The life of Brian

One of our local fishermen Brian was out on the River Thames under Barnes Bridge catching chub on every cast. The water ran clear and on the turning tide the surface was covered in ripples from the feeding fish during the last light of the day.

It’s been months since I last fished the tidal Thames however when the conditions are right it can be most rewarding. A single maggot beneath a trotted swan float on light line is the best set up and low tide always produces results.

Recently I have witnessed a good run of sea-trout especially on the turning tide. I have seen them spiral out of the water chasing the fly life, clean silver bars 18 inches above the surface with a resounding splash and then they’re gone making their way up-stream.

Swallow by the river

Earlier today I took a short drive south down the M3 to Cove in Hampshire. I had recently purchased a Hardy De Lux 7′ 6″ fly rod that was in immaculate condition. I had decided a while back to reduce my collection of heavy duty fly rods as I seldom fish on large rivers or lakes, opting to fish far lighter tackle, shorter rods and smaller reels. My journey was in order to collect a small Hardy Marksman #3/4 reel which I thought would balance well with the Hardy De Lux rod, the seller was a seasoned fisherman who was selling a collection of tackle from the estate of a fellow fisherman.

On arrival I was greeted and shown to the garage, as the garage door rose I could see a collection of fishing equipment, bait tubs, waders and in a corner a collection of rods. I was presented with a small green neoprene pouch bearing the Hardy castle logo, within was a clean Marksman reel and what seemed to be a barely used ivory double tapered line, certainly it was as described, little used, but did have the odd mark from where the reel had once been placed on the ground.

Having taken my De Lux rod with me to check that the reel seat would fit the reel fitting, it was to be a perfect fit. I pulled the line through the eyes of the rod just to check what weight the line was, it wasn’t evident if it was a lighter #3 or #4 but after a few false casts it was clear that it was a #4 and again a perfect match for the rod. Having agreed to purchase the reel I was then presented with a few other items just in case they were of interest, most of what was left of the collection were coarse rods and reels, however one reel caught me eye, an early Dave Swallow Centre Pin, bearing The Swallow motif and the words Custom Tackle Manf. Ringwood Hants. I had previously heard of Dave Swallow as I recall his reel featured in ‘A Passion For Angling’ a notable series made by Hugh Miles in 1993 and featured Bob James and Chris Yates. It was in this BBC 2 series that Bob James was featured using a Swallow Centre Pin.

There has been much written about the reels produced by Dave Swallow, Aaron Littlefield for one has written about them, Tim Lennon wrote a The History of the Swallow Centre Pin – the MK2 reel. Other detailed articles have appeared on the forum, ,and I’ve seen several over the years for sale, the last one in fine condition on the Thomas Turner Fishing Antiques website. Certainly this 4-1/2″ reel is set to be a classic. The reel has undergone development over the years, the first examples evidently had plastic parts which were then developed using brass. The early ones were made from separate plates and the later ones from one single machined piece of alloy which then incorporated a drag system. Some reviews don’t rate them as there was play in the back plate and spool reflecting how it was manufactured. Today Ringwood Tackle service and repair these reels and I will look to enquire further. Using a bearing these reels run freely however but prone to wobble a little, I’m sure with either a replacement bearing or a service they will be a very capable reel for either light river fishing or as demonstrated in the past handle a bar of gold, a barbel.

The Swallow Centre Pin Reel – back plate

An early Dave Swallow 4 1/2 inch Centre Pin Reel.

