Redditch and share the passion over a cup of tea, a jug of Porter or for those that know me a gin and tonic…but just the one.

We as in young Tales and I look forward to making your acquaintance.

Not so slow Sloe Gin…


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October marks the time to make a batch of slow gin which will be ready to drink in Christmas Eve. I have been perfecting my recipe for three decades.

There are myths surrounding the best way to make this seasonal tipple from waiting until the first frost of Autumn to individually picking each sloe with a silver needle, the quantity of sugar and the addition of a crushed almond.

The most important part of the production of your own infused sloe gin is to use a good quality gin and certainly a classic London Dry style at that. With the growth in the gin market of the past decade some new age gins of which there are many using a vast array of botanicals can end up fighting with the taste and aroma of the sloe. I have in the past made sloe infused grappa, cognac and vodka, however the marriage of sloe and juniper work best in my opinion.

With a passion for all things vintage I usually source some old bottles and decanters for this annual ritual.

For years I had added the sugar at the time of infusing the gin with the ripe sloes, this years crop were gathered from the Thames Path not more than half a mile away from home. In past years I have harvested from the South Downs, The Chiltern Hills, Wiltshire and Somerset. This year the sloe berries are plump and have ripened early. This fact alone dispels the need to wait for the first frost. If you press and sloe between your fingers and it bursts then you know the time is right to harvest.

In past years I have sat in the kitchen preparing the sloes by first washing any bird deposits off and it gets rid of any remains of the pollinated flower, dust and leaf debris. I then have spent time pricking each sloe twice and then infusing about half a pound of sloe berries to a standard 70cl bottle of gin. I was always an advocate of Plymouth Gin but have tried other London Dry Gins in recent years.

The issue of using some of the new gin brands is that their botanical mix fight with the essence of the sloe, especially brands such as Hendricks with its distinctive cucumber note. There gins have other botanicals which are too dominant so I believe less is more in this case.

So this afternoon will be spent making more sloe gin and watching the rugby. As for tomorrow I will embark on making a new citrus gin liqueur…


Won By Cleasby 1936…


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I recently purchased a vintage back japaned tin of lures for young Tales in order for him to chuck them into the abyss in search of a fanged and ferocious killer, the pike.

Purchased from that well know online auction business and described as a tin containing 40 lures with some by Mepps, Vibro and Abu. What was missed off the description was that one of the spinners contained in the round tin was made with a blade cut from a silver trophy bearing the inscription ‘ Won By Cleasby 1936’. I have to say I’m most intrigued at the contents of this tin as also encased within was a small articulated eel shaped lure. The contents of this unassuming tin are to be honest like opening Pandora’s box.

There are a few lures in this box that I will show in more detail over the next few days, that’s as long as young Tales doesn’t choose them to fish with tomorrow. 


Earth’s Wildest Waters…


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This evening the House Of Tales settled down to watch episode one of Earth’s Wildest Waters – The Big Fish. Adventurer Ben Fogal and fishing legend Matt Hayes judge the fishing exploits of eight anglers in the rugged and freezing terrain of Iceland. Fishing from kayaks, commercial vessels and from the shores of geo thermal lakes the contestants put their skills to the test.

Much like the format of The Great British Bake Off or Master Chef the skill of each angler will define their fate. Will this be compelling viewing on a Sunday night…for the many that fish this may just be the perfect cast. For sure it will have young Tales hooked.

With next weeks episode is set in Cuba, a haven for game fishers of bone fish and tarpon the eight anglers will be float tubing, how will Sam the all-rounder from Sussex fare…

Maybe one day young Tales and I will get our chance to fish some of the world’s waters for our fishing adventures have only just begun.

Save the date…


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We will be stalling out at The National Vintage Fishing Tackle Fair exhibiting and selling over four decades of collecting vintage tackle, books, game bags, rods, reels and items of interest collected on our fishing adventures. The Fair will be held on Sunday 15th November at Kingsley Sports Centre, Woodrow Drive, Woodrow, Redditch, Worcestershire B98 7UH from 9am-2pm.

In our collection we have vintage Chapman, Hardy, Farlows, ABU, Allcocks and B James rods along with a selection of fly reels and centre pin reels and as its so close to Christmas some ideal stocking fillers.



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