#Swallow #Centre Pin #Fishing #coarse #river #roach #chub #dace #barbel #Hardy #Ringwood Tackle #Bob James #Chris Yate #Passion For Angling #angling

A Firkin good read


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With such changeable weather over the weekend I decided not to go fishing but to read about it. The most recent issue of Trout & Salmon hit the hallway floor with a resounding thud a few days ago but remained on the desk until the weekend. I have read this journal for well over half a century, the magazine has changed a lot in its looks, feel and contributors but is still complied with skill and its content well put together. As the leaden grey cloud rolled in early this morning I had a quick flick through and early this evening I sat down with a dram of Firkin Whisky and read in detail from cover to cover. I can honestly say I always learn something new from many of the articles written and it’s visual content gets better, however I still recall and a teenager converting the old red topped front page design and its black and white spreads. In the 70’s it’s colour images had the feel of a Polaroid or Kodak Box Brownie, in a box in storage are many copies from the mid 70’s to around 2005.

The voice of Game Fishing

Another season


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As the clock turns the midnight hour another coarse fishing season on our rivers will get underway. Many I am sure have spent the day dusting down the rod bags, piling reels and finding all that terminal tackle that thrown into the bag on the last hour of last day to fish in March.

It has been a while since I wrote about my fishing adventures and days out searching for vintage tackle. The winter months passed by all too quickly and with another set of lockdowns due to the Covid pandemic there was little opportunity to get out before the season finished in March.

I did have the opportunity to collect some new vintage tackle. a few cane and glass rods plus a couple of reels. In my quest to find some new sticks and cotton bobbins as my wife refers to them I met some interesting people along the way at all at a rods length.

The two items that stood out from the crowd were a pair of cane rods that were very different in the colour of the cane used, one being a Chapman The Stort and another an unnamed 10ft Avon style rod very similar to a Chapman 500. On the reel purchase I found a clean and tidy Speedia wide drum and a K Dowling of Harrow centre pin. For me the season will start by giving these rods and reels an outing on the River Thames.

The two items that stood out from the crowd were a pair of cane rods that were very different in the colour of the cane used, one being a Chapman The Stort and another an unnamed 10ft Avon style rod very similar to a Chapman 500. On the reel purchase I found a clean and tidy Speedia wide drum and a K Dowling of Harrow centre pin. For me the season will start by giving these rods and reels an outing on the River Thames.

Earlier last month I was kindly given a box of small taster bottles of a Whisky collection by The Firkin Whisky Co. The company is a small producer of whiskies that are finished in different casks that were previously use for Madeira, Tawny Port, Marsala, Oloroso and Amontillado Sherry. These casks are carefully selected then a cooper hand builds a new cask using staves from the French Oak barrels and marries them with hand selected staves from America Oak bourbon casks. The founder of The Firkin Whisky Co then selects a range of fine whiskies from distilleries such as Aultmore, Tullibardine, Benrinnes and Caol Ila, these whiskies are then individually paired to the selection of wine cask conditioned cask to make an outstanding selection of whisky. You may ask why I and debating this but it reminds me of the selection process that goes into creating the finest cane rods and when paired to a precision made centre pin give you the ultimate tool for the job, that being catching fish and then sharing that moment over a good dram with close friends. You see, for me it’s all in the wood. The colour, the texture and the test curve of the rod, is it soft or is it hard, is the grain really fine or is it made if Spanish Reed with a split cane top.

Continue reading



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From the potters wheel, another Thames find.

A few years ago I wrote about the fragments of pottery, ceramic eggs and other objects I would find washed up on the shoreline of the Thames. Most items were of no real value or historical interest simply fragments of a bygone age, items of everyday life that had been disposed of, lost or purposely placed.

The other day whilst walking the river I noticed a large fragment of the base of a pot. Clearly visible were the finger marks of the person that crafted it, the impression of their fingers captured forever. As to the age of this piece of poetry I couldn’t guess but I would imagine crafted well over a century ago, the well known mudlarker Lara Maiklem would easily identify this. What fascinates me that is the way that these fragments of the past emerge from the silt and tumble their way down the river towards the sea. I always wonder who did it belong to, what was its purpose and what stories it may tell.

Last weekend we walked a section of the Grand Union Canal, it was peaceful abs seemed a world away from the hum of the traffic heading along the M4 in the distance, close your eyes and chatter of the birds, the sound of the water and the noise of fighting coots made you feel you’d entered another world. Detailed along the canal are information boards informing the passerby of the local history from the Romans to the Civil War and the canals industrial past – for a moment you sense the spirits of the past, the clash of swords and armies on horseback.

It was clear that someone had been using a magnet to search of metal finds in the canal the band by a bridge was littered with relics from the past, even an old scooter with its last resting place against the wall. I imagine there are still hundreds of items from the past are yet to be found.

The Stort


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I recently acquired a bottom rod, The Stort, made by Chapman of Ware, a producer of fine cane rods since 1957. The workshop in Bowling Road in Ware, Hertfordshire finally shut in 2016.

The Stort was one of a range of coarse rods that were made, the more widely know were the Chapman 500 and 550 Deluxe 2 piece Avon rods and the Dennis Pye 700 3 piece Pike Rod. There were a couple of other bottom rods produced, the Peter Stone 600, a 3 piece ledger rod and a 2 piece Peter Stone Ledgerstrike.

The bottom rods produce by Chapman consisted of The Stort, The Shelford, The Amwell and later edition Amwell SP of the 60’s and two sizes of The Hunter, a 12ft and 14ft version. Finally there was the F. J Taylor, roach rod a 12’6” 3 piece but these are hard to find.

The Stort was made from between the 1950’s – 1970’s, made of a straight tapered blank of six strips of dark honey coloured cane. The butt section was 42” with cock handle and aluminium sliding rings, the middle section 42” and the tip another 42” section. The butt ring was porcelain lined, the same for the tip. Early rods were whipped in red and the later ones in green tread.

I was lucky to come across this straight and untouched rod, purely by chance as I was picking up a Hardy fly rod at the time at the seller mentioned he had a few old cane rod. A bundle of rods in varying coloured cotton bags in different sizes, what appeared was a small collection of some of the best names in the business. To view as an Aspindales Dalesman, A Dawson’s of Bromley Burley pike rod, a Marco Elasticane, what looked like an Allcocks Wizard but with no markings plus a nice 7ft light spinning rod that has been renovated, possibly a Hardy Wanless but renamed with restorers name Barrie Willcocks, Westbrook, Kent and dated 1972 , plug & spinning rod. Out of this bundle I decided to acquire The Stort, it was straight and in original condition with the typical light corrosion to the guides. Having purchase a couple of period 50’s-60’s reels I will look to take this to the river before I decide if to have it restored or just leave as is.

Recent acquisitions, on the left the Hardy #7 fly rod and in the right the Chapman Stort.

There sends to be a glut of vintage tackle of the market at the moment and going for reasonable money, I saw another find Hardy Graphite #8/9 rod with an early Sunbeam reel go for £100, as you can imagine that sold pretty quickly.

The Stort by Chapman of Ware

J S Sharpe Featherweight as golden as a fine ale.


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Earlier today I was fortunate to take delivery of a J S Sharpe Scottie Featherweight 8ft #4 cane fly rod in fine used condition. The reality of it was that the rod was in fact 3.5 inches shorter than its original 8ft, none the less a very useable rod that I will try out on small rivers for silver fish whilst the trout season is still a couple of months away.

Some years ago I purchase an old Wheatley aluminium fly box that when opened revealed a host of tiny flies with the descriptor neatly written for silver fish. Each compartment indicating which fish the fly was suitable for, Dace, Roach, Rudd, Bream, Gudgeon and Grayling. This small box of flies has inspired me to use a light fly rod in pursuit of coarse fish. Maybe this recent acquisition could be just the tool.

I have previously owned a mint condition Sharpe Featherweight but sold it on to Thomas Turner the notable Traditional and Collectable Tackle Dealers. Having seen this one for sale on an online marketplace I thought I’d buy it and put it to good use. What I love about the Sharpes cane rods is the colour of the cane which seems darker than the Hardy cane rods. The colour of my rods are like a fine dark ale, similar a an able I tried the other day from The Chiltern Brewery, their Three Hundreds Dark Old Ale, a very pleasant 5% Gluten Free ale made in the Chiltern Hills.

The weather for the rest of this week isn’t too promising so I can’t see the rod being used for a few weeks. I will look to pair it to either a Hardy Lightweight reel or possibly a Featherweight.

Somewhere in the postal system is an Abu Cardinal 40 spinning reel making its way to me so I will be looking to compare the 4O to another Abu reel the 44x. Hopefully I will write up about these next week.

Tales revisited


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With January nearly at a close it is a time to reflect on what a strange month it has been. With Covid 19 still dominating the way we live our lives it has also given me time to get back into writing again about fishing, collecting vintage tackle, gardening and the allotment. I have been grated time again to observe the River Thames as I take my daily exercise during this third lockdown. The odd flurry of snow over the past week and a celebratory Burns Night meal of haggis washed down with dram of Arran Whisky helped conclude what has been a challenging start to the new year.

The month started slowly however by mid-month I had acquired a few items of vintage tackle found on eBay and Facebook Marketplace. I had sold a fair amount of my vintage tackle collection at the end of 2020, most of it simply wasn’t being used and I had decided for 2021 to invest a proposition of the proceeds back into collecting a few rods and reels I could make a return on. I found three vintage Hardy rods, a Wanless cane spinning rod and two Hardy Graphite Salmon Rods all of which were in excellent condition. I also purchased an unnamed 10ft cane Avon rod with a Speedia De Lux wide spool reel. With this renewed interest in collecting I also found several Shimano spinning reels at bargain prices, the first a Baitrunner Aero GT4010 and the other a boxed Shimano Perfection, these are still very usable reels. The other week I managed to find a near mint Orvis Battenkill 8/9# fly reel, a usable Abu closed face reel and finally this week I purchased an Abu Cardinal 40 with spare spool.

I now need to put the brakes on any more acquisitions, it is really hard once you start as I see beauty in the construction of quality vintage tackle especially cane rods and older reels.

I will make a greater effort to fish more often this year, reduce the amount of tackle taken on any trip to just my Efgeeco Packaseat, reel, rod, landing net, rod rests ( beautifully made by Dave Pearce) and a small box of end tackle.

Hand made perch bobbers and float case by David Pearce.

I recently joined The Crabtree Society in order to network with other vintage tackle enthusiasts and to read of their fishing exploits, it is a great community like-minded fisher folk which I look forward to engaging in conversation with. I’m sure it will inspire me to write more this year, it’s not going to be all about fishing but allotments, gardening, adventures, cooking and the odd review here and there of a range of spirits and ales.

The garden and allotment year…

At just before 7am this morning the latest copy of the RHS monthly magazine made a resounding thump as it hit hallway floor. There is always a level of excitement when a new journal arrives, whether that be Trout & Salmon or the Porsche Club UK, Porsche Post. Most other monthly journals I subscribe to online. What I have observed is that some publishers are still using flow wrappers which although they say can be recycled can only be done at larger stores. I have to say the RHS wrapper featured above uses 100% sustainably sourced paper and just feels more environmentally friendly.

I’m looking to completely overhaul my garden this year, making it cleaner and simple in design. The garden is only about 7.5m x 10m and faces northwest with the sun in winter only getting to it after midday. One side is always in the shade and the other in full sun. I have a small garden shed which I aim to move or should I say remove in order to build a more functional shed to work in. There is a large olive tree on the sunny side and a mix of terracotta and galvanised containers making up the majority of the planting as the two small beds that run either side are more trouble than they are worth, although planted up with roses, clematis, ferns and hosta they haven’t really done that well so the idea is to keep the roses and fig then cover the beds with gravel or larger pebbles allowing drainage, then constructing a trestle table from some reclaimed wooden legs and a rescued Dutch barge hatch cover which is around 8ft x 3ft in order to place the pots and containers on a raised platform, hopefully this will give me the addition and less cluttered space I’m looking to achieve. On the side which gets more sun I will continue to grow a pear which is planted in a large terracotta pot and all other plants I will remove leaving only a handful of pots with sun loving plant in. All other space will be cleared and only relevant garden furniture to remain.

I’m looking forward to restoring the shed to a place where I can work and use as a pitting shed to prepare plants for the allotment. Currently the shed is crammed with stuff that for some reason I thought would come in handy one day, I realise that’s a very typical male thing to do. As I said in my post of yesterday this year will be a year of getting rid of the clutter and only having things that have a direct use. It is the same notion I have about the allotment this year. My aim is to curate my allotment by growing and planting plants that will have a use in the creation of a botanical garden for creating a vermouth.

Other plant and vegetable with be planted up in order to store and ferment to be used in cooking. Having said that I will grow broad beans, garlic, onions and a range of root crop vegetables, I love beetroot and last year I manage to grow to good crop of heritage beats.

Over past few months little has changed with the back garden so I aim to complete the makeover by the end of March, as with the allotment the only jobs completed have been to prepare to raised beds then plant the garlic and broad bean. The large vine has been pruned in order to give a good crop of grapes and the apple trees pruned along with other soft fruit such as gooseberry. The remaining fruit trees will be pruned in the summer.

The other job I will commence is the restoration of the riverbank which forms part of my allotment plot. There is a good head of Chubb in the river so at some stage I hope to sit in the dappled sunlight to fish later in the year.

I will aim to document the developments month by month.

A time to write…

Over recent years I have found it difficult to write, not that I didn’t want to but simply my mind and emotions weren’t in the right place. Previously writing had been a release from the stresses of life and a channel for my creativity documenting the way I observed life and my surroundings. Recently I have realised that my love for nature, gardening, foraging and history mean more than I thought to my general well being.

Walking the foreshore of the Thames most days allowed me time to reflect on life and the study of the foreshore for signs of the past were absorbing, much in the same way as casting a fly to a trout, trotting a float along the margin for that tug or hurling a spinner into a dark pool for that ferocious snatch of a pike or salmon looking for that last meal to give it the energy to push upstream.

As they say much water has passed under the bridge of late but I still yearn each day to get my fix of the tidal river or pounding seas of the south coast.

If you have followed me on other social media platforms then you will know that I have found solace in the caretaking of a neighbours allotment whilst they are in distant lands for an extended period of time. For me the allotment has given me much pleasure, a place where I can choose to be alone and emmerse myself in looking after my own little bit of paradise or share the experience with family and friends.

I have decided to write again, fish again and share my experience on the allotment because it helps get me through the daily pressures of life.

I’ve decided to scale back things in life and focus on those things that are truly important. I don’t need all the tackle I’ve accumulated over the years, one rod, one reel in each category of fishing will do. It’s a time in my life where I have worked out to let go of many things. Like many millennials, life is about experience and not about the possession you have. Since loosing my father the penny dropped, you can’t take possessions with you but memories last longer, the less clutter the clearer you can see life and the more important issues.

For many years I have been aware of the environment and in my own way done what I can to draw peoples attention to certain issues, from plastic waste on the tidal Thames to water extraction and pollution on our southern chalk stream. The plight of inshore fishing affecting sea-trout and salmon farms in Scotland affecting the wel being of the natural salmon population, goes without saying the effect of Global Warming which is and has been for some time a real issue that will impact on mankind and the lives of generation sto come, we simply can5 bury our heads in the sand on this issue, we have to face up to it there has to be change and change for the good.

Hopefully over weeks to come I can share my observation, experiences and stories in an informative way. To those that have continued to follow the ramblings of the Tales By The Riverbank I thank you all and wish you well for 2020.